Gojira (1954)

Gojira (Godzilla)Gojira_1954_Japanese_poster
Directed by Ishirô Honda
Written by Takeo Murata and Ishirô Honda; story by Shigera Kayama
1954/Japan
Toho Film (Eiga) Co. Ltd.
Repeat viewing/my DVD collection

 

[last lines] Kyohei Yamane-hakase: I can’t believe that Godzilla was the only surviving member of its species… But if we continue conducting nuclear tests, it’s possible that another Godzilla might appear somewhere in the world again.

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.

gojira-production-photo_1-1954

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?

Godzilla_'54_design

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

5 thoughts on “Gojira (1954)

    • Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be on YouTube. It is available on Hulu here. I don’t know if you have that where you are or whether this particular one requires a subscription. The first month is free here, though. Well worth seeking out!

  1. I saw this a few times when I was a kid. It seemed like it was on late-night TV a lot in the 1970s. I loved it then and I love it now.
    I watched it a few months ago. I hadn’t seen it for a very very long time. (If I’m in a Godzilla mood, I have King Kong vs. Godzilla, Godzilla’s Revenge, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster and Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster on DVD.)
    What struck me seeing it recently was how real it looks! I don’t mean the monster effects, I mean everything else. It looks like newsreel footage, like a record of something that really happened, not slick like a Hollywood movie, but grainy and hectic like it was shot by a Japanese TV news cameraman who was probably incinerated in the carnage.

    • Good point about the newsreel effect. I also love all the radio announcers. So poignant when they say “we’ll be going off the air now.”

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