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Japan is thrown into a panic after several ships explode and are sunk. At first, the authorities think its either underwater mines or underwater volcanic activity. The authorities soon head to Odo Island, close to where several of the ships were sunk. One night, something comes onshore and destroys several houses and kills several people. A later expedition to the island led by paleontologist Professor Ky˘hei Yamane, his daughter Emiko, and young navy frogman Hideto Ogata (who also happens to be Emiko's lover, even though she is betrothed to Dr. Daisuke Serizawa) soon discover something more devastating than imagined in the form of a 164-foot-tall monster whom the natives call Gojira. Now, the monster begins a rampage that threatens to destroy not only Japan but the rest of the world as well. Can the monster be destroyed before it is too late, and what role will the mysterious Serizawa play in the battle?
Before Japan was famous for anime, it's niche in the entertainment business was movies involving huge monsters called Kaiju rampaging through the city. The Toho company was the main force behind these movies, and indeed they were responsible for starting it all with 1954's Gojira. Known in the west as Godzilla, the creature has become one of the most famous monsters to appear on the big screen. He would go on to make another 27 movies after this (28 if you count Tristar's bullshit), but none would be as serious in nature as his first romp through Tokyo.
Review by Crispy
Added: June 18, 2007
The waters near Odo Island have become a death trap. Two freight ships have been destroyed, the only evidence of something amiss was a flash of light beneath the waves before the boats burst into flames. Other ships sent into the area looking for both survivors and answers would meet the same fate. Furthermore, natives in the area haven't been able to catch any fish at all. An elder of the village is convinced that it is the sea-creature, Godzilla. Of course, the younger citizens scoff at this theory, but that night the village is attacked by a giant creature, leaving it in ruins. As a team of scientists, led by Dr. Yermaine (Takashi Shimura) are inspecting the ruins, they discover giant footsteps and a small crustacean that was thought to be extinct long ago. Along with the damage, the Geiger counters are going off the charts. They soon find out what caused the damage as the creature itself, a fifty-meter tall dinosaur-esque reptile, appeared on the hillside before escaping into the water. Investigating the crustacean and the sand from the footsteps, they discover it contains a high level of Strontium, proving the creature's origin was connected with an atomic bomb. Immediately, the powers that be put together plans to kill the beast, including an anti-Godzilla fleet armed with depth charges. Dr. Yermaine is extremely depressed by this news, as he thinks the creature should be studied instead of killed, but his protests fall on deaf ears. Godzilla has now become even more bold, moving into more urban areas, with the Japanese military discovering how helpless they are against the attacks.
The movie came out less than ten years after the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In truth, it was much more than Japan's answer to the State's King Kong, but was actually a thinly veiled metaphor for the bombings. Director Ishiro Honda lived the attacks firsthand, and he has said himself that he hoped his film would somehow open the eyes of the world leaders to the incredible power of the weapon. For Honda, Godzilla was not a mere metaphor for the bomb's destruction, but a physical manifestation of it. He gave the creature all the characteristics of the bomb, including the power to level a city and cause unspeakable evil to its inhabitants, leaving even the survivors of the attack stricken with radiation. The special effects used were surprisingly good. Even now, over 50 years later, they're leagues ahead of the "b movies" of the current day and their bad CGI shenanigans. Sure, everything is obviously cardboard, but it's easily digested with just a small touch of suspension of disbelief. The creature itself was originally planned to be created using stop motion, however the tight production schedule forced them to use a quicker method. They decided on turning Godzilla into a guy in a suit, a decision that would prove to be a trademark of Toho's Kaiju films. While technically "inferior" to stop motion, it worked so much better in my opinion, giving it a more realistic feel.
Gojira is not an action packed movie. The majority of it is spent dealing with the humans' reactions to the creature's existence. Still, it never gets boring throughout its one hundred minute running time. The Godzilla theme too is also amazing. A simple, ominous score that backs up the creature's actions very well. If all you've ever seen is the Americanized version Godzilla: King of the Monsters I highly suggest you hunt this one down. Same goes for those put off by the cheese that made up the subsequent Godzilla flicks. This is a deadly serious portrayal of the consequences of nuclear warfare, only thinly veiled in its approach of using a giant monster. 10/10.
- added June 21, 2007 at 11:08pm
This movie is everthing a monster movie should be
and more. I'm sorry... whenever I think of it I
get too choked up... just... everyone should see
this atleast twice.
- added September 16, 2007 at 2:52pm
Agreed. This is a classic, and must be viewed by
everyone. I didn't know that it was based as the
starting point for each separate series. In fact,
I didn't know there was more than one series. 9/10
- added June 21, 2009 at 7:34pm
I really should have submitted reviews myself for
this particular series of Kaiju Eiga... still,
they have been nobly represented by 385 for the
most part, and I'm glad that younger folks still
have an appreciation for these amazing films.
Without repeating what was said in the
fine preceding review, let me at least point out
one truly unique point behind this visionary
Behind the thinly
veiled political epithet against the use of
nuclear weaponry and the subtle anti-American
allegory carefully excised from the state-side
version of the film... there lies a peculiarly
beautiful visual cue that was introduced within
this film and continued to be even more prevalent
with each new iteration of the series...
While Gojira himself represents the
totality of post-nuclear Japan... (created through
mankind's folly, a monstrous representation of
what happens when one interferes with the natural
order of things... a vengeful spirit bent on the
abolition of such militant might)... he, too, is
an actual physical representation of that nation's
proudest landmark... Mount Fuji. He stands
towering over the surrounding landscape, with a
almost triangular appearance... from his small
head to his large column-like legs. Both Honda
and future Directors, Tsuburaya (the original
special effects master of this series) and suit
actors have often commented on the heartfelt
feelings for this bizarre character and their
unusual connection to the monster as a peculiar
sort of national identity.
once met Haruo Nakajima at a Chiller convention
(he was the first suit actor to portray Gojira in
many of the original series
films) and asked
him about the upcoming "death" of the
character for the 1995 Heisei series, he actually
had tears in his eyes when he told me that he felt
like he was losing a very old and cherished
friend. Funny thing though,.. for such an
emotional and frail actor ( he was around 66 when
I met him), he had a grip like an iron vice;)
- added June 22, 2009 at 1:37am
As for my rating for this classic... I give it a
solid 10/10 without reservation.