Thursday, November 20, 2014

More than Kind of Weird: The Attack of the Giant Moussaka

I want you to apprecate this essay for what it is: A dissection of a film in a language I don't understand, and to my knowledge, has never been translated into English. The Attack of the Giant Moussaka is a campy parody of fifties science fiction, including kaiju film, but draws its roots primarily from underground LGBT film. It's not available on DVD in region one, so I've had to watch a low-rez copy from Youtube. It was made on the cheap, although the effects have a charming naivety to them, they aren't horrendous. The copy I'm watching and taking pictures from has French subtitles. I know approximately five words of French. So I may be wrong about a lot of this.

Giant Moussaka. No kidding

At the Athenean Institute for Cosmic Reasearch, they're eityher discussing some sort of space anomaly or planning a party and deciding who to invite. What I'm pretty sure is true is that they're all so gay their lab coats are pink. In case we weren't sure, watching it in a language we didn't understand, for example.

Gay scientists at the Athens Institue of Space, or some such

Across town, a group of drag queens preparing for a night out.

Settling the girls for a night on the town

And there's a morbidly desperate middle-class couple. She gets her cocaine delivered with her pizza, and her husband talks on the phone all through the meal. He appears to be a married-to-his work politician, perhaps appointed. The moussaka iself was made by the English-speaking maid for the politician, the cokehead, and their son. But the boy apparently doesn't like it. He takes it out and feeds it to a dog.

Well, at least the dog will eat the maid's moussaka

Before the pooch can finish his meal, a UFO happens by and beams the remaining moussaka making it huge. And mobile. And apparently sentient. It isn't long before the moussaka is out crushing people in their cars. Seems lucky that they didn't throw King Ghodorah at Athens.

Well, of course the UFO will come by and enbiggen your crappy moussaka

The aliens are scantily-clad women, naturally. Lovely women aliens have been a staple of kaiju films since Miss Namikawa in Invasion of Astro-Monster, although these seem more like Barbella and Flobella in Gamera vs Guiron. There's a whole bit of exposition involving the moussaka and the ocean that I totally didn't get, and which might explain the ending.
From the Planet of the Women, apparently

Despite the campiness, once the moussaka begins to rampage, there's real tragedy. A reporter walks through a backyard filled with bodies, and interviews a traumatized survivor.

My next report will be from an actual abbatoir

The film is cognizant of its roots, showing us psople running away from the giant moussaka, and a trail of bodies it leaves in its wake. As the TV presenters around the world begin to weigh in, the British announcer does in front of an image ot Tower Bridge, famously demolished by Gorgo.

We who suffered under Gorgo send our sympathies to those under the moussaka

The massive and sudden international interest in the Giant Moussacka is interesting, since a lot of the people in the city itself learn what's happening from the television reports. In fact, television is a relentless presence in the film, underscoring so much of the characters' actions. One pair of characters just sit and watch their TV. A television psychic tells us that the Giant Moussaka is a Cancer, with Saggitarius ascendant, giving it a strong personality. A politician (I think) says it's all hallicinations derived from methane. A commentator on television warns that the moussaka is the product of carbon dioxide, and then poisons herself on live television. As far as I can tell, this is not played for laughs.

Well, if we understand the moussaka...

But nobody actually does anything. The Moussaka continues to rampage. It doesn't destroy buildings, and it never actually comes into contact with the police or the military, probably for budgetary reasons.

Just going along, scaring people to death

The phone-talking politician confronts the enormous Moussaka with a pistol. Less than not working, the puckered bullet holes vomit back an toxic liquid, reminiscent of Hedorah, but notably less gruesome.

You just shot Moussaka. What the hell?

The largest killer is not the moussaka itself, but the fear it spreads and the suicides in its wake. Several suicides methods are shown, electricution, pills, and gas. This may be emblematic of the high suicide rate in the LGBT community, but Greece has a spectacualary low suicide rate, one of the lowest in all of Europe. So I really don't have a grasp on what this is all about. The film has no trouble showing the dead in the moussaka's wake.

And going from camp to grim with no transition.

Eventually, the aliens return in their brightly colored UFO, and shrinking the moussaka and turns it back into their lost leader, Garo. Clearly, I've missed a great deal. But the end of the film has one of the scientists, the reporter, the child of the cokehead, and the main drag queen driving, happily eating chocolates, I believe having found a new life together, rolling to some cheery disco.

Happy ending, having found our family

Attack of the Giant Moussaka seems like a more complex film than most on-line reviewers give it credit for. It's not just a spoof, but I'm damned if I can figure out exactly what else it's trying to be. There seems to be some sort of statement about the influence of television, fear, and the privilege of the wealthy. It's certainly not about food. Of course, I'm also saying this not having followed any of the dialog, so take trhat statement with a grain of salt.

Happy ending, having found our family

Next week, I get back to DVDs, so no more blurry pictures! And Godzilla is up against a foe we haven't seen since 1956.

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