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Tomoyuki Tanaka really knew how to tell a war related story (war films in Japan were illegal at the time) and make his dinosaur the biggest star (literally) in the world. Steve Martin(Raymond Burr) and Dr. Serizawa are among the best known human characters in the entire series. I give this movie little more credit than before because of how it was made and the angle it was going for. Long live the King!
I've seen both versions (available from Criterion, by the way). As you'd expect, the original version is better. In this case, however, the Japanese version (which has a separate IMDb page), is far superior. This is because we get to know the characters much better. There is a lot more human emotion in the original. Also, the cutaways to Raymond Burr (shot separately, two years later in the U.S.) don't distract from the story. The cuts from the original are critical, since they are about the characters.
A thematic difference is that there is the angle of Godzilla being the product of American Hydrogen Bomb testing. Definitely guessing that Americans didn't want to hear that part, which is why those comments are deleted from the Americanized version.
Of course, the 1950's American monster movies blame their monsters on radioactivity, so in that way, there isn't too much of a difference!
The original version also has a bit more Godzilla smashy-smashy action! If you are in a hurry to see it, you are in for a wait. 'Zilla doesn't show up (except for a quick head shot) until about the 42-minute mark in both versions.
I definitely recommend the Japanese version. Yes, there are subtitles, but it's worth it! The American version runs 1:20 and the Japanese version runs 1:36.
Japanese version: ******* (7 Out of 10 Stars) / American version: ***** (5 Out of 10 Stars)
Title (Brazil): Not Available
As it is it's a decent enough film, especially if you have never seen Honda's original. For sure it's still creaky in that "man in rubber suit" way, but the iconic creature is still thrilling as it goes about its merry way destroying some carefully constructed model workings. The nuclear war heedings are still there and there's much fun to be had, intentional or otherwise. Its pale in comparison to the original, but it's not a stinker either. 6/10
In all honesty, I haven't seen the Japanese original ("Gojira") and so I have no basis on which to compare the two versions, so "Godzilla: King Of The Monsters" has to be looked at on its own merits. Let's admit right off the top that it has a lot of weaknesses. The Burr scenes aren't edited in particularly well, there are some strange decisions about dubbing (sometimes the original scenes are left in, with Japanese language and all and a narration by Burr explaining what's happening and sometimes English is dubbed over the original Japanese, and there didn't seem to me to be any particular rhyme or reason for which decision was made to which scene), the special effects are primitive (but it was made in the 1950's), and the monster stretched credibility a bit (partly the costume, and partly that he was 400 feet tall - how would the link between Jurassic era land animals and sea animals be so big?) Having said that, unless your agenda is simply to bash Americans for Americanizing the movie, you also have to admit that it's not bad. The opening scene is marvellous, with Martin being rescued from a destroyed building and brought to a hospital on a stretcher. If you didn't know the story (and we do, so perhaps this loses its impact) you'd swear off the top that this is a movie about an atomic bomb attack. For all the above weaknesses, the movie's fun pretty much all the way through if not particularly scary, and the casting of Burr accomplished what the studios wanted - Godzilla became as much an American cult classic as a Japanese one.
The ending is a bit abrupt, and seemed pretty decisive, leaving me to puzzle where all the sequels came from, but overall, if not great this was still an enjoyable film, probably undeserving of some of the criticism it gets. 6/10
After comparing this version to the original, I can see that grafting of parts Raymond Burr appears is well done but I could also see the discontinuity in the story line. For instance, first scene Dr. Yamane appears on this version is the scene after he sees Godzilla in the original, but in this movie it's set before he sees Godzilla,. But in his dialog he's already talking about Godzilla and its incredible life force.
The Japanese fisherman appearing in this movie also can't speak Japanese right. After seeing the original, it looks so fake and out of place.
This still is a good movie, but if you're a Godzilla fan, I recommend seeing it in its original form without dubbing in English. Overall story line is much more coherent, and you'll understand the plot better.
I decided to look into a piece of film history today, so I watched Godzilla: King of the Monsters for about the fifth time. I realize that your decision to permit this film was made early in your career, before you had established the the status of a legend, and that you might have felt the American cinemarket might not be ready for the biggest, hottest star ever produced off the coast of Japan, but I have to say that I think this entire film was a mistake.
The pasted in Raymond Burr scenes are awful and dull, and the voice-over narrative is unnecessary and distracting. You look great, of course, with the exception of one scene - about midway through the film, after you've been reanimated by nuclear testing and the paleontologists have recognized you as the missing link between Jurassic terrestrial and marine reptiles - when, for some reason, you appear as an unmoving silhouette in the background looming over a burning, wrecked Tokyo.
My complaints regarding this film all stem from its Americanization. I really don't understand why you allowed so many American scenes to be added to the film, and why you waived the right to review the script. Gojira was a much better film, of course, and time has told that tale well.
With Undying Affection,
"Godzilla, King of the Monsters" is the Americanized version of the movie that has Raymond Burr as American reporter Steve Martin. As he film begins we see Martin recounting what he just lived through after Godzilla demolished the city of Tokyo leaving thousands of dead and wounded, like himself, in his wake. Just days before Martin landed in Tokyo on a stopover to his trip to Cairo Egypt never suspecting that he'll be reporting the biggest story of the 20th century.
It was during that time that a number of Japanese fishing boats and their crews were incinerated by rays of deadly radiation coming from the ocean floor. Together with his good friend Japan's top paleontologist the eminent Dr. Kyohei Yamane, Takashi Ahimura, Martin and a boatload of Japanese newsmen including Dr. Yamane's 22 year-old daughter Emiko, Momok Kochi, traveled to the out of the way Ito Island where one of the few surviving fishermen, of the radiation attacks, came from. It's on Oto Island where it's been reported by the local natives that a gigantic prehistoric monster has suddenly made an unexpected, after some 2 million years, and unwanted public appearance!
I didn't take long for the monster-Godzilla-to show his, or its, face proving beyond a doubt that he's in fact real not some made up legend by the Ito islanders. He later also does a number on the island leaving most of it in ruins! Out of the water and on to dry land Godzilla then attacks, under the cover of night, the bustling Japanese city of Tokyo which we soon find out was just a probing action on his part. Godzilla was testing out the city's defenses to find a weak spot for his later and far more devastating attack 24 hours, again under the cover of darkness, later. With nothing to stop it Godzilla turns the city of Tokyo into a hell on earth causing more damage to it then even the great fire bombings of Tokyo in March 1945 by Gen. LaMay's fleet of B-29 bombers.
***MAJOR SPOILERS*** Steve Martin who had witnessed the destruction of the city from his hotel window ended up buried under the rubble barely surviving the carnage. Martin is later responsible in getting the ball rolling in Godzilla's destruction through Emiko's hand picked, by her and his parents, future husband top Japanese scientist Dr. Daiskuke "Eyepatch" Serizawa. It was Dr. Serizawa who was Martin's good friend and collage classmate, despite a ten year age difference, who knew about his underwater experiments that in the end lead to Godzilla's demise. It was the romantic triangle between Dr. Serizawa and Emiko's new love Japanese Japanese Navy sailor Ogata, Akira Takerada, whom she met and fell in love with on her and Steve Martins trip to Oto Island that was the reason the he in the end used his secret oxygen destroyer capsule, that he swore Emiko to secrecy, to do in the raging prehistoric beast. A life long pacifist Dr. Serizawa now with his love Emiko leaving him for Ogata felt that the only thing in life left for him to do is do in Godzilla before he destroys the Japanese Islands and the tens of millions of people living on them.
***MAJOR MAJOR SPOILER*** In the ultimate act of self sacrifice Dr. Serizawa in keeping the secret of the deadly oxygen destroyer from the world at large and out of the hands of any nation, like the US & USSR, who'll use it for military purposes takes that secret to his watery grave together with Godzilla whom it ends up destroying!
P.S One thing about the movie "Godzilla" that really stands out is the first class, very rare in a monster film, acting by those in it. The love triangle between Emiko Ogata and Dr. Serizawa was so well done and heart-fully convincing that it in fact overshadowed the main theme in the movie; A 400 foot prehistoric monster on the loose in a major 20th century metropolis: Tokyo Japan. It's that Academy Award caliber acting that raised the film heads and shoulders above the many 1950's monster film, in the US and abroad, that it competed with at the time!
Actually in its own way and the original version was in fact trying to make a statement about the evils that could be launched from splitting the atom. Japan certainly was qualified to make such a film. Even the version that we in America saw contained that same message. Awakening this prehistoric evil into modern times could destroy mankind or at least Japan.
It was probably a good thing Godzilla was done in black and white. Later Japanese monster films in color showed some of the flimsiness of the cardboard and paper mache sets that the monster of the film would destroy as he was doing his thing be it Godzilla, Gammera, Rodan, Mothra, whomever.
It was thought that adding an American name would insure some box office. Raymond Burr was not yet Perry Mason, not yet Ironside, he was a well respected character actor who did play mostly villains. We're told his scenes were all shot in America and the Japanese players came over here to shoot with him. They do look like they were shoehorned into the film.
I'm not sure of the science involved in doing in Godzilla. It involved destroying all the oxygen in the water of Tokyo Bay and leaving it a bleached undersea graveyard. Godzilla's taken up residence there and rests during the day and prowls the city at night doing a lot of mayhem and destruction. The best part of the film is Godzilla's death scene, it's as dramatic as King Kong's. On that the special effects boys deserve a lot of credit.
Godzilla launched a genre as Japanese filmmakers looked to create bigger and better monsters who dealt in more and more death and destruction. What I never figured out is why it was always their cities?
You see Godzilla, King of the Monsters! is not an original US made movie. Now we all know the US have a long history of making inferior versions of foreign films but here is something else entirely.
Godzilla, King of the Monsters! is merely a compressed version of the original Japanese Godzilla (1954). No I mean literally, it IS the Japanese movie but with a few additional scenes added.
These scenes star Raymond Burr (Perry Mason) as a reporter who has travelled to Japan to get the story of this giant monster.
So 90% of the movie is just the original Japanese one and 10% is American footage. And this was released as a US Godzilla film!? What an absolute crock!
I simply couldn't believe what I was watching. It's fairly interesting how they managed to integrate Burr into the movie, but this simply isn't a new film. It's like watching a directors cut with a few additional scenes!
Godzilla, King of the Monsters! is one of those movies that simply should never have existed.
The whole fact it exists is a bit of a joke
Things I Learnt From This Movie:
I'm very glad this trend of ripping entire movies and modifying them didn't catch on
Perry Mason walking just doesn't sit right with me
Rather than a subtitled film, we get one dubbed. At least they left some of the Japanese dialog.
Stars of the original film, Takashi Shimura, Momoko Kôchi, and Akira Takarada, took second billing to Burr, who dominated throughout.
Godzilla was a grave representation of the horrors of the H bomb; horrors that Japan knew all too well. Scenes of the destruction caused by Godzilla, and of the broken, burning bodies pulled from the rubble, look authentic enough to be documentary footage of Hiroshima or Nagasaki. The film, a huge hit in the original form, must have been therapeutic for the Japanese people.
The buildup to the first actual reveal of the monster is neatly done...and when the camera finally reveals the famous outline looming over the crest of a ridge and the hikers freak and start running for their lives...there are very few scenes in any monster or disaster movie ever made that can rival the revelatory quality of Godzilla's first appearance.
The scenes where Raymond Burr appears aren't as goofy and disconnected as I'd been led to believe - for the most part his voice overs and narration are well considered and not too heavy on the exposition. His scenes look pretty close in lighting, scenery, costumes,and design to the original cut. Also, in most of those scenes, the Japanese actors and extras appearing with him work well to preserve the continuity so he isn't just emoting into a vaccuum. Yes, there are a couple gaffes, but even then Burr was a pro, and he makes it work.
I'm glad I finally got to see the (almost) original...it lived up to its reputation.
Thankfully, the best part of the film, Godzilla's rampage through Tokyo, has been left untouched. To be honest, I always favour monster action over drama, so the extensive editing to the human story didn't bother me much. In fact, if I may border on being sacrilegious, it improves the sometimes sluggish pace of the original.
Still, seeing a haunting allegory reduced a run-of-the-mill 'monster on the loose,' movie is very sobering.
If you're a G fan, you've probably already seen this film, but if you haven't, I'd recommend you see the original, uncut Gojira first; that's how it was meant to be.
I never saw the original movie but I have seen this "Americanized" version. It's a badly dubbed and edited version of the original. New scenes were added with Raymond Burr playing a reporter in Tokyo when Godzilla hits. It's inter cut with the Japanese version. The lousy dubbing is distracting and it's pretty dull until Godzilla pops up. The special effects are obvious but still work and (unlike later Godzilla films that were aimed at kids) this is deadly serious. It's very grim and dark and Godzilla is pure evil. It was obviously made for adults. It's not a great film by any means but it has a place in cinema history as introducing Godzilla to us. I heard the 1954 original is much better but never saw it. This version gets a 6.
The film itself, whether in the Americanized or original version, is better than any of its descendants, and far less campy. Though I do enjoy the later ones because of their campy outlandishness, this one stands somberly alone.
Ultimately, what makes the movie exciting and dumb fun are the attack sequences, especially Godzilla's destruction of Tokyo. Also, as a kid, there's something very effective with the black and white, as it almost comes off as being darker than the other color-film Godzilla movies of the early 60s; one can see the ash all rising around, and a shot or two looks like it could've been lifted from the old newsreels following the end of WW2. Actually, Godzilla is, originally and with 'best intentions', an allegory for nuclear destruction. The American version doesn't stress this nearly as much as Gojira, and what is cut out now gets felt on a repeat viewing. But I could think of worse things to do on a Sunday afternoon.
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.