TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: GODZILLA (1954)

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GODZILLA (GOJIRA) (1954)

This is a review of the uncut Japanese version without the U.S. release inserts with Raymond Burr…

Godzilla is a film classic and sits along with the original King Kong as one of the greatest giant monster flicks of all time and introduced us to one of the most famous characters and names in pop culture history. Whether you like these movies or not, most of the civilized world has, at least, heard of Godzilla. Most people associate him with the goofy monster fests that he appeared in later in his career, but more serious fans know that the original film uses the creature as a metaphor for the atomic bomb and the horror and death it caused when unleashed on Japan during WWII and was devoid of the campy-ness and goofy humor later entries in the series would have.

The story finds a series of ship disappearances in an area off the Japanese coast that is causing much mystery and concern. What few survivors are found report of the sea ‘exploding’ and catching fire. The people of the remote fishing village of Odo Island say the cause is a gigantic creature of legend known as “Godzilla”. Paleontologist Dr. Yamane (Takashi Shimura) is dispatched to the island and makes the horrifying discovery that not only does this legendary creature exist, but it is highly radioactive. Yamane theorizes that this species of prehistoric creature has been living peacefully in deep sea caverns in the Pacific and that it has been irradiated and it’s habitat destroyed by H-Bomb testing. Now this creature is loosed upon the world and sees Japan as it’s new hunting ground. Efforts to destroy the creature at sea prove futile and soon it wades ashore and lays waste to the great city of Tokyo causing untold damage and death in it’s radioactive wake. But there is hope. A Dr. Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata) has created a weapon that destroys oxygen and it could be the key to ending both the destruction and Godzilla’s reign of terror, but only if he agrees to use it, something he is reluctant to do.

Under the skilled direction of the legendary Ishirō Honda from his script with Takeo Murata…from a story by Shigeru Kayama…Godzilla is a dead serious and sometimes very grim allegory of the horrors of the atomic bomb, horrors the people of Japan know all too well. The film starts off with Honda slowly building the mystery and tension and doesn’t give us our first quick glimpse of Godzilla till almost a half hour in and once we know what we’re in for, it is almost an hour before Godzilla launches his devastating attack on Tokyo which, unlike future installments, is not a fun city stomping romp, but an act of destruction where we are treated to horrifying images of death and those trapped in the creatures path or, victims of it’s radioactive fallout. It is a somber and heart wrenching sequence and meant to illustrate what Japan went through when the U.S. used the atomic bomb in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. And Honda pulls no punches and shows us from a perspective of the embattled citizens what the horrors of such an event have on the innocent. His Godzilla here is no cute superhero or even anti-hero, he is a destructive force and one that causes horrific carnage, a true symbol of man’s irresponsible meddling with destructive power and the effect it has on those it’s used on. The black and white cinematography by Masao Tamai creates stark and powerful imagery especially when the camera movies through the destruction caused by the behemoth and it really gives the film such rich atmosphere to accent Honda’s taunt direction. The SPFX rendering Godzilla and his wrath are well executed by legendary FX master Eiji Tsuburaya and while they may be primitive by today’s CGI standards, they are very effective for the time in presenting the beast’s power and the grim results of his attacks. The film would also mark suit-mation actor Haruo Nakajima’s first portrayal of Godzilla, a role he would play till the last Showa (original series) Godzilla film Terror Of Mechagodzilla in 1975. And wrapping it all together is Akira Ifukube’s brilliant and moody score which would become Godzilla’s trademark theme till this day.

Honda had a good cast and when watched in the original Japanese with subtitles, without the sub-standard dubbing, we get some very good performances from actors who treat the material with the seriousness and respect it deserved. Shimura’s Yamane is a humble man of science who sees the lesson to be learned in Godzilla and despite his destructiveness, thinks he should be studied not destroyed. Momoko Kochi gives a strong emotion-filled performance as Yamane’s daughter, Emiko who is engaged to Serizawa, but falls in love with shipping company owner Ogata (Akira Takarada) and gets caught between those two men. Akihiko Hirata gives a simmering portrayal of Dr. Serizawa, a reclusive but brilliant scientist who has created a weapon with the destructive potential of the H-Bomb and knowing that, refuses to use it even to save his country. And as the man who steals Emiko’s heart, Akira Takarada is effective as Ogata, a working man who rises to hero status when his loved ones and country are in danger. Having lost many ships to Godzilla’s attacks, Ogata tries to convince Dr. Serizawa to change his mind and save his country and people. And as the title creature, Nakajima gives the beast a serpentine menace and an aura of great power. Had his work inside the suit not been effective, the film would not have worked and we wouldn’t still be seeing Godzilla films decades later. A solid cast who give strong performances and are sadly not given the credit they deserve due to being judged by ineffective dubbing which does not honor their work.

Not only is this one of the greatest monster films of all time, it is a great film period. The horrors of war and the devastation of the atomic bomb metaphorically portrayed by the attack of a creature created by meddling with nature and powers best left alone. The film is entertaining, yet also humbling as it never shies away from the result of such overpowering destructive force personified by one of film’s most iconic and famous characters. If he didn’t directly cause death and destruction, his radioactivity did. Something that would be lost in future films. Godzilla would slowly become a monster bashing superhero and sometimes, depending on the era and film, an anti-hero who we still cheer, despite him not being a good guy. But in his first movie, Godzilla was a horror and a devastating one at that and his first feature was a grim story of the negative aspects of science when it’s applications are used to destroy not improve life. And it is a message that is still completely resonant today. A true classic unfairly judged by the sillier films that came later on.

MONSTERZERO N.J. TRIVIA: Godzilla, or more appropriately, Gojira’s name comes from a combination of the Japanese words ‘gorira’ meaning gorilla and ‘kujira’ meaning whale. There are tales that it was a nickname taken from a large and strong Toho Studios employee, but it has never been confirmed and may only be an urban legend. While the Godzilla in future films is acknowledged to be another irradiated animal of the same species, I have an interesting theory…SPOILERS…When Dr. Serizawa demonstrates the oxygen destroyer to Emiko on a fish tank, the fish all dissolve. But when Serizawa is convinced to use the weapon on Godzilla by Emiko and Ogata later on, Honda pans over to a fish tank now filled with fish. Were they replaced?…or was he trying to tell us the effects of Serizawa’s weapon were only temporarily and Godzilla would return? Whatever the answer, Godzilla is now in his 60th year and about to return in a new big budget production. Whether this was the intention or not…Godzilla is a legendary film icon that, like in his films, continues to live on and become known to each new generation.

MONSTERZERO N.J. PERSONAL TRIVIA:  I had the wonderful opportunity in 1994 to meet Godzilla himself, Haruo Nakajima and my signed 40th anniversary edition laserdisc box set of the original 1954 Gojira is one of my most treasured possessions.

4 Godzillas.

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COOL GODZILLA ‘MAKING OF’ FEATURETTE FROM ASIA!

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This making of featurette for Legendary’s Godzilla arrives from Asia but, if you want to see Godzilla with it’s mystery intact you may want to watch this after you’ve seen it!

source: CBM/Youtube

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: GODZILLA vs. KING GHIDORAH and GODZILLA vs. MECHAGODZILLA

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My Godzilla retrospect continues with this week’s double feature putting together two of my favorite of the 90s Hensei Godzilla series. Although the enjoyable Godzilla vs. Mothra comes before our second feature chronologically, I paired these two because Mechagodzilla is a direct sequel with technology from the Mecha-King Ghidorah used to construct the Mechagodzilla robot and, obviously, they both feature Godzilla battling a mechanized opponent…

 

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GODZILLA vs. KING GHIDORAH  (1991)

This might be my favorite of the 90s Hensei Godzilla series. Kazuki Omori returned to write and direct and once again he takes the traditional elements and goes outside the box with them. Sure the plot borrows very heavily from The Terminator, but like Godzilla vs. Biollante that preceded it, Omori shakes things up a bit like showing us Godzilla in dinosaur form for the first time and pimping-out the classic King Ghidorah as a cyborg for the epic battle finale. The story has a strange ship appearing over Japan. It is revealed that it is a time machine carrying three emissaries (Chuck Wilson, Richard Berger and Anna Nakagawa) from the future who claim to be from the 23rd century. They also come with dire news that in the future Godzilla will destroy Japan utterly and they have come to change that. Their plan is to go back to 1944 where Japanese troops claim to have seen a dinosaur on a pacific island, that they are certain would become Godzilla ten years later during the hydrogen bomb tests there. With Godzilla researcher Terasawa (Kosuke Toyohara), Professor Mazaki (Katsuhiko Sasaki) and psychic Miki Seagusa (Megumi Odaka) they go back in time and accomplish their mission. But modern day Japan has been deceived. The emissaries from the 23rd century have removed the Godzillasaurus, but replaced it with three of their own creatures who fuse together into the mighty King Ghidorah when the hydrogen bomb hits. Their plan is not to save Japan, but to use the three headed dragon under their control to destroy it, to keep it from becoming the ruling nation in the future. But the futurians have miscalculated in two areas. One, their own Emmy (Nakagawa) is Japanese and rebels when realizing the true depth of their wicked plan…and the other, that fate sometimes will have it’s way regardless and Godzilla is created anyway and by more powerful, modern nuclear energy. The new Godzilla is larger, stronger and far more vicious and it has two objectives in mind…lay waste to Japan and destroy King Ghidorah, who is trespassing on his turf.

Back in the day, G vs. KG caused some controversy here in the States as it was viewed as anti-American with it’s scene of the Godzillasaurus slaughtering a platoon of American troops in the 1944 set sequence, but sparing the entrenched Japanese soldiers…and the fact that two of the three futurians are Westerners out to destroy Japan. Personally, I think the most offensive thing the film contains is a really awful Steven Spielberg reference which is meant to be funny. Omori shows some growth as a director here with the film having some fun scenes and some very intense monster battles, his direction seems more relaxed on his sophomore film. There is still a little sloppiness here and there, but that also could be a result of an ambitious script and a low budget. He has a lot of fun with his Terminator borrowed story and the movie is a lot more energetic than Biollante. The two main battles between Godzilla and his triple-headed opponent are some of the best Godzilla battles in this modern series with some real intensity as Godzilla first fights the villainous Ghidorah as an anti-hero, then Omori cleverly switches the sides as Godzilla starts to destroy Japan and Emmy reconstructs King Ghidorah as a mechanized cyborg in the future and returns to 1992 Japan to stop Godzilla, who is now become the villain. It’s a fun switcheroo and Kawakita’s excellent (for these kind of films anyway) model and visual FX well represent the destruction and carnage. The cast are also much livelier and better directed this time especially American actor Robert Scott Field who appears to be having a blast as Android M-11, who Emmy reprograms to be an ally when she turns on her comrades. Another reason to love this movie is classic Godzilla composer Akira Ifukube returned to do the score after a 16 years absence and his work is as powerful as ever.

Cyborgs, robots, douche bags from the future, time travel, bad Steven Spielberg puns, some well orchestrated wholesale destruction and two epic monster throw-downs…what more could you want from a Godzilla flick? Sure it has flaws, Godzilla takes almost an hour to show up, the plot, with it’s time travel elements, is even more far-fetched than usual, but this is a series about a giant radioactive monster, so the ludicrous ship sailed a long time ago. It’s a lot of fun and was refreshingly bold in toying with the series conventions and adding some new twists, even if they were borrowed from other movies. It gave us one of the most powerful and cool looking Godzilla incarnations in the entire series and gave him not one but two knock-down drag-out fights with what might be his greatest opponent…And Anna Nakagawa was totally adorable and crush-worthy. One of my all-time favorites and a lot of fun.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 Godzillas.

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GODZILLA vs. MECHAGODZILLA (1993)

This, Godzilla’s 20th adventure seems to skip over the events of the more fantasy oriented Godzilla vs. Mothra and opens with scientists examining the mechanical head of the Mecha-King Ghidorah from Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah and using the future technology to make anti-Godzilla weaponry. One, a flying battleship called the Garuda and the other, a robotic replica of Godzilla himself loaded with weapons and protected by diamond encrusted armor. The plan is simple…next time Godzilla attacks, destroy him. And that time may come soon as the discovery of an infant Godzilla on a remote island is certain to lure the adult into a trap, but the appearance of a giant Pteranodon dubbed Rodan, may complicate things somewhat as it seems to have adopted the baby Godzilla as it’s own. Can Japan survive if Rodan, Godzilla and Mechagodzilla meet to fight it out at the same time?

Written by Wataru Mimura and directed by Godzilla vs. Mothra director Takao Okawara, this entry’s plot is less convoluted and the style more down to earth than when Omori wrote and directed. While I liked Omori for thinking outside the Godzilla box, Okawara is more traditional in his approach and that is fine too. The film is filled with action and has some of the biggest battles and destruction scenes in the series. Except for some of the Rodan effects, Kawakita and crew are at the top of their game as Godzilla and his mechanical double go head to head in the middle of a large city .The destruction is on a massive scale, but Okawara doesn’t forget his numerous characters who are caught in the middle. The film goes back to a slightly more serious tone after the lighter Mothra, but not quite as somber or dire as King Ghidorah or Biollante. I wasn’t all that happy with them adding Baby Godzilla to the mix. I always disliked the character and the Disney-ish silliness it brought to the series, but his design is less cartoon-ish (thought that would sadly change in the next film, Spacegodzilla) and it is handled as best it could, considering. Rodan is also a slight disappointment as he seems a bit too small to be considered a worthy opponent to either Godzilla or Mechagodzilla, but he holds his own when facing both and does have character. Mechagodzilla has the least interesting design in the character’s history, but makes up for it with some real destructive firepower and some truly spectacular battle scenes with Godzilla and Rodan. Again the FX are quite impressive here for this kind of movie. The human cast is fine and seem to be having fun with the material, though they treat it with respect and none go over the top. Psychic cutie Miki Seagusa (Megumi Odaka) returns for her third go around and Masahiro Takashima makes a likable hero in pilot Kazuma Aoki. Kenpachiro Satsuma appears for the fifth time as Godzilla and does another great job making him fierce and formidable. Akira Ifukube agains scores and it is one of his best in the 40 years he has been associated with the series. But it is the epic battles that really fuel this fun time and the film has a lot more Godzilla then the last three flicks, as it should be.

Overall, this is one action packed flick and it’s flaws can be overlooked by the sheer spectacle of the battles and the top notch SPFX that they are realized with. Okawara gives the film a somewhat faster pace, too and it helps that Godzilla shows up early and only disappears for short periods of time before returning and causing more carnage. I love that he is still an anti-hero here and despite the fact that Mechagodzilla is being piloted on the side of good…though he does represent man’s arrogance…we still want to see Godzilla make junk out of him. A fun and very action heavy installment in the 90s series.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 Godzillas.

godzilla 3 and 1-2 rating

 

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IT CAME FROM ASIAN CINEMA: GODZILLA vs. BIOLLANTE (1989)

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GODZILLA vs. BIOLLANTE (1989)

With Legendary’s reboot on the horizon, I thought I’d try to take a look back at some of my favorites over the years. Godzilla vs. Biollante, along with Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster, ranks as one of the more original and stranger Godzilla films in the series. The film takes place 5 years after The Return Of Godzilla (known as Godzilla 1985 here in the U.S.) and has the Big G still trapped within the sealed volcano at Mt. Mihara and being monitored by the military who know he is alive inside. Meanwhile a Dr. Shiragami (Koji Takahashi) has been doing work with plant cells and not only creates Anti-Nuclear Bacteria, which can neutralize nuclear energy…don’t ask…but also creates a hybrid creature using Godzilla cells, plant cells and human DNA from his dead daughter…again, don’t ask. When a sinister corporation decides to get it’s hands on the A.N.B., they hold Japan ransom by planting explosives atop Mt. Mihara threatening to release Godzilla unless it’s turned over to their thugs. Things go awry when a mysterious agent from the (fictional) Middle Eastern country of Saradia turns up also seeking the A.N.B. and Godzilla is released upon Japan to resume his destructive reign of terror. Even the Japanese Self-Defense Force with all it’s military hardware is helpless to stop the radioactive juggernaut. But Shiragami’s mutated experiment has grown to massive size and ‘Biollante’ now calls to Godzilla to set the stage for a showdown between mutant monsters that may leave nothing and no one standing.

I like Biollante, it goes places and adds elements that previous series entries haven’t, but still provides what fans love about these movies. And that was the idea, as the story, by Shinchiro Kobayashi, was picked from many submitted during a contest held by Toho for new plot ideas for this classic series. The screenplay is by Kazuki Omori, who also directed with a darker tone than most entries, despite the far-fetched story and also gave the film some nice atmosphere and a different visual style than G fans where used to. Though the atmosphere could have been even better with a livelier score as Koichi Sugiyama’s score is adequate at best. We had a new and unique foe for Godzilla in Biollante (named after a Norse plant spirit according to Shiragami, but apparently there is no such name in Norse mythology) who changes form, so it almost is like there are multiple creatures. We also get corporate espionage, sinister spies from fictional Middle Eastern countries, DNA experiments and psychic girl Miki Saegusa (Megumi Odaka) who would become a regular in the 90s (Hensei) Godzilla series. The SPFX are quite good by Kohichi Kawakita and crew. He would provide some really impressive FX for this series and for all the Hensei features, up to and including Destroyah and the city destruction and military battles are really well orchestrated here under his guidance. Kenpachiro Satsuma would play Godzilla again from the previous film and would become a worthy successor to the legendary Haruo Nakajima, giving Godzilla a real presence of power and menace throughout the Hensei series installments. The Godzilla design makes him look quite vicious and powerful and the suit is of far better quality then seen before. Thankfully gone are the big ping pong ball eyes instead he has smaller reptilian eyes and a mouth full of lethal looking fangs. His dorsal fins actually light up from inside when he blasts his radioactive fire, making it look far more impressive then the basic animation of previous entries. I also liked that Godzilla is not a good guy here and would remain a menace in these later films who would only battle an adversary to defend his turf. A true anti-hero. He wouldn’t be seen as more of a hero till the series finale (for now) Godzilla Final Wars in 2004.

Sure there is some silly stuff and the plot is nonsensical at times, but there is a lot of action, the battles and monster suits are impressive and it is one of the fresher entries in this long running series. The film brought some new ideas and was the first film to examine the notion that Godzilla’s DNA might have some value or power as the key to his almost invincible ability to regenerate himself. We also got one of his most original and unique opponents and a refreshingly different directing style from Omori. And with all that, it’s still a traditional Godzilla film through and through. A fresh and fun installment in this beloved movie series. Godzilla and the inventive and original touch of writer/director Kazuki Omori would return in 1991 with one of my all time favorites of the modern installments, Godzilla vs King Ghidorah along with the legendary Akira Ifukube on scoring duties.

3 rampaging Godzillas.

godzilla vs biollante rating

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EMPIRE MAGAZINE GIVES US THE BEST LOOK AT THE NEW GODZILLA YET!

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Empire magazine gives us our best look yet at the new Godzilla design from Gareth Edwards upcoming monster mash which opens on May 16th 2014! High hopes a new trailer will arrive soon!

UPDATE: Click on this link to hear the new version of his classic  roar…  https://soundcloud.com/godzillamovie/roar

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UPDATE 2: The voice of Bryan Cranston hints at a possible new trailer tomorrow…

Source: CBM/Empireonline.com

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BARE BONES: GODZILLA STOMPS AND MACHETE KILLS

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A new Godzilla poster has been revealed and while I’m sure Godzilla’s size has been exaggerated for the sake of dramatic impact… not sure why this is even an issue on the internet but, apparently it is… the poster is still very cool and achieves the desired effect…

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MACHETE KILLS (2013)

While I was not a fan of the first Machete film, which played exactly like what it was, a faux movie trailer dragged painfully out to feature length, at least this second installment, which has Machete (Danny Trejo) avenging his lover’s death and chasing down a crazed Mexican revolutionary (Demián Bichir) with a nuclear missile aimed at Washington D.C., is so goofy that it makes you grin in spite of how stupid and sloppy it all is… and I’ve always felt Rodriguez was and is a very sloppy filmmaker despite all his years making movies. And the heavy political commentary once again gets in the way of the entertainment and I’m sorry but, I don’t agree with the film’s philosophy that it’s America’s job to fix Mexico’s woes… we can’t even fix our own. A mildly amusing film from an overrated filmmaker whose Machete films would be better off if he kept his politics in his pants and stuck to the fun. Also stars Mel Gibson as the pontificating villain, Voz, Amber Heard, Sofia Vergara and Charlie Sheen billed under his real name of Carlos Estevez as the president of the U.S. Still cool to see fan favorite Danny Trejo get a starring role.

2 and 1-2 star rating


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