Tuesday, September 6, 2011


AIEEE...!!!  I think that's how all references to Godzilla are supposed to be prefaced, right?  When I noticed that my friend, Judas Pato, was reviewing kaiju (AKA giant monster) movies on his site, I realized that I had never seen one.  That means that I have accidentally avoided Gamera, Rodan, Godzilla, and all the Mecha-whatevers that have graced B-movie screens over the past fifty years.  That's just not right.  I asked around, and Judas and Danny O'D recommended the original Gojira as the best place to start with kaijus (because it actually kind of has a story), so that's what I did.  It is important to point out the difference between Gojira and Godzilla, King of Monsters!  GKOM is the American version of the film, which heavily edits the original, dubs in English dialogue, and randomly inserts Raymond Burr (whose character is named "the famous Steve Martin") into the film.  Gojira is the original, uncut film classic.  AIEE!!!
Above: Raymond Burr ironing Godzilla

The scene: night.  The Pacific Ocean.  A Japanese fishing boat is filled with fishermen, who are either fishing, dawdling, or playing guitar.  Suddenly, there is a flash of light.  Then, something else happens.  And then there is more light.  And everybody screams.
Create the scene at home: look at this picture, look away, then scream!
Later, it appears that the ill-fated boat never reached land; rescue boats are sent out, but they also disappear.  This somehow garners intense public attention, so the Japanese government sends some scientists to a nearby island to investigate (missing boats.  On an island).  There, they find giant, radioactive footprints.  Who could leave such huge footprints, and what does that say about the size of his genitalia?  I'll give you a hint: it begins with "AIEEE!!!"
Godzilla loves playing peek-a-boo with hillsides

The monster is named Godzilla (I guess he had a name tag or something).  The leader of the scientific expedition, Dr. Yamane (Takashi Shimura), returns to Tokyo and announces that Godzilla was created (or possibly just awakened...or maybe released...) by a nuclear explosion.  After arguing whether or not to keep a giant dinosaur a secret from the Japanese people, the government publicly acknowledges the existence of Godzilla.  To celebrate this momentous occasion, they try to murder the beast with depth charges, as Godzilla napped in the ocean.  This starts Godzilla's love affair with Tokyo; he opts to visit Tokyo Bay every night for the next few days.  Sometimes he stomps around and knocks stuff over.  Sometimes he just wanders around and returns to the ocean.  But when the Japanese government tries to electrocute the beast with what appears to be standard power lines, that's when shit gets real.
Fun fact: the Godzilla suit required a valve to drain the sweat from it
Godzilla knocks over many toy car and even tries to eat a train (allowing all the passengers to leave first, though).  He also pulls out his secret weapon: Super Breath.  I think it's supposed to be fire breath, but sometimes it's just a strong wind, so I'm not 100% sure on that.  Regardless, what the hell kept him from using this earlier?  Obviously, Japan can't keep taking hits like this from a creature that Mother Nature should have killed off millennia ago.  The solution?  Sigh.  This is going to require some explanation.

As luck would have it, Dr. Yamane's daughter, Emiko (Momoko Kochi) is engaged to a brilliant scientist/pirate, Dr. Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata).  Unfortunately, Emiko wants to break off the engagement to marry Hideto (Akira Takarada), a salvage boat operator.  Thank goodness there is a romantic triangle in my movie about a man wearing rubber lizard suit!  Even better, the main character is the salvage boat operator!  His important position virtually guarantees that he will make an important policy decision/challenge Godzilla in hand-to-claw combat not do anything of consequence in this story.
Hideto (far right), in the middle of his big action scene
The pirate, Serizawa, has created an "Oxygen Destroyer," which could kill the monster; he initially refuses to use it as a weapon, because he created it to do good.  Exactly what "good" could come from something that "splits oxygen molecules into fluids," I don't know.  And the science behind that fluids statement is hurting my brain (it makes compounds from splitting molecules?  Maybe?).  More interesting, though, is the fact that this device was intended for some social benefit, and yet he named it the "Oxygen Destroyer."  That's like creating something intended to help children and naming it the "Baby Smotherer."  Now, you may wonder what happens when oxygen is destroyed; Serizawa was kind enough to test it out for the movie-going audience, and it appears that destroying the oxygen in a fish tank melts the flesh from their bones.  Of course it does.  Is this weapon ultimate enough to defeat Godzilla?  Only time will tell.
Pirate science is awesome

Gojira is not a movie you watch for the acting performances.  I'm not going to waste time criticizing the lackluster work from this cast; they all play second fiddle to a man in a rubber suit --- that should give you an idea of their talent levels.  I found it interesting that Takashi Shimura was in this film; Shimura acted in more movies with Akira Kurosawa than any other actor, so you would think that his filmography would lean a little more toward the artsy side of things than the ridiculous monster side, but I'm not going to criticize the man for having varied tastes.  Even though his character --- who reminds everyone of the dangers of nuclear weapons --- is fairly unnecessary, he still does the best acting in the film.
Yes, that's the idea!  If at first you don't succeed...!

There is another Gojira connection to the legendary Akira Kurosawa; this film's director, Ishiro Honda, was apparently best friends with Kurosawa.  While Honda's career as a director was almost entirely devoted to kaiju movies, he also worked as an assistant director and/or a director's aide on Kurosawa's early and late works.  Don't expect to see any of that influence on display in Gojira, though.  His direction (not to mention his screenplay) is confusing, ill-paced, and the film is comically underacted.  The special effects are not at all impressive, even by the standards of the time; if the tagline to the Christopher Reeve Superman was "You will believe a man can fly," then the tagline for Gojira should have been "You will believe that men can wear rubber suits."  I would rant about the monster's complete lack of motivation in the movie and its apparently short attention span, but No Bulljive already covered that in detail.

Judging Gojira objectively, I would have to say that it is a pretty bad movie.  This is a special effects film with bad special effects; it's difficult to overcome that problem.

Then again, this film can be pretty enjoyable if you approach it with the right mindset (and maybe a few drinks).  If you're in the mood to laugh at ridiculousness, look no further.  The plot and dialogue are hilariously inept, and if you enjoy pointing out logical flaws in a story, you will be kept busy.  That doesn't even cover how amusing it can be to watch Godzilla tearing apart a scale model of Tokyo. 
The chew toy scene was my favorite in the film
And is it just me, or is the fact that the English version of "Gojira" simply assumes that the Japanese word mispronounces its "L"s astonishingly racist?  Sure, it's funny, but damn...!  All in all, I think Gojira is a pretty fun watch, with the right mindset.  I give it a Lefty Gold rating of


  1. oh man that sounds like such a convoluted plot that mega shark sounds plausible in comparison.

    are you going to continue watching this style of movie?

  2. Yeah, this was a pretty ridiculous story. From what I've heard, this is also the clearest story of any kaiju flick.

    While I have no immediate plans to watch more kaiju movies, I think it's pretty safe to say that I will eventually. I'm hoping to pull off an all-horror October, so I'll start looking for Destroy All Monsters or something like that in November.