Thursday, August 20, 2009

Godzilla (1954)

Godzilla is a cultural icon, and is even more well known around the world than any of the slashers to come out of the 80s, but who among us can say they're actually seen the original Godzilla? I have to admit, this was my first viewing, and I have probably only seen 2-3 other entries in a series containing more than 20 films. My thoughts?

Coming off of the giant monster B-Movie extravaganza that was the 40s and 50s, Godzilla takes a familiar plot, but introduces a biting social and political commentary that reflects the fears of the nuclear fallout that were ever-present in post-World War II Japan. After the disappearances of several ships, scientists discover that their nuclear testing has awoken an ancient creature from the Cretaceous period, the legendary Godzilla, who returns to destroy Tokyo on a feeding frenzy. All of the basic elements of the classic giant monster movies are present in the film, but what sets it apart are the stunning special FX and the sinister looking beast that leaves a trail of destruction in its path. The filmmakers employed a range of different techniques to create the illusion of the towering giant, from stop motion animation, to puppetry, to forced perspective, to scale models that are so meticulous and intricate that they are indistinguishable from the actual buildings. When each of these methods are combined, the results are simply spectacular. As much as everyone laughs at the camp value in the later films when Godzilla gets into the ring with other Kaiju monstrosities, it cannot be denied that the FX work in the series is unlike anything of its time. In terms of the human element in the film, there is a mild love triangle and struggle between three leads, as well as the interactions between government officials and the scientists trying to stop the rampaging monster. The performances are all played straight and never fall into the cheesiness of other efforts like The Giant Gila Monster, but there are several stereotypical moments that have been imitated in the media for decades since. For the time in which it was made and the ingenious methods used in its filmmaking, Godzilla truly stands the test of time, and will always remain to be one of the greatest monster movies ever made.

Rating: 10/10.*
Number of views: 1.

*This review was based on the original, uncut Japanese version of Gojira, and not the Americanized Godzilla: King of the Monsters.



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10 comments:

  1. I love this one for all the obvious reasons, and basically just because it's still a HORROR movie, back before the consequences to Godzilla's rampages were minimalized. In this original, people SUFFER when a giant radioactive lizard tromps through their city... as it should be, dammit! The later movies soft-pedaled that fact waaaay too much. I enjoy some of the sequels for different reasons, but the original will always stand the test of time as a cornerstone of horror. Great pick.

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  2. I really wish I would have touched on that, because I was AMAZED at how shitty some of those people died, being burned alive, trampled to death.. My jaw literally dropped a few times when he was blowing everything up, I never expected that much death and destruction! Glad you touched on that J., its a very valid and often overlooked fact from the original

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  3. Shitty in the good sense, like "Damn, that must have been really shitty, Im sure glad Godzilla didnt just burn me and my children alive with radioactive fire" shitty

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  4. Carl: I have to stifle my desire to ramble whenever I speak about this movie because I don't think I love any film in my beloved 1950's sci-fi / b movie canon more than this one. I am so intimidated by it, so completely geeky in my love for it, I have not gathered the balls yet to review it over at my place. Such a gripping film. The moment that never leaves me is when the mother and daughter are trapped in the streets as the monster screams and crushes its way through the city. Death is clearly eminent. Mother holds her daughter close. "Close your eyes," says the mother.

    And the use of miniatures? - don't get me started! And what about that mad scientist with a heart of gold?

    I must stop myself. Suffice to say - wonderful review, Carl, and I couldn't agree more. -- Mykal

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  5. The mother/daughters scene does stick out more than any other, how upsetting is it when she is telling them "Dont worry, we will be with daddy soon!" There are several points during that rampage where you couldnt help but think people in Hiroshima or Nagasaki must have had the same reaction, so it is very jarring on all accounts. Im so upset that the two disc set had two copies of Gojira by mistake instead of Gojira and Godzilla: KotM, because I wanted so badly to watch them back to back for comparisons between the uncut version and the shortened and re-edited American version to see if the carnage was all intact.

    You were the first person I thought of when I finished the film Mykal, very happy to hear that this ranks among your favorites!

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  6. Carl: May have to do a re-watch of this one soon! You are so right: the original Gojira is sooo much about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. J. Astro is right-on when he sites the brutal violence of Gijira. It really is horrific. The miniature city once destroyed looks so much like pictures of Hiroshima. If memory serves, doesn't someone on a subway shout "I survived Nagasaki for this?" Man, what a classic.

    BTY, if you want a copy of the Americanized version (which is well worth seeing), send address to private email radiationcinema@gmail.com. I'd be glad to send you a copy. -- Mykal

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  7. Carl: Yes! That was the moment: the mother telling the daughter that they would be with the father soon. Does she tell her to close her eyes? Fantastic scene, and completely gripping and moving -and heartbreaking. Did you assume, as I did, that the father was a japanese soldier who died in the war or maybe a Hiroshima or Nagasaki death? -- Mykal

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  8. You know what I didnt make that leap, but I did consider the WWII angle, I imagined he may have just fallen in battle or had his plane go down. That one scene immediately engages the audience, and what is best it that it is so simply but perfectly constructed.

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  9. One of my favorite movies of all time. Always a Davis Graveyard Drive In staple! Thanks for sharing your insights!!

    Cheers!

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