Wednesday, May 25, 2011

On Screen -- Gojira (1954)

A flash of light ...  There's an eruption beneath the surface of the sea ...  People scramble about on board a ship screaming in terror ...  Ship sinks engulfed in flames ...  A handful of survivors are discovered floating about clinging to debris ...  So begins the story of Gojira.  I think this is actually the first time I've seen the actual Toho uncut Japanese version of the film.  It seems to flow and have better continuity than the American version with the scenes of an American news reporter (Raymond Burr) spliced in.  But no Mr. Burr in this version.  There also seems to be more references to the atomic and nuclear bomb testing that I hadn't noticed in the American version.

I'm sure everyone knows the basic storyline.  Superstitious old islanders believe an ancient myth has come to life.  Japanese scientist believes monster was released from the depths of the sea due to nuclear testing.  One scientist wants to study the creature, others want only to destroy it.  In the mean time Godzilla rampages around flattening every building in its path and setting Tokyo ablaze with his radioactive breath.  The film does have really good special effects for its time and since most of the action takes place at night, the rubber suit on the star is not as noticeable as in the future Godzilla films.  I personally think the suit adds something that you can't get from any CGI.

One other thing I'd like to mention is the score.  The music is really moving and kind of came to be known as "Godzilla's theme song", like the opening music in the film "Jaws", because it was reused in later Godzilla films.  Some very well known Japanese actors include the guy in the suit Haruo Nakajima starring as "Godzilla", Akira Takarada as "Hideto Ogata", Momoko Kochi as "Emiko", Akihiko Hirata as "Dr. Serizawa", and Takashi Shimura as "Dr. Yamane".

Trivia  --  The clock tower that Godzilla tears down is the Wako department store clock tower in the Ginza district of Tokyo and still stands today.

So if you're only going to pick one of the many Godzilla films to checkout , stick with the original.  And if this one isn't available to, you then the 1956 "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" Americanized version is almost as good.  Enjoy ...

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