Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Franchises: Godzilla. Godzilla (Gojira) (1954)/Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956)

Godzilla (Gojira)
File:Gojira 1954 Japanese poster.jpgIn the long and storied history of monster movies, there are two that are often considered to be the absolute cream of the crop in terms of both quality and historical significance. The first, of course, is the groundbreaking classic King Kong from 1933; the other is this 1950's masterpiece from the Land of the Rising Sun. It's amazing to think that, despite the unparalleled commercial success it had when it was released in Japan in 1954, as well as the incredible franchise that it started, Godzilla was initially dismissed by the Japanese film critics of the time, with some of them going as far as to describe it as, "grotesque junk." And yet, as time went on, it accumulated more and more accolades, eventually being put on several lists of the best Japanese films ever made. Funnily enough, it seems like his reputation over here was, for a while, no different from how it was in his home country; even in Japan, Godzilla had to wait to get some much deserved respect. In any case, I had known for a while that Godzilla, King of the Monsters, the 1956 American version of Raymond Burr, was not the only version of this first film. I can't recall exactly when I became aware of that fact since, for most of my life, I, like most people, assumed that cut with Burr was the one and only version. I think it was when the film was given a limited theatrical release in America in 2004 and I saw the reviews and plot synopses of it that I began to realize that they weren't talking about the film that I had grown up with (note: Stuff I Grew Up With will be present in the labels for a good chunk of these films but keep in my mind that I'm talking about the American versions in those cases). Even though I had read about the process the American distributor took in splicing Burr into the film years before, I was so young at the time that I didn't get it and didn't even understand the concept of different cuts of movies at that time. However, finding out more information about this original version and how it was darker and dealt more with the themes and allegory concerning the nuclear bombings that Japan had experienced back at the end of World War II really piqued my interest to the point where I really, really wanted to see it. Unfortunately, that theatrical release was very limited and when no DVD came of it after it was done, I figured that it was unlikely I would ever see the original Godzilla the way it was meant to be...
...so you can imagine my surprise when, in the fall of 2006, I was browsing around Hastings when I saw Classic Media's recently released two-disc edition that had both the original Japanese version and the American King of the Monsters version. I hadn't heard anything about this at all and so, when I saw it, as I said back in my Godzilla Introduction, I almost fell right on my ass. I couldn't believe that this version that I had heard so much about over the past couple of years was now readily available for me to experience for the first time. I even saw it at Wal-Mart later on that evening, which is as commercially attainable as you can get! That said, though, I would have to wait a couple of months before I would finally be able to see it, since this was getting close to Christmastime and I always stop buying stuff for myself until after the holidays. And it was a good thing I did because, sure enough, I received this DVD as a present from my mom that Christmas. The weight and importance of this version, however, didn't hit me right away, mainly because I was more than a little distracted due to the dark period in my life that I was going through then and also because I had read so much about this version before actually seeing it that I kind of spoiled it for myself (if you've read most of my reviews, you'd know that I have a bad habit of doing that). However, as I watched this version of the film more and more, I began to realize what a well-done, allegorical piece of cinema it really is; in other words, as was the case with the critics of the day, Godzilla had to wait a little bit in order for me to realize his true significance, and this was someone who'd been the biggest G-fan you possibly could be since childhood! The featurettes and audio commentaries for both versions in that set would help to enlighten me even more and now thanks to that, as well as other sources like David Kalat's incredible book, A Critical History and Filmography of Toho's Godzilla Series, and the special features that would be on the even more amazing Criterion Collection edition of the film, I can safely say that I understand this film's importance and now have a deeper respect for Godzilla than I ever did before. This is a movie that I will defend to my dying day and will forever make it known that, in my opinion, it's as important a Japanese film, or a film period, as any movie made by Akira Kurosawa (believe it or not, Godzilla actually has an interesting connection to Japan's most heralded filmmaker, as we'll see later).

By the way, I apologize in advance if some of the images here are hard to make out. This film literally becomes quite dark during the nighttime scenes, which there are plenty of.
One morning in August of 1954, a Japanese fishing boat is suddenly obliterated by a mysterious and deadly force that's characterized by a bright flash of light. A search boat is sent to investigate and it meets the same fate, along with a fishing boat near Odo Island that came across some survivors. The sole survivor of this latter sinking is washed ashore on the island, which is his home, and before he passes out, he mentions something about a monster being responsible for the destruction of his boat. This, coupled with a sudden decrease in the quality of fishing near the island, prompts an elder to wonder if Godzilla, a legendary sea monster, has decided to make his presence known after being dormant for centuries. When a helicopter full of reporters arrives at the island, the journalists are initially skeptical of the stories they hear about a creature that's big enough to destroy ships but that night, after witnessing an exorcism ceremony meant to keep Godzilla away, a storm hits the island... along with something else that destroys the island's small village and kills the survivor and his mother, leaving his younger brother an orphan. The next day, some of the surviving natives and other witnesses are brought to Tokyo to make a report and, upon hearing the facts, Dr. Kyohei Yamane, one of Japan's most revered scientists, suggests that a thorough study be made of Odo Island. Upon doing so, Yamane and his group find enormous, radioactive footprints, one of which contains a trilobite, and discover that the island's main well has also been contaminated. In the middle of the investigation, Godzilla shows himself for the first time and, upon seeing how enormous the creature is, the villagers, who were planning to attack him, immediately retreat. After Godzilla heads back into the ocean, Yamane and his team return to Japan, where he presents his findings and reveals his theory that Godzilla was not only awakened by repeated atomic tests but that he's now himself intensely radioactive, making him far more deadly than he ever was before. While there is an argument about keeping this information secret due to the international repercussions it could cause, it is revealed to the public and also, despite Yamane's desire for Godzilla to be kept alive so he can be studied, the government attempts to destroy him with depth charges. This, however, doesn't work at all and when Godzilla makes his way to Tokyo, it becomes increasingly apparent that no weapons whatsoever can stop him. The monster very easily lays waste to the great city, killing hundreds in his wake and injuring and contaminating hundreds more with his radioactivity, and everyone realizes that, unless some method of killing him can be found, Godzilla could very easily destroy mankind altogether.

When talking about Godzilla, it's imperative that we mention the core group of people who brought him to life and stayed with the series throughout a good chunk of it; plus, since you'll be seeing their names a lot throughout these reviews anyway, it's best that you get acquainted with them now. If there's one person who can be credited with being the Father of Godzilla, it's Tomoyuki Tanaka, the prolific Japanese film producer who actually came up with the idea for the Big G out of pure necessity. When a film that he had been prepping for a significant amount of time fell-through, Tanaka had to come up with a replacement very quickly in order to fill that movie's now empty release date. Inspired by the success that Warner Bros. had had the previous year with The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Tanaka decided that a monster movie would be the way to go and the ongoing fear that Japan still had concerning the atomic bomb even nearly a decade after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as the news a much more recent nuclear incident involving a fishing boat, would lead to the film's well-known allegory on the subject. Despite his moniker as Godzilla's true creator and the fact that he would be tied to it for the rest of his life, it was hardly the only thing that Tanaka was involved with. In a career that spanned almost 60 years, Tanaka produced over 200 films that spanned virtually every genre, including comedy, drama, romance, and the like. He worked with Akira Kurosawa on six films, including 1980's Kagemusha, which was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film. Besides the Godzilla movies, Tanaka was involved with every Toho monster movie made during his lifetime, often working with several or all of the other members of the core Godzilla team on them. But, of course, being Godzilla's creator will always be what he's most remembered for and, like Albert R. Broccoli and the James Bond films, he was involved with his most famous movies up until his death in 1997 at the age of 86.

While Tomoyuki Tanaka was Godzilla's actual creator, the man who would make it his intention to give him a soul was director Ishiro Honda. For a film that was intended to have very strong themes of nuclear holocaust, Tanaka couldn't have asked for a better director than Honda. Besides having been drafted into the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1938, which eventually resulted in him being taken prisoner in China up until the war ended, Honda had witnessed the devastation at Hiroshima firsthand since he had passed through the area on his way home after the war had ended. If there was anyone who could really bring the horrors of nuclear war home and give Godzilla, whose screenplay he would also co-write, a rather chilling sense of authenticity, it was Honda. While his extreme pacifist nature may have made him naïve enough to think that the film would actually end nuclear tests altogether, there's no underestimating the heart and soul that he brought to it. Like Tanaka, while Honda's association with Godzilla would last through the rest of his life, he actually had a very prolific filmography, often working on documentaries and war films, most notably Eagle of the Pacific in 1953. His best friend and neighbor was Akira Kurosawa, whom he mentored under and worked as an assistant for early in his career. Kurosawa himself had nothing but praise and admiration for Honda, once calling him one of the most reliable and honest men he had ever known, and credited the accolades he got for accurately capturing the atmosphere of postwar Japan in the film Stray Dog to Honda's second unit work, which entailed him going out and shooting footage of the still ruined sections of Tokyo from the wartime fire-bombings. So, for all you film snobs out there who feel that the Japanese monster movies, especially the Godzilla movies, are vastly inferior to the films of Kurosawa, just keep in mind that the very best of those films were the work of Kurosawa's best friend and a man that he himself had an enormous amount of respect and praise for.

In a typical monster movie of the times, the dashing and handsome Akira Takarada would be the hero in his role as salvage ship captain Ogata but, despite his name being listed first in the film's opening credits, he's actually more of a supporting character and a spectator. In fact, the structure of this film has it to where the responsibility of a lead constantly shifts from one character to the other and while Ogata is the first to get this responsibility, being that he's called in by the Coast Guard to use his salvage expertise in figuring out what happened to the boat that was destroyed at the beginning of the movie, his role quickly becomes much less important than you would expect it to be for most of the film. While he's not a bad character at all and is made fairly likable by Takarada's natural charm, there's not much to him. He cares deeply for Emiko, whom he is seeing behind her father's back due to her arranged marriage to Dr. Serizawa, and while he does have great respect and admiration for both her father, Dr. Yamane, and Serizawa, he's intent upon asking Yamane for her hand in marriage. He's good enough to try to wait until Emiko breaks the news to Serizawa herself before asking Yamane's permission but, when that doesn't work, he decides to go ahead and ask Yamane anyway. Unfortunately for Ogata, before he can ask Yamane, he gets into a conversation with the doctor about his continuing wish that Godzilla be kept alive and tells him that he agrees with the military, that Godzilla must be destroyed. This was not a good idea because Yamane angrily tells him to leave and storms out, pretty much dashing any hopes for the two young lovers to wed (for that matter, I don't know why he decided to wait until the moment when everyone is waiting for Godzilla to reappear in Tokyo Bay again). Although Ogata tells Emiko that he will try to talk to Yamane about it again, it's unlikely that he'll consent and, in fact, the only hope the two of them have of ever being married at all comes at the end of the film when Serizawa sacrifices his life for the good of mankind. Speaking of which, the responsibility of the main character does come back to Ogata when, after Emiko reveals to him that Serizawa has a device that could destroy Godzilla, he takes it upon himself to try to convince the reluctant scientist to use it. After a small scuffle between the two that leads to Ogata being slightly injured, he tells Serizawa that he understands why he's reluctant to use his device, the Oxygen Destroyer, but, at the same time, asks what they're supposed to do about the crisis that they're facing right now. Eventually, Serizawa agrees to use the device and, when the time comes, he and Ogata go down together to plant it where it will be effective against Godzilla. But, once again going against what you'd expect, Ogata is not the hero who kills the monster; it's Serizawa, a character whom, as I'll get into presently, we saw very little of throughout the film. At the end of the day, Ogata is a necessary aspect of the film since he's part of the love triangle that serves as the film's backdrop and makes that work as a whole but, by himself, the importance of his presence in the overall story is the smallest of any of the main cast.

The second member of the love triangle is Emiko Yamane (Momoko Kochi), the daughter of Dr. Yamane who has had a long-standing marriage arrangement with Dr. Serizawa. In order to avoid a scandal, she's been seeing Ogata behind her father's back and has developed a much truer, loving bond with him than she ever had with Serizawa. That said, though, she does care for Serizawa a great deal but as she would an older brother instead of a lover, as she tells Ogata. Wanting very much to marry Ogata, Emiko decides to tell Serizawa about her feelings for Ogata, hoping that his consent will help sway her father in giving them permission. But, before Emiko can do so, Serizawa decides to show her his newest invention, the Oxygen Destroyer and before he does so, Emiko is sworn to secrecy since Serizawa doesn't want anyone to know about the device until he can find a use for it other than just as a horrific weapon. Emiko vows to keep Serizawa's secret, even from her own father, but after Godzilla leaves Tokyo in ruins and thousands of people either dead or dying, she realizes that she can't stay silent any longer and must tell someone that there is a device that could destroy the monster, with the responsibility now falling briefly on her. When she tells Ogata, the two of them go to Serizawa's house and confront him about it. Emiko is clearly devastated about breaking her promise to Serizawa and breaks down crying while telling him that she revealed it to Ogata. Later on, after Ogata has tried to convince Serizawa that his device is the only thing that can save Japan from Godzilla and the scientist, absolutely torn about what to do, puts his head down and pulls at his hair while sobbing in frustration, you can tell Emiko has sympathy for Serizawa's plight by the way that she looks at him. And once Serizawa agrees to use the Oxygen Destroyer against Godzilla and proceeds to burn his notes, Emiko breaks down crying because she realizes, from something that Serizawa told her when he first showed it to her, that he's going to eventually kill himself to ensure that no one will know the secret of this device. And once it's discovered that Serizawa died along with Godzilla, all Emiko, along with everyone else, can do is mourn his sacrifice and take whatever solace she can in Ogata telling her that Serizawa's last words was a wish for the two of them to be happy together.

The final part of the love triangle is the least seen and yet, at the same time, the most interesting by far: Dr. Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata), a young, reclusive scientist who hardly ever leaves the dark brick house that serves as his home and laboratory. Everything about him is just fascinating: his eye-patch, which you find out is due to a nasty wound he received during the war, his aforementioned dark house and the laboratory that he keeps in the basement, and his equally dark mood, which makes him very reclusive and distant to outsiders, save for Emiko. It's obvious that he does indeed care for Emiko like Ogata does and trusts her enough to show her the Oxygen Destroyer, this device he's created that splits oxygen atoms into liquids, suffocating every living in the water before disintegrating their remains. However, Serizawa is far from a mad scientist; in fact, he's absolutely horrified by what he's discovered. He tells Emiko that when he first came upon the strange energy that powers the device and experimented with it, he was so shocked that he couldn't eat for several days. He realizes that, if used as a weapon, the Oxygen Destroyer could be far more deadly than the H-bomb and, therefore, he refuses to reveal it to the world until he can find another use for it, saying that he's willing to destroy his research papers and kill himself if he's forced to reveal it before then. His reasoning for sacrificing his life as well as his research is simple: even if he does destroy his notes, the secrets of the Oxygen Destroyer will still be in his head and he can't guarantee that he won't eventually be coerced by the higher-ups into divulging them. So therefore, when he realizes that he must indeed use the Oxygen Destroyer as a weapon in order to save the world from Godzilla, he carries out his plans to ensure that the secret of the device will never be revealed and, as he watches Godzilla die from its effects, he cuts his oxygen line and dies along with the monster. It's also possible that he does this to ensure that Emiko and Ogata can marry and have a happy life together. In the scene where they go to try to convince Serizawa to use the Oxygen Destroyer, there are subtle hints that he knows that the two of them have been secretly seeing each other. He's rather happy to see Emiko when he walks down the hall towards the sitting room but, when he enters the room and sees Ogata is there as well, his mood seems to darken a little bit. It could be that when he tells the two of them to have a seat and asks what he can do for them, he's expecting them to ask for his consent on their marriage. Let's not forget that the first time you see Serizawa, he's standing at the pier, watching the research boat depart to investigate the wrecked village at Odo Island and he's looking directly at Emiko and Ogata with a flower in his hand. It's very possible that he has known of their relationship for quite some time and that's the reason why he's there in the first place, although Ogata gives a more sinister reason for his presence. But the most telling sign is when, before he commits suicide, he tells Ogata that he hopes he and Emiko will be happy together. This shows that, despite his dark state of mind, he does care for Emiko quite a bit and, for a long time, probably felt that she would be much happier with Ogata instead of him. This suicide, in his mind, will ensure that happiness as well as save the world from a fate worse than the H-bomb. Definitely a tragic and heroic character if there ever was one.

Another connection between Godzilla and Akira Kurosawa is the presence of Takashi Shimura, a highly acclaimed actor who was part of Kurosawa's repertory and had appeared in his legendary film, The Seven Samurai, as Dr. Kyohei Yamane, a respected Japanese paleontologist whose opinion is seen as very important by the government officials and his fellow scientists. He's the one who suggests that a research party be sent to make a thorough investigation of Odo Island, feeling that it's not helpful to make any conclusions before he's visited the island himself, and says that, given the deep caverns and crevices that exist at the bottom of the ocean, there's no telling what mysteries are waiting to be unlocked. After visiting Odo Island and finding evidence such as enormous, highly radioactive footprints and a trilobite imbedded in the mud of one of them, as well as getting a very close look at Godzilla and taking a picture of his head, Yamane is the one to explain what exactly Godzilla is. He's the one who informs the government that, as evidenced by the trilobite and the sand found within its shell, that Godzilla was living within caverns down at the bottom of the ocean, possibly along with others of his species, and that the H-bombs not only destroyed his habitat but inundated him with copious amounts of radioactivity. However, Yamane does not want Godzilla to be destroyed but rather to be studied. This may seem like a cliché that you often come across in these types of sci-fi/monster movies but he has a good reason for feeling this way: if they can figure out how Godzilla survived being exposed to the direct blast of a nuclear bomb, it's possible they could save lives if Japan suffers another nuclear disaster. When the government and other scientists continue to insist that Godzilla must be destroyed, Yamane becomes increasingly despondent and brooding, at one point deciding to sit in his room in the dark rather than watch the operation that's meant to destroy Godzilla with depth charges, and is also why he becomes so angry at Ogata when he tells him that he agrees with everyone else. But, after Godzilla all but decimates Tokyo and leaves thousands suffering, Yamane seems to realize that it's best for the monster to die and makes no effort to stop Ogata and Serizawa from using the Oxygen Destroyer against him, even telling Serizawa that Ogata is right about the dangers that come from inexperienced diving, which is what he intends to do, and he tells Ogata that he's counting on him. By the end of the film, Godzilla is indeed dead but Yamane has not only lost Serizawa, whom he admired very greatly and had hoped all his life would marry Emiko one day, but realizes that it's possible that continued atomic tests might unleash another Godzilla some day.

Hagiwara, on the right.
The rest of the cast play their roles well enough. While he doesn't do or say much of any important, Prof. Tanabe (Fuyuki Murakami), the radiology expert, is often present during the most important scenes, like when Dr. Yamane is telling the government of his findings and later on when they're asking the doctor if there's any possible way to kill Godzilla, and he's the one who warns the natives of Odo Island that several sections of their village, including their well, has been contaminated and that they'd best stay clear of those spots for now. His most memorable moment comes when, after Godzilla has decimated Tokyo, he's taking a Geiger reading of a young child and after doing so, looks at Emiko and just shakes his head, making it all too clear that this kid has no chance. He's also the one who uses his Geiger counter to locate Godzilla when it's decided that the Oxygen Destroyer will be used against him and, after it's all over, you can see him sitting behind Yamane when the doctor says to himself that another Godzilla might appear one day due to repeated atomic tests and he seems to hear and understand the gravity of those words. Another character who doesn't do much in the overall and yet is still memorable is Hagiwara (Sachio Sakai), a newspaper journalist who, like Prof. Tanabe, is present during the most important scenes, reporting the facts to his newspaper and such. He's at first skeptical when he hears talk of an enormous creature that's living in the ocean and is the cause of these ship disasters but, after experiencing the typhoon on Odo Island and seeing the odd look of the destruction for himself, he starts to become more open to the idea and tells the government that the destroyed houses were crushed from above, as if stepped on. He is present at the island when Godzilla makes his first appearance and, when the latter official meeting erupts into chaos, you can see him watching it from the background with something of an, "Ooh, boy," type of look on his face. While working near the presses at the newspaper building, he comments on a discussion that two other reporters are having about whether Godzilla should be studied or destroyed, saying that it's a tricky subject. He's asked by the editor to interview Dr. Serizawa after getting a tip that Serizawa might be working on something that would be effective against Godzilla but he has to have Emiko introduce him to the reclusive scientist, since he refuses to Hagiwara otherwise. Regardless, he doesn't get much information out of Serizawa, who tells him that his sources, which informed his paper that a German scientist was the one who said that he might have a device that could be useful, were wrong and that he knows no such scientist and when Hagiwara then asks him exactly what he is working on, Serizawa refuses to say anything else. Emiko tells Hagiwara that, now that he's broken the ice with Serizawa, he might be more open to him in the future and tells him to try again some other time. Of course, by the time he meets Serizawa again, he's just revealed his Oxygen Destroyer and the doctor sacrifices his life, prompting Hagiwara to mourn the loss along with everyone else and comfort Shinkichi, who's broken up about as badly as Emiko.

You see firsthand the effects that Godzilla's attacks have on one particular family that lives on Odo Island. Masaji (Ren Yamamoto) is a fisherman whose boat comes across several survivors from the destroyed ships floating adrift in the ocean and he and the people with him save them and bring them aboard. However, it's a short-lived rescue because you hear that, while attempting to take the survivors to Odo Island, the fishing boat is destroyed in the same way as the first two and Masaji, barely alive, drifts ashore as the only survivor, mentioning something about a monster destroying his boat before he passes out. Masaji eventually recovers well enough to do some work around the island but, he's reluctant to talk to Hagiwara due to the skepticism his story about a monster might draw and, when Hagiwara, sure enough, doesn't exactly believe him, Masaji becomes frustrated and storms off with his younger brother, Shinkichi (Toyoaki Suzuki). That night, however, Godzilla comes ashore under the cover of a typhoon and crushes Masaji's hut, killing both him and his mother (Tsuruko Umano) and leaving Shinkichi, who'd ran outside to try to see what exactly was going on, homeless and orphaned. Shinkichi is one of the Odo Island natives who is taken back to Tokyo to make an official report and he insists that he could just barely see an enormous creature moving in the darkness. Somewhere along the way, Shinkichi is adopted by the Yamane family and is often seen at their house with Emiko, Ogata, and Dr. Yamane himself. Later on, as Godzilla is leaving the smoldering city and heading back into the sea, Shinkichi curses the monster to himself, undoubtedly because he understands better than anybody else the suffering that his attacks cause since he's experienced it. At the end of the film, he's as broken up about Serizawa's sacrifice as Emiko, even though he never knew Serizawa. It's probably because he's thinking that Godzilla has once again had a hand in taking a loved one away from those who care about him.

There are a couple of other memorable side characters in the film. One of them is the old man on Odo Island (Kokuten Kodo), who is the first one to bring up the subject of Godzilla and, later on when the reporters spend the night on the island, tells Hagiwara of the legend and the ancient rituals to keep the monster at bay. He's notable for becoming very angry when a young woman scoffs at his warnings about Godzilla and says that he's nothing but a relic from the old days, prompting him to tell her that if she doesn't take it more seriously, she and everyone else will become prey for Godzilla. Although he appears in only one scene, Parliamentarian Oyama (Seijiro Onda) is notable because he's the center of one of the film's most topical aspects with his opinion that revealing to the public that Godzilla is a result of the H-bombs will cause an unprecedented international nightmare given how fragile relations between countries currently are. And finally, although he only appears in a moment so brief that you'd miss him if you blinked, Kenji Sahara, who would go on to act in more Godzilla movies than any other actor, has a brief scene here as a partygoer on the boat that comes across Godzilla when he first appears in Tokyo Bay.

Those who think of Godzilla movies as nothing more than silly, campy monster flicks will probably be surprised to watch this original film and learn that it's anything but. This film has a very somber, foreboding, doom-laden mood that is established right from the very beginning and lasts until its conclusion. Save for a little bit of business with Hagiwara, the reporter, and a moment on a train where a man tells his woman that Godzilla will probably go straight for her if he comes ashore in Tokyo, there's no humor to be found here whatsoever. The tone is established right from the first frames, where you hear three loud stomps, followed by Godzilla's roar as the title comes up and then, as the opening credits scroll upwards, the film's main march plays while Godzilla continues howling and stomping. Although that theme is exciting and thrilling, the combination of it and the sounds of Godzilla roaring and stomping is unexpectedly terrifying, especially at the end of the credits when the music reaches its highest pitch and Godzilla lets out one last frightening roar before the film officially begins. When I first watched this version, I was taken aback by that opening credit sequence and how much it gives you a feeling of, "Oh, shit." As I said, that mood stays with the film through its entirety, as you see the panic that begins gripping Tokyo as more and more ships are mysteriously destroyed, the fear that also engulfs Odo Island, especially when it comes to their legend about Godzilla, and the feeling of dread that seems to overtake Tokyo as they wait to see where Godzilla will appear next once he first makes his presence known in the bay.

The best example that I can think of for how chilling this film's mood can get is the scene aboard the research vessel that's taking Dr. Yamane and other scientists to investigate Odo Island. Ogata and Emiko talk a little bit about how they were surprised to see Serizawa at the pier when they left and Ogata comments that maybe he was doing it as a final goodbye, that this may be a doomed voyage. When Emiko asks if he really thinks that's true, Ogata tells her that, while they've taken all of the necessary safety precautions, anything could happen. He then walks away and Emiko looks down over the side of the ship at the dark ocean below. The complete silence of this scene adds to the uneasiness that you can feel in the air and when the scene transitions to the wrecked village on Odo Island, it's amplified even more so by the solemn music that plays as Yamane and his colleagues investigate the damage. When Godzilla is leaving after having destroyed Tokyo, the people cheer when he's attacked by fighter planes while doing so but, when he dives underneath the water and disappears, the people immediately realize that they have nothing to celebrate, because this unstoppable beast has just laid waste to their city, is still lurking out there somewhere, waiting to strike again, and nothing will kill him. And even at the end of the film when Godzilla is indeed killed, there's no sense of rejoice, which is what you would get in a typical monster movie when the monster is defeated; instead, everybody is mourning Serizawa's sacrifice and Yamane is giving his own private warning that the threat of Godzilla may always be there as long as nuclear tests continue. It's similar to the end of Them!, where the characters ponder what all the other atomic tests that have been conducted for the better half of a decade might have produced in addition to that film's giant ants, only it's much more somber here, with a definite feeling that this probably won't be the end of it.

Even when he's not onscreen, the fear and feeling of dread that Godzilla creates is palpable to say the least. The unexpected and, at the time, mysterious flashes of blinding light that appear out of nowhere and wipe out these ships give you a frightening taste of the unknown, which is always scary, and makes you wonder what is causing these explosions. And then, when we get to Odo Island, we learn of the legend of Godzilla and the rituals that were once employed to keep him at bay, as well as hear Masaji say that he is sure that it was some sort of enormous creature that destroyed his fishing boat. When the typhoon strikes the island that night, you get the feeling that the islanders have more to fear than just lightning and pounding winds, a feeling that Masaji seems to have as we see him lying in bed, looking around the room and rubbing his head anxiously. That's when we begin to hear Godzilla's thundering footsteps within the storm and, when Shinkichi runs outside to find the source of the noise, Masaji follows him and hears him scream for his brother outside. There's a flash of lightning and Masaji recoils in fear after looking out the window, no doubt getting a clear look at Godzilla, and runs back to his mother inside the house, where the two of them die when the roof caves in. It's as though Godzilla knew that Masaji got away from the fishing boat when he destroyed it and followed him back to Odo Island to finish the job. And also, let's not forget how, after Shinkichi leaves the island to live in Tokyo with the Yamane family, Godzilla soon appears near the city as well, as if he's following every member of Masaji's family. He doesn't kill Shinkichi but it's still something to think about. Going back to Godzilla's footsteps, those are often a tip off that he's nearby and, as a result, create an atmosphere of urgency and fear since we usually hear them long before we see him. For instance, we here them as soon as the alarm is sounded while Yamane and his colleagues are studying the wrecked village, as well as off in the distance during the bit after he makes first appearance where they see his enormous footprints leading to the ocean, during the scene at the boat party near Tokyo, letting us know before it happens that the celebration is about to be shattered, and, most forebodingly, we hear it coupled with the sound of an alarm when Yamane and everyone else realizes that Godzilla is approaching Tokyo. The scene right after that, when you see people attempting to run for safety while still hearing Godzilla's footsteps and the still blaring alarm, which is now coupled with some police sirens, has a feeling of impending doom about it, that most of these people probably won't make it to shelter before Godzilla arrives (which is indeed the case).

You might find this hard to believe, given what these films eventually became, but the attacks by Godzilla and how people respond to them are treated with a sense of reality, like it's an actual disaster and it gives you an idea as to how this situation would be if a gigantic, unstoppable monster like Godzilla did appear. When the fishing boat is destroyed at the beginning of the film, we see the response by the Coast Guard as they call in Ogata to help figure out what happened and we see the owner of the steamship company frantically run into the situation room upon being informed of the sinking and ask the officials what could have happened, a question that they don't know the answer to. After the search boat suffers the same fate as the fishing boat, we see how this news is beginning to circulate, with scenes of reporters on the phone, reporting that another disaster has happened, and, most importantly, we start to see the human drama associated with these events unfold, as the distraught families of the ships' crews crowd the Coast Guard's headquarters and demand to know what's being done to find any survivors. All the officials can do is assure these people that everything that can be done is being done, with more ships and helicopters being used as part of the search efforts. However, even this declaration is met with skepticism by the frantic families, with one man insisting that the number of ships being used isn't nearly enough to be of much help. When several survivors are picked up by the fishing boat near Odo Island, the Coast Guard reports this to the families and they, of course, immediately ask which ship they're from. They're told that it's not known yet but that the names will be released as soon as possible. Right after the official says that, an officer comes in and hands him a piece of paper, prompting the families to rush the situation room, feeling that this must mean that the names have been released. The distraught people have to be all but restrained at the door and that's when we learn that it's not good news at all, that the fishing boat that had picked up the survivors and was taking them to Odo Island has also been destroyed. Speaking of which, when Masaji, the sole survivor of said fishing boat, washes ashore on the island while drifting on a piece of debris, we see his family and friends rush to his aide and we can hear a woman, undoubtedly his distraught mother, calling his name. One guy picks Masaji up and smacks the side of his face, momentarily bringing him to consciousness and allowing him to mumble that something destroyed his boat before passing out again, prompting everyone to yell their questions as to what happened and that one guy to try to shake him awake again.

Not only do you see what Godzilla's attacks do to the families of his victims but the effects that it has on those who experience them and survive are not lost on you either. Besides the site of Masaji being right at death's door when he's found drifting in the ocean, you also see the exhausted and dehydrated survivors that he and his friends picked up on their fishing boat before it's destroyed, with the men unable to tell Masaji anything other than the ocean just blew up and you get a close-up of one guy who's sitting next to Masaji and looks as if he's going to pass out with how hard he's panting. It's also hard to forget the shot of Shinkichi laying against this rocky outcropping in the rain, screaming for his family when Godzilla destroys his house, killing both Masaji and their mother in the process (and let's also not forget how Shinkichi curses Godzilla after he brings nothing but death and destruction to Tokyo). While these people don't suffer an attack by Godzilla, the panic and hysteria that break out at that boat party when he suddenly appears in Tokyo Bay is very extreme and also helps to get across the terror he's causing these people, especially after they probably felt that he had been killed by the depth charges earlier that day. During Godzilla's first, brief attack on Tokyo, you not only see those people who were unable to get past the city limits running for their lives as Godzilla makes his way from the shore to the outskirts of the city but, as he derails and stomps on this train, there are shots of people who are either injured or just hiding watching him do so from spots where they've taken cover, all the while with looks of absolute fear on their faces. But what have to be the most affecting moments involving people who were unlucky to come face to face with Godzilla and live occur after his devastating second attack on the city. One is that part I mentioned earlier when Prof. Tanabe is examining this kid with a Geiger counter and the enormous reading that he gets makes him hopelessly shake his head at Emiko, indicating that this child won't live long due to the amount of radiation she's been exposed to. The other one is punctuated by a heart-wrenching moment during Godzilla's actual attack. At one point during the attack, we see a woman and her kids taking cover in an alley and, as Godzilla's deadly radioactive fire spreads, she tells her kids that they'll be joining their father soon, meaning that she knows there's no escape for them. Well, when you see the horrific aftermath of the attack the following day, you see that the little girl did survive but the mother (as well as possibly the other two kids, since you never see them) did not and the girl becomes hysterical and cries for her mother when she's taken away. Emiko tries to comfort the girl and then gives her to a nurse, telling her that her mother will be alright, which you know isn't true at all.

Not only does the film paint a believable picture of the effect that something like this would have on the people but it also mentions the economic and political problems that it would cause as well. During the first part of the film when the search goes on for survivors of the ship disasters, you see the poor elderly man who runs the steamship company being absolutely beleaguered by what's going on, at one point sitting on a bench in the Coast Guard headquarters with a hopeless look and feel to him as distraught families scream for news of their loved ones in the next room. At one point, the owner and another person discuss about how seriously this situation could affect them and that feeling becomes even more pronounced later on when Godzilla first appears in Tokyo Bay, with the Chief of Emergency Headquarters telling Dr. Yamane that, "If this keeps up, we'll have to suspend the international shipping routes." And we can't forget that scene where Oyama, fearing the international nightmare that the fact that Godzilla came about as a result of H-bombs would create, argues with others over the issue of whether or not the information should be made public.

The most frighteningly believable aspects of the film, in my opinion, occur after Godzilla's first, relatively mild attack on Tokyo. In preparation to defend Tokyo from his predictable next attack, the military attempts to create an electrical barrier around the city using high-tension towers, hoping to either electrocute Godzilla to death or, at the very least, drive him back into the ocean. In addition, the military evacuates residents whose homes are in harm's way and that sequence of people fleeing with their belongings as the military helps them to get to shelters and such is what makes this feel frighteningly real to me. It's like the evacuation that you would see around coastal areas when a hurricane is approaching. Moreover, in the middle of the evacuation, you hear a radio announcement that Godzilla has been seen nearby and is on the move again, heading back to the city. That's another part of this sequence that I find to be both frightening and realistic. If something like this ever did happen, you would hear news reports about the movement of the threat, just as you would an approaching hurricane or an oncoming attack from a hostile nation. And plus, I can only imagine the feeling that hearing an announcement like that in the middle of an evacuation would give you: once you hear that, you know that you're running out of time to get yourself and your family to safety. In addition, there's a genuine urgency to the montage of the military moving in with their weapons and equipment, as well as trying as best as they can to get the gigantic electrical blockade ready before it's too late. Once night falls, it becomes a tense waiting game as the military and the civilians who stayed behind wait for Godzilla to make his appearance. Another shot that has an air of realism to it is when you see Ogata and Emiko looking out the window of the Yamane house at the city below and you can see searchlights streaking back and forth in the sky, bringing to mind what it must look like during wartime when an attack on a city is expected. And finally, when all of the military's attempts to destroy Godzilla fail, they abandon their attack altogether and focus their efforts on trying to put out the fires that Godzilla has started throughout the city as well as find and transport civilians to safety, turning it from a defensive, warlike situation to a rescue operation such as would be put into effect in response to a natural disaster like an earthquake.

Of course, the way that the filmmakers made the film the most realistic and scary, especially for Japanese audiences of the time, was to make the allusions to the fear of atomic bombs that was still prevalent throughout the country. Not only is the opening destruction of a fishing boat almost exactly like a real nuclear accident that occurred not too long before production on the film began (I'll elaborate on that later on) but, after it's revealed to the public that Godzilla is a direct result of continuous nuclear tests, we see a very telling scene on a train where a couple discuss what this means for them. The woman comments, "Radioactive tuna, nuclear fallout, and now this Godzilla on top of it all." As the conversation goes on, another passenger comments on how they'd all better prepare for what's to come and the woman's husband makes it clear that he isn't too thrilled about having to go through the ordeal of evacuating and taking shelter during a nuclear disaster again, grumbling that he's had enough. Given all that the Japanese had gone through after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it's very believable that they would have this hopeless attitude upon hearing that something virtually identical to an atomic bomb is now looming over them and could strike at any time. That idea becomes all too real during Godzilla's major attack on Tokyo, which has shots of people screaming in agony as they're burned alive by his radioactive flame, and is brought home and made complete by the aftermath where Tokyo is in ruins, no doubt looking like Hiroshima after the bombing, which is quite possible given how Ishiro Honda visited the site himself, and hospitals are filled to capacity by people who are either dead, dying, or horribly injured. Those shots of people who are in pain from nearly being crushed to death or radiation poisoning, not to mention those of people who are dead, are something that you would never see again in any of the Godzilla movies that came afterward. In the later films, it's either said that the cities were evacuated or you just plain don't see any human casualties for the most part. Not so with this first one. Here, Honda uncompromisingly shows you the death and destruction caused by Godzilla to drive home the point that this, in many ways, is the atomic bombings all over again.

File:Godzilla '54 design.jpgAlright, now that we've got all that stuff out of the way, let's talk about the real reason why this film and the franchise as a whole has become so popular around the world: the King of the Monsters himself, my boy Godzilla. To talk about Godzilla is really to talk about Haruo Nakajima, the stuntman who would be the one to literally bring the Big G to life in this film and would continue to do so for almost the next twenty years. While Nakajima would be able to use his physical abilities and body movement to create a personality for Godzilla in the later films, in this first film, he wasn't able to do that much because of how restrictive the suit was. Unlike the later suits, this first one was not originally built for him and weighed over 200 pounds, which really limited him in his movements, enabling him to only walk in a straight line. Plus, because of the extremely bright studio lights needed to shoot the special effects scenes, the temperature inside the suit would get up to 130 degrees, meaning that Nakajima could stand being in there for only three minutes total and he did pass out several times during filming. It's because of how arduous acting in the suit was for Nakajima that Godzilla doesn't have anything of a personality in this film and is nothing more than a rampaging beast but, ironically, that actually helped the movie get its point across in my opinion. This isn't the wrestling, karate-chopping Godzilla that you would see beating up monsters in later films. This Godzilla is a bringer of death and destruction to mankind, a force of nature that's striking back against mankind for all of the wrong that they've done, specifically creating the atomic bomb. The legend that the natives of Odo Island tell about Godzilla seems to be very truthful when you see him methodically and emotionlessly going through Tokyo, destroying everything that he sees. He does feel like an angry god that's raining fire down upon those who have displeased him. And like I said, there's very little emotion in what he's doing as well. His face is blank for the most part and while there are moments where he acts like a large animal, such as when he roars at the clock tower in Tokyo when it's ringing, like he thinks it's challenging him, for the most part his actions are only those of something powerful and otherworldly that's passing extreme judgment on mankind in a chillingly calm and matter-of-factly way. In fact, rather than seeing his final roar at the ship before the Oxygen Destroyer disintegrates him as one of pain and suffering, you could interpret it as a warning to them, that this is far from over (and, given the amount of movies that followed this one, as well as Dr. Yamane's own warning at the end, it wouldn't be that far off of an interpretation).

As has been said many times, Godzilla is, ultimately, a living embodiment of the atomic bomb, nature's way of taking revenge on mankind for creating such a destructive weapon. That was the reason for literally giving Godzilla the destructive power of the atomic bomb in the form of his atomic breath, meaning that this is nature punishing mankind by using the dreadful power that they'd unleashed against them. As Ishiro Honda himself once said, "If Godzilla had been a dinosaur or some other animal, he would have been killed by just one cannonball. But if he were equal to an atomic bomb, we wouldn't know what to do. So, I took the characteristics of an atomic bomb and applied them to Godzilla." To that end, they intentionally plotted out Godzilla's attack on Tokyo to mirror a rolling nuclear attack, as happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with Godzilla starting his attack on the outskirts of the city and then gradually moving inward, obliterating everything in his path, like the shock wave from a nuclear explosion. The only difference is that this "nuclear attack" is agonizingly slow, unlike a real atomic bomb, whose destruction is done in a couple of minutes. The parallels between the attack on Tokyo and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are also why Honda focuses so much on the aftermath, with the city in complete ruins, which undoubtedly came from what he saw when he visited Hiroshima while returning home from the war, as well as the human suffering, with the shots of people suffering from radiation burns and poisoning in the hospital, most of whom you can surmise won't live through the night. Actually, the most literal parallel that the filmmakers were able to draw between Godzilla and real-life nuclear incidents was with his very first attack at the beginning of the movie, when he obliterates the fishing boat. This opening was inspired by an actual disaster that occurred several months before filming began, when an American nuclear test at Bikini Atoll proved to be much more powerful than expected, with a yield of 15 megatons instead of the predicted 6, and, as a result, a Japanese tuna fishing boat, whose crew felt they were in a safety zone, was caught up in the blast. Needless to say, the crew was contaminated by the fallout and one suffered a slow, agonizing death six months later. This incident added to the already palpable fear that the Japanese had of nuclear weapons, with there now being a fear that contaminated fish might reach the market. If this horrific real-life inspiration for the opening scene doesn't further and help complete the idea that Godzilla is the atomic bomb come to life, then nothing will.

Oddly enough, despite his being characterized here as a frightening force of death and destruction, even in this film, some people have found that they feel for Godzilla at the end when he's destroyed. You might wonder how that could be, given all of the pain and suffering he's caused by the time Ogata and Dr. Serizawa descend down into the ocean depths to use the Oxygen Destroyer against him. Even I was perplexed by this attitude when I first heard of it. As much as I love Godzilla (as I've said, he's probably my favorite fictional character ever), I realized that in this first film, he's a destructive force that needs to be destroyed in order for mankind to survive. I felt that maybe these people were feeling this way because, after having seen all of the other films where Godzilla does indeed develop a personality and becomes likable, they just naturally felt affection for him even when they went back and watched this first film. However, Akira Takarada once told a story of how, at a screening of the first film back in 1954, there were even people then who were mourning Godzilla's death at the end. So, how could this be? After reading up on it, I think this came about because those people realized that Godzilla is every bit a victim of the bomb as his own victims are. He may be an enormous angel of death here but, at the same time, he's also simply an animal that has been permanently altered due to his exposure to the H-bomb tests. In many ways, he's no different from all of those people who suffered from what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki or even those who fall prey to his own rampages. He didn't choose to be what he is; his change happened as a result of the terrible power that man unleashed. The same power that's already made others suffer has done the same to him and now, he's using it to enact nature's revenge against mankind. It's a never-ending cycle. As J. Hoberman of the Village Voice writes in a booklet that comes with the Criterion Collection edition of the film, the use of an instrumental version of the peace hymn that the choir of girls was singing over scenes of the destruction of Tokyo on the television, as well as the sad instrumental version that player before, at the end of the film during Godzilla's last moments could be meant to make a connection between him and his own victims. And as David Kalat notes, the ending where Dr. Serizawa uses the Oxygen Destroyer against Godzilla is like a conflict between two souls who have been scarred by war in their own ways (Serizawa's scar being his missing eye), two souls who must die to ensure the future of mankind, with Godzilla's death being necessary since he could destroy the world and Serizawa's because he could be coerced into aiding in the destruction of the world. I could go on but I think you get the point. It's possible to see Godzilla in this film as both a cruel bringer of death and an empathetic victim of the bomb in his own way.

Godzilla's design is the biggest reason why he's such an icon around the world. If you show a picture of him to anybody in the world and ask them what that is, they'll more than likely be able to tell you, even if they've never seen a single one of the movies. That's quite a testament to his staying power that people who've never seen the films know exactly what Godzilla looks like. His look is an amalgamation of several different types of dinosaurs that the filmmakers took from pictures they saw in a kids' book on the subject. He has the overall look of a Tyrannosaurus Rex but his large, strong arms are like that of an Iguanadon, as opposed to the tiny, weak arms of an actual T-Rex, and the plates on his back are taken from a Stegosaurus. The fact that he's able to live just as easily in the water as he is on land is explained by Dr. Yamane as his being of a species that served as the transition point between the sea and land animals of prehistoric times (it's probably not scientifically accurate but, what can you do?) And, of course, his ability to breathe fire in a way brings to mind stories of fire-breathing dragons, even though that has been contested as an inspiration since we're talking about the classic Medieval dragons rather than those that Asians are familiar with. However, the head of this particular suit does look very dragon-like from some angles, which makes me wonder if there was some subtle inspiration there or if it's just a coincidence (either one is quite possible). Speaking of which, I like the look of this first suit for the most part. It's big, massive, and powerful-looking and when Godzilla is lit as darkly as he often is during his nighttime attacks, he looks pretty terrifying. There are some aspects to this and the suit in the following film that, for some reason, would be dropped for a good chunk of the series, such as the four toes on the feet, the prominent, pointed ears, and the jagged look to the dorsal plates. I guess I can understand why they made the dorsal plates look less jagged when Godzilla became a good guy in the later films but why did they take away his ears and downgrade the number of toes on his feet to three instead of four? Speaking of his dorsal plates, or spines, whatever you want to call them, they serve as one of his most distinguishing features and light up whenever he's about to fire his atomic breath, something else that would become synonymous with him. His ultimate weapon also evolved along with his character. In the later films, it would become a powerful, concentrated blast of atomic energy but, in this first film and the next few, it's more of a deadly radioactive vapor that ignites anything that it touches, probably meant to look like fallout from a nuclear blast. And by the way, Godzilla is not green. This suit was colored a charcoal gray and that color stuck with the character until Godzilla 2000, which was the first time where he actually was green.

While I like the head on the actual costume, they also used a puppet for close-up shots of Godzilla's head and face and this I'm not as big a fan of. Sometimes, it looks pretty good, like during his first appearance when his head pops up from behind a mountain on Odo Island and others such as when you see him roaring during his attacks on Tokyo and when he bites the tower with the reporters but other times, it looks a little wonky. The mouth tends to be a little awkward when it opens and closes, with his jaw looking like it has no bone structure whatsoever. In other words, it's obvious during those shots that it is indeed a hand-puppet, as in the above picture. His eyes also look a little weird in those shots too. They look kind of like those button eyes with the pupils rolling around inside them that you see on some toys (think about the eyes on that stack of money that pops up in those GEICO commercials to get what I'm talking about). It kind of hurts the effect during some shots when Godzilla looks down and his eyes look like they're bugging out. It's not as bad in a repeated shot where he turns his head while firing his atomic breath but his eyes still look kind of unintentionally funny when you see them then as well; another puppet that's used for shots of him using his atomic breath looks much better by comparison. Also, let's talk a little about Godzilla's roar while we're at it. His roar in this film is much deeper and more frightening than the higher pitched screech that would come later and become his most well-known sound as well. It's amazing to think that sound was created by rubbing the strings of a contrabass with a leather glove and then reverberating the sound after it was recorded. In any case, Godzilla has several different roars here. There are two that are used most often: the first roar that you hear when the title comes up, which sounds like a bellowing howl, and another that sounds like an angry, snarling roar/growl. Godzilla also makes a sound that's akin to a deep bark, such as when he first plows through the electrical wires, as well as a sound that's akin to the howl that I mentioned, only a bit deeper and with more of an angry texture (he makes this one when he roars at the boat right before he's disintegrated by the Oxygen Destroyer), a grumbling roar that would become his most common one during the first three films in the second series of movies, and another that actually sounds like a loud snort, which he makes when he hears the clock tower. From what I've read, the sounds of his thundering footsteps were created by beating a kettle drum with a knotted rope but, however, they created it, it's quite effective and, as I said earlier, is a great way to build suspense long before actually showing Godzilla.

Here's an interesting question: how did Godzilla get his name? There's some debate as to exactly how it came about. We'll tackle the first part of the question here, which is how the name "Gojira," which is a combination of the Japanese words for "gorilla" and "whale," was created. Haruo Nakajima himself has stated that Toho held a contest to name the monster and that Gojira was simply the name that was picked. Shigeru Kayama, the writer of the original story for the film that Ishiro Honda and Takeo Murata re-wrote into the final screenplay, however, told a different story in his memoirs. He said that Tomoyuki Tanaka's original concept for the monster was of a hideous creature that was very much a cross between a gorilla and a whale but when Tanaka saw The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, he decided on a dinosaur-monster instead, with the name Gojira staying unchanged. No one is quite sure which story is true, to be honest and since it's often been said that Tanaka only got the idea to a monster movie after he saw The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, as well as that the first draft of the script was simply titled G for Giant, Kayama's side of the story loses some credibility. However, one popular story surrounding the name that has since been proven to be untrue is that it was the nickname of a big burly stagehand working at Toho at the time. Not only has not one single photograph of this man ever surfaced, nobody claiming to be him ever came forward either, which you'd think would have happened after Godzilla became so popular. Furthermore, the story surrounding the guy continuously changed throughout the years, with it sometimes being said that he was a PR man instead of a stagehand and such. Kim Honda, the wife of Ishiro Honda, has said that it was probably just a rumor that was spread around Toho by the stagehands and that it might have become something of an inside joke amongst the filmmakers. Anyway, there's the first part of the question. We'll discuss how "Gojira" might have become "Godzilla" when we get to the American version.

One of the things that Godzilla movies tend to get mocked for is the special effects work. For many, the site of a guy in a monster suit trashing a miniature city looks positively silly and not at all convincing. These effects are often compared to the impressive stop-motion effects by effects legends like Willis O'Brien and Ray Harryhausen and, as a result, are often said to be cheap and low-grade. Even during this film's limited American theatrical release in 2004, Roger Ebert, who'd always made his dislike for Godzilla known, felt the need to compare the film's effects to the state of the art computer effects of today, saying that, "Godzilla and the city he destroys are equally crude. Godzilla at times looks uncannily like a man in a rubber suit, stomping on cardboard sets, as indeed he was, and did. Other scenes show him as a stuffed, awkward animatronic model. This was not state-of-the-art even at the time; King Kong (1933) was much more convincing." Now, I mean no disrespect to Mr. Ebert, God rest his soul, because he did at least note the film's significance in the grand scheme of things, but that kind of snobbish attitude has always irritated me. For one, if you're complaining that a movie from the 1950's doesn't have effects that are as good or realistic as those of today, then you're a fool. And while we're on the subject, I love King Kong but those effects, as ground-breaking as they were back then and as impressive as they still are now when you realize the work that went into them, also don't look realistic when compared to the computer graphics of today but no one dares say that because that film is considered an all-time classic whereas Godzilla, despite the respect the original film does get nowadays, has always been looked down upon by the "esteemed" film critics and lovers. Plus, does have a film have to be "state-of-the-art" in terms of its effects in order to be good? No, it doesn't. It's like people feel that all monster movies made after King Kong had to follow the quality standard of that film's technical accomplishments. Did it ever occur to some people that not all movies have the same ambitions? And finally, just because Godzilla didn't employ stop-motion effects (save for a couple of very brief shots) doesn't mean that its effects weren't noteworthy in another way. Save for a couple of now lost King Kong films that were made in Japan in the late 30's, I can't think of a monster movie that had used the technique of a man in a suit on a miniature set before this. There may be an obscure one that I don't know about but, for the time, this was something new. And even if the Godzilla suit and puppets don't always look realistic, which, I'll admit, they don't, the sweat, blood, and tears that went into creating the suit as well as the craftsmanship of the miniatures and some of the optical effects used are to be commended. The Japanese focus more on the beauty of something rather than realism and, in that regard, I think the work in this film, as well as the series as a whole, knock it out of the park. If you disagree, that's fine. That was just my inner fanboy rage coming out to defend something that I love which gets some unfair criticism in my opinion. Sorry about the rant.

File:Inoshiro Honda and Godzilla.jpg
Ishiro Honda conferring with Eiji Tsuburaya (middle) on an
effects shot.
Eiji Tsuburaya, the father of Japanese special effects and another key member of the core Godzilla team, loved King Kong and wanted very much to use the same kind of stop-motion effects for Godzilla but time and budget constraints wouldn't allow for it (plus, Tsuburaya realized that neither he nor anyone else in Japan at the time knew how to do that type of effects work), so he opted for the man-in-suit technique instead, which would lead to the creation of a new type of effects work that was dubbed "suitmation." You have to applaud the guy for using his ingenuity and imagination to get around a big problem rather than just giving up altogether. As I've said, I fully admit that the Godzilla suit and puppets aren't always the most realistic-looking things. You can see the folds in the costume in some shots and I've already gone into, as well as shown, how the puppet heads look rather awkward and unlike the suit's head. But, for me anyway, the seriousness of the story and the tone helps and so does the way the suit is photographed at night with lots of shadows to make it look more menacing (the black and white really helps here) and from low angles to more convincingly create the illusion of an enormous creature. However, I think the models look really good. Like the suit and puppets, sometimes they do look like miniatures but, even in those shots, I still can't help but admire the art and craftsmanship that went into creating them; plus, I've always gotten more pumped by seeing those miniatures getting stomped and destroyed by guys in suit rather than stop-motion models. That looks more believable to me, since something is actually be crushed and burnt in front of the camera as it happens, rather than it being done one frame at a time. The optical effects used in the film are the most impressive of all, such as the matte paintings used to show Godzilla's footprints on the hillside next to the destroyed village on Odo Island as well as the shot of his footprints leading from the shore to the ocean after he makes his first appearance. The compositing shots used to integrate him in shots of people fleeing also look very impressive and the same goes for the effects of his spines lighting up before he fires his atomic breath, which I'm pretty sure was achieved simply through animation, as well as the shots of his breath coming out of his mouth (I'm still not entirely sure how they achieved some of those shots). And finally, again, I just admire the ingenuity of some of the effects, such as how they achieved Godzilla melting the electrical towers with his atomic breath by building the towers out of wax and then heating them up. So, to sum up, if you still can't get past some of these effects, fair enough, but I for one think they're pretty damn good and, along with the effects in most of the other films, deserve more respect.

Godzilla's first acts of destruction occur without the monster being seen. After the opening credits, we see a fishing boat out at see, with the crew relaxing and sitting around, playing music and sunbathing, when there's a sudden explosion, followed by a bright light that illuminates the deck. The crew run to the side of the ship to see what the cause of the bang was and when they do, a bright light and a boiling effect occurs on the water. That's when another explosion and flash of blinding light occur that knocks the sailors back and after that, a wave of something that looks like radioactive particles from nuclear fallout is spewed onto the boat (as you can probably guess, that's later revealed as Godzilla's atomic breath). A long distance shot shows us that the boat is now in flames and we cut to a shot inside the boat where the radio operators are attempting to send as SOS, only for water to rush in and overwhelm them. Although the SOS is picked up by the Coast Guard, we see that it's far too late to make a difference as the boat is sinking down beneath the water and everyone aboard is probably dead (I say probably because we're never told which boat those later survivors were from). After receiving the SOS, the Coast Guard sends a search boat out to the area but it meets the same fate, when the same blinding, boiling light appears beneath the water and obliterates it, causing it to drift a little bit while on fire before sinking off-camera. Godzilla's attack on the village on Odo Island is the first we get something of a glimpse of him. After the exorcism ceremony meant to keep him at bay, a typhoon strikes the island and as it goes on, we see Masaji, the sole survivor of the sinkings, lying in bed while anxiously looking around, sensing that this is more than just a typical storm. When there's a rumble that couldn't come from the storm and a little bit of the ceiling falls off as a result, Shinkichi runs down the hall to see what's going on, with the loud rumbling sound continuing. Shinkichi runs outside and Masaji attempts to follow him, only to hear his brother call for him and for him to see Godzilla out the window when a flash of lightning illuminates him (we don't see Godzilla ourselves). Masaji runs back to his mother and they hold onto each other as the house begins to shake back and forth. They're both killed when the roof caves in and, when the camera cuts to outside, you can see Godzilla's foot appear next to the house as he crushes it completely. Shinkichi screams for his brother and mother while the frantic islanders try to figure out what happened as the storm continues and the scene concludes with the shot of the now crushed helicopter that brought the reporters there.

Godzilla doesn't do anything when he makes his first actual appearance on Odo Island but, regardless, it's still a memorable moment since it was his introduction to the world. While Dr. Yamane and his colleagues are examining the wrecked village, somebody begins banging an alarm bell, signifying that Godzilla has been spotted nearby, and, indeed, we begin to hear the thunderous sounds of his footsteps. The villagers and everyone else begin running up the sides of the hills, preparing to actually fight Godzilla with spears and farm tools. Since they haven't actually seen Godzilla yet, they don't realize what they're up against (although, the damage he caused to the village should have given them a clue). Yamane and his colleagues make it to the top of the hill and Yamane tells them that he just caught a glimpse of the monster. As the footsteps continue, the scientists move towards the top of the hill, only for Godzilla to pop his head up from behind it. Yamane quickly takes a picture before he flees along with everyone else. The situation becomes nothing but pandemonium as Godzilla lets out a terrifying roar, causing the people to panic even more so. While running, Emiko trips and falls and Godzilla seems to lean over the mountain and roar right at her, causing her to scream in terror. Ogata comes by, gets her to her feet, and the two of them run a short distance before ducking down behind a small rise on the side of the hill. By this point, Godzilla has retreated and, as everyone gets themselves calmed down, they're called to the top of the island's highest point that overlooks the shore. There, they see a set of enormous footprints leading to the ocean, with Godzilla's footsteps still thundering off in the distance.

Upon being informed of the threat, the government has the Japanese navy attempt to destroy Godzilla by using depth charges but, this is proven to have been useless when he suddenly appears in Tokyo Bay, terrorizing the partygoers on a nearby boat. He completely ignores the boat after surfacing and dives back under just as suddenly as he appeared, although you can still hear his footsteps (apparently, he's walking on the ocean floor). He doesn't make his first attack on Tokyo until the following night, when the people at the Yamane household suddenly hear an alarm followed by the sounds of his footsteps. Realizing what's happening, they evacuate the house and we then see Godzilla emerge from Tokyo Bay again, roaring as some nearby soldiers fire their machine guns at him. Godzilla isn't even fazed by this and continues wading towards the shore, as the people of Tokyo attempt to make it to safety zones. Dr. Yamane tries to tell a soldier to inform the general shining searchlights in Godzilla's face will only enrage him but the soldier tells him that there's nothing he can do. Yamane and his group run to the top of a nearby hill as Godzilla, having emerged from the ocean, begins walking towards the outskirts of Tokyo as hundreds of people attempt to get out of harm's way. Godzilla causes some damage by stepping on houses and other structures as he makes his way to a nearby railroad. Stepping right on the railroad, he causes an oncoming train to smash into the side of his foot. After the train has been derailed, survivors attempt to climb out the windows of the cars while Godzilla bends down, picks one up in his mouth, and then drops it. As some nearby frightened and injured people watch, Godzilla stomps on one of the train cars before moving on, causing more damage before stopping in front of a bridge, which he hits with some crumbled pieces of infrastructure that he grabs onto and pulls up. After pushing the bridge a bit with his tail, Godzilla unexpectedly heads back to the ocean, roaring as he does so.

In preparation for Godzilla's inevitable second attack, the military intends to surround Tokyo with high-tension towers capable of conducting thousands of volts of electricity and they also bring in the heavy artillery to try to stave him off if he gets through. After doing everything they can to evacuate those in harm's way, the military hunkers down to wait as night falls. They don't have to wait long. Godzilla emerges from Tokyo Bay yet again and swims back towards the shore. As he does so, the soldiers prepare their weapons and point them upwards, waiting for Godzilla to reach the electrical towers. When he gets up to the towers, the technicians throw the switches, activating the electricity. Godzilla plows right through the wires without being fazed by the enormous charge and in response, the military begins firing on him with their machine guns and turrets. With everything exploding around him, Godzilla turns to his left and easily tears down the tower there. The military continues firing on him as he destroys the tower on his right and, not at all affected by the enormous gunfire, Godzilla demonstrates his atomic breath for the first time, heating up two other towers to the point where they slag and fall over on themselves. Now, with no barriers in his way, Godzilla marches past the towers towards the defenseless city. To put it simply, this is where all hell breaks loose. People begin running for their lives as Godzilla ignites a couple of houses with his atomic breath and, after waiting a few seconds, he walks past the burning structures, turns to look at them briefly, and then turns forward and ignites a couple of other houses. Some civilians and soldiers try to flee in the streets but they're caught up into another blast of his radioactive vapor and they scream in agony as they're burned alive. Some fire engines race down the street towards the site, as Godzilla continues igniting houses and streets with his atomic breath. He then blows up two gas tanks with his atomic breath, causing one of the fire engines to crash into the side of a building (the model there looks particularly fake, I must admit) and the other fly over and crash through the side of another building, in one of only two stop-motion shots used in the film. Godzilla then begins walking forward again, his foot stepping right through the roof of a warehouse, as people run down the street in order to get out of the way (one guy actually trips and falls when Godzilla's feet are just over a meter away from him; you don't see if he survived or not!), with a chunk of them being forced to run down an alley in order to just barely avoid being crushed.

As Godzilla continues heading further downtown, a couple of tanks head down the street in an attempt to stop his advance. They fire many rounds at him, hitting him in the chest, stomach, and other areas of his body, but he just shakes them off. Realizing they're not getting anywhere, the tanks turn around and retreat, with Godzilla firing a stream of his atomic breath right at the street, creating an explosion and line of fire that heads down the road behind the tanks (I don't know of all of the wires suspended above the street in these scenes are meant to be power lines or if they're what the model tanks are traveling along). Hearing reports of how badly things are going and that the defense forces have been destroyed, the command center orders all units to initiate Security Command Code 129, which means they must abandon their attacks and concentrate on trying to extinguish the fires and rescue civilians caught in the danger zone. As several soldiers listen to these commands on the radio of a squad car, Godzilla suddenly looms over some nearby buildings with a roar. The soldiers outside the car run for cover but those inside of it are killed instantly when Godzilla fires his atomic breath right at the car, blowing it up. A group of soldiers are watching the carnage from the heart of the city and, upon seeing Godzilla ignite the top and bottom of a fire tower, causing it to eventually fall over, they stop watching and run for it. With the streets completely empty of people, Godzilla continues his advance, stopping right behind an enormous birdcage that's probably part of a zoo, smashing the top of a warehouse with his tail, moving forward and toppling over and crushing other buildings before igniting some more, trapping a mother and her children in an alleyway. Several soldiers take cover as Godzilla, upon hearing the chiming of a clock tower, snarls a challenge towards it and eventually tears it apart. Some television reporters are covering the disaster from a nearby tower, with one reporter almost to the point of passing out from fear as he comments on what's happening. We see that the outskirts of Tokyo are a sea of flames as Godzilla presses onward. He passes over a small bridge into the heart of the city, stepping on some raised train tracks and smashing the side of a theater (the very theater that the film had its premier at, I might add) before turning to the left and igniting another fire in the streets. The personnel inside the command center evacuate and head for the shelter, as the building begins to shake and groan. It isn't long before Godzilla causes the interior of the structure to collapse in on itself as he passes by. In an iconic shot, he walks behind the Diet Building, stops for a second, and then turns and plows right through the side of the building.

Godzilla then spots the news tower we saw a few minutes before and marches right up to it as the reporters continue commenting, realizing that they're probably going to die. Godzilla grabs hold of the tower and bites into it, causing it to bend over in half and tumble to the ground, with the reporters falling to their deaths. After we see that Dr. Serizawa is watching another broadcast of the attack from the safety of his laboratory, Godzilla, apparently satisfied with the destruction he's caused, begins heading back to the ocean. Before entering the water, though, he grabs hold of the underside of a large bridge and turns it over, causing enormous waves that threaten some ships in the nearby harbor. The Japanese Air Force attempts one last effort to stop him, with a squadron of fighter jets that fire upon him as he heads back out into the sea. This attack proves to be as ineffective as possible, mainly because not one of the missiles fired actually hits Godzilla. The missiles streak right past him, not even grazing him, meaning that these pilots can't shoot for shit! Godzilla sort of swipes his hands at any missiles that get close but in all honesty, he's not really paying any attention as they continue firing while he heads into deep water and plunges beneath the surface.

In most monster movies of the day, the ending where the monster is finally destroyed is usually a big, exciting climax. But, once again, Godzilla goes against conventions with a somber finale where Ogata and Dr. Serizawa don diving suits, descend into the depths, and just sort of sneak up on Godzilla while he's sleeping in order to plant the Oxygen Destroyer. Once the two of them hit the ocean floor, Godzilla, somehow sensing their presence, awakens from his slumber. The two men plod forward along the ocean floor and, upon seeing Godzilla approaching, they back away. As the monster gets ever closer, Serizawa suddenly pats Ogata on the shoulder with enough force to make those holding the oxygen line on the boat pull him up to the surface. Now, with it just being Serizawa facing Godzilla, the scientist plants his device, which Godzilla inadvertently sets off from the vibration of his footfall. The device goes to work as Serizawa watches from a safe distance. Godzilla is overcome the Oxygen Destroyer's effects and is clearly in pain and gasping for air. All of this causes a lot of common on the surface, with an enormous explosion of water occurring right next to the ship. Seeing that Godzilla is doomed, Serizawa tells Ogata that he hopes that he and Emiko will live happily together and says a final farewell before cutting his oxygen line. Overcome by the Oxygen Destroyer's effects, Godzilla rises to the surface and roars one last time at the ship, before descending back down into the depths and coming to the rest on the ocean floor before his flesh is disintegrated, followed by his skeleton, with ultimately nothing remaining.

Any problems with the film? In my opinion, not many. Other than the already mentioned issues with the special effects, where they sometimes don't look the most convincing, one problem that I have to make mention of is the occasional choppy editing that occurs. The biggest example of this comes in the scene where Emiko and Hagiwara head out to see Dr. Serizawa. We see a shot of the car that the two of them are in heading down the street when suddenly, we cut to a shot of Ogata and Shinkichi riding to the Yamane house on a motorcycle and we see them stop and push the motorcycle into the garage before we cut back to the car with Emiko and Hagiwara. That wasn't necessary, since Ogata flat out tells Emiko that he's going to help Shinkichi with his studies, which already suggests that the two of them are going to be heading to the Yamane house, where Shinkichi is now living. Nothing would have been lost if that shot of the two of them riding to the house on the motorcycle had been taken out, especially since the two of them greet Emiko at the door when she returns from seeing Serizawa. There's another bit of choppy editing in the scene where Ogata tells Emiko that he's now decided to ask her father's permission to marry her. Emiko smiles at Ogata and then, upon hearing Yamane return to the house after a meeting, there's an abrupt cut of her standing up to go meet him at the door, without the clearly missing little section of action in-between. Not a big deal but it is noticeable. And, as Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski mention on their audio commentary for the Classic Media DVD release of the film, the idea of the military being able to construct such a large number of huge, electrical towers to surround Tokyo in just a few days prior to Godzilla's second attack is a major plothole. Some people may also complain about how, no matter the release, the film still has a lot of grain and scratches that appear constantly throughout it and may feel that it's a result of sloppy preservation on Toho's part. Actually, the film has always looked like this due to the very soft, sensitive film stock that was used at the time and the less than cleanly conditions of the studio, including the processing labs, which had a lot of dust and dirt present; therefore, there's no way to get an absolute pristine copy of the film, even from the Criterion Collection who, nonetheless, were able to make the film look as good as it probably ever will. Personally, I think the scratches and dust marks add an even bigger sense of gritty realism to it, as if what we're watching is old newsreel footage rather than a movie. In any case, other than those minor quips, I really can't say anything bad about Godzilla.

The cherry on top of this delicious sundae is the music score by Akira Ifukube, the final member of the core team that helped make Godzilla what he is today. Like Ishiro Honda, Ifukube was the perfect person to be chosen for the film, not only for his musical talents but for the fact that he himself was a survivor of radiation exposure (and a long-lived one, too; he lived to be 91 years old)! Not only did Ifukube literally give Godzilla his voice with his tinkering with a contrabass but he also provided the movie with the perfect amount and type of soul. The Main Title theme was originally meant to be for the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, considering that it's played whenever they go into action, but, over the years, it evolved into becoming the main theme for Godzilla himself and it's not surprising. The urgency and terror that this music, whether intentionally or not, creates when it's being played over the opening credits as Godzilla continuously howls and roars, is extremely effective and it also inspires the same feelings when the military is trying to get everything ready in time for Godzilla's second attack on Tokyo as well as when the fire engines' attempts to put out the fires he causes throughout the city fail and fail hard. Heck, the track known as the Frigate March, which plays when the navy attempts to attack Godzilla with depth charges, as well as when they find his lair in the ocean at the end, is more of an appropriate theme for the military because of how upbeat and heroic it sounds. The music that's actually meant to be Godzilla's theme here, however, is just as effective with how dark and doom-laden it is, fitting perfectly with the images of him mercilessly destroying everything in his wake. There's a similar theme that plays during the two times that Godzilla emerges from Tokyo Bay and approaches the shore, with the second time being the most effective as the pounding, grim music gives the impression that this is it and that the military better be prepared for what they're about to face. The pieces of music that play when the first two boats are destroyed, during Godzilla's approach and unseen attack during the typhoon on Odo Island, and when people are trying to evacuate to shelter when Godzilla is approaching Tokyo for the first time, range from frantic, ominous, and downright frightening, again fitting well with the images. And let's not forget the atmospheric, solemn music that you hear when Dr. Yamane and his colleagues investigate the wrecked village on Odo Island, which also has an eerie, foreboding quality to it. The music that plays during the montage of the aftermath of Godzilla's ultimate attack on Tokyo is extremely somber and sad, effectively making you feel pity for all of the poor people who have either been killed or are suffering as a result. The same goes for the Prayer for Peace that the choir of girls sing on the television over footage of the destruction, which ultimately makes Dr. Serizawa realize that he must use the Oxygen Destroyer against Godzilla, and, as I mentioned earlier, the fact that these pieces of music are used both for the sequence leading up to Godzilla's death and close the film out subtly make a connection between the monster and those he's killed, reminding us that he's a victim too. It also helps get across the impact of Serizawa's sacrifice and that, given Yamane's closing warning, this might be far from the end of it. Bottom line, this is just the perfect music score for such an awesome flick.

Despite the ups and downs that the series it spawned as experienced, Godzilla (or Gojira, for all you purists), is more than just a monster movie. It's an effectively allegorical and impactful work of Japanese cinema, with impressive direction, well-handled symbolism and metaphors that feel natural and necessary, rather than getting in the way of the story, a cast of actors who all play their parts very well, a very downbeat and dark tone that's enhanced by a surprisingly realistic take on the proceedings, special effects that were impressive and groundbreaking in their own way, a music score that fits the images to a T, and, most importantly, the introduction of a character who has become a beloved icon around the world. If you're at all a fan of monster movies or even of Asian cinema in general and you haven't seen Godzilla, you definitely owe it to yourself to check it out. I, for one, will stand by it and defend it as an important work of cinematic art to my dying. But, before we move on to the films that came in its wake, let's take a look at the re-edited American version with Raymond Burr and see what it has to offer.

Godzilla, King of the Monsters
File:GodzillaKing.jpgLike everyone else, this was the version of the original Godzilla that I grew up with (for further notice, whenever you see the label Stuff I Grew Up With associated with these Godzilla reviews, I'm referring to the American versions). It wasn't the exact first Godzilla movie that I saw but it was one of them, as well as one of the earliest ones that I owned on VHS way back when. As a kid, I did very much enjoy this movie and watched it many, many times, as was the case with all of the Godzilla movies that I owned back then. I enjoyed the destruction that Godzilla caused, I didn't mind Raymond Burr's presence, and, surprisingly, I didn't get upset and cry when Godzilla was killed by the Oxygen Destroyer at the end of the film but rather understood that, as big of a fan as I was of him, he needed to be killed. It wasn't my absolute favorite Godzilla movie but it was one that I enjoyed very much. However, as time went on, for some reason I actually got a little impatient with the movie. I don't know how to explain it but, whenever I would attempt to have a Godzilla marathon, I would always sort of sigh because I knew I would have to watch this film in order to get it started. That makes no sense whatsoever given how much I enjoyed this film as a kid, I know, but for some reason, that became my attitude towards it. I think it was mainly because, going in the order of the movies, the movie that I had at the time that immediately followed this one was not one I particularly liked, so I guess whenever I had a marathon, I was impatient because I knew I would have to watch that film right after Godzilla, King of the Monsters. Whatever the case, looking at this version of the film in retrospect, even though I agree with the general consensus that the original Japanese version is the superior one (and actually, I've rarely watched this version since I first watched the original), I think that this film is a worthy Americanization of it. It's not perfect and it has some noticeable flaws, as we'll see, but it's still an enjoyable film whose methods of translating the original Godzilla for American audiences are actually inventive and also, despite some notable excisions, manages to retain a percentage of the tone and feel of the movie it was created from.
Despite the changes and edits, the film tells the same basic story as the original version, about how a series of unexplained explosions involving ships is revealed to be an enormous dinosaur-monster that has been spurred to life by repeated H-bomb tests and is dubbed "Godzilla" from an oft-told legend of the nearby Odo Island. It also follows how Godzilla becomes a threat to Japan and the world at large, lays waste to Tokyo, and is eventually destroyed by the Oxygen Destroyer. However, the structure of the narrative is different in that the film begins with footage of the aftermath of Godzilla's attack on Tokyo, where we're introduced to Steve Martin, an American news reporter who has been caught in the destruction but, despite some major injuries, has survived. He's taken to an over-crowded hospital, where he meets up with Emiko Yamane, who tells him that her father, a friend of Martin's, is now meeting with the security officials to determine the next course of action. As Martin lays there in the hospital, he thinks back to the events that led up to this catastrophe and narrates the story to us, telling us how he was en route to Cairo on an assignment from United World News and had a several days' layover in Tokyo, where he hoped to meet up with Dr. Serizawa, who was an old college friend of his. And from there, the story progresses pretty much as is, save for some aforementioned re-editing and tweaking.
Joseph E. Levine
Many purists feel that the re-edits done to the Japanese version in order to produce Godzilla, King of the Monsters were borderline sacrilege and are evidence of disrespect on the part of the American distributors. From what I've read, though, this was far from the truth. Joseph E. Levine, an experienced distributor and exhibitor who scored some successes by distributing critically acclaimed Italian art films in the mid-to-late 40's, and would go on to be involved with other beloved films such as The Graduate, The Lion in Winter, and A Bridge Too Far, saw a lot of potential when Edmund Goldman, Harold Ross, and Richard Kay, who were involved with some very small distribution companies, brought the original Japanese version to his attention. He was so enthusiastic by the potential this property had that he formed Trans-World Releasing with these men in order to handle distribution and put up $100,000 of his own money to help get it made. He was involved with the production in every aspect he could be, hiring the writer and director for the Americanization as well as supervising the production of the new footage that was to be shot and edited into the film. Some may see the fact that the film was also dubbed instead of simply being subtitled as another hint of disrespect on the part of the American distributors but, when you realize that dubbing is more expensive than subtitling, as well as that foreign films didn't, and to this day, rarely make much money when released over here, it becomes obvious that they had a lot of faith in the film's potential. Ultimately, when you take into account the time period in which this was done, you realize that these changes were actually necessary, one due to the simple reason that the overall American public didn't have a high opinion of Japan and two, the cultural differences and language barriers, which would have made the film difficult for American moviegoers to relate with. An American angle on the film was necessary for it to play over here. Finally, regardless of what you think of this version, this is the one that's responsible for introducing Godzilla to America and other parts of the world, something that the Japanese version wouldn't have been able to do. If not for this film, Godzilla would never have become as popular over here as he is in Japan and, therefore, the love that most G-fans have for him wouldn't run as deep. And maybe, just maybe, were it not for the large success that the film had over here, Toho might not have decided on making more Godzilla and monster movies since their marketplace, although profitable, would have been quite limited. So, all you Godzilla purists who hate this version might want to think about that.

The man hired by Joseph E. Levine to direct the new version of Godzilla was Terry Morse, whose line of work was mainly that of an editor and a prolific one at that, given that he cut over 60 films in a career that spanned from the late 1920's into the early 70's. He was known in Hollywood at that time as a film doctor, in that people would bring films that they were having problems to him to see if he could help them in the editing. He was also a fairly active director, having been doing so since 1939, but, not liking the low-grade types of films he was being offered at the larger studios (he churned out eight within the span of two years), he went independent in the mid-40's. Before Godzilla, King of the Monsters, he directed a number of little known films such as Fog Island, Danny Boy, Dangerous Money, Bells of San Fernando, and Unknown World, the latter of which was the closest he had ever come to a science fiction and was the last film he did before taking on Godzilla, which was five years afterward. According to his son, Terry Morse Jr., who was an assistant editor on the film, Morse was in charge of everything, from directing the new scenes with Raymond Burr to directing the voice actors during their dub session and editing the film together. Godzilla, King of the Monsters was by far the most well-known film he was ever involved with and while he would continue editing for over fifteen years afterward, he would only direct two more, with both of those not coming until 1965. His last film was Young Dillinger, which, interestingly enough, starred Nick Adams, who would feature in Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, as well as Frankenstein Conquers the World, another Toho monster flick, the very same year. Morse's last job in the movie industry was as an editor on a film called Cotter in 1973. He retired afterward and died in 1984 at the age of 78. (I tried and tried but I was unable to find a single image of Morse for this paragraph).

When I reviewed the 1954 sci-fi classic Them!, I mentioned how the casting of actors who typically didn't show up in monster movies of the time helped that film in being successful with the serious, classy approach it was going for. I think the same holds true for Godzilla, King of the Monsters, with the casting of Raymond Burr as Steve Martin. Burr hadn't yet achieved fame as Perry Mason by this point but he was still familiar to American audiences, most notably for his role as the killer in Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window. Like James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, and James Arness did in Them!, I think Burr brings a sense of weight and gravitas to this film. He has a great presence and voice to him, does very well at narrating and telling us the film's story, and doesn't seem to be phoning it in... for the most part, anyway. There are some instances where he just seems to be staring at something with no expressions on his face whatsoever and sometimes, it feels as though he's not even looking in the direction he should be. The fact that he shows no emotion at the end of the film when Dr. Serizawa, a character who's supposed to be an old college friend of his, has sacrificed himself is especially disconcerting. But, otherwise, Burr is quite good in the film. I thought he delivered his lines well and, like I said, he's very good when it comes to narration and giving what he's saying weight. At the beginning of the film when we've seen the devastation of Godzilla's assault on Tokyo, Steve Martin makes it clear to us that the horrific force that absolutely leveled this great city is, at the moment, still at large, waiting for another chance to strike somewhere else and as we go through the story, he makes it known that panic began to spread throughout Japan as more ships were mysteriously destroyed, becoming even more palpable when Godzilla was finally revealed to the world. His best performance in the film I think comes during Godzilla's ultimate attack on Tokyo, when he's reporting on the attack for a tape recording he intends to be sent back to America for United World News in case something happens to him. He lends just a bit more gravity to the proceedings, describing how absolutely hopeless the situation and how nothing can stop Godzilla. It really gets good during the latter part of the attack when things start going downhill in a big way, with Steve, sweating a lot due to the stress of the situation, reporting, "Godzilla has turned the heart of Tokyo into a sea of fire. Beneath the flames, thousands lie dead or dying," and, near the end of the attack, he grimly says, "Nothing can save the city now." It's all really, really good stuff and I think Burr pulls it off well.

Some of the methods that were used to make it look as if Burr was interacting with the original Japanese cast are quite creative, although easily detected if you've seen the Japanese version and you know what you're looking for. I, like most people, thought for the longest time that this was the only version of the original Godzilla and assumed that Burr had actually shot his scenes along with the rest of the cast. Even though the Godzilla Compendium explained that this wasn't the case, it went over my head as a kid since I didn't understand filmmaking at the time. In any case, if you watch the scenes where Steve Martin is supposedly talking with the Japanese actors more carefully, you will notice that his face is never onscreen at the same time as theirs, that a shot with both of them is done with the Japanese actors always having their backs to the camera. They actually got stand-ins to put on clothes similar to what the original cast was wearing and then shot them as is. During some of these conversations, they also cut back and forth from Burr to actual footage of whomever he's supposed to be talking to, and while that is clever, it sometimes doesn't match well due to the eye-lines; plus, the difference in quality of the new footage and the Japanese footage is very noticeable. For that matter, in a scene where Steve is supposed to be talking to Dr. Yamane after he suggests sending a research group to Odo Island, the stand-in for Takashi Shimura doesn't seem to be looking directly at Burr but rather at the wall behind him or his chest and it never looks like he's even talking to him. He doesn't look much like Shimura either, for that matter. In important scenes where Steve has to be present but doesn't necessarily have to interact with the Japanese actors, like during the meetings at the situation room or at the Diet Building, or even on Odo Island, they filmed him on sets that look a lot like those that the corresponding scenes were filmed on and, surprisingly, it works pretty well. Unless you knew the backstory, you'd just assume that Burr had filmed his stuff along with the other actors.

Hi, Steve. I'd like to meet with you but, uh... my future wife
needs to talk about something. No, we'll get together, I
After watching this film as many times as I have and then learning the backstory about how it was put together, something becomes very apparent: although he's billed as such, Steve Martin is not at all a main character, he's just a spectator. He's somebody who just happened to be in Japan when this incredible situation begins to take shape and, being a reporter, is doing what he does: reporting on it. Except for the bit near the end of the film when he tells Emiko that if there's any way that she can help, she must, which leads to her telling both Steve and Ogata about the Oxygen Destroyer, nothing Steve does drives the story or enhances the plot at all. He's simply a guy who continuously happens to be in the right place at the right time and takes advantage of the circumstances. It shows the bizarre and downright difficult task that Terry Morse and his small crew had in trying to give this film a "protagonist" that American audiences could identify with. They did the best they could, given what they had to work with, but the Japanese footage didn't offer many opportunities for them to do anything other than just have Steve stand around and observe, often smoking his pipe while doing so. And yet, due to their attempts to make Steve the main character, the roles of the principal Japanese cast got greatly reduced and even changed. Ogata and Emiko don't have nearly as much screentime as they did before and we only know of their romance and the love triangle involving Dr. Serizawa because Steve tells us about it (although, to be fair, they did retain the idea that this triangle was important, even if it was somewhat reduced) and Serizawa himself not only has less screentime here than he did in the original (which already wasn't much, though) but, due to it being established that he and Steve were old college friends and that he even now has an assistant who meets Steve at the airport when he first arrives, Serizawa doesn't come off as mysterious and reclusive as he was in the original version. The eye-patch is also never explained, now coming off as some sort of quirk with Serizawa, and, as Steve Ryfle pointed out in his and Ed Godziszewski's audio commentary on the Classic Media DVD release, the mere fact that Serizawa and Steve never meet or interact save for one moment when Steve calls him and Serizawa blows him off to meet with Emiko, with Serizawa not even visiting Steve when he's badly injured in the hospital, makes it feel like Serizawa doesn't really give a shit about his old college friend (a concept that, given the time period and the way world events had been a decade beforehand, itself is unlikely). While we're on the subject of Serizawa, I'd like to add that, while the flashback of when Serizawa explained to Emiko what the Oxygen Destroyer was after showing it to her is here, Emiko herself narrates over it to Steve and Ogata, so we don't get the dialogue of Serizawa telling Emiko that he's prepared to end his life if he's forced to reveal the device in its current form and, as a result, his killing himself here after using it against Godzilla feels very abrupt. And because of Steve's occupation as a reporter, the role of Hagiwara, the minor supporting character in the original version, is downgraded to pretty much nothing. It is interesting to note how much was changed from the Japanese version in order to make this new character seem vital to the plot when he isn't.

Steve Martin is not the only new character who appears in this version. Since he doesn't speak very good Japanese, his interpreter is Tomo Iwanaga (Frank Iwanaga), a security officer who first meets him when he arrives in Tokyo to ask him if anything strange happened on his flight. You find out that Tomo questioned everybody else on Steve's plane and when Steve tells Tomo that he's a reporter for United World News, Tomo tells him about the mysterious destruction of the fishing boat that morning and from there on, gives him carte blanche and allows him to be present at all meetings, allows him to join the reporters who visit Odo Island, and so on. It's interesting to note how, not only did the Japanese government briefly think about keeping Godzilla a secret from the public in the original version, but Tomo himself even tells Steve at first that he's not sure if the story about the boat should be printed or not and yet, he immediately drops that and allows Steve to know everything that's going on and report it back to the main offices of United World News in Chicago. I guess since there are reporters from other countries present doing the same thing, it doesn't matter. In any case, Tomo's sole function is to act as Steve's interpreter and tell him what's going on, what's being discussed, what preparations are being taken, and so forth. Like Steve, nothing he does advances the story or has an effect on the plot and all he does is point Steve, who's an observer himself, in the right direction, along with us by extension. And just like Steve, Tomo just happens to be on the scene when something major happens, most notably during Godzilla's first appearance on Odo Island where, like three of the principal Japanese characters, Steve and Tomo come face to face with the enormous beast. For some unexplained reason, Tomo completely disappears from the film before Godzilla's ultimate attack on Tokyo and nothing more is said about him. You're never told if he was killed during the attack or if he just... ran away but, whatever the case, at the eleventh hour, he's nowhere to be found. He wasn't much of a character anyway but that still puzzles me. Several other speaking parts are added to the new footage, such as Mikel Conrad as George Lawrence of United World News, whom Steve personally talks on the phone in one scene and is never seen again afterward, with Steve only mentioning him and making a tape recording of Godzilla's attack on Tokyo for George in case something happens to him. Others include Serizawa's assistant, who meets Steve at the airport when he first arrives to inform him that, because of some important experiments, Serizawa was unable to meet him at the airport himself (hint, hint), an officer who informs Steve that he must go to the security office for questioning, and a painfully stereotypical Odo Island native who's notable for a big straw hat that he wears and speaks some very unnatural, stilted Japanese. The filmmakers, as exemplified by the mere fact that the extras they put into these new scenes were Asian, were careful for the most part to not make the Japanese look like idiots or caricatures, as they had been depicted during World War II, but that's just embarrassing. Fortunately, that guy's only in that one scene but, whew!

Godzilla, King of the Monsters is unique amongst all the other Americanized versions of the Godzilla movies because, until the DVDs where you could choose between the two versions or audio tracks, it was the only one that retained a good portion of the original Japanese dialogue from its source material. While the filmmakers did have enough faith in the project to put some of it through the pricy process of dubbing, they still had to keep costs down since they didn't have much money to work with and that led to the creation of the character of Tomo, who not only acted as Steve's interpreter but as the audience's as well. That does help bring a sense of reality to the proceedings since, in a situation like this, there would be a language barrier. This was an interesting way to get the thing in under budget and to preserve a good majority of the original Japanese audio, even if, as we'll see, it didn't always work out. But, for scenes between the original Japanese actors that were important to the story and didn't allow for Steve and Tomo to be present so we could be told what was going on, dubbing was necessary. The dubbing was done by just three actors, most notably James Hong, who voiced Ogata and Serizawa, as well as all the other young Japanese characters, and Sammee Tong, a close friend of Mickey Rooney's, who voiced Dr. Yamane. I can't find any information on the woman who voiced Emiko. According to Hong, and this was corroborated by Terry Morse Jr., all of the dubbing was recorded in one day during a session that lasted a few hours, and that they just sat around a table with microphones and read their dialogue, not knowing what kind of movie they were working on.

That "slapped together" nature of the dubbing is obvious because it varies from being satisfactory to leaving a lot to be desired for. The best bit of dubbing comes when Dr. Serizawa is agonizing over whether he should use the Oxygen Destroyer against Godzilla and Ogata tells him, "Then you have a responsibility no man has ever faced. You have your fear, which might become reality, and you have Godzilla, which is reality." Unfortunately, the rest of the dubbing is just okay for the most part. Hong does a fairly good job as the voices of Ogata and Serizawa but I don't care for how Tong made Dr. Yamane sound. Takashi Shimura had an awesome voice with an authoritative and wise edge to it, whereas Tong's voice is a little too shaky and sounds a bit stereotypical of an older Asian person, though, in fairness, not in an overtly over the top, laughable way. There's one bizarre instance in the scene where Serizawa tells Emiko to keep the Oxygen Destroyer a secret after he's first shown it to her. When he speaks, the voice coming out of his mouth is clearly not that of James Hong, since it's much, much deeper. I guess they had to have someone else read a line that they didn't have a good take of him doing since he was no longer available. And speaking of which, as tends to happen with dubbing, the words don't fit the lip movements hardly at all. Terry Morse Jr. said that his father really agonized over that and tried to make it work but, sadly, it just wasn't completely doable. Moreover, even during these scenes that are dubbed, the dialogue will sometimes switch back and forth between English and Japanese. It only occurs when somebody's name or something that's not vital is being said but, it's still noticeable and strange, as if, like Steve Ryfle put it, the film is swinging between two different realities. Even as a kid, I picked up on that and thought it was bizarre.

Now, here's the other part of the question that I posed during the section on the Japanese version: how did "Gojira" get translated into "Godzilla?" By all accounts, it seems like the name Godzilla came about simply due to the translation process from Japanese into English. When the Japanese characters in the film say "Gojira," it does sound vaguely like Godzilla, particularly since the language makes no differentiation between "r" and "l" sounds and, if spoken quickly enough, the "ji" syllable might sound like "dzi." Since I'm not at all an expert on the Japanese language, don't take what I've just said with anything less than a grain of salt. David Kalat explains it better in his book and on his audio commentaries for the Criterion Collection release than I ever could, so go there for more accurate information. The short answer is that Godzilla came about simply because of the weird ways words are spoken and translated from one language to another. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that Toho themselves had already come up with the name Godzilla before they even distributed this film to other countries. The brochures they created for potential buyers apparently said "Godzilla" and the contract that Edmund Goldman signed with Toho to buy the rights to the film said so as well. If these facts are accurate, and I don't know why they wouldn't be, then Godzilla, in every way, shape, form, or name, is still very much a creation of Toho.

As a result of the deletions and shuffling around of scenes, along with the dubbing, the filmmakers sometimes made some mistakes. One of the biggest came when they had to figure out a way to move the action, including Steve Martin, to Odo Island. Rather than having Steve be present during the scene when it's reported to family members that some survivors have been found and are being taken to the island, as well as when they discover that boat has also been destroyed, they moved a scene where Dr. Yamane meets with some scientists and officials to discuss what to do about Godzilla to a much earlier point in the film and filmed additional scenes where Tomo tells Steve that Yamane is suggesting that they investigate Odo Island since it's close to where these ship disasters have taken place. You'd think that it would be completely fine for anybody who doesn't speak Japanese but you don't have to speak the language to hear them say "Gojira" several times during the conversation and remember that this is at a point in the film where Godzilla hasn't yet been mentioned. Another mistake, albeit one that I never caught until I saw the original version, occurs immediately afterward. Steve narrates to us about the natives of Odo Island and the fear they feel, as well as they were only ones who had seen a survivor of the sinkings, adding that, "His visit was a short one." The survivor in question is Masaji, the man who, in the Japanese version, survived the destruction of his fishing boat only for Godzilla to apparently follow him back to Odo Island to finish him off; here, though, Steve basically tells you that he died after mumbling something in Japanese to a group of the islanders, despite the fact that the later scenes involving the character were retained. I can't complain about this error, though, because, due to how little they focus on Masaji, I never realized that the man who was crushed to death when Godzilla destroyed his house was the same one who was supposed to have died shortly after being washed ashore on the island. I don't know if I should give them credit for successfully pulling the wool over my eyes or if I should chalk it up to childhood stupidity and lack of attention.

The editing of footage as well as of music and sound effects in this version is also kind of clunky, particularly during Godzilla's attack on Tokyo. Because specific scenes during the attack got reshuffled around, you'll sometimes hear the music score start up for a few seconds and then abruptly fade out, and there's one instance before Godzilla arrives where we cut from an establishing shot of Steve looking out a window from the makeshift headquarters to a little montage of empty streets downtown that suddenly becomes absolutely silent during the latter part. That's because originally, this bit took place when the attack was well underway and was meant to show how deserted the streets of Tokyo had become. When it cuts back to headquarters, the sound effects abruptly come back as well, which might cause some people to think they accidentally muted the film for a few seconds. The editing of the music here kind of hurts the mood that the original version was able to convey. As great as Akira Ifukube's music is, the original version knew when to hold off on the music and allow the images and sound effects to create atmosphere. Moments during Godzilla's attack that originally weren't scored now have music playing over them and it's not quite as effective as it was when there was no music. While I like some of the agonizing screams the sound editors put into the film, like during Godzilla's first attack when he drops a train car after picking it up in his mouth and in the moment during the main one when a group of people get caught up in his atomic breath, they put an over the top, high-pitched "Aah!" over the moment when Godzilla blows up a patrol car. That always made me laugh when I was a kid and I'm pretty sure I wasn't supposed to do that. And going back quite a bit in the film, when Godzilla first appears in Tokyo Bay, Steve tells us about the panic this caused and that, "The military used every man and machine available in an effort to stem the oncoming terror." They then put in a little bit of a montage of tanks and other vehicles driving in and getting into position... and nothing becomes of it. All we see when Godzilla actually shows up is some soldiers using some machines against him, which is how it was in the original version. The thing is, though, that montage of the military was taken from later on in the film when they were preparing for Godzilla's inevitable second attack on the city. With the way they edited it here, though, it looks as if the military got into position, waited, gave up, and then returned to base, which is why there wasn't more action taken against Godzilla when he actually did come ashore for the first time later that night.

The way the story is told in this version is also a little bit different. The Japanese version had it unfold as a mystery, where you're shown these ships being blown up by some unseen force and you gradually start to realize that the cause of these disasters is probably a monster, what this monster's name is, the connection it has to the natives of Odo Island, and, ultimately, how it's tied to the atomic bombings. Here, though, since the film begins with the aftermath of Godzilla's attack on Tokyo, you basically know from the start that the perpetrator is an enormous creature, an idea that is punctuated even more so by Steve's somewhat melodramatic narration. In addition, during the scenes were the first boat is destroyed and the village on Odo Island is attacked during the typhoon, they put in Godzilla's roar, erasing any doubt that it is a monster. In hindsight, it doesn't matter much since everyone and their mother knows of Godzilla but nevertheless, it gives you an insight into the different filmmaking ideals of the Japanese and the Americans. Also, they sort of change Godzilla's portrayal by eliminating Yamane's theory that he was mutated by the atomic bombs, saying instead that, like The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms before him, Godzilla was merely awakened by them. That said, though, I don't agree with some observations that in this version, Godzilla lost his mythic status and become more like a typical 1950's irradiated monster. While the scene on Odo Island where the old man first mentions the legend of Godzilla is missing here, the legend isn't removed from the movie altogether. You still have the legend being talked about, albeit by Tomo this time, and he, like the Japanese version, mentions the sacrifices involving girls on rafts being floated into the sea and the exorcism ceremony, although it's not referred to as such, is still shown here and its connection to the legend is stated as well. So, Godzilla's mythic status is completely lost in this version, it's just not as overt.

While Godzilla, King of the Monsters is an overall inferior film when compared to the original version, there are some scenes and moments that I think are done better here. My favorite is the typhoon on Odo Island. In the original version, the movie cuts from the exorcism ceremony to show that the typhoon has already begun hitting the island with its full force and that leads directly into Masaji's anxiety, that he senses that something is wrong right before Godzilla strikes. This version, however, has a slower and more ominous build-up to the attack. After seeing the exorcism ceremony, we fade to black and come back to see Steve and Tomo sharing a tent on a part of the island near the village. As Steve lies while smoking a cigarette and Tomo just sort of looks up at the roof of the tent, they both notice that the wind is gradually starting to pick up. As the winds get stronger and stronger, you begin to gradually hear the sound of Godzilla's footsteps and the two of them both hear it as well, with Tomo making a face that obviously says, "What the hell is that?" As the storm intensifies to the point where Steve and Tomo almost get blown away along with their tent, that's when we begin seeing the character of Masaji and see how he's eventually killed when his house is crushed. I also like this shot where you see Steve and Tomo almost get blinded by a bright flash while you hear Godzilla roar. For me, this version of the scene does the opposite of what some thinks this version as a whole to Godzilla's character: I think it makes him feel more supernatural and can make you wonder if Godzilla is simply using the storm as cover or if he's actually creating it. Even Steve's narration leads credence to this assumption: "It was more than wind, rain, and lightning, much more. I'm not quite sure what it was. No one was sure... no one, except the natives, and they were positive. They said it was Godzilla." In addition to this, I like that, when Godzilla is walking towards the electrical towers before his ultimate attack on Tokyo, there's a little section of silence before he plows through the cables. It's a bit more ominous here than how it was in the Japanese version. And speaking of which, this version corrects that plothole concerning the towers that I mentioned during my review of the Japanese version. Here, the towers are already there, rather than having been built by the military, the towers were just already there and the military plans to increase the voltage to an amount they hope will be too much for Godzilla.

The most obvious excisions from the Japanese version here are the major scenes that reference the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as World War II. Gone are the scenes where the parliamentarian demands that Godzilla's ties to the atomic bomb be kept secret, a couple on a commuter train talks about how Godzilla is like the atomic bombings all over again, Ogata mentions that Serizawa lost his eye during the war, Hagiwara interviews Serizawa and mentions a German scientist who knows of his work, and Yamane's ending warning that continued nuclear tests could produce another Godzilla. For that matter, if they're not excised, then they go un-translated, as in the scene where that helpless mother tells her children that they'll be joining their father soon, which is meant to hint that the father died in World War II. These were what was lost due to the political situation of the time as well as due to the simple fact that this was stuff that the American public simply couldn't relate to and probably wouldn't have been able to understand, given their opinions of the Japanese at the time. Some have suggested that Joseph E. Levine and his associates had their own political agenda and that they removed and undermined this material in an attempt to whitewash the consequences that the atomic tests and the war had on Japan and to relieve America of any responsibility when it came to the story of the film. I, personally, don't really agree with that opinion, mainly because the nuclear allegory of the original version is merely subdued here rather than being removed altogether. If all mentions of nuclear weapons had been completely excised, then there might be something to that theory. Instead, it's still made clear that H-bomb tests had something to do with Godzilla being present, albeit without the mutation angle, and they still make mention of the radioactivity he leaves behind in his footprints as well as that they use a Geiger counter to find where he is near the end of the film; plus, in his narration, Steve refers to Tokyo as a "smoldering memorial to the unknown," and that, "the few survivors who had been found died in a matter of minutes from shock and strange burns." Even when I was a kid, I picked up that the "strange burns" had to be referring to radiation so, it shouldn't be hard to figure out what they're talking about. And finally, some feel that the scene where Hagiwara mentions a German colleague of Serizawa's was removed because it was a sign that the doctor may have had connections to the Nazis but, when you take into consideration how the type of war-loathing character Serizawa is, as well as the fact that the film was shown in Germany with that scene (it removed everything else that this version did, even though it also left out the character of Steve Martin), that idea quickly loses its credibility.

One last interesting tidbit I'd like to mention before we wrap things up concerns the film's opening and ending titles. For a long time, the version of Godzilla, King of the Monsters that you could get on VHS and DVD had no credits at all, just the film's title appearing at the beginning with Godzilla roaring over it and a simple THE END with white lettering over a black background, accompanied by one last stomp from Godzilla, to close the film out. The original theatrical version and the version that first played in syndication on TV, however, did have credits. The reason they disappeared was because of a formatting issue that occurred when the distributor decided that the film would be projected in theaters in widescreen, even though it was filmed in the standard academy ratio. The cast and crew credits that appeared at the end of the film, however, were done in hard-matted widescreen and so, when Viacom bought the rights to the film for re-syndication, they would have had to have paid to have the credits enlarged and reframed to fit television screens, so they decided to dispense with them altogether. For a long while, all television airings and VHS and DVD releases were taken from that Viacom master, so they always lacked the credits. But, when Classic Media released their two-disc DVD of the film in 2006, they were able to find the ending credits and put them back in the film. They kind of messed up, though, since they had the movie fade to the simple THE END and then rolled the credits, when it should have been the other way around but regardless, I was surprised to see these credits when I first watched this version on that DVD and I thought it ended the movie on a much more ominous note, with the previously heard girls' choir singing over the first part of the credits, only to be gradually drowned out by the sounds of Godzilla's footsteps until, by the end of it, the footsteps are all you hear. It's pretty creepy. The brief opening credits, however, have never been found and it remains to be seen if they'll ever turn up as well.

In conclusion, Godzilla, King of the Monsters may not be on the same poetic, emotional level as the film it was created from but on the whole, I think it's more than a worthy American introduction to Japan's biggest star. It's well-paced, Raymond Burr, for the most part, does good with the role that he's given, even if he is just a bystander, some of the ways the filmmakers integrated him into the film to make it look as if he were in the same scenes as the original Japanese cast are pretty inventive, the film actually does a few things better than the original version in my opinion, and, most importantly, this was the film that got Godzilla noticed in America. If this version had not been made, it's a pretty good bet that the community of G-fans that exist in America today wouldn't exist and also, if lucrative foreign markets for it hadn't opened up, Toho might not have made all of the awesome monster flicks that so many of us grew up with. When you look at how reporters became main characters in the movies that followed and how Toho eventually started referring to Godzilla as the King of the Monsters themselves, it becomes obvious that the studio appreciated what the American distributors had done for their first major foray into the monster genre and made sure to express it in some way. If still think of this movie as a bastardization of the original Japanese version, fair enough. Just don't forget that this is what helped make Godzilla an icon around the world instead of just something that was exclusive to Japan and, therefore, think about what a huge missed opportunity it would have been if this version had never been made.

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