Godzilla (1954) aka Gojira
Nucleur testing brings about the emergence of a huge monster who attacks Japan. The film follows the family of the main scientist involved in the fight to stop the monster. But is the cure worse than the cause?
One of the original monster movies, there is a lot more to the film than cheap model villages and hokey special effects. Parodied over the decades, this is a serious – but unsubtle – film about the dangers of modern warfare. Interwoven within this message is a tragic love triangle, pushing the film way above the levels of most creature features of the 1950s.
The monster himself is barely seen in any kind of light – it’s more of a hulking shadow puppet, seen mostly in profile like a weird optical illusion. There is a concurrent motif or a whiff of suggestion if you will that Godzilla is indeed something imaginary.
Godzilla’s rampages through Odo Island and later across Tokyo are director Ishiro Hondo’s cinematic sticks of dynamite. My personal selection for best scene of the movie has a reporter frantically describing Godzilla’s approach to his telecommunication tower, ending his broadcast with the words “We are staring right at Godzilla, Goodbye!”.
But the main thrust of the narrative lies amongst our trio of young protagonists rather than at Godzilla’s gargantuan feet. A heroic naval officer, his attractive girlfriend and her (planned) fiancée. The latter is played by Akihito Hirata, who comes out as the best performer by some way. His character is that of an eye-patched scientist Serizawa who; pitied by his fiancée and her lover for holding unrequieted love; has stumbled on a weapon more deadly than even Godzilla. Hirata’s depth of character is assured as he goes through the emotions tearing the character soul-searchingly inside out.
Perhaps the most poignant moments in the entire film is the beginning, which actually doesn’t concern our 120-foot monster at all. Once we pass the crashing chords of the soundtrack behind the opening credits – a score almost as iconic as the monster itself – we are taken to a happy scene of Japanese sailors singing on their boat, that is until a man-made nuclear test and a blinding light put a cork in their minstrel-like activities. The camera then pans to a sole violin lying on the wooden deck in a telling and wickedly executed shot.
Takishi Shumura’s thoughtful palaeontologist performs the narrator role and his musing final words have become the stuff of cult legend : “ But if we continue conducting nuclear tests, it’s possible that another Godzilla might appear somewhere in the world again” Thank god that he did.
Hotdog rating: 9/10