Classics Review: Godzilla (1954)

In the aftermath of World War II. Tensions arise when The Cold War began escalated with many countries including America, Russia, Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea, Cuba among many other countries becoming paranoid fearing that another World War might happen immediately. The Cold War lasted from 1947-1991. Back when The Cold War was around in The 50’s, Japanese movie studio “Toho” produced a movie inspired by “King Kong,” “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms,” Atomic Bombings Of Hiroshima & Nagasaki & The Cold War. All subjects mixed together forged an international global icon as the most popular Kaiju (if not the best) of all time known as “Godzilla.”

Godzilla was released in 1954. (same year Jerry Seinfeld was born) At the time of it’s release, the film earned mixed to negative reception from critics because its controversial nuclear war themes because of the aftermath of World War II. Despite negative reviews, the film made enough yen at the box office. Two Years Later, a re-edited American version of the film titled “Godzilla: King Of The Monsters” earned good reactions. Overtime, Godzilla earned critical acclaim from both America & changed Japanese movie goers’ attitude towards the film.

Godzilla spawned dozens of films, inspiring giant monsters including King Ghidorah, Mothra, Rodan, Gamera just to name a few. The three monsters minus Gamera all made crossover appearances in the Godzilla franchise pitting against each other. Before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, (MCU for short) Toho is one of the earliest movie studios to build a cinematic universe alongside American movie studio, Universal Pictures as the first to father a cinematic universe involving monsters. Especially Dracula & Frankenstein.

Besides motion pictures, Godzilla appeared in video games, animated shows & comics. Don’t forget merchandise such as t-shirts, action figures, costumes etc. One more thing, rock band Blue Öyster Cult wrote a song named after The King Of Monsters. Godzilla also has a star on “The Hollywood Walk Of Fame.”

Godzilla remains as an international icon. Famous people such as Matt Groening, (Simpsons creator) George Lucas, John Carpenter, Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, Bryan Cranston, James Rolfe/Angry Video Game Nerd & Sathoshi Tajiri (creator of Pokémon) are all passionate fans of the character.

To prepare for “Godzilla: King Of Monsters” (a sequel to Godzilla 2014) coming out on May 31st, I’ve decided to watch this classic movie to help spread word of mouth. If you want to gain knowledge of Godzilla’s mythology, I suggest you to watch James Rolf/Angry Video Game Nerd’s recommendations on his YouTube account “Cinemassacre.”

The following review doesn’t contain no SPOILERS whatsoever. If you’re new to the Godzilla franchise, feel free to read my non-spoiler article.

Strong & Weak Aspects

Strong: Actors (obviously human) all did a solid job for their performances.

We all know the best part of the whole movie is the title character’s rampage across Tokyo. Destroying buildings, houses, the military & killing citizens. (God knows)

Godzilla’s trademark roar is spot on. His roar was actually made from a glove scratching strings from a double bass.

Unlike different iterations & the 2014 American reboot, the original Godzilla’s personality is basically described as a rampaging psychopathic killing machine with no regard for humanity. This is before his arch nemesis, King Ghidorah took his title.

Practical Effects were primarily used such as scale models matching Tokyo’s buildings/houses to make each location look realistic as possible, pyrotechnics with crud blowing up & last but not least, Set Pieces showing before & after Tokyo’s destruction.

Unlike King Kong’s groundbreaking animatronics, Godzilla was actually a stuntman wearing a suit. I’m giving this pro an Bonus Points for the special effects crew crafting an idea to visually demonstrate a monster’s movement in a realistic presentation.

Cinematography felt normal lacking technical errors.

Composer, Akira Ifukube wrote and conducted Godzilla’s theme.

You think Godzilla is cheesy? Guess again! The Tone for the original is dark and sardonic as fudge. Again, Godzilla (pre-King Ghidorah) is a full blown sociopath. He ain’t Barney The Dinosaur.

A scientific experiment foreshadows what’s yet to come.

Primary Themes are Chaos, Paranoia, Nuclear Weapons, Terror & Loss. All of them are handled maturely.

At the 0:58:00 mark, Godzilla’s eyes look like Cookie Monster’s mismatched eyes. I would assume Jim Henson & Sesame Street were inspired to make monsters as silly lookin’ puppets.

Weak: The English Subtitles can be annoying at times if you’re not fluent in Japanese. Overtime, I got used to it. Unfortunately, there’s no English dub for the original 1954 film. The closest thing is Raymond Burr’s (Perry Mason) heavily re-edited American version. I will let this con slide.

The human characters are forgettable minus a scientist wearing an eyepatch. I don’t even remember their names or faces. I only know some of them explaining one plot point to another.

Even though Godzilla pioneered unique special effects in The 50’s, the effects are conspicuously fake. For example, the Godzilla suit is made of rubber. If you look at his dorsal fins, it looks cheesy. I’ll let this con slide, because C.G.I. never existed back then.

The Final Verdict: A-

In my opinion, the original Japanese version of Godzilla is ranked as one of the best monster movies of all time next to “Alien,” “Aliens,” “John Carpenter’s The Thing,” “David Cronenberg’s The Fly,” “King Kong” (both original, Peter Jackson’s remake) “Kong: Skull Island” and my personal all time favorite “Cloverfield.” If you’re very exited to see Godzilla’s return on the big screen, I highly recommend the original that started it all.

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