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Tampa Bay History Center
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, April 30, 2011 Share
There was a time when Godzilla provoked fear in movie goers before he was reduced to kiddie fare. The same plight plagued all the great Universal Monsters in the West. Frankenstein's monster once terrorized audiences so much that Universal had a short intro segment to warn against shocking subject matter. Through the years the creature was reduced to comical fare as Herman Munster in the Munsters and suffered further reduction on children breakfast tables as Frankenberry. Once proud monsters have sadly been converted into safe commodities for children. It is time for all the monsters to gather together and stomp the world again.
In Gojira (1954), the movie starts out with attacks on fishing boats and ships. Something has to be causing such misfortune. Scenes of villagers from Odo Island stare into the sea trying to piece together this great mystery. Frighten villagers hide in their homes as destruction rains down. Prompted to investigate this matter is Archeologist Dr. Kyohei Yamane played by the great Takashi Shimura, who played the head Samurai in Kurosawa's Seven Samurai and the caring doctor in Drunken Angel and many other classic Japanese movies from the 50's. Dr. Yamane finds and picks up a prehistoric trilobite on the beach. Things seem strange on Odo Island as the villagers grow restless.
In a moving scene, several curious villagers armed with spears and clubs walk up a mountainside and finally Godzilla appears and unleashes a savage roar that sends everyone running. This is Godzilla's first appearance and it is as a real monster.
The fun starts when Godzilla attacks Tokyo. He stomps through buildings. A driver in a car screams in horror as he flips over. Jeeps and tanks are melted when Godzilla shots out his fire breath. A chilling scene shows people in a office building sitting around, then there is an announcement over a loud speaker to quickly evacuate. People gather up whatever they can and flee. Seconds later the ceiling caves in as the room is completely destroyed. Godzilla makes it looks so much fun to be a monster and trash a major city. I recall daydreaming as a child about growing up to monster size and trying to determine which part of downtown Tampa to take out first before jet pilots from MacDill Airforce Base brought me down.
The military tries putting up electric towers that would sent 50,000 volts into Godzilla. When the big guy shows up, he uses his fire breath to take out the electric fence. Then it is back to the business of trashing Tokyo. Scenes of Tokyo in flames recall the bombings from World War II. A giant dangerous enemy is attacking and nothing can stop the madness. It is no wonder that Godzilla came out a few years after WWII and just after the Occupation with all enforced restrictions on movies and other media ending.
Finally it is up to Dr. Yamane's daughter the beautiful Emiko and her boyfriend the ship captain Ogata, to convince Emiko's former boyfriend, Dr. Daisuke Serizawa to use his Oxygen Destroyer to put an end to Godzilla once and for all. Ogata fails to win over Dr. Serizawa to his argument and a fight breaks out. Dr. Serizawa vows not to have his Oxygen Destroyer used because politicians would take it and use it for destruction. As Dr. Serizawa's is seen burning his papers, he glances over at a newscast of a children choir singing, followed by scenes of people being treated for wounds and he is moved to use his invention for the greater good.
Standing on a boat, Dr. Serizawa and Ogata team up to wear deep sea diving suits. They plunge into the ocean to confront Godzilla and Dr. Serizawa hold his Oxygen Destroyer. I won't reveal the ending here just in case someone out there has not seen the ending despite the fact the movie came out in the 50's.
I will just mention the final scene with Dr. Yamane standing on a boat and looking at the waves wondering if Godzilla will return.
So many talented people were involved to make Gojira work so well You have Ishiro Honda's direction, powerful theme music by Akira Ifukube, and great actors like Takashi Shimura, Akira Takarada, Momoko Kochi, and Katsumi Tezuka, who played Godzilla. However, with all that combined energy the movie would have failed without the work of special effects wizard, Eiji Tsuburaya, the man behind making Godzilla come to life. He also created Ultraman and inspired millions of children on an International level. For more information on Tsuburaya, pick up the greatest work on the man, Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters: Defending the Earth with Ultraman and Godzilla by a truly gifted writer, the die-hard kaiju fan, August Ragone.
Gojira is a great movie that works so well on multiple levels. You can see Godzilla back when he was really a badass. This was when Toho was in top form and wasn't churning out those recently dreadful Millennium movies like the awful and disappointing Godzilla: Final Wars. I recommend picking up the two-disc DVD called Gojira: The Original Japanese Masterpiece from Classic Media, also available on Blu-ray.
5 Stars out of 5
"The Asian Aperture" is ©2011 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2011 by Nolan B. Canova.