Some of us never grow up. You can tell us from the others quite easily. We're the happy ones.
And nothing makes us happier than the most primitive of all childhood fascinations, destruction. We never got beyond that stage where you kicked the blocks and made them fly all over the room and made Suzy McPhee cry, because she had built a nice castle. Hey, Suzy, I said it at 2 and I'm saying it at 58: Tough tamales, you little priss.
I still like it when things get blown up, squished, smashed, mashed, creamed, fragmentized, atomized, liquefied, pureed and mulched. For destruction I hold with those who favor the carnivore, but the alien is also nice and would suffice.
Thus the monster movie, which addresses the evil 2-year-old in those of us lucky enough to still have one. In the glory years of the genre, the Bomb was usually the culprit, as "Godzilla," which has just opened in its unedited version, makes drearily clear. But the nominal "messages" of these movies -- the tragedy of nuclear weapons, the evil of science, the possibility that there were zones where God never intended man to go -- never really imprinted; they were mere frameworks for the pleasures of destruction.
Thus, when "The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms" trips the light fantastic on the sidewalks of New York, a certain deep, atavistic pleasure center is stimulated. I'm not talking about you. I'm talking about me.
When the screechy mandibular chompers of "Them," with their hunger for sugar and human flesh, come out to play, or when the Giant Squid the size of the USS Forrestal squashes the Golden Gate to a sodden swizzle stick, it's a hoot. See, that's one of the most profound joys of the movies -- the subversive pleasure of seeing what society tells us is bad and wondering: Gee, why does it make me feel so good?