Fiziko is still on vacation, so I’ll be taking Saturday review for today.
Gojira: The Deluxe Collector’s Edition will be available September 5; it features the original 1954 Japanese film and the 1956 American revision, which made Godzilla an international star. The adaptors reshaped the original, excised several minutes, and added narration and scenes with Raymond Burr.
Fifty years later, with, what?– thirty sequels with at least three conflicting timelines, two cartoon series, a stint in the Marvel Universe, a terrible American remake, endless merchandise, Dr. Pepper and Nike commercials, a videogame, and a song by Blue Öyster Cult, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the big guy started out scary.
Cast, Crew, and Other Info:
Raymond Burr as Steve Martin
Akihiko Hirata as Daisuke Serizawa
Takashi Shimura as Kyohei Yamane
Akira Takarada as Hedito Ogata
Momoko Kochi Emiko Yamane
Ryosaku Takasugi , and
Katsumi Tezuka as Godzilla.
Atomic testing in the Pacific awakens a prehistoric beast, altered by radiation and bent on destruction. Dr. Serizawa develops a weapon which may destroy it: but that weapon may be as monstrous as Godzilla.
The concept of Godzilla in the original works in a way which may be startling to those who have never watched the original. The Monster represents any number of things, but the analogy for the horrors of war and, more specifically, the horrors of atomic weapons, in a country which had just experienced both, still carries weight. The destruction and death has been staged believably, with a power missing from the later sequels. It may be difficult by this point to take Godzilla seriously, but the first film, even in the altered version, imagines how people would react to a massive creature laying waste to their city, a creature which they helped awaken, and it uses actors who don’t have to imagine much. They’re re-living the experience.
I have no doubt that the American revisions sold this to a western audience, and the adaptors do a decent job of matching the footage. The narration, while ponderous, helps establish a documentary tone that suits the film’s serious nature. However, the U.S. sequences still stand out, and it’s fairly obvious they’ve been parachuted into an entirely different film.
Originality: 4/6 While obviously influenced by King Kong and The Beast from 20000 Fathoms, Godzilla manages to be a fairly original take on the giant monster, and very influential, effectively birthing the Kaiju genre.
Effects: 4/6 Sure, these aren’t up to today’s standards. Godzilla is obviously a performer in a rubber suit and in some places, the wires holding model planes can be seen. However, the effects are more impressive than many used in the next decade of Kaiju films. From the start, Toho made great model cities. The costume and puppet people used a couple of different heads for Godzilla in order to get various expressions and movements. The monster attacks at night and this decision, combined with the black and white film, eliminates a number of problems that become obvious in later films that show their monsters by day and in colour.
Story: 5/6 This works as a horror movie, a quality often lost in the genre it spawned. Serizawa also has a serious moral decision to make. The western edit is, however, a bit choppy in places.
Acting: 4/6 It’s difficult to assess dubbed actors. The cast, including the ill-fated extras, give a real sense of people under attack by a force over which they have no control.
Production: 4/6 The filmmakers did well on a relatively low budget, though Godzilla contains some production flaws, such as microphone shadows. One has to make allowances for the era.
Emotional Response: 4/6. If you’ve only watched the endless, frequently goofy sequels, this film will impress you, and I suspect I would give an even higher score to the unaltered original.
Overall: 5/6. Godzilla has serious themes about war, science, and responsibility, and it holds an important place in the history of cinema— especially cinema that nerds like.
Godzilla, King of the Monsters receives a total score of 30/42