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Ishiro Honda’s Godzilla is the roaring granddaddy of all monster movies. It’s also a remarkably humane and melancholy drama made in Japan at a time when the country was still reeling from nuclear attack and H-bomb testing. Its rampaging radioactive beast, the poignant embodiment of an entire population’s fears, became a beloved international icon of destruction, spawning more than twenty sequels and spinoffs. This first thrilling, tactile spectacle continues to be a cult phenomenon; here, we present the original, 1954 Japanese version, along with Godzilla: King of the Monsters!, the 1956 American reworking starring Raymond Burr (Rear Window).
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This 1954 production from Toho Studios is, simply, a CLASSIC.
It is darker (both in mood and in lighting) to the retitled 1956 "Americanized" GODZILLA which was the first VERSION I ever saw (I was six when that one came out and saw it at a drive-in with my parents as part of a double feature. I have no memory of what the second feature was, due probably to the fact that, as usual, by the time it began I was sound asleep in the back of our Ford Station Wagon).
Anyway, forget the blurb that Amazon has for this on their "Instant Video" page. Raymond Burr is nowhere to be seen in this version. He was added to the "Americanized" 1956 version by shooting extra scenes with different actors like Frank Iwanaga (from Fresno, California) who played his contact in the Security Office and by using body doubles for the main cast members and only showing them from behind when Steve Martin (Burr's character) is supposed to be interacting with them. Not that Mr, Burr was a drawback to the story (I love BOTH versions) but I have to acknowledge that the original (1954) version is the SUPERIOR version,
If you've never seen it then for God(zilla's) sake, at least RENT it. I think you'll be buying soon after!
And if you HAVE seen it, and always wanted a pristine copy of it...get THIS one.
Yes, the video is dark but that was intentional...it makes this early "suitmation" look MUCH more realistic than it otherwise might have been plus, as I say, it suits the darker mood of the original.
It's a beautiful motion picture.
OK maybe not that groundbreaking. After all "King Kong" preceded it by 21 years and "The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms" preceded it a year before. Both films had an influence on director Ishiro Honda. I think what I'm trying to say is that because there's been so many sequels and imitators with a campy flavor that I was surprised by how serious, dramatic and thoughtful the original 1954 film was. I can't say Godzilla to people without them breaking into giggles because they think of cheesy special effects, badly dubbed dialogue and a fat guy in a rubber suit. It also doesn't help that many of the giant monster movies from the U.S. are also cheesy.
We've forgotten that the main theme of these giant monster movies is that we shouldn't mess with nuclear power because once it comes into contact with smaller creatures, those little creatures we take for granted will come back to destroy us.
But no film stresses this even more than "Godzilla" because Japan had suffered from a nuclear fallout and they were still recovering from that traumatic event in 1946. "Godzilla" is first and foremost, a drama. It shows the suffering the people go through after the creature's rampage and it shows the moral dilemma that many scientist and government officials have to grapple with in the aftermath.
The great Takashi Shimura plays paleontologist Dr. Yamane who hears about an attack on a fishing boat near Odo Island and goes to investigate where he encounters with the villagers the reappearance of "gojira" a giant "dinosaur" (from the Jurassic period, mind you) with fire breath and glowing "plates". Going back to Tokyo, Yamane believes that the creature was awakened by nuclear testing and he wished to study the creature further, something that doesn't sit well with the authorities...
Meanwhile Yamane's daughter, Emiko (Momoko Kochi) learns of a weapon that can be used against the monster with unspeakable consequences...
Clear your mind of every Kaiju movie you've seen before and watch it with fresh eyes. It's one of the best 50s/monster/dinosaur/anti-nuclear sci-fi movie ever made. It deserves it's place in the Criterion Collection and in Top 100 Film lists everywhere.
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