Godzilla, King of the Monsters
Incredible, unstoppable titan of terror!
Year of Release: 1956
Genre: Science Fiction/Horror
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 78 minutes (1:18)
Director: Ishiro Honda, Terry O. Morse
Raymond Burr ... Steve Martin
Takashi Shimura ... Dr. Yamane
Momoko Kochi ... Emiko
Akira Takarada ... Ogata
Akihiko Hirata ... Dr. Serizawa
Sachio Sakai ... Hagiwara
Fuyuki Murakami ... Dr. Tabata
Frank Iwanaga ... Security Officer Tomo Iwanaga
James Hong ... Ogata / Serizawa (voice) (uncredited)
Haruo Nakajima ... Godzilla (uncredited)
When American reporter Steve Martin investigates a series of mysterious disasters off the coast of Japan, he comes face to face with an ancient creature so powerful and so terrifying, it can reduce Tokyo to a smoldering graveyard. Nuclear weapon testing resurrected this relic from the Jurassic age, and now it's rampaging across Japan.
At night, Godzilla wades through Tokyo leaving death and destruction in his wake, disappearing into Tokyo Bay when his rage subsides. Conventional weapons are useless against him; but renowned scientist Dr. Serizawa has discovered a weapon that could destroy all life in the bay - including Godzilla. But which disaster is worse, Godzilla's fury, or the death of Tokyo Bay?
Godzilla, remindin' us that if you're gonna nuke somebody, it's best to be prepared for some pretty heavy cinematic blowback in the form of symbolism once said nukees get back on their feet. Kinda strange that this movie was so popular in Japan, I mean, an atomic flash-bang the size of Denali comes outta nowhere, reduces people to shadows on the wall, knocks over every tinker toy sweat shop within a twenty mile radius, an changes the official language of Japan to incoherent gibberish, yet people loved it. It's kinda difficult to explain why it was so popular upon its original release, because I think Joe Bob Briggs put it best when he said: "Godzilla are us." An speakin' of scaly guys with bad breath, some jerk at the Gas, Grass, or Cash 24-hour Fuel, Lawn Care, and ATM Station sold me a defective calendar that said today was supposed to be Earth Day when it was actually last week. I guess I shoulda expected that a purveyor of petroleum products would circulate disinformation about this kinda thing, but I'm still pretty P.O.'d about it since I bought a cedar saplin' to plant out back by the Coronet an now I gotta wait a whole 'nother year to bury it. Had a whole speech prepared an everything. I *was* gonna talk about how it was the big day where all the hippy enviros drive their Teslas over to Rick Snyder's house to spin donuts on the lawn an put out their pot roaches in his birdbath, before havin' a big protest orgy all over the patio furniture. An I *was* gonna offer to play devil's advocate an remind everyone that without atomic testin' an a complete disregard for the well bein' of our planet, we'd be out approximately 146 Godzilla movies right now. Cause in these days of political correctness an bein' "good stewards of the land," I sometimes think people've forgotten about all the positive contributions nuclear waste has brought to our society. Take Chernobyl for instance. You think Commienist Rooska was ever gonna designated an area that size a wildlife sanctuary when they coulda used the land for more fuzzy hat factories an Vodka distilleries? Not a chance. An okay, *maybe* there could be a little "contamination" after that little spill at Fukushima, but that toxic exposure may also yield real life Anime characters who wield the awesome power of maintainin' perfect pineapple haircuts regardless of how high they fly or how big an explosion goes off within two feet of their immediate persons. Then I'da prolly made an observation about how mosta these herbosexuals who park their unwashed hinders on the front steps of the BLM office to protest cruelty to the endangered coont barnacle prolly never even saw Godzilla cause they hadda be at some "save the vegans" rally in Muckgiggit, Oklahoma the entire afternoon it played at the drive-in. Prolly never watched it since then either, cause once the femme-viros found out about somethin' like that it tends to get your all access pass to their ecosystems revoked. Course now it's too late, so there's really no point in bringin' any of that up, so we can prolly just dive right into the movie this week.
In any event, I'm gonna try doin' this one justice, on account of it bein' the granddaddy of the "sweaty guy trapped inside a Goodyear tire takin' out his heatstroke frustration on miniature cities" subgenre, so here're a few things you might not otherwise pick up on while watchin' the flick, since they do tend to get downplayed a little bit. First, when Godzilla comes outta nowhere an brings a rain storm with 'im, it ain't rain. Second, the only reason Perry Mason lives to litigate another day is cause Godzilla can't look up due to the 200lb Rubbermaid tuxedo he's wearin'. Were this not the case, the Zillaman woulda melted Perry's plane into a puddle of T-1000 plasma, an American Airlines woulda ended up with yet another scandal featured in The Whiny Consumer Weekly. An third, Godzilla may well have a bad attitude, but you'd be pretty P.O.'d too if you hit the snooze button an didn't wake up for 150 million years. I got a question though. How come the oxygen destroyer only destroys oxygen found in the tissue of living organisms? Shouldn't the oxygen destroyer wipe out all the oxygen in the ocean too? How come the Pacific doesn't just turn into hydrogen an allow us to finally figure out what happened to Amelia Earhart? Am I the only one who thinks about these things? I mean, what're these writers tryin' to pull here? Do they really think they can just churn out giant, radioactive monster movies fulla ridiculous pseudo-science an have it go unnoticed? They think they can just stuff us fulla squid platters til the tentacles suck all the common sense out of us, but they dunno who they're dealin' with. I guess I can prolly let 'em off with a warnin' this time, given that most of 'em have all gone to the big sake bar in the sky an all. Plus mosta the Godzilla sequels are much better about reducin' the amount of talkin' to make more room for guys in fetish suits frog splashin' each other offa the top of the Tokyo Tower, but I'd still like to point out that this, the original Godzilla, mighta gone over a little better with the general public if the writers hadn't been tryin' to pull the latex over our eyes. Oh, an the next time you guys decide to make a Godzilla flick, maybe put some Ray-Bans on 'im before he starts turnin' ships into charcoal briquettes. Either that or give 'im a white cane to walk with the next time he starts usin' Tokyo as a tumblin' mat. After all, the flash from an explosion that size ain't good for your retinas. We wouldn't want a buncha kids detonatin' nuclear warheads without wearin' their protective eyewear after seein' his Zillness do it. "BUT MOM, Godzilla didn't put on a welder's mask when HE was radiatin' people to death!" You know how impressionable kids are.
The movie begins with Perry Mason crawlin' outta the smolderin' remains of Tokyo an narratin' about how he didn't even wanna stop in Japan on his way to Cairo, an how he only did it so he could get his hands on some crappy knock off electronics. Then he gets hauled over to the Godzilla trauma center where guys in white coats're runnin' Geiger counters over the ugly mugs of orphaned toddlers, an that depresses 'im so bad that he hasta flashback to a few days earlier when he was flyin' up above Tokyo Harbor tryin' to find the overhead compartment where all the Japanese stewardesses store their breasts. While this's goin' on, somethin' very big, very scaly, an very P.O.'d is risin' up from the ocean floor an turnin' the crew of some old squid boat into Oriental barbecue after havin' its ear pierced by the ship's anchor. But once Perry lands at Toyko International, security picks 'im up an demands that he pass the Voight-Kampff test from Blade Runner before allowin' 'im to perform any more deadpan dialog. Then the government sends the last naval vessel that didn't accidentally get kamikazied by the air force out to search for any survivors who may still be floatin' around in the drink, only when it reaches the spot where the first ship went down all the sailors start gettin' smashed on sake, an whatever-it-is hasta swim back to the surface an start barkin' fire before they start puttin' on kabuki plays. By this point, Perry decides that since King Tut's tomb'll still be gettin' desecrated by money grubbin' capitalists for years to come, he may as well place a collect call back to the states an tell his editor that he's stayin' in Japan to cover the story of the sunken ships an pick up some geisha waitresses. Then Perry meets up with Japan's leadin' cryptozoologist (Dr. Yamane) an they decide to check out Odo Island to see if the natives think it's weird that a buncha stir fried sailors keep washin' up on shore with their faces melted off like the aliens from They Live an glowin' like Tinkerbell. Needless to say, all the dead Japanese sailors are really bad for the island's tourist trade, so the natives get together an put on these Cyrano de Bergerac masks designed to ward off the monster an any homophobes who may be lurkin' nearby, an dance all over the beach like drunk rednecks who just stumbled into a campfire. So later that night everyone gets all tuckered out from the festivities an decides to hit the sacky with their sake, cept it gets real hard to sleep when a monsoon kicks up an all the pagodas start to imploda while somethin' makes this god-awful racket that sounds like a mule bein' castrated.
The emperor is P.O.'d, so the next mornin' he crates up some natives an ships 'em back to Tokyo to explain what in the name of the Seven Samurai's scrotum slicing scimitars is goin' on. Course, it takes a respected civilized local to repeat exactly what the natives've said before anyone takes the stories seriously on account of it bein' a well established fact that all the island's indigenous peoples're notorious toad lickers. So Dr. Yamane hasta stand before the council an tell 'em that Leviathan has risen from the ocean floor an that they prolly aughta cordon off the area with traffic cones until they can figure out what to do with 'im. Then Perry, Yamane, Emiko (Yamane's daughter), an this guy who salvages old U.S. air craft carriers that got blown into a million pieces by kamikaze pilots in WWII (Ogata), head back out to Odo Island an find a buncha radioactive footprints the size of Marlon Brando's supper bib. Unfortunately, about that time some joker starts ringin' the dinner bell an the G-man decides to poke his head up behind Mount Fuji just to scare the crap outta everybody an remind 'em that he can make soy sauce out of 'em anytime he wants to. So now Yamane hasta go back to Tokyo an show off a buncha Fred Flintstone's vacation slides of various kinds of dinosaurs an get everybody whipped up into such a panic that they invent the subway system so the emotionally distraught'll have an honorable way of committin' suicide. Anyhow, the short version is that this is all America's fault, cause we were the ones that socked it to Nagasaki with the H-bomb an roused Godzilla from the 150 million year drunk he's been tryin' to sleep off ever since that big bash at Raquel Welch's place. Meanwhile, Emiko an Dr. Serizawa (the husband 'er parents hitched 'er off to when she was just a little kid) are hangin' out at Serizawa's research facility. But before Emiko can tell 'im she's had it with 'im comin' to bed smellin' like formaldehyde an that she's takin' the Siamese cat an movin' in with Ogata, he takes 'er down to his lab where he drops a toilet tab into a fish tank, kicks on a machine that sounds like a violin that got run over by a Toyota an dragged for 17 miles, an horrifies 'er with a result that the director didn't think we could handle seein'. Then the army goes dynamite fishin' for Godzilla an figure that since he never poked his head up outta the water an melted 'em into lead sinkers, they musta got 'im. Turns out, they missed a spot. Cause later that night he wakes up an scares the bejezus outta all these Japanese yuppies on a party barge, only he decides not to launch nuclear bile all over the party like George H.W. Bush cause there might be some rich tycoons on board whose relatives'd send deep sea Yakuzas out to assassinate 'im if they were to disappear. So instead, he heads for Tokyo Bay for some sushi takeout an gets so P.O.'d at the slow service that he hasta start slam dancin' all over the train station until the fast food joint gets its act together.
The next day, the top brass decides to evacuate Tokyo so they can lure Godzilla into the big string of high voltage Christmas lights they've got strung around the city an fry 'im like a skeeter in a bug zapper. Unfortunately, when the Colossus of Roads shows up that evenin' he just grabs the power lines an starts shakin' 'em like The Ultimate Warrior, melts the electrical towers with his halitosis, an completely destroys all television coverage of the Japanese World Series. Then he torches a housing development, smashes a fleet of Tonka tanks, an starts yellin' for the army to come at 'im. The army's response is to fire a missile into his belly button to try ticklin' 'im into submission, but he just pulls it out an turns the entire Japanese military into teriyaki chicken. Then he makes love to an office building, trashes a bird sanctuary, an practices his floor routine in the business district until Tokyo looks exactly like North Korea, at which point he sees Perry Mason providin' play-by-play from his high-rise law office an gets so excited about scorin' an autograph that he accidentally knocks the buildin' over like a row of Hondas at a Harley Davidson bike rally. By now, the Zillman's plumb tuckered out, so he decides to go rollin' in the deep with Adele for awhile so he'll be ready for his big encore the followin' evenin'. But once mornin' comes an we've wrapped back around to the beginnin' of the movie, Emiko finds Perry in the Godzilla burn ward at Tokyo General an spills the noodles about Dr. Serizawa's secret toilet tabs an their ability to destroy all the oxygen in the immediate vicinity of their detonation an turn every nearby livin' thing into somethin' Leatherface might make furniture out of. So Perry tells 'er to get 'er hinder over to Serizawa's place an to take 'er new boyfriend with 'er just in case the idea of givin' 'er somethin' that might destroy the entire ecosystem sounds a little too palatable to 'im. Serizawa's P.O.'d at first, so before they can have a civilized conversation, he an Ogata hafta put each other in headlocks an taunt each other over all the disgustin' things they've gotten Emiko to do with 'em til Ogata gets his coconut cracked. Fortunately, guys do this kinda thing all the time, so now that they've settled their differences an become best buds, Serizawa hasta grapple with the choice between potentially killin' the entire ocean an gettin' turned into Godzilla's toejam, until this depressin' TV broadcast of school children prayin' to God via church choir comes on an Serizawa gets all misty eyed an agrees to use it. Gonna cut the summary off here, but frankly, if you haven't already seen it, you don't DESERVE to find out how it ends.
Alrighty, well, I thought about reviewing the Japanese version, but I figure that would take too long because it still has all the footage that got yanked out of the American version to make room for all the deadpan voice overs by Raymond Burr. Only kidding. The real reason is simply that most of us in the western hemisphere grew up watching this version, and even though the original Japanese version is generally considered to be the better of the two, this is the one most North Americans are going to be best acquainted with. Silly as either version may come across some 60+ years after the fact, Godzilla, unlike many of the sequels, was a very expensive film for its time, and was also the first Japanese special effects movie to make foreign audiences stand up and take notice. The prevailing belief at the time was that the U.S. was the only country capable of making decent special effects flicks (goofy as Godzilla looks today, that's still pretty funny given some of the crapola coming out of Hollywood in the 1950s), and that Godzilla would be a flop. That prediction proved completely ass backwards, as Godzilla would be nominated for Best Picture of the year in Japan's version of the Academy Awards (it lost to Seven Samurai), as well as the Best Special Effects award, which it won. Originally, Toho had planned to use stop-motion effects for Godzilla, thinking that if it worked for King Kong it would also work for their picture, but they ultimately scrapped the idea when it became clear it would be too expensive. That was definitely the right decision, because not only had stop-motion become a bit stale by the 1950s (King Kong was made in 1933), but the miniature effects used to represent the destruction of Tokyo would become a landmark in special effects history, and set the stage for many more flicks to come. On a technical level, the original Godzilla completely blows away all of its sequels from the Showa period, which ran from 1954 - 1975 (so called because they were all produced prior to Emperor Showa Hirohito's death in 1989), and even though it's the best made movie from that era, I still find it goofy enough that I prefer the intentionally silly entries that came later in the series, after Godzilla had turned babyface and become the protector of Tokyo. Of course, once you get into the Heisei period (1984 - 1995), and the Millennium period (1999 - 2004), those movies had begun to feature not only special effects that were far superior to anything from the Showa period, but also the monster battles that accompanied the later entries of the Showa period. For that reason, I prefer the Godzilla movies from the two later periods, but even though it's a little silly when viewed in 2016, the original Godzilla is extremely important in cinematic history, and deserves a great deal of respect for its contributions to the filmmaking process.
But anyway, let's toss this thing on the grill and find out whether it gets seared to perfection, or charred into a briquette with Godzilla mannin' the barbecue. The plot is pretty simple, and standard for 1950s science fiction fare. "Monster created/awakened by nuclear tests wreaks havoc on humanity" type plots were common, but there's a bit more going on here than what you'll normally see in most '50s cheapies, particularly if you watch the original Japanese version, which runs almost 20 minutes longer even before you factor in the Raymond Burr insert shots. You really don't get much of the Emiko/Ogata romance angle in the American version, but then I don't particularly care about that anyway. Speaking of those Raymond Burr insert shots though; pretty seamless, eh? Definitely covers up the fact that everyone else in the movie is Japanese, and are speaking Japanese, don't it? Seriously though, if you're in it for more than just watching Godzilla destroy Tokyo, you'll probably prefer the Japanese version. The acting, so far as one can tell without understanding a word of Japanese, is alright. Course, when you don't speak the language, any emotion or lack thereof is always going to be lost on you. Although the dubbing is certainly a great deal better than what you'll hear in most of the Showa sequels. Furthermore, I really don't think Raymond Burr was the best choice to be the sole American actor dedicated to making the movie look like it was made in America, especially if the goal was to inject any emotion into it. He's the only guy I can understand, and yet he inspires the least emotion of anyone in the cast. It's almost like he intended to use this footage to land the role of Perry Mason, who's gotta be one of the most boring characters in the history of television.
In any event, here's who matters and why: Raymond Burr (Godzilla 1985, The Return, The Curse of King Tut's Tomb, Tarzan and the She-Devil, Bride of the Gorilla), Akira Takarada (Godzilla vs. Mothra, Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster, Godzilla 2014, Godzilla: Final Wars, Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth, King Kong Escapes, Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, Half Human), Momoko Kochi (Godzilla vs. Destorayah, The Mysterians, Half Human), Akihiko Hirata (Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, Fugitive Alien, Bye Bye Jupiter, Ultraman: Monster Big Battle, The War in Space, Terror of Mechagodzilla, Ultraman, Son of Godzilla, Ghidorah the Three Headed Monster, Varan the Unbelievable, King Kong vs. Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan), Takashi Shimura (Nosatoradamusu no daiyogen, The Brides from Hades, Frankenstein Conquers the World, Ghidorah the Three Headed Monster, The Lost World of Sinbad, Mothra, The Mysterians, Godzilla Raids Again), Fuyuki Murakami (Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, The Human Vapor, Battle in Outer Space, Varan the Unbelievable, The Mysterians, Rodan), Sachio Sakai (Blue Christmas, Yog: Monster from Space, Fear of the Ghost House: Bloodsucking Doll, Godzilla's Revenge, King Kong Escapes, King Kong vs. Godzilla, Gorath, Half Human), Ren Yamamoto (Godzilla vs. Mothra, King Kong vs. Godzilla, The War of the Gargantuas, Frankenstein Conquers the World, Mothra, The Human Vapor, The H-Man, Rodan, Godzilla Raids Again), Tadashi Okabe (Godzilla vs. Hedorah, Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster, King Kong Escapes, The War of the Gargantuas, Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, Frankenstein Conquers the World, Dogora, Godzilla vs. Mothra, Gorath, Mothra, Battle in Outer Space, Rodan), Mikel Conrad (The Flying Saucer, Untamed Women, Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer Boris Karloff), Hiroshi Hayashi (The Sinners of Hell, Atomic Rulers, Attack from Space, Evil Brain from Outer Space, Invaders from Space, Ghost of Chibura Enaki, The Ghost of Yotsuga, Seven Mysteries), James Hong (The Day the Earth Stood Still 2008, Cyber Bandits, The Shadow 1994, Merlin 1993, Dragonfight, Shadowzone, The Vineyard, Blade Runner, Earth II, Colossus: The Forbin Project, The Bamboo Saucer, Destination Inner Space, The Satan Bug, The Human Vapor).
Ren Imaizumi (The Mysterians, Rodan), Kokuten Kodo (Half Human, Rodan), Lee Miller (The War of the Worlds 1953, Tarzan and the She-Devil), Haruo Nakajima (Godzilla vs. Gigan, Godzilla vs. Hedorah, Yog: Monster from Space, Godzilla's Revenge, Destroy All Monsters, Son of Godzilla, King Kong Escapes, Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster, The War of the Gargantuas, Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, Frankenstein Conquers the World, Ghidorah the Three Headed Monster, Godzilla vs. Mothra, Matango, King Kong vs. Godzilla, Gorath, Mothra, The Human Vapor, Varan the Unbelievable, The H-Man, The Mysterians, Rodan, Godzilla Raids Again), Takeo Oikawa (The Mysterians, Godzilla Raids Again), Kenji Sahara (King Kong vs. Godzilla, Rodan, Godzilla vs. Mothra, Godzilla: Final Wars, Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla I & II, Terror of Mechagodzilla, Yog: Monster from Space, Godzilla's Revenge, Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, Destroy All Monsters, Son of Godzilla, The War of the Gargantuas, Frankenstein Conquers the World, Ghidorah the Three Headed Monster, Godzilla vs. Mothra, Atragon, King Kong vs. Godzilla, Gorath, Mothra, The H-Man, The Mysterians, Rodan), Katsumi Tezuka (Matango, Godzilla Raids Again, Ghidorah the Three Headed Monster, Godzilla vs. Mothra, Atragon, King Kong vs. Godzilla, Gorath, Mothra, Battle in Outer Space, Varen the Unbelievable, The H-Man, The Mysterians, Rodan, Godzilla Raids Again). Seems like maybe there was a little brand loyalty goin' in in these guys' careers, but a few did manage to escape here and there to do some other noteworthy things, and those roles are as follows: Raymond Burr, of course, went on to play Perry Mason in the TV series of the same name, as well as Ironside in the TV series of the same name, and Lars Thorwald in Rear Window. Sammee Tong would probably be best known as Peter Tong on Bachelor Father, James Hong would become immortalized as the voice of Mr. Ping in the Kung Fu Panda series, and Chi Fu in Mulan, Lee Miller played Sgt Brice alongside Raymond Burr on Perry Mason, and Takashi Shimura went on to play Kambei Shimada in Seven Samurai, Kanji Watanabe in Ikiru, and Noriyasu Odagura in Throne of Blood.
The special effects, for the time, were amazing. Unfortunately, miniature effects have aged worse than just about every other technique from decades past with the exception of stop-motion animation. Still, they aren't that bad, and they're easily the best of all the Showa period Godzilla flicks. I also feel like the black and white film helps conceal some of the less flattering shots, particularly when the miniature tanks and boats begin making their appearances. So basically, it's no less *fun* to watch Godzilla do the Tokyo Stomp all over the train station, but after 60 years, the sad reality is that even award winning effects begin to lose their luster. As for Godzilla himself, that's kind of a mixed bag. Sometimes he looks pretty decent, and other times he looks like he just crawled out of a Goodwill box. Generally, when you don't see his entire body, he's not lookin' too good, but when you can see his entire body he usually looks okay. I dunno how much of that can be attributed solely to distance, but that's basically what it boils down to. The shooting locations aren't too bad, although they're definitely the least relevant in terms of determining the movie's worth. They're also where the insert shots of Raymond Burr tend to get a little goofy, because I don't imagine it's easy (or that the director tried too hard) to match up the backgrounds when you're shooting your insert shots two years after the original filming, and a thousand miles from where the movie was actually filmed. Still, a lot of the most important "locations" fall into the special effects category, so the only significant ones that remain would be the island (which is okay), and Serizawa's laboratory (which I liked quite a bit). The soundtrack is pretty good, and even though some of it is rather dated, it's got that classic, catchy, Godzilla theme that would become a tradition in the series for decades to come. I really can't tell you what's so great about it, except to say that it generally gets dusted off when things are about to get good. Maybe it's because that particular theme plays during all the best parts of each movie, but it'd still be catchy even if they'd never used it again. The rest of the tracks aren't especially memorable, but that one iconic theme by Akira Ifukube always sets the tone and generates the right kind of atmosphere for the monster mashin' that's about to transpire. Overall, I think the Godzilla fanatics have the score cranked up a little too high on the IMDB, but then again, maybe they're justified in doing so, given how many people see a guy in a rubber suit and instinctively slap a "1" on it for no better reason than it's a little outdated. So in conclusion, even though it's old, goofy, and Americanized due to the fact that we weren't capable of handlin' foreign films back in the 1950s, it's still a fun one after all these years, so check it out (again).