Friday, June 26, 2020
Blood Of The Vines - Koo Koo Kaiju
This week's wine-and-movie pairings focus our pandemic-weary lens on Japanese kaiju films. Kaiju is a Japanese word meaning "strange beast." It does not refer to Two Hands Wine and their Sexy Beast Cabernet Sauvignon. The word describes the genre of monster films which started in the mid-1950s with Godzilla, as well as the creatures themselves. Godzilla was born from the nuclear fears of the day, only a decade after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Over the years, numerous kaiju films have depicted the horrors of the nuclear age as monsters either born or unleashed by radiation.
Half Human hails from 1955, although it didn't wash up on American shores until a few years later. Its Japanese title translates aptly to "Beast-Man Snow-Man." The story concerns a ski trip gone wrong, thanks to Mr. Half Human himself. He turns out to be a nice guy after all, but don’t think that stops the search party from chasing him to his death.
This is an opportune moment to think about opening a case of Mistaken Identity Vineyards wines, or at least a bottle. The vineyard and winery are on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia. A good stone's throw from the U.S. of A., the locale is separated from Washington state by only an imaginary line in the sea. Their Abbondante Bianco is a good fit here, since kaiju monsters are generally abbondante themselves - on the large side.
You may also want to consider a sake for Half Human, since sake is often incorrectly called rice wine, when it is actually beer made from rice. There's a very good Japanese craft beer - Kawaba Sunrise Ale - but its alcohol content is a little lean for a monster movie.
The 1966 epic, Gammera the Invincible, is a re-edited version of a film released in Japan a year earlier. Apparently the audiences clamored for "more kaiju!" The Gamera franchise never really caught on in the states - this was the first in the series and the only one released in America. Perhaps it was the additional "m" added to the monster's name that turned away the crowds. Or, perhaps I'm over-analyzing it.
Gamera - er, Gammera - looks like a giant fire-snorting prehistoric turtle, and he can bust up an unsuspecting Japanese city just like Godzilla. He also has a nifty getaway where he turns into a sort of flying saucer. There must have been a lot of sake poured during the making of this film. Gamera is ultimately dispatched to Mars by the scientific community’s Z Plan. I guess Z Plan was Japan's version of Plan 9.
You are going to need alcohol for Gammera the Invincible. There is a home brewer in Florida who makes a double chocolate stout named after Gamera, but his quantities are limited, I'm sure. However, in Inglewood, California, Tortugo Brewing Company uses a Gameraesque creature in their logo. They even made a hazy double IPA called Gamera. I think we have a winner.
Oh no, there goes Tokyo. Godzilla is the king of kaiju, the beast who inspired the genre. Blue Oyster Cult paid homage to the biggest G of them all in 1977, with lyrics outlining the monster's rampage, the downed power lines, the shocked commuters, the absolute destruction. Godzilla wraps up by repeating that "History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man." And that, my wine and movie friends, is what kaiju is all about.
In the 1964 classic, Mothra vs Godzilla, the monster is pitted against the insect god. Mothra gives it a good go while protecting an egg, but cannot overcome the beast's breath. Have a Mentos, buddy. Fortunately, two giant larvae burst from the egg as in tag-team wrestling and take charge of driving Godzilla back into the sea.
You'd think it would be easy to find a wine with a pic of Godzilla on the label. Napa Valley's Adler Fels Winery found out the hard way how many lawyers are working to protect the Godzilla brand. Nearly two decades ago they had to pour out their Cabzilla over copyright infringement. Wine writers sometimes refer to high-alcohol wines as Godzillas, so you might try pairing a 15% Zinfandel or a bottle of Port with this movie. Australian brewer Kaiju Beer reportedly has not yet run into trouble with any attorneys protecting the genre, but look out, Tortugo.
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