Director: Ishiro Honda
Writers: Takeo Murata and Ishiro Honda
Cast: Akira Takarada, Momoko Kochi, Akihiko Hirata, Takashi Shimura, Fuyuki Murakami, Sachio Sakai, Toranosuke Ogawa, Ren Yamamoto, Hiroshi Hayashi, Senjiro Onda, Takeo Oikawa, Keiji Sakakita, Toyoaki Suzuki, Kokuten Kodo, Kin Sugai, Tamae Sengo, Shizuko Azuma, Tsuruko Mano, Tadashi Okabe, Ren Imaizumi, Masaaki Tachibana, Ichiro Obi, Yasuhisa Tsutsumi, Jiro Suzukawa, Saburo Iketani, Katsumi Tezuka, and Haruo Nakajima
Composer: Akira Ifukube
Release Date: 11/3/1954
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
When several ships mysteriously explode along the coast of Japan, paleontologist Kyohei Yamane (Takashi Shimura) travels with his daughter Emiko (Momoko Kochi) and assistant Hideto Ogata (Akira Takarada) to Odo Island, where a 50-meter-tall monster named Gojira (translated to “Godzilla” in English) is rumored to live. Having been awakened by nuclear testing, Godzilla later wreaks havoc upon a defenseless Tokyo. Only the secret invention of Dr. Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata), Emiko’s fiancée, can stop Godzilla from destroying the entire world.
For employing science fiction as a vehicle through which to explore a potential nuclear holocaust, Godzilla should be praised by fans of the giant monster subgenre. Exceptionally relevant is the solemn framework from which this topic is examined, allowing Godzilla to overcome the technical flaws apparent in its execution.
Though frequently criticized, the rubber suit used to portray Godzilla occasionally works to the advantage of this film. Specifically, the limited range of motion, static appearance (e.g. lack of eye movements), and clumsy gait exhibited by Godzilla hardly make him a creature with which one can easily sympathize. Rather, viewers will undoubtedly perceive the title monster as nothing more than a force of nature, heightening the inevitable aspect of Godzilla’s destructive path.
The dated special effects of Godzilla can also be forgiven in light of the serious, perhaps even haunting, tone that accompanies Ishiro Honda’s narrative. Notably, the protagonists in Godzilla express the combination of awe, respect, and unfathomable terror that one would expect a giant, aggressive creature to elicit from its victims—a stark contrast to the cartoonish, one-dimensional characters featured in follow-up films (e.g. King Kong vs. Godzilla, Son of Godzilla, etc.).
On a related note, Honda’s characters are developed enough to thoroughly immerse the audience in their struggle. Especially terrific is the love triangle involving Ogata, Emiko, and Dr. Serizawa, which further accentuates the poignant quality of Godzilla’s climactic scene. Professor Yamane’s conflicted feelings on the decision to exterminate Godzilla should also be commended, mostly for adding a personal component to Honda’s social commentary.
There are times when the model buildings, civilian vehicles, and military craft appear unconvincing, thereby failing to complement Godzilla’s devastation of Tokyo with an air of realism.
By offering a statement on the dangers of nuclear testing, Godzilla earns its reputation as the quintessential daikaiju (giant monster) film produced during the Atomic Age. Worth noting in particular, the anti-nuclear sentiments following World War II are more evident in Godzilla than in similar productions that came before it, establishing a precedent for giant monster movies released throughout the latter of half of the 20th century. (Certain parallels can even be drawn between Godzilla’s rampage and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with both incidents, one real and the other fictional, resulting from the perversion of scientific discovery—the very thing that Dr. Serizawa seeks to prevent).
A classic Japanese monster film, Godzilla delivers a powerful impact over sixty years after its original release. For Godzilla enthusiasts and series newcomers alike, this one will not disappoint.
Overall Quality: 10/10
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