When American reporter Steve Martin investigates a series of mysterious disasters off the coast of Japan, he comes face to face with an ancient creature so powerful and so terrifying, it can reduce Tokyo to a smoldering graveyard. Nuclear weapon testing resurrected this relic from the Jurassic age, and now it's rampaging across Japan. At night, Godzilla wades through Tokyo leaving death and destruction in his wake, disappearing into Tokyo Bay when his rage subsides. Coventional weapons are useless against him; but renowned scientist Dr. Serizawa has discovered a weapon that could destroy all life in the bay -- including Godzilla. But which disaster is worse, Godzilla's fury, or the death of Tokyo Bay? Written by
Robert Lynch <email@example.com>
Of the three actors who wore the Godzilla suit in the first Godzilla movie, Nakajima, Haruo is generally considered the true Godzilla and the first performer to enact the part.. See more »
In the American version, during one scene Dr. Yamane's dialogue in Japanese contains the name "Godzilla" even though the monster hasn't appeared yet (revealing that this scene was originally later in the film). See more »
Many prints and videos have absolutely no credits, beyond the title at the start(with a clearly video-generated copyright notice below it) and a "The End" graphic at the close. As of 2006, Classic Media's release of the film in the Gojira/Godzilla: King of the Monsters on DVD has the restored English credits. See more »
With "Gojira/Godzilla", Toho studios created something very special - a cultural phenomenon, a metaphor for a particular experience of a particular phase of recent history. The film is not "mythic" in the sense that it captures the imagination as do the ancient myths - it is the myth itself, the story that we tell around our hearth fires at night to make the inexplicable somehow familiar, to ward the demons away.
This is not a great film - although, despite the technically poor special effects, there are actually a number of interesting cinematic moments here. But the real importance of the film is the way it struck a chord in the hearts and minds of the post-WWII era, when Japan and America needed to find some way to learn to live together after years of trying to snuff each other out. In this regard, the "Steve Martin" episodes inserted into the American version of the film, although not as well done as the Japanese portions, mark a thematic stroke of genius. Raymond Burr strikes just the right attitude toward the Japanese at that moment in history - he treats them as he would any other human beings. He shows no arrogance, no impatience, no contempt. He is just one of the cast of characters thrown into a historic catastrophe for which none of them are prepared.
I noted that, despite its flaws, the film has undeniably magic cinematic moments. The longest of these is the most memorable - it begins with the argument between the scientist and his (unhappy) fiancé, about using his invention to destroy Godzilla; that moment is just so-so - but it bleeds into the scene where the chorus of children sing a national prayer for deliverance, which is what finally influences the scientist enough for him to change his decision.
There then follows a strange, elegiac finale. I won't give much of it away, but I will say that is hardly the common end of a '50s 'big lizard' horror movie. And in it, the terrors of Earth's primitive past and the destructive technology of modern science become one, enveloping man and monster alike.
This finale is a staggering innovation in a '50s horror film - and we have not seen its like in any American horror film, despite various efforts to accomplish it (for instance in the recent remake of King Kong). The reason why Americans always miss this mark is because, to be honest, America doesn't have any real myths of its own; consequently, we can't figure out how to say farewell to any myth we never had.
But a myth that says farewell to myth is precisely what this film is all about. Godzilla is NOT a radiation-mutated dinosaur; he's a fire-breathing dragon. He is Japan's history (both the good and the bad) come back to haunt it - with a vengeance. And The elegiac tone of the finale expresses the Discovery the Japanese made, following the Second World War, that the worst of their past was as bad as any they might charge against others, and that the best of it - the samurai tradition that dwindled itself into militarism - could destroy them more completely than any enemy.
Godzilla is another face for Orochi, the dragon that gave birth to Japan in at least one ancient myth; but the world has grown too small for him, and now all he can do is destroy it.
Walt Whitman said of his "Leaves of Grass" that it was not so much a poem but "the stuff of poems", the raw material from which future poets must draw inspiration if they were to write any poetry that could be called American.
I don't know that we can go this far with "Godzilla" - but its historic importance means that it will outlive every science fiction film made since. Because it IS history, it is what, without sentiment, we most vividly remember.
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