Posted by: ckckred | January 30, 2012

The Criterion Collection: Godzilla (1954)

Most people look at the Godzilla films today as pretty much a cheesy, ultra stupid series, which featured actors in dinosaur costumes beating each other up.  That pretty much was the case for all the films, but the original, entitled Godzilla, is actually quite good.

Some people might be wondering why I’m saying this, probably because most people remember the Americanized version of it, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which featured Raymond Burr spliced into the film and many scenes edited out.  The remake is far more what the Godzilla films are like today than what the original was.

The story is centered on ta real-life event: the Hydrogen bombs the United States tested on the Pacific.  The radiation caused sickness for Japanese fishermen and caused radiation poisoning.  The film is essentially a warning against atomic weapons, and the titled antagonist, Godzilla, is a product of the American hydrogen bombs.

Godzilla than wreaks havoc on Japan and terrorizes Tokyo.  By the time he has left, the city is in ruins, and Japan is at loss.

But Daisuke Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata) creates a weapon called the Oxygen Destroyer, which as the name suggests, can destroy oxygen underwater and kill anything in the sea.  It’s essentially the perfect weapon against Godzilla.

Note: Spoiler Alerts coming after this.

Serizawa agrees to let Japan use the weapon on Godzilla, which kills the beast.  But underwater, Serizawa kills himself and destroys the plans of the weapon so no one will ever use it again.

The film served a warning against nuclear weapons, and is one of the most notable Cold War movies there is.  When remade here, these political aspects were cut out.

So how is Godzilla treated now?  I feel the original film is actually good.  In terms of quality, it is no King Kong, the greatest monster film ever, but it’s not a hapless remake of the film.  It serves as a political film that today could be perceived at the same level as Fahrenheit 9/11.

The sequels to the film are quite terrible, as they have no plot or purpose.  But the original is quite breathtaking, and I praise the Criterion Collection for putting this film on their list.

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Responses

  1. Frankly, Godzilla is just a movie that is too dated for me, kind of like the original King Kong. Good review though my friend!

    • The original is actually good, though I do agree with you that this film and even the old King Kong probably wouldn’t be as good as today (Ann screams way too much in the old one)

  2. […] original Japanese Godzilla is actually a surprisingly good film which explored the threat of nuclear weapons.  The other […]

  3. Almost all of the Godzilla films make some sort of statement. King Kong vs. Godzilla, which was an intentional comedy, (and which was hacked apart for its American release), was a self deprecating film satirizing its own commercialism and the commercial nature of 1962 Japan. Mothra vs. Godzilla (like dozens of Toho’s films) touched upon themes of trust, forgiveness, and worldwide cooperation. It also criticized government hypocrisy and corporate greed. It was also one of many G films to feature working women as major characters, which was something of a big deal in 60’s Japan.There are a few incredibly stupid entries, such as Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster, Godzilla vs. Megalon, and Godzilla’s Revenge, but I think to describe the Godzilla franchise as “ultra stupid” and say that these films have “no plot or purpose” is to do a disservice to these movies and the people who made them.


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