Gojira (1954), a.k.a Godzilla

Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka had a problem. The film he was meant to be producing, a grand Japanese/Indonesian co-production, had fallen through, owing to a dispute with the Indonesian government. So, now he needed a film to fill the gap left by the co-production's failure. While flying home, he read the story of the Daigo Fukuryū Maru, a.k.a. Lucky Dragon 5, a Japanese tuna boat that had been caught in the fallout from the US "Castle Bravo" thermonuclear device test on Bikini Atoll, on March 1, 1954. Additionally, he was familiar with The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) and King Kong (1933), which had recently been re-released in Japan.

This all percolated in his brain and gave him the idea that he needed.

The creature in the film was originally called "G", after the English word "giant". Eventually the name "Gojira" was adopted, derived from the Japanese words gorira ("gorilla") and kujira ("whale"). It was traditionally said that "Gojira" was the nickname of a large Toho employee at the time, but this employee has never been definitely identified, and the general consensus now is that the story is apocryphal.

Selected to direct the film was Ishiro Honda, a protege of Akira Kurosawa. Honda had been through Hiroshima in 1946, and this gave him the desire to portray Godzilla's attack on Tokyo as being like that of an atomic bomb, albeit much slower.

The special effects were done by the legendary Eiji Tsuburaya, who had wanted to do a monster movie of his own, since he'd seen King Kong when he was a kid. Tsuburaya was behind the choice to use "suitmation" (i.e. having the monster portrayed by a man in a rubber suit), rather than the stop-motion he would have preferred, largely for reasons of budget and time. Tsuburaya would go on to become a legend in Japan, in particular for his part in the creation of the super-hero Ultraman.

The music was done by composer Akira Ifukube, who based much of it on the military marches he'd heard as a kid. Ifukube also created Godzilla's trademark "roar" by running a rosin-filled glove along the strings of a contrabass and then playing it back at a different speed.

Two men were hired to wear the Godzilla suit in this picture. The first was Haruo Nakajima, who would go on to play Godzilla and many other monsters until he retired in 1972. Nakajima had played a bandit in Seven Samurai, and would later play a soldier in The Hidden Fortress. Nakajima supposedly sweat off 20 pounds making the film. The second man was Katsumi Tezuka. However, Nakajima has always claimed that none of Tezuka's work made it into the film. Both Nakajima and Tezuka had small parts outside of the G-suit in the film - you can see them in the background of a scene set in a newspaper office.

The main actors in the film were Kurosawa mainstay Takashi Shimura as Dr. Yamane, the paleontologist; Akihiko Hirata (who played a samurai in Sanjuro) as Dr. Serizawa; Momoko Kochi as Emiko Yamane, the doctor's daughter; and Akira Takarada as Ogata of South Sea Salvage. We'll being seeing Takarada alot in these pictures.

If you check the scene on the party boat in the harbor, you may see in the background, sitting at a table, the uncredited Kenji Sahara (sometimes listed as Kenji "Sawara"). Sahara and Akihiko Hirata are the only actors to have appeared in the debut films of Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah.

Another member of the Kurosawa-gumi is present in the film - the old fisherman on Odo Island is played by Kokuten Kodo, who played the village elder in Seven Samurai, and who had parts in Scandal, No Regrets for Our Youth, Sanshiro Sugata, Sanshiro Sugata II, I Live in Fear, Throne of Blood and The Hidden Fortress.

At any rate, the film was a hit in Japan - an American producer saw the film in a Chinese theater in California, and the international rights were purchased. It was decided to make an "American" version of the film, and this is the version that I daresay most of you that read this will have seen. The original version has only recently been released in this country.

To Americanize the film, the producers hired Raymond Burr, who had mostly played heels up to that point, and who would soon be cast in the role that would define his life, that of peerless attorney Perry Mason. He was an interesting dude, Burr. Alot of the autobiographical information he used to give was subsequently revealed as fiction. If you ever see the 1957 classic, The Monster that Challenged the World, you may notice a character named Seaman Morty Beatty. The role is credited to "Bob Beneveds", who was sometimes credited as "Robert Beneveds", and who, as "Robert Benevides", had production credits on many episodes of Perry Mason. He was also, apparently, Burr's "longtime companion".

Burr played reporter Steve Martin (No relation!), ably assisted by Frank Iwanaga as security officer Tomo. Burr and Iwanaga were edited into the film using added footage, and were made to seem to interact with the original actors through the use of body doubles, and other trickery.

The film was released in 1956 as Godzilla, King of the Monsters, and the rest was history! As an aside - the American version of the film was apparently released in Japan as Monster King Godzilla, and the audiences found it quite funny, as apparently there was often a difference between what the Japanese-speaking characters were saying to Burr, and what Iwanaga told Burr they were saying.

Gojira (1954) is to me, the best of all of Toho's kaiju eiga. It's a very well done picture, and a powerful evocation of Japan's fear of nuclear weaponry, well made and well acted. If you haven't had a chance to see the original version, I strongly urge you to give it a look - it's well worth it. I saw it in a theater in Cambridge a few years back, and it was one of the great cinematic thrills of my life. It saddens me that alot of people judge all of the Godzilla movies by some of the later, admittedly quite goofy, ones.
I'd also particularly like to speak up for Ifukube's music in this - his score really builds up the mood of the picture.

Now, as for Godzilla, King of the Monsters...well, I loved this picture when I was a kid. Watching it now, it's painfully obvious that Burr and Iwanaga were shoehorned into it. Having watched the two films back to back, I can see that the American producers removed alot of the anti-nuclear message and pretty much all of the references to the War and the atomic bombings. The actor who suffers the most from the Americanization is Sachio Sakai, who plays a reporter named Hagiwara. His part is much more substantial in the original, and is largely cut out of the re-edited film, most of his function in the plot being taken over by Burr's character. In the end, what I think the Americanization did was make the picture much more similar to the sci-fi films that were popular in the U.S. in the 1950's - which may have been what the film needed to succeed in 50's America. The original was much darker and more poignant than the American version. There's many more scenes of Godzilla's victims in the original - no subseqent Godzilla film would ever show so much human suffering. At the end of Gojira, Shimura says something to the effect of "If nuclear tests continue, there will be more Godzillas", whereas at the end of King of the Monsters, Burr says something like, "A great man has died, but now the world can breathe freely again."

I'll close by repeating my earlier sentiment, that Gojira (1954) is to me the best of the Godzilla movies.

Next: The Quickie Sequel!

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No, the raisins are in the pudding; the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
Is Final Wars available on DVD? And dubbed? Because I never heard of it and am real curious now!
Philip Portelli said:
Is Final Wars available on DVD? And dubbed? Because I never heard of it and am real curious now!

Yes, if you can't find it in a store, you should be able to order it on-line from Amazon, or whoever.
Jeff of Earth-J said:
No, the raisins are in the pudding; the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Radioactive raisins?
Something I Always Meant to Save from the Old Board:

The year is 1966.

Somewhere in Space
Size is relative. To an ant, a man is a colossus. And yet, a man is tiny compared to the greater beings that dwell beyond his world. But even such beings as they are dwarfed by the infinitely larger forces of the cosmos.

Now, one such force buffets the massive vessel of Galactus. Inside, the Devourer of Worlds monitors the situation as his faithful herald, the Silver Surfer, watches on.

"Master, what is happening?"

"Fear not, my herald. Though this temporal disruption is of a scale unprecedented even in my experience, my vessel's defenses will not fail us. For now, we shall just 'ride it out'."

Within a short time, the disruption subsided, and Galactus scanned surrounding space.

"Interesting. The disruption has shifted us 'sideways' in time to a universe parallel to our own."

"What does this mean, Master? Can we return home?"

"Yes. I can easily return us to our own world. At the moment, however, I hunger. The solar system ahead of us appears to be a close counterpart to the one we were approaching in our own universe, the one in which we detected a suitable world for me to feed upon. You will proceed to that world and make the natives ready for my arrival. Once I have fed, we will return home."

Infant Island
Two minds thought as one:

"What can we do about this? Can even
she do anything about this? There is only one option. We must contact him. We must hope that he understands. And acts."

The Prime Minister was being briefed by the head of the Self-Defense Force.

"Sir, as far as we can tell, it's an alien. It looks like a silver, humanoid male, riding, of all things, a surfboard."

"A surfboard?"

"Yes, sir."

"Is he hostile?"

"We're not sure. He hasn't done anything overtly hostile, but he claims to be the 'herald' of someone or something called 'Galactus the Devourer of Worlds', and says we ought to prepare ourselves for 'the end'. Speaks perfect Japanese, too."

A phone rang. The general answered it.

"What? WHAT? I see. I see. Very good, keep me informed."

"What is it?" asked the Prime Minister.

"Two separate alerts. The first is that a massive object has entered the Solar System and is approaching Earth. The second is that Godzilla is in the Bay. I doubt the two are coincidental."

Outside, in the city, the Silver Surfer became aware of the approaches of both Galactus and Godzilla. He glided over to where the latter was coming ashore.

"Interesting", he thought, "in all my travels I've never seen such a -AAARRRGGGHHH!"

A stream of blue fire spat from the creature's mouth, engulfing the Surfer and hurling him to the ground. The Surfer tried to take to the air again but another blast knocked him back to Earth. The last thing he saw was the creature's massive foot as it came down on him.

"Shalla-Bal" was the last thing he said.

But even as the Surfer died, his master descended from the sky, bringing with him the device he used to process the energy of planets.

"So, the Silver Surfer is dead. It matters nothing. Though Galactus is beyond the need for vengeance, yet still shall my herald be avenged."

But, even as the World-Eater spoke, the hastily-mobilized maser tanks of the Self-Defense Force opened fire. Their beams bounced harmlessly off Galactus, but shattered his food processor.

"So, the natives defend themselves. They shall learn the futility of such attempts."

With a bolt of energy, Galactus sent the maser tanks whirling to destruction. He turned to the reconstruction of his energy processor.

But again as the device reassembled itself, a blast of blue energy smashed it to bits. Galactus turned and faced the massive creature behind him.

"Interesting. Some form of mutant reptile. A weapon of the natives, perhaps? No matter."

A bolt of energy from the Last Son of Taa sent the King of the Monsters flying several blocks away, until he landed in a heap of rubble.

Again, just as Galactus' food processor reassembled, an explosion sounded behind him, and an energy beam, red this time, once again destroyed it.

Again?" thought Galactus, and whirled around. And stopped. The creature was much larger now, and somehow fiercer looking. What had happened?

Galactus scanned the minds of the nearest natives. So. The creature was called "Godzilla", and it was not a weapon. It was a native creature that had mutated after being exposed to the native humanoids' fusion weapons. If it could absorb energy, then it must've absorbed the blast he had directed against it, and mutated further. Very well, then, a different approach. With a gesture, Galactus enclosed Godzilla in a forcefield.

"That should hold you long enough."

Galactus turned back to his machine. Almost inevitably, even as it was nearly ready, a beam of energy smashed it.

"This is becoming tedious. The creature has broken through the forcefield more quickly than I anticipated."

Galactus turned and faced Godzilla. The creature was even larger, and was glowing a pulsating orange. The World-Eater scanned the
daikaiju. It was bad. The creature had absorbed too much energy. It was losing containment. Soon it would explode with enough force to destroy this world. The problem was, Galactus was well past his feeding-time. If he fled, there was no guarantee that he could find another suitable planet in time, especially with his herald dead. There was only one option. He must save this world so that he could destroy it in peace.

But how to do it? If he tried to levitate Godzilla, it would merely absorb the energy, and most likely explode that much sooner. Ah! He would levitate a large section of the Earth under Godzilla, lifting it indirectly. It would require an enormous expenditure of energy, even for him, but there was no time to find a better option.

With an effort, he levitated a large chunk of ground with Godzilla on it off the Earth and into space. The creature left Earth's atmosphere - straight in the direction of Galactus' ship. The creature's explosion didn't completely destroy the ship, but it knocked what was left of it out of Earth orbit and on a trajectory towards Earth's sun.

"Ah, well. Once I've eaten, I can build another ship. And I'd better eat soon, that effort took alot out of me - I'm already beginning to dwindle in si-AAAHHHGGGHH!"

Maser beams again peppered Galactus, and this time he felt them. A second wave of maser tanks had been mobilized after the first had been destroyed. Their crews knew it was a suicide mission - if Galactus didn't kill them, the radiation Godzilla left behind would - but
yamatodamashii drove them on. What was one man's life against the life of the nation - or the world?

With the last dregs of his power, Galactus smashed the maser tanks with an energy bolt. Desperately, he absorbed what cosmic energy remained in the Silver Surfer and his board, leaving behind only the lifeless form of Norrin Radd. With luck, he would have enough left to reconstruct his food processor one last time. But even as he struggled to do so, a giant moth swooped down and caught him up in its claws.

"Oh, of course", he thought.

As Mothra flew away with him, Galactus wrenched himself free, plummeting Earthward and impaling himself on Tokyo Tower. Because his energies were low, the resultant explosion only vaporized ten square blocks.

Soon thereafter, the Twin Fairies spoke with the Prime Minister of Japan.

"So the Earth is safe", he said, "and Godzilla is gone."

"For now", the two replied.

"What do you mean?"

"On Sol-Gell Island in the South Pacific, there is an egg containing another creature like Godzilla. In another year, it will hatch. Before that happens, Mothra will bring the egg to Infant Island. When it hatches, the new Godzilla will be raised to be a friend and protector to humanity."

"So, you think we'll need a 'protector' in the future?"

"Oh, yes, there are still threats to be faced. We must be ready."
Oh, and if you're one of those folks who don't think that Godzilla could beat the Silver Surfer - let alone Galactus - maybe you'll like this better:

As the Silver Surfer raced back to Earth, he realized that something very odd had happened. As he flew over New York City, he realized that the city, though similar, was not the New York that was the closest thing to a home that he had on his Earth.

"No Avengers Mansion, no Baxter Building, none of the places that those I call friends liv ein." He flew down to a newsstand. The news agent cowered in terror, and his customers ran away.

"Well, that's nothing new," thought the Surfer. However, a cursory scan of the headlines on the papers and magazines showed him no references to super-beings of the types he was most familiar with. There were one or two references to alien invasions and to giant monsters of a sort he had encountered before. The papers were dated 1995, which meant that this almost certainly not his Earth, unless something had happened to change it. Still, it was, as someone had once said, a capital mistake to theorize without information, so he took off into the sky, circling the Earth, scanning it from the heavens.

Latveria was missing, as were several other nations he knew of, and there seemed to be no Atlantis. He even scanned the Moon, but was unsurprised to find no Blue Area there.

Returning to Earth, he noticed a spike of incongruent energy near the city of Tokyo, Japan. Swooping down over the Kanto Plain. Hovering over Tokyo Bay, Norrin saw a massive bipedal reptile, a creature that looked sort of like a cross between a tyrannosaurus and stegosaur, wading toward shore. The local human military was responding with customary human violence, but to little effect. Attacks that would've stunned even the Surfer himself were shrugged off as nothing. Suddenly, Norrin Radd realized that the creature had noticed him. The beast's dorsal spines began to glow, as with Cherenkov radiation.

"Hmm," thought the Surfer, "maybe I'd better---"

Before the Silver Surfer could complete his thought, the monster spat a stream of radioactive blue fire straight at him.

The blast of energy from the creature's mouth sent the Surfer hurtling backwards until he crashed to the ground.

"Wow", he thought, "I bet that hurt."

Summoning his board, he again took to the skies. Surveying the scene, he saw that the human military had again engaged the creature, which was itself engaged in methodically destroying them . Avoiding both the humans' and the monster's attacks, the Surfer began to pepper the beast with bursts of cosmic energy.

"Howzat, you radioactive chucklehead?", he cried. Unfortunately, the creature seemed little fazed by the erstwhile herald's attack.

"Crap! He"s healing already! I know, I"ll try the solid air trick again. After all, it worked on that freak in the weird red tracksuit!"

At a gesture from the Surfer, the great beast seemed to stiffen and stop.

"Oh, wait," thought Norrin, "No, it didn't."

As he completed the thought, Norrin saw the monster begin to glow. A vast wave of energy shot out from the creature. The Surfer rode the wave on his board until it petered out , before circling back again.

"Now what?", he thought. "Maybe if I hit the thing real hard, real fast, faster than it can heal!"

Ferociously, the Surfer flew around the beast like an angry wasp, sending force bolt after bolt into its hide. The creature became enraged, thrashing about, trying to get at him. Even as Norrin began to think his plan was working, the creature's tail smashed into him like a hammer, knocking him off his board and sending him flying. Norrin lay on the ground stunned for a minute, before he shook his head and sat up. Two six inch tall twin women in sarongs hovered before his eyes.

"Oh, yeah," he said. "This works."

"Greetings, Norrin Radd," they said in unison. "We are the Twin Fairies of Infant Island. We speak for Mothra, Guardian of Infant Island and Protector of the Earth."

"Of course you are," he said, "And how the hell do you know who I am?"

"We are telepaths. We know who you are, where you come from, and what you asked Shalla Bal to do that made her slap you."

"Ah, hmm...", came his reply. "Well, anyway, what's Mothra?"

"Mothra is a giant moth, our mighty protector with whom we are in telepathic contact and who has battled Godzilla before."

"And Godzilla is that big thing that smacked me?"

"You are correct," they said.

"I don't suppose you're here to tell me that you're going to summon Mothra to help me fight that - 'Godzilla', you called it?"

"We could, but we won't. It's too much fun watching Godzilla knock you around."

"Oh, thanks loads. I don't suppose you'd like to give me any hints as to how to fight that thing?"

"Well, Mothra usually wraps Godzilla in silk and drops it in the ocean, but that's not practical for you. But don't worry, we're sure that you'll get to the heart of the matter."

Scowling, Norrin flew off. While he had been speaking to the little women, Godzilla had moved further into the city, encountering sporadic human resistance.

"'Get to the heart of the matter', my shiny silver â***. Wait a minute. 'the heart'! Aw, no!"

The Surfer raced over to the monster and began to circle its head. When it opened its mouth to roar, the Surfer flew straight into its maw and right down its throat. A few seconds later, Godzilla coughed, and the Surfer's board flew out of its mouth and fell to the ground. In the creature's esophagus, the Surfer braced himself as Godzilla tried to regurgitate him. Slowly, Norrin worked his way through the beast's digestive tract and then into its circulatory system. He let the blood flow carry him to its heart. When he reached the mammoth blood-pump, he braced himself against the flow, and then sent a powerful wave of cosmic energy into the organ. Outside observers were astonished to see the monster king suddenly stiffen, yelp and fall over. Since the creature's blood was no longer pumping, Norrin took a longer while to get back to the digestive tract. Unable to find his way back to the creature's throat, Norrin had to exit from the other end.

Flying towards shore, he noticed the Twin Fairies perched on top of a hillside.

"Damn, dude", they said, "You stink!"

"Yeah, well you tour that thing's insides, and see how you smell afterwards! Well, that thing's down, anyway, no thanks to you. So, what do you suppose the humans'll do with it?"

"Oh," said the Fairies, "We will summon Mothra to haul Godzilla out to sea. Hopefully, Godzilla will hibernate for awhile now."

"'Hibernate'?" said the Surfer, "That thing's dead, my dears - I stopped its heart!"

"No, Godzilla will live," they said. "In the past, it has returned from near-total physical destruction. Even a minor cosmic being such as yourself can only stun it."


The two ignored him, and began to sing:

"Mosura ya, Mosura!
Dongan kasa kuyaan indo muu!
Ruusto wiraa doaa, hanba-hanba muyaan
Randa banun radaan, tonjukanraa!

Mothra, oh, Mothra!
Hear our call for you to save us!
Over land, Over sea,
Like a wave you come
Our guardian angel!"

"Catchy tune", thought the Surfer. "Pity I haven't got my banjo with me."

Soon, a moth that looked to Norrin like something that he might've found in Galactus' closet, if Galactus had a closet - if in fact, Galactus owned a second set of clothes at all - appeared from over the horizon , and set to work hauling the still-unconscious Godzilla out to sea.

"Well," said the Fairies, "We have to go now."

"Great, before you go, could you direct me to the nearest active volcano? I really wanna wash the stink of monster-innards off me."

"Try Mount Pinatubo", came the reply.

Later, resting comfortably, submerged in the volcano's white-hot lava, the Surfer relaxed and thought.

"Well, this is one story I won't be selling to Marvel for booze money. Ah, well, time to think about finding my way home."

Emerging from the lava, the surfer looked around in astonishment.

"What the hell? What's this all about?"
Well, I figure the "enemy" monsters weren't really bad,. they were just mind-controlled.
The Baron said:
Gojira vs. Desutoroia (1995)

*** "Burning Godzilla", as it is called, was well-realized, and the scene where it melts down was well-done.

I picked up a copy of this (which I had never seen) for Action Lad as a birthday gift. It's his current favorite G-film.

Imagine our mutual delight when we discovered that the oddly-painted little Godzilla that The Lovely and Talented picked up for The Lad at a garage sale this summer is actually Burning Godzilla:

(Our toy is a non-articulated model about 3" tall. The only pics that I can find on the Web -- apart from an un-postable bitmap pic -- is for a much larger, articulated version. Frankly, I like our little one much better, especially since it makes a nice companion to an otherwise identical "non-burning" Godzilla we have.)
My cousins gave me a little 3" high model of Hoover Dam - so, naturally, I've got it on a shelf next to one of my 3" Godzillas. with Godzilla poised as though he's about to attack the dam.

He does seem to approve.

The Baron said:

Gojira ni-sen mireniamu (1999)


Maybe because Godzilla is inside each one of us. Gee Doc, that didn't work out so well for Orgah, did it?

Hmmm ... I wonder what I watched on the train this morning? I picked up a cheap copy of this as a gift for Action Lad this weekend, along with Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.

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