Daily Archives: August 10, 2020

Bambi Meets Godzilla (1969)

*. The title is so well known that I think everyone has heard of this film even if they haven’t taken the two minutes to watch it. David Mamet even wrote a book called Bambi vs. Godzilla in 2007, wherein he made use of the title as a metaphor for the conflict between creatives and business people in Hollywood. From the brief account he gives of the movie, however, it’s clear he hadn’t actually seen it.
*. Indeed, Mamet even gets the title wrong. The title here is actually part of the joke, since Bambi isn’t “vs.” Godzilla (or “x” Godzilla, as was the stylization used in the Shinsei series of Godzilla flicks), but rather he “meets” the monster in a manner that suggests Godzilla is not even aware of the encounter.
*. I might go further and say the title isn’t so much part of the joke as it is the joke. Bambi. Godzilla. An odd couple. An incongruous conjunction. Add to this the credits, which are also part of the joke since this was a one-man show. So Marv Newland’s name appears over and over, including taking credit for Bambi’s wardrobe. Then at the end the city of Tokyo is thanked for making Godzilla available.
*. It was a student film, apparently done in a rush when another project fell through. But it’s gone on to have an incredible afterlife. You could think of it as a meme avant la lettre, piggybacking on the way Godzilla’s name, or at least the suffix -zilla had become part of the language. So it’s a short film that is itself a kind of shorthand, which is much as Mamet used it: the little guy crushed by the soulless corporation, or innocence flattened by the exercise of brute force. A simple point, a simple joke, a simple movie. But it worked then and still works today.