GOJIRA (1954)
posted 00/00/2008

Directed by:
Ishirô Honda

Akira Takarada ... Hideto Ogata
Momoko Kôchi ... Emiko Yamane
Akihiko Hirata ... Daisuke Serizawa-hakase
Takashi Shimura ... Kyohei Yamane-hakase

Country: Japan
Runtime: 96 min
AKA: Godzilla

The story begins when a Japanese fishing boat is attacked by Godzilla and the vessel is set ablaze. We don’t see the monster here only the fiery radioactive blast. This was based on a true event where a Japanese fishing boat gets dangerously close to an American nuclear testing site and the crew is doused with radiation. Ishiro Honda, writer and director of the film had been a soldier and in that time he experienced first hand the destructive power of "the bomb" during a trek through decimated Hiroshima. Honda always wished the film to be a statement against the use of Nuclear Weapons in general for their potential to destroy man, in such terrible numbers and maybe the world. Godzilla is meant to represent nature’s response to our weapons of mass destruction, for it is through these blasts that the prehistoric beast awakens from his hibernated state deep within the ocean’s abyss. Godzilla is also used as a metaphor for the rage and merciless destruction of a nuclear attack.

Now that we have the political aspect said I believe Godzilla is a kick-ass monster movie, and is on my top ten monster movies of all time. Also it holds its ground as a scifi masterpiece. The story is inherently simple yet deep enough to warrant a criterion edition, which has not happened yet. The first 20 minutes are build up to the monsters entrance. We see the vessel at the onset of the film go up in nuclear flames. There is also an island where Godzilla stomps through and a few more moments which add to the wonder of the beast. We are also introduced to the three main characters and their love triangle which adds a dose of human relationship drama to the movie. It works well in its subtlety because it does move the story along. Emiko (Momoko Kochi) and Hideto (Akira Takarada) are somewhat sneaking around with their romantic relationship trying not to hurt Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata), Emiko’s closest friend which has strong feelings for her. She knows this but doesn't’ want to hurt him. Serizawa ,a scientist with an eye patch spends most of his time in his private laboratory in his home.

Now Godzilla comes into the picture raising hell. The army is called in and planes are deployed to no avail. Walking across town knocking over buildings and bridges, landmarks and trains, nothing can stop him. The government comes up with a plan to set up an electrical fence to stop Godzilla but he just walks right through it and then unleashes his best and coolest attack: the atomic breath. This thing is so cool. He opens his mouth and shoots out a jet of radioactive mist while his back fins glow and whatever it touches catches fire. Now Japan is truly facing a crisis with Osaka or Tokyo (I don’t remember) burning like a beacon.

The one person that has the potential in his hand to stop Godzilla is Serizawa. Earlier in the movie he had unveiled his greatest creation to Emiko. She now races to find him and convince him that his creation must be used to kill Godzilla immediately. Hesitant Serizawa realizes that like the Atomic bomb his creation: the Oxygen Destroyer, may fall into the wrong hands and cause much harm. But he realizes that Godzilla must be destroyed so he burns all his research and heads out to end the monster’s rampage.

The plan is for Serizawa and Hideto (a more experienced diver) to sneak up on Godzilla while he sleeps in the oceans depths and set off the oxygen destroyer. The plan works great but Seizawa realizing that people are now aware of this new destructive weapon and that he may be used in his weakness to create another decides to commits suicide by severing his oxygen line. Everything explodes under water in a fantastically made scene and we even see Godzilla’s bones. Now how awesome is that my friends?

There are 2 versions: Gojira the original Japanese version which contains the full uncut movie with English subtitles, and the American version titled Godzilla: King of the Monsters which came out 2 years later in 1956 which is 10-12 minutes less and re-edited with Raymond Burr and dubbed in English. You can acquire them both together on DVD with many specials. I have not seen the American version yet but will comment on it as soon as I do.

- Jorge Antonio Lopez


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