Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (1956)
Sunday, June 22nd
The world is puzzled when near Japan ships are sunk by a blinding light emerging them from the sea. A terror-stricken Japan turns to Odo Island at its inhabitants who are focused on traditions and superstition. They believe one ancient monster in particular is responsible for the recent the disasters, this monster being Godzilla. However, the attacks are not limited to the ocean, and the monster begins to attack on land. Researchers are brought in to investigate, finding evidence of once extinct species and traces of radioactivity. They are able to witness for themselves Godzilla looming, frightening all with his ferocious roar before receding back into the ocean. Godzilla is thought to be a once extinct creature that has been resurrected due to repeated experiments using hydrogen bombs. Now humanity must seek a way to destroy Godzilla before he destroys civilization.
Gojira was released in Japan in 1954 to mixed reviews, since then, the film gained more respect in Japan and has been listed amongst the top Japanese movies ever made. The film however, had only a limited release in the United States, before being edited for American audiences and re-released in 1956. This 1956 version of Godzilla introduced many audiences outside of Japan to Godzilla, and made him into the “King of the Monsters.” In the editing, this film used much of the footage from the original 1954 Japanese production. American producers inserted scenes using actor Raymond Burr and in some scenes the use of doubles to stand in for the Japanese actors in the original film. Burr’s character Steve Martin provides the narration for much of the film filling in information for the American audiences. Careful attention was paid to match the visual tone of the original film while making the film suitable for American release.
Japan of 1954 were not immune to the destruction and lingering effects of radiation and nuclear weapons. The 1945 bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and nuclear testing by the United States military on Bikini Atoll, made people wonder about the fallout from nuclear science. This early Godzilla is the physical representation of the destruction from nuclear energy.
I particularly chose this film this week due to the resurrection of Godzilla in 2014. This version of the film sees a re-imagination of the Godzilla character. He is no longer that destructive monster set on terror and devastation; he is now the balance of nature. There is still the undertone of nuclear science and its effects on the planet; however, it removes sole blame from nuclear science and testing for the rise of Godzilla and the monsters that appear. There are several other commonalities between the original 1954 film and the 2014 including the return to a closer resemblance of the original iconic look of the monster himself.
Images from: Godzilla, King of the Monsters! Dir. Ishirō Honda & Terry O. Morse. Toho Studios & Jewell Enterprises Inc, 1956. DVD.