Movies that spoof other movies and movie genres have long been popular. As the following list shows, Mel Brooks stands pre-eminent among well-known practitioners of the form, having pioneered many of the film spoof’s most effective techniques. Blazing Saddles (1974), Young Frankenstein (1974), High Anxiety (1977), Airplane! [aka Flying High] (1980), Spaceballs (1987), The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988) and its sequels, Repossessed (1990), Hot Shots (1991), Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993), Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995), Scary Movie (2000) and its numerous sequels, Shaun of the Dead (2004), Epic Movie (2007), Hot Fuzz (2007), Meet the Spartans (2008) and Superhero Movie (2008) are all prime examples. While they tend to focus on the weaknesses of their targets, they also display affection for them — and the more beloved the film or genre, the better. Sometimes they parody their target so effectively that the result becomes a classic in its own right. Shaun of the Dead, for instance, is a top-notch zombie film as well as a hilarious spoof of the post-Romero zombie sub-genre.
But according to the folk at Cincinnati-based production company Moriah Media, there is one popular, even iconic film that hasn’t been so effectively parodied. Watch their very early, rough-and-ready teaser, made as part of the company’s sales pitch to potential investors, and see if you can pick what that film is. Keep in mind that there is nothing final about this and that it is only generally reflective of the finished product.
Yes, it’s a spoof of Godzilla: King of the Monsters! Or more specifically the Americanised version of the 1954 Japanese film Gojira and the extensive tradition that developed from it. While the daikaiju eiga subgenre has been lampooned more than once, never at the scale that writer/director Mitch Teemley envisages.
Notzilla: Duke of the Monsters (US-[date TBA]; dir. Mitch Teemley)
1964 – A strange red egg, shaken loose by atomic testing, hatches an immense, fire-breathing dinosaur with a penchant for beer. Only “brilliant, young American scientist,” Dr. Dick Harvard, can stop him with his atomic molecule blaster. But then things go awry… and meanwhile, Notzilla is partying hard.
According to Teemley, Notzilla, which so far exists as a screenplay and some test imagery, is designed to be an affectionate Zucker Bros. style send-up of Godzilla, “one of the most widely seen film series in history”. He adds that the screenplay for Notzilla has received universal praise and was the only spoof to ever make it to the final round of the Worldfest Contest, one of the largest screenplay competitions in the world.
Actually I offered the project to Toho not long after I wrote it. They weren’t interested in spoofing their own films, but wished us well. Parodies are not plagiarism; if they were, Saturday Night Live would have been shut down 35 years ago! Notzilla will not feature any footage from Toho films, nor will the monster be a visual copy of Godzilla (see conceptual art below — note: Notzilla concept art: Poster and Monster Profile – these were done by a cartoonist – the actual poster will be photographic, not cartoon, in style, and the actual monster suit will be more realistic and dinosaur-like, i.e. satirical, but subtle.)
Nor is the film a fan-type, no-budget, extended joke.
Notzilla is intended for mainstream release (we have serious interest from both the majors and large indie distributors), and Moriah Media is for-profit company, by the way. A Fox Searchlight analyst estimated a $40 million North American box office gross; international box office is expected to exceed that. We are actively seeking completion funding!
The project already boasts the involvement of some serious talent, including Patrick Warburton, who starred in the terrific superhero spoof TV series, The Tick.
Patrick Warburton (Seinfeld, The Tick, Rules of Engagement) is attached to star. I wrote the lead role of the “brilliant young American scientist”, Dr Dick Harvard (who’s actually not very brilliant nor very young) for him. All of the other leads are Japanese.
Notzilla has not yet been filmed. We are in the midst of capitalization and are using the teaser [above] to generate investor interest. I appeared as a guest at G-Fest in Chicago last year and read segments of the screenplay to a very enthusiastic crowd. We’ve lined up some crack crew heads: Production Designer Robert Harbour designed sets for Heroes and X-Files; multi-Emmy winning Director of Photography Jeff Barklage shot the teaser; Oscar-nominated producer Melissa Godoy is also attached to oversee production.
Notzilla purports to be a restored print of a 1966 Japanese film, a long-lost classic of the genre. It begins with a special “anniversary release” prologue in which Rudy McBernstein, president of Great Big Impressive Pictures International, introduces viewers to the 1966 masterpiece, Notzilla, the Duke of Monsters, the last film ever to feature American TV star Raymond L. Suave (Patrick Warburton).
From there, it becomes both a parody of and homage to the worst aspects of early Japanese monster pictures.
In the future (1975), “brilliant young American scientist” Dr Dick Harvard (played by not-so-brilliant and not-so-young Raymond L. Suave) leads a team of crack scientists in atomic testing (no one knows why) near Yomama Bay. The unexpected result (these scientists don’t watch enough B-pictures): a prehistoric egg is shaken loose, after being exposed to massive amounts of radiation. Of course.
Dick’s mentor, “brilliant old Japanese scientist”, Dr Nissan Toyota, succeeds in hatching a dinosaur! But then it escapes, and begins growing at an alarming rate. Of course.
Dr Toyota wants to save the creature. But Dick is certain it will attack Tokyo. “Because that’s what always happens”. The two split up. Dick goes off to build his atomic molecule blaster, which he admits will leave a radioactive cloud over Tokyo for fifty years (“but after that you’ll never even know it was there”), while Toyota seeks a gentler alternative that will keep the monster alive.
Notzilla attacks Tokyo. Sort of. Actually he’s on a lark, playing with the miniature city, reversing toy trains, eating plastic soldiers, running a touchdown with a blimp under his arm. He parties hard while thousands of people run screaming in the streets (actually a couple dozen of the same people run screaming over and over again).
The army, led by General Buzz Kurosawa (George Takei—Star Trek, Heroes), is powerless to stop the monster (though Kurosawa, an amateur filmmaker, does get some great footage). Dick completes his controversial molecule blaster. He’s about to use it when Dr. Toyota shows up with his alternative device. In a rage, Dick accidentally turns the blaster on himself, resulting in his own over-the-top death scene—which schlock actor Raymond L. Suave had hoped would result in an Oscar nomination. It didn’t.
Toyota’s device stops Notzilla, but does not kill him, leaving the creature free to defend Tokyo from other latex monsters in the future!
Teemley sees Notzilla as a sure-fire winner.
Notzilla is a classic monster movie spoof with heart—it makes a gently teasing statement about cultural arrogance. Also … reversing the trend toward raunchy, R-rated parodies, Notzilla is a family-friendly PG film with positive values. It’s clean enough for grandparents to take their grandkids to … and hip enough for college guys to drag their girlfriends to. Everyone will love Notzilla!
Some other aspects of the proposed film:
- The expected budget is $1.5 million. There’s a complete package (Investors Memorandum and Business Plan) available for any potential investors out there. It’s a great opportunity; they expect return on investment in the 1,000 to 2,000% range.
- They’re looking at a 2012 shoot and a 2013 release.
- No, there are no other daikaiju, aliens, or creatures. Notzilla is basically a spoof of the original one-monster flicks (Godzilla/Gojira, Mothra, Rodan, Gamera, etc.), rather than the “versus” films. It’s in colour, of course, widescreen, and utilizes a single Anglo-American actor in a lead role as did a number of the Toho films.
- All f/x will be suitmation and miniatures, since Notzilla purports to be a film made in the pre-CGI era. Other vintage f/x will include rear-screen projection, robotics, and cheezy practicals—shaking the camera, for example, to indicate an explosion.
Sources: Director Mitch Teemley via Avery Guerra. Written by Robert Hood.