World Cinema Wednesday: Godzilla (1954)
It would be easy for me to write a lengthy essay about the circumstances that affected Japan so seriously it ended up creating Gojira (to give him his proper name). Okay, it would take some more time and research, but I would still end up covering ground that has already been well covered, and by better writers than myself. It would also be relatively easy to look upon this film and laugh, albeit with affection, at some of the melodramatic plotting and hokey special effects. But I’m not going to do either of those things.
Instead, as it has been many years since I first saw this movie (and, in fact, I cannot guarantee that I’d only ever previously seen the American rejig – Godzilla, King Of The Monsters!), I am going to take a moment to remind everyone of an oft-forgotten aspect. The fact remains, despite the age and limitations of this film, that the build up to, and initial appearance of, “Big G” is an impressive and unnerving sequence. Admittedly, it becomes easier to see the crudity of the design work later on, but that very first main encounter so unexpectedly brings the monster into rather plain view that most people watching need some extra seconds to process exactly what they’re seeing.
Yet, at the other end of the spectrum, we also have a very human heart beating at the centre of it all. Takashi Shimura is Professor Yamane, the man doing his best to both help his fellow man and also avoid killing a remarkable beast. His daughter is played by Momoko Kochi, and she’s believably attractive to both scientist Daisuke Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata) and Hideto Ogata (Akira Takarada), providing a love triangle that allows for all involved to back up their feelings with actions, be they courageous or cowardly.
The special effects are uneven but effective, remaining impressive today thanks to a mix of inventiveness and charm, and the scale of the destruction is established right from the off, although it would grow and grow throughout this enduring movie series, making this yet another classic that has remained a classic for good reason. It has an intelligence to it, an interesting mix of characters desperate to weigh up a situation before immediately looking to solve things with more detruction, and a giant monster laying waste to cityscapes. What’s not to love?
DIRECTOR: ISHIRO HONDA
WRITER: ISHIRO HONDA, TAKEO MURATA (STORY BY SHIGERU KAYAMA)
STARS: AKIRA TAKARADA, TAKASHI SHIMURA, MOMOKO KOCHI, AKIHIKO HIRATA
RUNTIME: 96 MINS APPROX