Film (1954 Japan; exp with new footage 1956 US; vt Godzilla, King of the Monsters; vt Godzilla). Toho/Embassy. Directed by Inoshiro Honda. Written by Takeo Murata, Honda, based on a story by Shigeru Kayama. Cast includes Akihiko Hirata, Raymond Burr (US version), Takashi Shimura and Akira Takarada. 98 minutes cut to 81 minutes for US release. Black and white.
This was the first of a long series of Japanese (see Japan) films featuring Gojira (anglicized as Godzilla), a 400ft (120m) amphibious Dinosaur that breathes fire; the name is a portmanteau word from "gorilla" and "kujira" ["whale"]. The film was bought by a US company which released it internationally in 1956 as Godzilla, King of the Monsters (vt Godzilla), replacing segments featuring a Japanese reporter by footage starring Raymond Burr. This first Gojira film was basically a conventional Monster Movie (nuclear radiation revives a prehistoric monster in the Pacific Ocean and it proceeds to devastate Tokyo), but over the years the sequels have become increasingly esoteric, not to say silly. Originally Toho Studio's special effects (supervised until his death in 1970 by Eiji Tsuburaya) for the Gojira series were fairly impressive, but they became more perfunctory. Unlike Willis H O'Brien's and Ray Harryhausen's monsters – achieved with stop-motion animation of puppets – Gojira was created using either a man in a suit or small mechanized models.
Between Gojira and Gojira 1985 (1985) there were 14 other Gojira films: Gigantis (1955; vt Gojira no Gyakushu) released in English as Gigantis the Fire Monster (1959; vt Godzilla Raids Again; vt The Return of Godzilla), with the monster's name changed; King Kong Tai Gojira (1962), released in English as King Kong vs. Godzilla, very successful financially; Mosura Tai Gojira (1964; vt Gojira Tai Mothra), released in English as Godzilla vs. The Thing (vt Godzilla vs. Mothra), featuring the likeable giant moth from Mosura (1961) and thought by some to be the best of the series; Kaiju Daisenso (1965), released in English as Invasion of Astro-Monster (vt Battle of the Astros; vt Monster Zero; vt Invasion of Planet X), in which Gojira and Radon for the first time are weapons of rather than threateners of Earth; Ghidorah Sandai Kaiju Chikyu Saidai no Kessan (1965; vt Chikyu Saidai no Kessan), released in English as Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster, in which Gojira, Radon and Mosura defend Earth from the nastiest of Toho's monsters, previously introduced in Kaiju Daisenso; Nankai no Daiketto (1966), directed by Jun Fukuda, released in English as Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (vt Godzilla vs. the Sea-Monster), in which giant crab Ebirah is defeated, the first of the series not to be directed by Honda; Gojira No Musuko (1967), directed by Fukuda, released in English as Son of Godzilla, a comical children's film; Kaiju Soshingeki (1968), directed by Honda, released in English as Destroy All Monsters (vt Operation Monsterland; vt The March of the Monsters), in which all eleven Toho monsters to date are feebly on display, their target now being New York; Oru Kaiju Daishingeki (1969), directed by Honda, released in English as Godzilla's Revenge, too much a rerun of old footage; Gojira Tai Hedora (1971), directed by Yoshimitsu Banno, released in English as Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster (vt Godzilla Versus Hedora), in which the emphasis changes from anti-nuclear-weaponry-and-radiation to anti-pollution, and Gojira has become an undignified, friendly buffoon; Gojira Tai Gaigan (1972), directed by Fukuda, released in English as War of the Monsters (vt Godzilla on Monster Island), in which pollution-ridden aliens try to take over Earth; Gojira Tai Megaron (1973), directed by Fukuda, released in English as Godzilla vs. Megalon, in which Megalon is a giant cockroach; Gojira Tai Mekagojira (1974), directed by Fukuda, released in English as Godzilla vs. the Bionic Monster (vt Godzilla vs. the Cosmic Monster), in which Gojira battles his alien-controlled cyborg double; Mekagojira no Gyakushu (1975), directed by Honda to celebrate Gojira's twentieth birthday, released in English as Terror of Mechagodzilla (vt The Escape of Megagodzilla; vt Monsters from the Unknown Planet), a partial return to form, in which aliens again use bad monsters in an invasion of Earth fought off by good monsters. [PN]
see also: Cinema; Comics; Great and Small.
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