Saturday, June 25, 2011

Godzilla (1954)

Director: Ishiro Honda

Starring: Akira Takarada, Momoko Kochi, Akihiko Hirata, Takashi Shimura

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Incredible, unstoppable titan of terror!

Plot: A 400-foot dinosaur springs to life in the wake of heavy nuclear weapons testing over the Pacific Ocean, and before long, the fire-breathing Gojira (aka Godzilla) makes a beeline for an unsuspecting Tokyo.

My rating: 8.5/10

Will I watch it again? HOLY SHIT, YES!

I remember seeing the Americanized version of this with Raymond Burr when I was a kid. Seriously, he was sitting on the couch between me and my funny uncle. Just kidding. I did see it, though. Over the years I've repeatedly heard that the original Japanese cut is superior. Now, I can't recall much of the US cut but, after seeing the original, I'll never go back. Gojira, as it was originally titled, is nothing short of remarkable.

So how deep can you get with a movie that features a guy in a rubber suit stomping on models? Pretty damn deep, I'd say. There are several things that make this work. The black and white photography helps the devastation and drama, Akira Ifukube's iconic theme and excellent dramatic score, the simple yet enjoyable story and then there are the somber scenes detailing the aftermath of Godzilla's rampages, the villages leveled, the innocents slaughtered. That's some damn powerful stuff. And the one scene that shows the destruction with the girls choir singing behind it will choke you up.

The parallels of this and the US atomic bombings in Japan at the close of the second World War are biting. I actually choked up. I know, right? It's a friggin' Godzilla picture! I had tried to imagine how these scenes must have impacted Japanese viewers at the time. It had only been 9 years since the end of the war and it was still very fresh in their minds. And to their credit for their restraint, they make one mention of it. One character remarks that Godzilla could have been partially released by "what happened in their past" when comparing it to the nuclear explosion at sea that released it.


In the final moments of the picture two men travel to the ocean floor to deliver a bomb that will destroy the creature. I actually felt sorry for it. It's rather sad and the music handles it very nicely and softly. One of the divers, the scientist who created the device, sacrifices himself so that no man could ever have the formula he devised in the idea that it could be used as a weapon. It's touching as hell and it's handled with such honesty and care that it would be impossible for Hollywood to recreate. I imagined a Hollywood producer watching this thinking it needed a big swelling score and some final, macho one liner for the guy just before he snuffs it. I hate that shit.


If you should watch this for the first time, get ready for less of a giant monster horror and prepare for something akin to a disaster movie with all-to-real memories and consequences. I was shocked at how much emotional impact it packed. There's an awful lot of humanity in this picture which makes this so much more than a movie with some bloke in a rubber monster suit stomping on models.

1 comment:

  1. First Godzilla is the best of all series.
    And I prefer japanese version.