The 1954 Japanese film, Gojira, actually: derived from
the nickname (blend of gorilla and whale) of a worker at Toho
Studios. Americans Richard Kay and Harold Ross bought a batch
of Japanese stock footage and were intrigued by the pieces from
this film. For American release, scenes with Raymond Burr were
added, other scenes were dubbed, 20 minutes were taken out--all
costing about $100,000. It grossed 2 million in two years, spawning
numerous other atomic monster films. This original tale was remade
in 1984 (released in the US as Godzilla 1985 with an older
Burr) and another version appeared in 1998 by TriStar Pictures.
Steve Martin: Raymond Burr
Dr. Yogami: Takashi Shimura
Godzilla: Haru Nakamiji in a rubber suit
Rubber Suit Design: Ryosaku Takasugi
Directed: Inoshiro Honda
Special Effects: Eiji Tsuburaya.
Burr narrates to scenes of city rubble: "This is Tokyo, once
a city of 6 million people. What has happened here was caused
by a force which up until a few days ago was entirely beyond the
scope of man's imagination. Tokyo--a smoldering memorial to the
unknown, an unknown which at this very moment still prevails and
could at any time lash out with its terrible destruction anywhere
else in the world." He introduces his wounded self as Steve
Martin, foreign correspondent for United World News, although
how he gets away with writing all that sanctimonious and uninformative
crap is the new question. His stop-over in Tokyo on his way to
Egypt "turned out to be a visit to the living hell of another
world." "The only thought left was the paralyzing fear
that it could happen again today or tomorrow. . . . The odor
of scorched flesh permeated the air." "What brought
this upon us?" asks a woman, setting Burr up for more pompous
In retrospect, some atomic explosions 10,000
feet below the sea didn't prompt speculation that they "would
shake the foundations of the civilized world." Japanese
ships begin exploding and sinking: "There was a blinding
flash of light and the ocean burst into flame." Reporter
Martin asks, "Are there any survivors?" "No, not
yet." (Huh?) In eight ship disasters, "terrible sea
of fire engulfs all." Survivors die "in a matter of
minutes from shock and strange burns."
A paleontologist blabs at a press conference
about "Odo island in the Pacific, home of several hundred
natives who were now paralyzed with fear." We all go there.
During native ceremony reminiscent of that in King Kong
(1933), one "native" speaks of a monster and Martin
suspects "too much saki."
Martin and a guy Inspector Clouseau would call
his "little yellow friend," Dr. Yogami, camp in tents
during a monsoon which bring Godzilla's rage against a bamboo
hut and its inhabitants. Witnesses testify to having seen "a
living creature." We all go aboard a ship on which an emotionless
love triangle emerges among three Japanese people, one (Dr. Sarazow)
recognizable because he wears an eyepatch. Back on the island,
radioactive contamination is detected. Then Godzilla appears
and people run back and forth.
We go into lecture again, with a crappy slide
show supposedly connected to blab about the Jurassic Age and a
400+-foot tall creature hitherto undiscovered, half land-living
and half sea-living (the word "amphibious" would have
made the film mercifully shorter). The bomb gets the blame for
its reappearance. Burr, with what should have become his theme-line:
"Well, it's big and terrible."
The Japanese decide to use depth-charges to
blow up Gojira, the idiots. Someone's daddy laments that the
creature should be studied, not destroyed, but he's sitting in
an armchair instead of walking up to Gojira with a magnifying
glass. "Hope and celebration were short-lived." Gozeerah
is in Tokyo Harbor, nope he's out and knocking down powerlines
and tanks don't work. A train sequence is also plagiarized from
King Kong. We set up a corral of 300,000 volts around
the city and the Japanese evacuate themselves. Lizardo Montalban
emerges from the bay, is compared to a 30-story building, and
turns Tokyo into "a sea of fire." Worse yet, Burr sweats.
That girl recalls how Patch showed her a weird fish-killing technique
in his lab aquarium once. She and her new fiancé go to
reason with him. No, never, okay, yes. A telecast of Japanese
kids whining something musical persuades him where the sight of
his ex and her new boy strangely don't. It is a method of destroying
the oxygen in water called the "oxygen destroyer."
He's in an agony of moral indecision and will allow this device
to be used only once, and he destroys the paperwork.
It works, and Patch cuts his own lifeline to
die with Gojira, who surfaces once, sinks, dissolves to bones
and then to nothing. Hats come off.
It is difficult not to read the film as an atomic age parable,
especially during the first minutes of Burr's narration and the
depiction of the consequences. As Joe Bob Briggs says on Saturday
night's TNT MonsterVision, surprised at how well the film did
in the U.S., "Godzilla are us."