The box cover for Frankenstein Conquers the World promised a colossal mutant offspring of Mary Shelley’s creature, clutching an ocean liner in one fist and a smashed jet fighter in the other. “He rolled the Seven Wonders of the World Into One!,” screamed the graphics.
Pretty cool, but hold on.
The ad art for Godzilla vs. the Thing pictured the radioactive Lizard King locked in mortal combat with a titanic mass of spiked tentacles, coiled around the film’s title. Under the words “the Thing” was a mysterious giant question mark and a topper of a tagline: “SEE the BIRTH of the world’s most terrifying monster!”
Which infernal vision of death and mass destruction, both created at Tokyo’s Toho Studios, would be more fun? It was a tough decision for a monster-crazed boy who’d been twelve for less than twenty-four hours.
My parents, prone to their own epic battles, stood beside me at the Kmart camera counter, behind which towered a spectacular display of Super 8 films. The old folks were in a good mood and promised their birthday boy a new movie digest for his growing collection.
“Digest,” you ask?
In the age before home video, and long before DVDs, streaming, and on-demand were an inkling, movies screened at the local theater, then disappeared. The only ways to see them again were in rerelease, on television, at film festivals, or via studio-sanctioned home movie editions.
Initially offered for private use in 16 mm
(think schoolroom movie projectors), studio films were later made available in
the smaller 8 mm and Super 8 formats. While some collectors purchased full
sound features, more economical consumers—especially kids—opted for condensed
versions of their favorite films, called digests or cut-downs. Available in
reels of 200 feet (about twelve minutes) and fifty feet (three minutes),
digests were sold in department stores and camera shops, or through mail order
from home movie distributors like Ken Films Inc. and Castle Films.
“I was among the millions of American kids who grew up watching the first generation of Godzilla movies on TV in the final decades of the twentieth century.”
“After all the years and hours of Toho monsters I’ve consumed, it’s that Godzilla vs. the Thing digest that still haunts me”