The first in our new series by Mikey Burgett about movies you might have missed out on!
Welcome to the first in a series of articles on films that you may or may not have seen but you should check out. These films may be foreign films that didn’t get a lot of press or publicity stateside or they may be older films that for some reason or another you just haven’t seen. In this series, we will spotlight some of these films and hopefully give you some options to check out on Netflix or Amazon when you’re looking for something to watch.
The first movie to be spotlighted is the 1954 Japanese film Gojira. Many have seen the 1956 “American” version of this film Godzilla, King of the Monsters! starring Raymond Burr. Yes, this is the first Godzilla film. However, for decades the version featuring Burr as reporter (not comedian) Steve Martin was the version that was seen in the U.S. Millions of Americans grew up thinking this was the first film featuring the monster that would spawn multiple sequels & become a global phenomenon that would span nearly 60 years. But it was Gojira which saw the monster first leave his mark on Tokyo.
The film itself is interesting and tied in many ways to the time period that the film was made. Japan was less than a decade out from the end of World War II. The atomic age was in full swing and the country was still recovering from the impact of the atomic bombs dropped on their country. Out of that came a movie that in many ways was less a “monster” movie (though it does have a prominent one in it) and more of a serious movie that showed the horrors of what science could unleash if left unchecked.
There are many differences between the Japanese version and the American version. The Japanese version is longer (95 minutes as opposed to 80 minutes). It is also told in a more linear fashion while the American version tells much of the story in flashback through the eyes of Martin. Much of the undertones of the threat of atomic testing is found in the Japanese version but mostly cut out of the American version. There are other differences as well but you need to watch both films to see for yourself.
The heart of the film is the same, Gojira is awoken due to testing of atomic bombs off the coast of Japan. He then trashes boats that come by his lair off the coast of Odo Island and later makes an appearance at the island before heading towards Tokyo. The people are unable to stop Gojira and it takes the help of an initially unwilling scientist to stop the monster.
Gojira is available on Blu-Ray & DVD (as part of the Criterion Collection after previously being released by Classic Media). I would highly recommend getting it and adding it to your film collection. Fair warning, there is no English dubbing with this film but there are English subtitles. There is an English audio commentary that gives great insight into the film. After you’ve watched Gojira, then go back and watch Godzilla, King of the Monsters! and compare the two.
Godzilla is a landmark character in cinema & Gojira is a great starting point to the franchise. It is a great movie you may not have seen, but you should.