Directed by Ishiro Honda
Written by Ishiro Honda and Takeo Murata
Story by Shigeru Kayama
Akira Takarada as Hideto Ogata
Momoko Kochi as Emiko Yamane
Akihiko Hirata as Daisuke Serizawa-hakase
In 1954, only nine years after the bombers Enola Gay and Bockscar dropped the first weapons of mass atomic destruction on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a similar force of devastation was unleashed on Japanese movie-goers. It’s name was Gojira, and it would become the poster child of the atomic age.
As Gojira cuts a path of destruction across Tokyo, people were reminiscent of those horrible days merely nine years passed. Scenes of scores of victims either dead or dying from radiation burns recalled horrific images of their loved ones as they suffered in all too real fashion in 1945. Japanese schoolchildren can be heard singing a song that pleads for peace. But peace does not come. There is only Gojira.
Gojira is a masterpiece of film making that arguably deserves a spot right alongside the great films of Akira Kurosawa. Without this landmark film and it’s monster as metaphor for mass destruction, there would be no Cloverfield with its own brutal reminder of September 11, 2001. Both films feature a creature that literally appears out of nowhere to wreak havoc on a sleepy unsuspecting city. Both films were also released at a time that they reflected real life tragedies. Gojira has an established place in movie history. Time will tell if the same will be true for Cloverfield.
Gojira is a combination of the words gorira, meaning gorilla; and kujira, meaning whale.
The name means ‘ape-whale’. Director Ishiro Honda never helmed anything that was even remotely close to the achievement of this film. It would be released to American audiences in 1956 as Godzilla, King of the Monsters. Scenes of Raymond Burr as reporter Steve Martin narrating the destruction of Tokyo from his hotel room window were added in. Nearly 40 minutes of footage were taken out of the film. This was done with good intentions. Americans did not want to be reminded of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The less Japanese faces they saw on their movie screens, the better. It’s a shame. The excised footage kills the momentum of the film and makes it into just another man in a monster suit movie. But the original cut of Gojira is much more than that. 28 films later, the monster has become a pop-culture icon and synonymous with destruction and devastation. Gojira is a masterwork and deservedly so.