Godzilla, who recently became a Japanese citizen, has undoubtedly influenced the world more than any of the creators could have imagined. I love Godzilla. I first started watching the movies as a kid. In America, the Sci-Fi channel would show them on Saturday mornings.
Of course, they were the dubbed versions, and the movies were made more fun and campy by the often terrible dubbing. But be that as it may, the movies were still great! I always had the image of Godzilla movies as cheesy, campy, fun. That is until I saw the original.
(Spoiler Alert: Full spoilers below)
The original 1954 Godzilla is a totally different monster (pun intended) from its later cheese fests. The original Godzilla is a hauntingly beautiful work. It’s equally terrifying, moving, scary, and intense. It begins with a Japanese fishing boats mysteriously vanishing. Planes sent to find only mists of radiation.
Soon Godzilla makes his appearance and starts laying wastes to all he sees. It is realized that Godzilla has been created by nuclear tests. The government does all that it can to stop the monster, but to no avail. Dr. Yamane (played by the legendary Takashi Shimura) leads the team researching Godzilla and trying to find some way to defeat him.
Dr. Yamane’s daughter meets with a solitary, secretive Dr. Serizawa who reveals that he as created a weapon of unparalleled destructive capability. He refuses to reveal it to the world fearing that it could destroy all humanity. After Godzilla attacks Tokyo, Serizawa finally realizes he must use it. Yamane, Serizawa, and a young Airman Ogato, hunt down Godzilla and Serizawa sacrifices himself to destroy Godzilla. Yamane says that there is a possibility that there are more Godzillas out in the depths of the seas, and humanity must stop testing nuclear weapons less it brings upon itself yet another deadly foe.
Like I said above Godzilla (1954) is a masterclass of filmmaking. After watching Godzilla wreck havoc on humanity, you actually feel pity for it when it is killed. You realize that Godzilla was not evil, it was simply an animal that was corrupted by humanity. The film does have some flaws. There are some romantic side plots that slow the film a little, and the film can feel a little preachy at times. I had the opportunity to see the original in theaters for a special limited screening for the movies’ 50th birthday. I highly recommend this, and can without hesitation state that this is the best of the Godzilla films.