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King of the Monsters has Manitoba connection

Godzilla hits the big screen in Winnipeg this weekend.
Godzilla hits the big screen in Winnipeg this weekend. Sam Thompson / Global News

Sure, the Oscar winners are great, but a much bigger movie star is coming to Winnipeg this weekend.

Much, much bigger.

Winnipeg’s Cinematheque theatre is set to screen a series of classic Japanese films starring the iconic King of the Monsters – Godzilla.

And while Godzilla’s legendary battles and trails of destruction take place on the other side of the world, for some Manitobans, the big green creature is something special.

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Matt Maslanka, a founding member of the Godzilla Society of North America, will be presenting the first screening – the 1971 eco-horror classic Godzilla vs. Hedorah (also known as Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster).

Maslanka told 680 CJOB he’s been a Godzilla fan since he was five years old, but the fascination with the iconic monster really gripped him as a teen in Winnipeg.

“It just kind of happened by accident. There’s a guy out in Steinbach, J.D. Lees, and he was running a table at a comic convention in Winnipeg back when I was in my teens,” he said.

“He had a Godzilla booth… He was showing off Godzilla merchandise and bootleg tapes back then.”

READ MORE: New group bringing comic con back to Winnipeg

Maslanka said he bonded with Lees over a mutual love of their favourite monster, and became one of the first members of Lees’ Godzilla fan club – a project that has expanded into a long-running fanzine, an annual international convention in Chicago, and much more. He said Lees has become one of the world’s foremost Godzilla authorities.

“He’s written books on the subject, he’s had that fanzine going for decades now. They get thousands of people at this convention down in Chicago every year.”

While Godzilla himself is the star of the series, the films – now numbering over 35, including U.S. remakes – has created a whole universe of characters, including legendary-in-their-own-right monsters like Mothra and King Ghidorah.

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Maslanka said he appreciates the present-day Godzilla movies, but he’ll always have a soft spot for the classics with their not-so-special effects.

“That’s the stuff I love, the guys in the rubber monster suits destroying the model cities. You can’t replicate that with computer graphics.

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“As much as the new movies are really, really cool, and I’m glad kids are watching them now and really enjoying them, I’m still totally old school.”

Cinematheque’s schedule includes Godzilla vs. Hedorah Friday and Sunday, All Monsters Attack Friday and Saturday, and Destroy All Monsters Saturday and Sunday, plus a free afternoon screening of Godzilla vs. Megalon on Sunday afternoon.

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‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ trailer
‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ trailer