Cert: PG Runtime: 96 mins Director: Ishirô Honda Starring: Takashi Shimura, Akihiko Hirata and Akira Takarada
I can’t believe that Godzilla was the only surviving member of its species… But if we continue conducting nuclear tests… it’s possible that another Godzilla might appear somewhere in the world again
Well looking back at crazy giant monsters has really inspired me to re-watch Godzilla from 1954, since my childhood it has always made me laugh and scared at the same time. So as the old story goes, Japan is thrown into a panic after several ships explode and are sunk. At first, the authorities think its either underwater mines or underwater volcanic activity. The authorities soon head to Odo Island, close to where several of the ships were sunk. One night, something comes onshore and destroys several houses and kills several people. A later expedition to the island led by paleontologist Professor Kyôhei Yamane (Takashi Shimura) , his daughter Emiko( Momoko Kôchi), and young navy frogman Hideto Ogata (Akira Takarada) (who also happens to be Emiko’s lover, even though she is betrothed to Dr. Daisuke Serizawa) soon discover something more devastating than imagined in the form of a 164-foot-tall (50-meter-tall) monster whom the natives call Gojira. Now, the monster begins a rampage that threatens to destroy not only Japan but the rest of the world as well. Can the monster be destroyed before it is too late, and what role will the mysterious Serizawa play in the battle?
Like any other monster movie, Godzilla has a few commonly-seen things in it. There is a monster, of course, that causes destruction upon civilization. There is an opening catastrophe that causes panic and confusion. There is a scientist who wants to preserve the monster for scientific research, and those who simply want to kill it, and it turns out that the monster is hard to defeat. That has all been seen, and is still seen in monster movies to this day. But those films don’t graphically re-enact the suffering of a nuclear attack. “Godzilla” was produced just nine years after World War II. Director Ishiro Honda had seen how the victims of Hiroshima suffered after the nuclear bomb was dropped upon their city. Honda used his experience to show innocents both dead and dying after the monster’s destructive rampage and the emotional impact is no less than devastating.As for the special effects, Godzilla is widely known to feature men dressed up in rubber suits with wires controlling their tails. This was also used in the first Godzilla film, but to a much more realistic degree. While the staff had wanted to use the same stop-motion effects used in movies such as “King Kong”, they could not find the money or time (it would have taken seven years to make Godzilla through stop-motion animation) to do it. The man in a rubber suit was the only alternative and it did look convincing enough for its age. Nowdays, its primitive, but back then, audiences could accept it. And as for the wire clinging to Godzilla’s tail, it can only be seen in one shot. And Godzilla does not attack a city made out of crude cardboard in this film. He strikes a realistically reconstructed miniature version of Tokyo and causes realistic damage. Electric wires spark when he strikes them, power plants literally blow up, and buildings crumble in large chunks (like they would in real life).
Acting was first-class, especially when compared to the acting that would be achieved in later Godzilla films. The famous Japanese actor Takashi Shimura pulled off an amazing role as Professor Kyohei Yamane, the scientist who wanted to study Godzilla. And not just because it was a monster, but because it was a creature who could survive an atomic bomb. Throughout the film, the character of Professor Yamane tries to convince others that Godzilla could be studied for the benefit of humankind. This character, and the others, are not action heroes like what we see in American movies like “King Kong”. The heroes are made heroic by their moral decisions.When “Godzilla” was distributed into the United States two years later, some catastrophic changes with made to the film. It literally lost all of its allegorical power and symbolism that existed in its original version. References made to the nuclear bombs, character development, and many other aspects were either lowered tremendous or entirely eliminated and replaced with narrations and inserted shots of Raymond Burr. And while Burr pulled off a good performance, he could not compare to the great character development from the Japanese version.But now that the original, uncut and undubbed version of “Godzilla” can be purchased in the United States, after sixty plus years American audiences can finally understand how the series began. Only by the tremendous success of “Godzilla” would so many sequels come into existence. Overtime, the series lost its power and Godzilla changed from a allegorical horror film to a low-budget campy series.But the original film will not be forgotten, because it stands out among all of the other monster movies as a science fiction film with a purpose.