Saturday, March 24, 2012


(April 1956, U.S.)

So, just how many Godzilla films have been made to date, even including Roland Emmeerich's rather pathetic 1998 attempt at the big monster? How many of them really sucked?? When I was a kid growing up in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Godzilla films were practically a dime-a-dozen on television, particularly at Thanksgiving time (THAT'S another story entirely!) and they ususally featured Godzilla pitted against some other form of lame monster with special powers. When a little kid, this kind of cheap, badly dubbed cinema was probably mother's milk if you likes monster movies in general. As one gets older, though, they slip away in value appreciation. Sadly, though, the original American version of the very first Japanese film of GODZILLA with American actor Raymond Burr never came on televison for me to discover. I'm not saying it wasn't actually ON, it's just that I never discovered it. Actually, it wasn't 'till 1998 when the above-mentioned big budget Hollywood summer blockbuster bullshit version was released that I decided to rent the VHS version of the original classic that started it all. I'm glad I did.

Now, this is not to say that this original film is not a cheap, American-dubbed version of something previosuly released in Japan, because it is. What really stands out here is the rather awesome black and white photography of not only the monster himself but also Tokyo's blazing destruction, which is, ultimately, the coolest thing to watch when you're watching any monster movie. Take a look...

Godzilla himself, admitedly, looks as though he's still an under-developed puppet with rather huge black eyes that almost give him a sympathetic look, like a sad, helpless cat staring at you. Under-developed or not, it looks a whole lot better, in my opinion, than the cheap rubber suit many people of my age grew up watching in those color films.

While many of the cheap, color Godzilla VS. films can be considered truly campy and completely stupid (even FUN if you're the right age), this original black and white film can certainly be accused of taking itself seriously. Tokyo is a city of millions of people and the city is about to be destroyed by a merciless monster whose only purpose is to kill. The city is destroyed to a pile of rubble and the city burns in enormous flames of Hell that I have to confess makes for great visual cinematography, paricularly in black and white. Raymond Burr's character of Steve Martin (yeah, that's really his name and he's NOT a wild and crazy guy!) serves to bring in American audiences with narration and observation as a foreign correspondant of a city's horrible destruction. For the record, Godzilla IS detroyed at the end of the film, but that doesn't exactly stop a would-be franchise, does it?

In 2004, I attending a screening of the original Japanese film of GODZILLA (pronounced GOJIRA) at a movie house in Greenwich Village, New York City. It was, at best, educational to return to the roots of the famous monster. However, this is one of the few times I can actually claim to prefer an American dubbed version over the original foreign language subtitled film. Shameful as that may seem, it's what clarifies the films's story a little better for me and Raymond Burr is no slouch, either. And let's face it, watching Godzilla is not exactly watching an ART film, is it?

Favorite line or dialogue:

Steve Martin (voice-over): "This is Tokyo. Once a city of six 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. There were once many people here who could've told of what they there are only a few."

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