Godzilla, King of the Monsters 1956
This review is for the 1956 American release “Godzilla, King of the Monsters.” The original 1954 Japanese movie, Gojira, was directed by Ishirô Honda and for the American version scenes with Raymond Burr as reporter Steve Martin were directed by Terry O. Morse. This is the movie that started it all. In this movie Godzilla is seen as a force of nature created by man as a result of the nuclear bombs used and tested by mankind. The film is dark and somber with Godzilla’s destruction of Tokyo as the centerpiece. The story also contains a love triangle (played down in the US release) between Emiko, daughter of prominent paleontologist Dr. Yamane, and Naval officer Ogata and Dr. Serizawa who was also Steve Martin’s friend in college. Emiko was engage to Dr. Serizawa but has broken off the engagement as Dr. Serizawa has become a recluse working on his oxygen destroyer device. Dr. Serizawa doesn’t want his device to fall into the wrong hands but is persuaded to use it in an effort to defeat Godzilla. After agreeing to using the device Dr. Serizawa burns all of his notes and in destroying Godzilla sacrifices himself to ensure the secret of his device will die with him.
I really enjoy this movie and although some of the special effects have not held up well Godzilla himself still looks pretty good. I like the dark and serious tone the movie has and in most cases will never have again later in the franchise. In this film Godzilla is a mysterious force of nature, an explosion of fury and rage whose sole motivation is destruction. I have seen both the original Japanese version and the American version. I really cannot decide which is better due to the fact that my familiarity with the American version has lead me to prefer that version. I believe Terry O. Morse did an excellent job seamlessly interweaving the original Japanese film with the scenes starring Raymond Burr. I am one who feels that his narrative to the film adds gravitas and a sense of despair and urgency.
Because of the serious nature of the film it often feels disconnected to the other films in the Godzilla franchise. As the series moved along Godzilla became campy and directed toward children. Even when Godzilla returned to more serious tones in the 1980s and beyond there was still a lightheartedness to the films and the franchise would never reach the solemn nature of the first film. My rating for this film, both the Japanese and American versions is: A+