Let's Talk: Godzilla (1954) & Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956)
As I prepare for the release of Godzilla: King of the Monsters on DVD and Blu-ray next Tuesday, August 27th - which I am literally bopping up and down excitedly in my chair about – I figured this would be the perfect time to start my posts on my favorite monster, Godzilla. This is something I have been wanting to do for a long time. I have always wanted to express my fascination and passion for this creature; however, I have never really known a way to do so until now with my blog.
Ever since I can remember I have watched all the different Godzilla films and over the years I have collected every single one – some are still on VHS, some on DVD, and some on Blu-ray. Over time, I will discuss every single Godzilla movie ever produced, plus other monster movies like Rodan, Mothra, and Varan the Unbelievable. Wait, you don’t know Varan? You know Varan. He’s the monster no one really cares about or likes. Poor Varan!
So, let’s, of course, start with the original 1954 Godzilla (Gojira) or, as it was called in America, Godzilla, King of the Monsters. The movie that introduced us to this behemoth creature.
Godzilla's Production Value is Fantastic...For Its Age!
First off, for a movie that was produced in 1954, the perspectives were amazing, the suit was well done, and the underwater scenes were pretty awesome. Even though the Creature from the Black Lagoon was the first movie to boast about filming underwater clips, which those shots were gorgeous, it only came out eight months before Godzilla did. I guess you can say 1954 was the year underwater filming became popular. Also, can you imagine watching this movie in 1954? Especially with it being not even a decade after the bombs dropped.
2019 - Not Scary! 1954 - Scary as Hell!
Think about it for a second! We watch this movie now, in 2019, and we're not severely affected by it. However, if you were watching this movie in Japan in 1954 or in America in 1956, I'm sure you got the crap scared out of you. Both versions opened with only the sound of heavy foot stomps and a screeching, horrifying roar from something you do not see. That's when your imagination swarms with possibilities of what in the world this thing could be. Then for the first twenty minutes or so of the movie, you continue to just hear those foot stomps and roars and see destruction of ships in the sea. That’s it!
You really don’t see anything else (well, except for his feet and legs) until he makes an appearance raising his head above a hill on Odo Island. Which, by the way, raises the question…what was he saying as he roared at the islanders? Do you think he was saying, “Hello?” Or maybe it was “I’m hungry, feed me a virgin?” Or maybe he was saying, “Get the f*** off my island?” I guess we’ll never know.
I do have to say though, as we get to see more and more of Godzilla throughout the film, Ishiro Honda and his team do an amazing job of making you believe that Godzilla is this massive being. The perspective they use – especially when people are in front of him, running away – is really frightening. Again, just imagine watching this movie over sixty years ago.
The Differences Between Both Versions
The one thing that I wasn’t a big fan of between both versions was how much the story changed between the two. I know it was mainly because of the addition of Raymond Burr into the film, but after watching the Japanese version (after God knows how many years of watching the American version), it severely bothered me how the story changed between the two. There was a long period of time where I thought the American version was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Thankfully, after my brother got me the “Master Collection” DVD with “The Original Japanese Masterpiece” (which is pictured above), my eyes fully opened up to the awesomeness that is Godzilla.
Also, in the American version, the “cut and pasting” of footage from the original was just horribly done. Again, I didn’t realize it when I was young, but now, in my thirties, I see it and it makes me cringe. The dubbing is just god awful. I recently re-watched it for this post, and I had to watch the Japanese version afterwards to remind myself how amazing this movie is. Makes me wonder what the hell I was thinking when I was little. Then again, if I didn’t fall in love with it when I was little, I might not have the passion I have for it now!
Fear & Heart-Break
Also, I don’t know if you realized this, but the Japanese version is quite frightening and heart-breaking as hell! When Godzilla was rampaging through Tokyo, he goes up to a TV tower with a bunch of different reporters in it. One of the reporters was doing a live broadcast. Just as Godzilla attacks the tower, he’s screaming how this is the end and goodbye. That is absolutely terrifying. Also, a mother was holding her children saying that they were going to be with their father soon. I actually teared up during that part. But, again, think about it; there was probably live radio broadcasts during the war that sounded just like that or people in the war-torn streets praying for death. That is an absolutely scary and disheartening thought.
Three Stories Within One Movie
Now, onto the things that I love about this movie. When I first watched this movie as a little girl – and for the longest time until I grew up – I thought it was simply about a big monster making a big mess and then dying. However, there is so much more to this movie. Yes, you can say the main storyline is about Godzilla, but there’s a love story, talks of the war, and a political and economic debate included as well.
The War & The H-bomb
Throughout the movie, different characters – from Professor Yamane to Dr. Serizawa to Ogata – talk about the H-bomb tests done at the Bikini Atoll and the ones dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yamane believes the reason why they’ve never seen anything like this before is because G-man (my nickname for Godzilla) was “hiding” in deep sea caves like the Yeti “hides” in the Himalayas, but the underwater tests of the H-bomb woke him up. As he states in the original movie, “To put it simply, hydrogen-bomb testing has driven it from its sanctuary.”
However, they also constantly compare the destructive force of the H-bombs to either Godzilla’s destruction or to what the Oxygen Destroyer could do. With that being so fresh in people’s minds, it probably added an element of fear that cannot be properly described.
Government & Economy
Also, throughout the movie, we see talks in government offices about what to do with Godzilla and how the economy is suffering because of him. When Yamane presents the monster to the government, after he saw it himself, there was one side that wanted to keep it a secret from the public, as to not cause hysteria, while there was another side saying the world should know. The “right” side and the “left” side. They also talk about the fact that the economy is declining. With no fishing being done because every ship that goes out gets attacked by Godzilla and the possibility of closing down international shipping lanes, the economy was horribly affected.
Now, the most prevalent story in the film, in my opinion, was the love triangle between Ogata, Emiko, and Serizawa. I think it’s great to have a love story thrown in amongst the chaos – I’m a sucker for that stuff as I mentioned in my Frostblood review – but to make it a love triangle is interesting.
Here’s the thing, though…in the Americanized version they make it seem like Emiko and Serizawa have been together for years and now she’s cheating on him with Ogata. However, the original Japanese version shows this is not the case. Emiko has just known Serizawa all of her life. She looks at him as a brother. I guess they were arranged because of that, but then she met Ogata and fell in love. Everybody kind of knew, though, including Serizawa. I actually teared up (and I still do) when he tells Ogata to be happy with Emiko as he cuts his line.
How Did Godzilla Come To Be?
Lastly, would you like to know how Godzilla came about? I’m sure you already know, but let’s discuss it! So, I learned through The Official Godzilla Compendium that producer, Tomoyuki Tanaka came up with this movie while in an airplane. It states, “On his trip home, Tanaka peered out of the airplane window at the dark ocean far below, wondering what those waves might hide. And then it hit him. What not make a film about a gigantic monster?” There you have it! Sixty-five years and thirty-two movies later (including the latest installment and the rejected 1998 American version), we have one of the greatest franchises in the world all because a man looked out an airplane window. I bet he never imagined the sensation this monster would become.
What Do You Think?
So...what do you think? Do you agree with what I said? Do you disagree? Is Godzilla one of your favorite movies or do you despise it? Let's talk!
Policies and Disclosure
Please remember, I am not getting paid to talk about this amazing franchise or promote any movies or books. I am just a fanatic, like yourself, wanting to start a conversation about Godzilla and other monster movies. To learn more, please check out my Policy page. Also, I would love to hear from my fellow Godzilla fanatics. You can either comment below (please read my “Comments Policy” on the Policy page before doing so) or contact me.
The photos featured in this post are my photos. The first is my copy of Godzilla, the second is me with my copy of The Official Godzilla Compendium, and the third is me with one of my favorite books and one of my favorite movies.
**This post was originally published on August 23, 2019**