Anniversary Post: Godzilla

GodzillaOn this day in 1954, Godzilla was first released. It’s a great film. If you base the film on later versions of it or on the monster movie genre over all, you will get the wrong idea about it. The film is at base a warning against the misuse of science. It starts with the true story of the fishing boat that was destroyed during the first hydrogen bomb test.

The film circles around the stories of two scientists. The first is Kyohei Yamane (played by the great Takashi Shimura), who comes to see Godzilla as a creature that shouldn’t be killed. The other is Daisuke Serizawa, who has developed a weapon that can kill Godzilla but is afraid to unleash yet another unthinkably powerful weapon on the world. Not surprisingly, these larger ethical considerations were removed from the English language release of the film.

I highly recommend checking out the film. The Criterion Collection Godzilla is particularly good with both the original and the America versions of the films. They both contain commentary tracks from David Kalat, who provides you with all the historical and cinematic context you could need for the films. If you have a problem with monster movies, this will help you to see it in a whole new way.

4 thoughts on “Anniversary Post: Godzilla

  1. I just watched this a few weeks ago, and it’s excellent. I knew it was darker than the campy sequels, but I was surprised how deeply the issue of superweapons was treated. I thought it would be a rather simple polemic about the evils of the atomic bomb, but by putting Serizawa in roughly the same position as Harry Truman, it explores all sides of the argument around creating dangerous weapons.

    I outright refuse to watch the American recut. Oh, also: “Gojira.”

    • Don’t be a snob. My problem with the American version is that it makes it all about the American reporter. But they do an excellent job of it. And it allowed the film to have a far better impact than it would have had. As for “Gojira,” I think that David Kalat makes an excellent case for “Godzilla.” If you are interested in the film, you should check out his book. But his commentary on both versions of the film really are excellent.

      • Don’t mean to be rude, sorry. There’s a long history of American adaptations of foreign properties taking away a lot of what made them good, so I can’t help but be suspicious.

        • I was just teasing. I didn’t think you were rude. The original is better — there’s no question of that. But it did get better treatment than later Japanese films. But really, you should check out the Criterion Collection DVD.

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