Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


GOJIRA (1954). Director: Ishiro Honda.

In this original version of Godzilla, the Japanese face nuclear terror all over again when a 50 meter tall animal, an intermediate between dinosaur and mammal, who absorbed the energy from nuclear explosions that removed it from its normal environment, emerges from the savage their nation. Of course there's the stupid scientist, Yamane (Takashi Shimura)  who wants to "study" a gigantic monster ravaging Tokyo, but another scientist, Serizawa (Akihito Harata), comes up with a weapon to destroy the creature. Yamane has a daughter, Emiko (Momoko Kochi), who is sort of bethrothed to Serizawa but in love with Hideto (Akira Takarada), who is more of a matinee idol. Some of the more sobering scenes in this fairly "serious" monster movie were cut out of the American version: a child being tested for radiation; a widow huddling with her three children as Gojira approaches and telling them "we'll be seeing your father." Brought to life by "suitmation" -- yes, a man in a monster outfit -- Gojira still manages at times to come off like the embodiment of a nightmare. The miniatures in the film are good and there are some effective process shots of Godzilla smashing through train yards and the like. The film is well-directed and well-acted, although it could be argued that a celebrated actor like Takashi Shimura is pretty much wasted in stuff like this. Inspired by the American sleeper hit The Beast from 20,000 Fathom, Gojira itself influenced such later films as The Giant Behemoth and especially Gorgo.

Verdict: Probably the only time the big guy starred in a movie that's played straight. ***.

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