Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Godzilla (1954) (5 Stars)

That's a big poster for a big monster!

Yesterday I noticed that Amazon Prime contains 12 of the 29 Japanese Godzilla films. I immediately decided to watch some or all of them, beginning with the original 1954 film. I'm not sure whether I've watched it before or not. I know I watched a few black and white Godzilla films on television when I was young, but I don't know which ones. All I can remember is a big monster knocking building over while people ran away screaming.

This is a classic. I loved it from the very beginning. As well as the big monster knocking over buildings it has a love triangle and a clear anti-war message. Don't forget that the film was made in 1954, only nine years after Japan was pounded by two atomic bombs, so the Second World War was omnipresent in Japanese minds.

The film starts with a freighter being mysteriously sunk near Odo Island, Japan. A naval ship sent to investigate is also destroyed. Soon a giant dinosaur-like monster is seen wading onto the island and trampling local houses. The local villagers call it Godzilla (Gojira in Japanese), based on a creature in old folk legends, but it's probably not the same creature. It's a creature that lives on the sea bed, feeding on fish, but the water has been polluted by radiation from the atomic bombs, so he has to come to the surface to feed. Supposedly Godzilla is feeding. We never see him eating anything, he just walks around at random trampling buildings flat. He only comes to the surface at night because he doesn't like the daylight.

I don't know how close Odo Island is to mainland Japan because it's a fictional island. Godzilla soon finds his way to Tokyo. I've been told that famous Tokyo landmarks of the 1950's are among the buildings that he destroys.

I assume the film was intended to be a one-off, because at the end of the film Godzilla is destroyed. Oops, is that a spoiler? And yet 28 sequels were made in Japan, plus six (possibly alternate universe) films in America. Maybe it was a different Godzilla? I'll have to watch the first sequel soon, made in 1955, to see what the explanation is.

The film has been remastered for Blu-ray, but obviously Amazon Prime only hosts the old version. The picture is fuzzy throughout, but it didn't spoil my enjoyment of the wonderful film.

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