This summer, CultureGeek will feature a series of guest blogs centered on the classic Godzilla films, written by author and Godzilla aficionado Jim D. Gillentine and collated from other Godzilla fans as well. Rawr! - CultureGeek
Gojira: The Beginning
With a pitch-black screen and a sudden thundering boom followed by his iconic roar, the 1954 classic Gojira begins. This is the one that started it all, and to many G-Fans, it is still the best movie of the whole series.
Directed by Ishirō Honda, this black-and-white film is a classic sci-fi movie with several horror elements mixed in. Ships start disappearing off the coast of Japan near Odo Island, and it is soon discovered that a 165-foot monster is sinking them. The creature is named Gojira, after the legends of Odo of a monster that sacrifices of young women were given to the creature when fishing would begin to go bad on the island.
Gojira’s existence is met with wonder by the scientist Kyohei Yamane-hakase, and fear by just about everyone else in the movie. It is discovered that the monster is highly radioactive and Kyohei theorizes that the monster is that way because of the underwater H-Bombs testing that has been done by the United States of America.
Kyohei thinks that Gojira should be studied because it had survived being bombarded with so much radiation and thinks the creature is a 'once in a lifetime' chance for science. However, when Gojira makes landfall in Japan, that hope changes to remorse when the unstoppable monster unleashes its fury on the city of Tokyo.
Director Ishirō Honda, who fought in WWII, took his memories of seeing the devastated city of Nagasaki when he returned to Japan as inspiration for how Gojira’s attack would unfold on the city. The scenes of Gojira’s slow plodding steps as it sets the city on fire with its atomic breath are somber, frightening, and a feeling of total helplessness is what the viewer is experiencing while the wonderful musical score by Akira Ifukube plays. Sound is one of the key elements for this film, and Ifukube’s music is one of the key elements that make this movie the classic that it remains to this day.
The images of destroyed Tokyo are haunting, and when several scenes play out that show people dying from radiation poisoning from Gojira’s attack show just how high the cost in life will be. Japan’s only hope comes in the form of a new weapon by the scientist Dr. Serizawa, call the Oxygen Destroyer. He agrees to use this new weapon on Gojira while the creature is resting at the bottom of Tokyo Bay, and it is a success. The weapon kills the creature and Serizawa, who went on the diving mission to use the weapon, dies with Gojira to make sure his weapon would ever be used again.
Gojira was a huge hit in Japan, and was renamed and reedited into the movie Godzilla: King of the Monsters when it came to the United States. It was the beginning of a franchise that is still going on to this day, and has millions of fans the world over. But what is it about this movie that makes it so special?
In my opinion, you really can’t just point to one thing and say this is what makes this movie so great. It was several things, all coming together at one time to make it into such a sci-fi class that it is today. From the innovative special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya to the musical score all add up to one amazing movie. For this G-Fan, this movie is one that will always be the best of all of the Godzilla move.
Thoughts from fellow G-Fan John Poggi:
There is so much to say about Gojira -- it's a real horror movie for one. And the things I could say about the origin of Godzilla. We have to realize that Japan was traumatized by their defeat. And they NEVER used the word 'surrender'; in their minds, they were overcome by atomic power, not America. In 1954, we were still occupying Japan and would not let them make any movies about the war. So, to deal with the county's fear, they created Godzilla, the embodiment of the fear of an entire nation. Japan looks at atomic energy as a force of nature, not an American military weapon. Godzilla is a force of nature that cannot be stopped by traditional military weapons. He is just something you have to deal with - it's humbling (and is why the American "Zilla" was so insulting to TOHO). I guess this would be my main train of thought ... to the nation of Japan, Godzilla is actually a part of history.
Special Effects: 5 SRRREEEROOOONNKS
Plot: FIVE FOOT STOMPS
Fun Factor: FIVE ATOMIC BREATH ATTACKS