|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!|
|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|
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
|Hideto (far right), in the middle of his big action scene|
|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|