I needed something special to counteract countless hours of carnage in Paris and this fit the bill exactly. It also probably served a similar purpose with regard to H bomb anxieties in post-war Japan.
Gojira evolved from a marine creature to a land creature 2 million years ago then lay dormant in a deep sea cave. H-bomb testing has awakened the monster. The first clue is the mysterious sinking of several fishing boats. Paleantologist Professor Yamane (the great Takashi Shimura!) finally encounters the creature on an island whose traditions include an underwater monster that devours all the fish, then the people. He wants to study the monster to see how it survived the H-bomb.
Soon Gojira is heading toward Tokyo and it becomes absolutely clear he must be destroyed. As Yamane predicts, all Japan’s weaponry cannot slay a monster that withstood an H bomb. Yamane’s daughter’s fiance, a scientist, has invented an “Oxygen Destroyer” that has potential to slay the beast but he is reluctant to use it for fear it will be exploited as a weapon of mass destruction. How can he ensure the device will never be used for evil?
This film is as much an expression of the Japanese nuclear experience and fears as anything else. In facts, parts of the film are almost poetic in their sad looks at destruction and loss. This aspect lifts the original above the American adaptation with Raymond Burr released two years later.
Of course, the monster action is what made this a hit and it is fun despite the somewhat clunky special effects. It helps that most of Godzilla’s rampages are at night and so obscure a lot of the “man in a rubber suit” effect. The print looks beautiful and the score is fantastic! If you have any interest in the genre, this is a must-see.
Trailer – Criterion print of actual movie is not nearly so dark