Monday, October 29, 2012

Godzilla (1954) Buy 12+


How come Godzilla has a Criterion release? Oh well.
             Monster movies from the 1950s onward feel the same to me every time I watch one. They're a) too frightening, b) very annoying, c) too stupid, or d) really, really badly made films. The worst part to me is that they were mainly made to entertain the masses who wanted to have a good scare. Now, I'm not a sourpuss, and sometimes I can be enjoyed by an entertaining low-budget stupid horror film. It would be much better if a monster movie or any kind of film had a message to go along with that wasn't slapped onto it. That theme also has to have a point to be in the story. So, that's why I was surprised by Gojira or Godzilla, a 1954 Japanese monster film that deserves to be in the canon of great complex horror classics such as The Bride Of Frankenstein,  The Haunting,  Misery, and Cat People. The film's not only fun to look at for plain pleasure, but it also has a serious melancholy message of nuclear catastrophe to go along with it. 
           When Ishiro Honda directed it, Japan had just barely survived from the trauma of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which devastated the country with its horrifying loss of human life and its unprecedented side-effects. What's even more worse was that other countries were still testing their nuclear weapons on island near Japan. As a result, Godzilla became an allegory of Japan's suffering. The film constantly refers to nuclear disaster such as having "atomic tuna" or having ill health effects following the radiation.
            The film follows Japan after a series of disasters rock the stability of the nation. To explain what the cause of all this is, the government sends a group of investigators to the site where a monster was supposed to be seen. They are able to locate the monster, called Gojira/Godzilla, and they discover that he's an ancient dinosaur that's been contaminated by nuclear radiation. From here on, it becomes an allegorical drama about the consequences of nuclear testing as well as human emotions following a disaster. As Godzilla terrorizes Tokyo, some of  the experts  experience strong emotions about whether or not they should use a breaking new discovery of destroying oxygen to kill the monster.
Is Godzilla flossing his teeth with the model train set?
      Of course, the monster is the scariest thing in the movie. Its big bug-like eyes, breath of death, and menacing roar just send shivers down my spine whenever I think about it. What's even more amazing is that you can tell that it was a guy in a suit and you still are convinced that the monster really is there . (Apparently, that guy didn't like the suit too much. It got really hot in the suit and he often suffocated in it. Furthermore, the suit was really hard for the actor to move around in. I'd always be amazed at how the guy was able to press through that experience.)
    When the film got released in America, the producers decided to cut the atomic references from the original and have Raymond Burr play an American reporter describe the action rather than showing it. In other words, they reduce the complex philosophy into something so stupid that I don't want to talk about it! Let's move onto what I think about the film.
      To me, this film feels more like a complex disaster drama than a campy horror B-movie. Yes, there is absurd acting, and yes, there are frightening scenes. However, the film focuses more of its attention to the victims rather than on the monster. People are seen crushed, and dying in the hospitals because of Godzilla's destruction. In a heartbreaking scene, several schoolgirls are shown singing a hymn of peace to soothe the fears of the nation. Scientists and politicians fight over what is the right thing to do in this situation. The music and cinematography present a very gritty situation, and the ending is more of a pessimistic warning suggesting that there will be more disasters or Godzillas up ahead. No, it wasn't referring to the massive amount of sequels or the two awful American revisions that appeared after this. 
        
Happy Halloween, everyone! I know I haven't written a post since August, but I was getting overwhelmed by schoolwork, the moving into a new condo, and the sheer terror of the hurricane. Sorry. To make up for it, I've decided to do a post of a classic monster movie for Halloween! :) Thank you for being patient with me. And please do not send me hate mail for hating the Americanized version. I do like parts of it, like Raymond Burr's acting. I just think Gojira (1954) is superior to Godzilla, King Of The Monsters! (1956). 

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