Godzilla (ゴジラ Gojira) is a 1954 Japanese science fiction kaiju film produced by Toho, directed by Ishirō Honda, and featuring special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. The film stars Akira Takarada, Momoko Kōchi, Akihiko Hirata, and Takashi Shimura. The plot tells the story of Godzilla, a giant monster mutated by nuclear radiation, who ravages Japan and brings back the horrors of WWII's nuclear devastation to the very nation that experienced it first-hand. It was the first of many kaiju films released in Japan, then the rest of the world, paving the way and setting the standard for future kaiju genre films, many of which feature Godzilla.
In the spring of 1956 TransWorld Releasing Corp. released an edited version of the film theatrically in the United States titled Godzilla, King of the Monsters!. This version featured newly shot scenes of Hollywood actor Raymond Burr spliced into the original Japanese footage. In the spring of 2004 Rialto Pictures gave the original Japanese-language version of the film a limited theatrical release (with English subtitles) in the United States to coincide with Godzilla's 50th anniversary.
American nuclear weapons testing results in the creation of a seemingly unstoppable, dinosaur-like beast.
- Akira Takarada as Hideto Ogata (尾形 秀人 Ogata Hideto)
- Momoko Kōchi as Emiko Yamane (山根 恵美子 Yamane Emiko)
- Akihiko Hirata as Daisuke Serizawa (芹沢 大助 Serizawa Daisuke)
- Takashi Shimura as Dr. Kyohei Yamane (山根恭平 Yamane Kyōhei)
- Fuyuki Murakami as Dr. Tanabe (田辺博士 Tanabe-hakushi)
- Sachio Sakai as Hagiwara (萩原) (Journalist)
- Ren Yamamoto as Masaji (政治) (fisherman)
- Toyoaki Suzuki as Shinkichi (Masaji's younger brother)
- Tsuruko Umano as Shinkichi's mother
- Tadashi Okabe as Assistant of Dr. Tanabe
- Jiro Mitsuaki as Employee of Nankai Salvage Company
- Ren Imaizumi as Radio Officer Nankai Salvage Company
- Kenji Sahara as Partygoer
- Sokichi Maki as Chief at Maritime Safety Agency
- Haruo Nakajima as Godzilla, the King of the Monsters who was mutated by the radiation of the H-Bomb & a reporter
- Katsumi Tezuka as Godzilla (as Nakajima's Stunt Double) & Editor Yamada
In the film, Godzilla is represented as a symbol for nuclear holocaust and ever since the film's initial release, Godzilla has been culturally identified as a strong metaphor for nuclear weapons. In the film, Godzilla's attack mirrors the same horrors the Japanese experienced near the end of World War II, with the Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka stated that, "The theme of the film, from the beginning, was the terror of the bomb. Mankind had created the bomb, and now nature was going to take revenge on mankind." Director Ishirō Honda filmed Godzilla's rampage on Tokyo with the mentality that the monster's onslaught was a parallel and physical manifestation of an Atom bomb attack. He stated, "If Godzilla had been a dinosaur or some other animal, he would have been killed by just one cannonball. But if he were equal to an atomic bomb, we wouldn't know what to do. So, I took the characteristics of an atomic bomb and applied them to Godzilla. Though Godzilla initially began as a metaphor for nuclear devastation, the more sequels Toho produced, the more the symbolism and metaphor behind Godzilla evolved. During the later Showa films, Godzilla was seen as a symbol of strength for Japan, however, in 1984, the character was taken back to his dark nuclear roots that made him an icon in the first place.
Gareth Edwards' upcoming Godzilla promises to return to the dark, nuclear themes of the original. Edwards recently spoke about the themes incorporated into his film, "Godzilla is definitely a representation of the wrath of nature. We've taken it very seriously and the theme is man versus nature and Godzilla is certainly the nature side of it. You can't win that fight. Nature's always going to win and that's what the subtext of our movie is about. He's the punishment we deserve.
The opening scene of the Eiko Maru being obliterated by Godzilla's first attack and later scenes of survivors of other attacks being found with radiation burns, were inspired by the U.S. testing of a hydrogen bomb on Bikini Atoll. A real Japanese fishing ship, the Lucky Dragon 5, was overwhelmed when the U.S. Castle Bravo nuclear test had a yield of 15 megatons rather than the planned 6 megatons. Military personnel, island natives and several Lucky Dragon 5 crew members, persons believed to be in a zone of safety, suffered from radiation sickness and at least one died six months later. This created widespread fear of uncontrolled and unpredictable nuclear weapons, which the film makers symbolized with Godzilla. The actual event played a major role in drawing attention to the hazards of nuclear fallout, and concerns were widespread about radioactively contaminated fish affecting the Japanese food supply.
Godzilla's climactic attack on Tokyo was meant to exemplify a rolling nuclear attack, like Hiroshima and Nagasaki, only much more slowly. Honda had plotted it this way, having been shocked by the real devastation of those cities.
The film went through several different drafts. Science fiction and horror novelist Shigeru Kayama was hired to write the original story. The screenplay was written by Takeo Murata and Ishiro Honda. In Kayama's draft, originally entitled Kaitei ni-man mairu kara kita daikaijû (lit. "The Giant Monster from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea"), and then later renamed G-Sakuhun (lit. Project G, with the G standing for the English word for Giant), Dr. Yamane was the antagonist and was seen as a mad scientist wearing a cape who lived in a gothic style house. Godzilla's first appearance was to have him rise from the sea at night and destroy a light house. This was an obvious homage to The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. Murata and Honda altered and changed a few things from Kayama's draft and added new elements, like the love triangle between Emiko, Ogata, and Dr. Serizawa. Dr. Yamane was changed from a mad scientist to an acclaimed paleontologist who seeks to study Godzilla rather than destroy him. Godzilla itself was changed from Kayama's initial wild beast that came ashore to feed on live animals.
The monster story itself had been necessitated by an emergency. The producers had planned a completely different film, but that project had fallen apart. Toho demanded a film, any film, within a short time. During an airplane ride, producer Tomoyuki Tanaka had read of the Lucky Dragon incident, and was inspired. The monster angle was derived from the success of Warner Bros.' 1953 film The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. It was then that the creation of the monsters' design began to take place, beginning with the film's special effects director, Eiji Tsuburaya's original suggestion of the monster being a giant octopus, the monster design later went several variations and features such as a hideous disportionate ape-like creature with head shaped like a mushroom, recalling the suggested references of mushroom clouds. In the end, the filmmakers eventually settled on a dinosaur-like monster that was a cross of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, an Iguanadon, a Stegosaurus, and a fire-breathing dragon.The Godzilla suit had actually been a last resort. Tsuburaya had been deeply impressed with the stop-motion animation method used in King Kong. However, that method was far too costly and time-consuming (even though stop-motion would be used briefly, in one scene where Godzilla destroys the Nichigeki Theatre with his tail). It was decided that the easiest way to go was a stuntman in a monster suit, and a scale-model of Tokyo. This also proved difficult. Stunt actor Haruo Nakajima volunteered to play (the full suit) Godzilla. Nakajima would play Godzilla in later sequels until his retirement from the character in 1972. The first attempt at a Godzilla suit was far too stiff and heavy, nearly impossible to use. They finally hit on a design that worked; but even that was grueling. The stuntman would suffer numerous bouts of heat exhaustion and dehydration. The suit had to have a valve to drain the sweat from it. Also, in order to avoid suffocation, the suit could have only been worn for three minutes. It has also been said that, at one point, Nakajima passed out in the suit due to heat exhaustion. Godzilla's name was also found difficult to accomplish. The monster went through several names prior to the final stages. Because the monster had no name, the first draft of the film was not called Gojira but rather titled G, also known as Kaihatsu keikaku G ("Development Plan G"), the "G" of the title stood for "Giant", however. Nakajima confirmed that Toho held a contest to name the monster. The monster was eventually named Gojira, a combination of the Japanese words Gorilla (gorira) and Whale (kujira). A myth spread to the fan base that a staff member of Toho inspired the name Gojira because that name was claimed to have been his nickname. One of Godzilla's names during production was "Anguirus". That name was saved and later reused as the name of Godzilla's opponent in the sequel. Anguirus would later become Godzilla's closest ally in the series. Also, Anguirus' roar would be used for Godzilla's for the American version of the sequel Godzilla Raids Again.
Toho Studios had balked at the suggestion of filming Godzilla in color. Ironically, the cheaper black-and-white film had actually enhanced the special effects (e.g. hiding wires and other things in the shadows), and otherwise adding to the overall chill of Godzilla's nighttime attacks. Two years later, Toho would film Rodan in color, which it would subsequently use in nearly all its giant-monster films.
For a special effects shoot for the movie, Nakajima, who was inside the Godzilla suit, was placed in a swimming pool. Someone accidentally sent electrical charges through the pool. Masaaki Tachibana (an announcer of a scene in a steel tower) painted his face with olive oil to express that he was sweating with fear. There were many scenes filmed that were not used, but most have not been recovered. The best known example was the scene that was meant to replace the iconic appearance of Godzilla on Odo Island. Originally, Godzilla arrives holding a dead cow in his mouth, but the effect was not convincing enough and was cut, and only a few stills remain.
External Links Edit
- Godzilla (1954 film) at Wikipedia
- Godzilla (1954) at Rotten Tomatoes
- Godzilla (1954) at the Internet Movie Database
- Godzilla (1954) at AllMovie
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