Godzilla (1954) - Ishirō Honda

Rating: 72/100

Director: Ishirô Honda
Writers: Takeo Murata, Ishirô Honda
Stars: Takashi Shimura, Akihiko Hirata, Akira Takarada
Country: Japan
Release Date: 3 November 1954
Budget: $175,000
Production Co: Toho Film


Godzilla is a Japanese science fiction, giant monster movie from 1954. Directed by Ishirō Honda and produced by Toho Pictures. This film is the original feature in this long and prestigious series. I am watching the original ゴジラ 1954 Criterion Collection version. There is also the standard Japanese release Gojira and an American release, Godzilla: King of the Monsters (1956) that spliced in scenes with Raymond Burr to narrate a wholly different screenplay. That latter movie will be getting an article of its own.

A giant creature had been awakened and is attacking Japan. It comes from the sea, mutated from hydrogen bomb tests, it’s an angry massive monster that can knock over buildings and shrug off artillery fire. Did I mention that it can breathe fire? It’s atomic breath can melt metal and dress entire towns in flame. Godzilla has tremendous amounts of dangerous power and needs to be dealt with. But just how do you actually deal with a threat of this proportion? How do you deal with Godzilla?

The effects are so good for the time. I loved the miniatures used. There was so much detail. The destruction is the main draw of the picture. Godzilla’s atomic breath was conveyed as scorching hot even in black and white. It was cool seeing the steel power line towers melting down into rubble.

Godzilla is a far more serious film than I had expected. I understood that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki played a heavy role, having only taken place less than ten years prior. However, I guess I foolishly expected a lot more things like aliens and giant three-headed dragons. What I did receive was a picture that puts heavy emphasis on the reality of dealing with a 50 meter monster destroying your city. Good acting, a fine story and a great soundtrack are films best features. That and the scenes of massive destruction.