johnlink ranks GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS! (1956)

I’ve never been a Godzilla geek, and this is really the first time I’ve watched one of these old flicks straight through. I had no idea what I was in for, and was surprised to see Raymond Burr (Perry Mason) in the cast. I always thought these were Japanese Toho productions. Well, I was right. They were. The original GOJIRA is a 90 minute film released in Japan. What I watched here was GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS! A 1956, 80 minute film recut and adding Raymond Burr into the mix. He is literally just edited into the original film to make it appear as though he were there. It makes for an interesting experience. (By the way, this is obviously a behind the scenes picture below. It was just too cool not to use.)

I watched GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS! (1956) on 6.17.11. It was my first viewing of the film. TRAILER HERE

The best place to start is with Godzilla himself. The look of this creature is surprisingly sophisticated (Gojira won a Best Special Effects award at the Japanese Academy Awards), and they do a nice job with some of the shots, particularly shots with action in the foreground with Godzilla projected in the background. The first shot we get of Godzilla’s head, with him appearing behind a mountain, is also nicely done. The problem with much of the effects has to do with miniature work. When a helicopter blows away, it looks like I could have shot the scene in my son’s sandbox. When Godzilla picks up a rail car, it feels like the rail car has no metal or weight to it. It didn’t come across as Godzilla being super strong, instead it came across as it all being fake. The cheese of the special effects has it’s own charm though, and it is easy to laugh off. This is a Godzilla movie (the first Godzilla movie, actually) after all.

The dubbing drove me nuts. They got lazy. I was impressed with the first thirty minutes where they let most of the Japanese characters make exclamations and tell their tales in Japanese, no dubbing or subtitles needed. But then, when the main characters start getting introduced, we start to see the infamous dub work. Silliness. Especially in scenes where unimportant characters speak in Japanese and our heroes in English.

The worst part is the Raymond Burr stuff. I actually want to go see the real version of this film. Burr added nothing. Not his fault, because he was added to the project after it was done, but still terrible. Most of his acting has him playing opposite doubles who are obviously not the real characters, or turning left to look at something off screen which doesn’t feel like it exists in the same world he is in. It says a lot about how Hollywood sees America when they didn’t feel they could just release a big Japanese monster movie, but instead had to Anglicize it.

There are references to Godzilla being created by nuclear testing. And from my research, the original film mentioned Hiroshima and Nagasaki though the American version, for reasons I understand even if I don’t agree with them, eliminated much of this. This film was made in a Japan less than a decade removed from the dropping of the bombs. The cultural fear of those events are all over this movie. Even in an Americanized version, we can see the parallels of a monster coming from the ocean and raining destruction on major Japanese centers. In America we love to destroy our landmarks in film, but there was certainly a different ring to it for several years after 9/11. I imagine this film was nominated for the Best Picture at the Japanese Academy Awards because, despite its inherent silliness, it still struck a chord with people trying to cope with the destruction of the atomic bombs.

Oh and I have to point out, though this is a spoiler if you care, how funny it is that they kill Godzilla by getting him in water and deploying a mysterious device which ‘removes the oxygen from the water’ thereby turning him into a skeleton. Science what?

Oh part 2… How did Godzilla end up becoming a hero after DESTROYING all of Tokyo and killing thousands of people in this film? I guess we have fickle memories.

I can’t say I recommend seeing this, other than for its place in film history. But I saw enough to think that GOJIRA would be worth seeking out.





~ by johnlink00 on June 18, 2011.

One Response to “johnlink ranks GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS! (1956)”

  1. How did he end up becoming a hero? Simple: the badass heel was over with the fans so they turned him face and created bigger heels. 😉

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