Is anybody else a fan of daikaiju (giant monster) movies? This would include movies such as “Godzilla”/“Gojira”, “Gamera”, “Mothra”, “War of the Gargantuans”, etc.
I highly recommend that everyone, daikaiju fan or not, see the original version of “Gojira” (The version without Raymond Burr) in all of its subtitled glory. Unlike the Godzilla movies of the 60’s and 70’s (and, to a lesser extant, unlike the one from the 80’s on), the original “Gojira” (“Godzilla”) has a lot more going for it than the simple amusement of men in rubber suits destroying model cities, while wrestling with each other. Akira Ifukube’s legendary score is one of the most recognizable soundtracks in film and ranges from the propagandistic Japanese Army theme to the more somber Godzilla theme. “Gojira” is full of references to events of the time, including: the (then recent) tragedy of the Lucky Dragon fishing boat getting accidentally caught in American nuclear tests, the recently demilitarized Japan was also given a situation in which it could have a strong army, and the movie even captures/caricatures the typical attitude of postwar conservatives in the Japanese parliament (deny, deny, deny). The character of Dr. Serizawa, and his struggle to ensure that his discovery, the oxygen destroyer (a weapon far more devastating than nuclear weapons), remains a secret and is never to be used by ANY military, including Japan’s; this is in contrast to Americans deliberately using nuclear bombs on Japan. The monster, himself (Gojira), is of course a living representation of nuclear weapons, and Director Ishir? Honda’s expertly crafted scenes of the survivors of Gojira’s devastating attacks could be mistaken for video footage of the survivors of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (which had occurred less than a decade prior to the release of the film). Many Japanese theater owners at the time reported widespread crying among theater goers following the conclusion of the film. The film is moving, in a way that no other daikaiju film is. Make no mistake, “Gojira” is one of the all time greats of cinema, regardless of genre. Put simply, it is a cinematic masterpiece.
The movie did so well subtitled in American Japanese theaters, that it was eventually licensed and brought over after heavy editing (approximately 1/3-1/2 of the original film, mostly the anti-American and deeper content, was cut out and replaced by inferior, American made footage, which turned the film classic “Gojira” into a regular monster b-movie); “Godzilla, King of the Monsters” (the bastardized version of “Gojira” released in America and elsewhere) is a very different movie from “Gojira” in many respects. Nevertheless, the existence of “Godzilla, King of the Monsters” made “Gorjira” into one of the oldest examples of a non-American film (and, quite possibly, THE oldest Japanese film) to find worldwide success. It would take 50 years until the unedited, Raymond Burr-less, original version of “Gojira” was made available to own in North America.
There have been a total of 28 Japanese made Godzilla films and 1 American Zilla/GINO (Godzilla In Name Only) movie, while another, unrelated, American made Godzilla film is due in 2012 (with both a Godzilla that looks and acts like Godzilla, and Godzilla vs Hedorah’s director as a creative consultant) and (assuming Toho doesn’t change its plans) an additional Japanese made film is due for his 60th anniversary in 2014 (Godzilla is the longest running film series to date; no, movies with endless remakes, such as King Kong, do not count; James Bond is the second longest film series, to the best of my knowledge). The later Godzilla/Gojira movies are popcorn flicks for the most part, ranging from truly horrible crap aimed solely at children (ahem Godzilla’s Revenge) to decent kids’ movies (“Son of Godzilla”, “Destroy All Monsters”) to entertaining sci-fi films appealing to young and old alike (the Heisei series which ran from 1984’s “Return of Godzilla” [edited/butchered into “Godzilla 1985” for its American release] to 1995’s “Godzilla vs Destroyah”) to great movies, which are not quite “Gojira” great (2001’s “Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah”). Basically, what I’m getting at is that somewhere in Godzilla’s collection of films is something for everyone. My advice: start with the original “Gojira”. I’ve shown it to people who normally NEVER watch monster movies (or even sci-fi in general), and they’ve even said they thought it was a brilliant movie.
Again, “Gojira” = 5 Zakus/A+/5 stars/10.0/two thumbs up (pick your preferred rating system). The original, unedited “Gojira” is now available on both DVD and Blu-Ray in North America.
Amazon link to original Gojira: http://www.amazon.com/Gojira-Blu-ray-Akira-Takarada/dp/B002C6VMKC/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1303021549&sr=8-8
It’s also available for purchase/to rent from the US iTunes store.