Archive for February 3, 2010

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , on February 3, 2010 by Mystery Man


The revised story begins at a hastily-established emergency hospital in an evidently devastated Tokyo, to which is brought American reporter Steve Martin (Raymond Burr), one of the wounded. In flashback, Martin tells of his stopover in Tokyo on a routine assignment to Cairo for United World News, where he finds himself confronted by the emergence of an inexplicable menace to navigation in the Sea of Japan. Something is causing ships to be destroyed without warning and sink with no time for escape. When a dying seaman finally washes up on an inhabited island, Martin flies there for the story with Tomo Iwanaga a representative of the Japanese security forces (Frank Iwanaga, also part of the American cast) and learns of the island inhabitants’ belief in a monster god which lives beneath the sea, which they believe is causing the disasters (a claim which appears to have been borne out by the crewman before he died). Martin phones his editor at United World News, George Lawrence (Mikel Conrad, part of the American cast) and is given permission to stay and cover the story.

Martin’s involvement in the unfolding events broadens when Dr. Yamane (Takashi Shimura, of the original film), a paleontologist is consulted and, returning to the island with his daughter Emiko (Momoko Kouchi) and her young naval-officer boyfriend Ogata (Akira Takarada) to investigate, sees the monster when it attacks the island village. Returning to Tokyo with clear evidence of the monster’s existence and power, Yamane becomes a leading consultant to Japan in mounting a defense, as it becomes apparent the monster is going to attack Tokyo.

The Japanese navy is unable to faze the monster with depth charges. In the dark of night, the monster attacks Tokyo, and proves invulnerable to conventional military weaponry no matter how concentrated. Martin is one of millions injured in the attack, and here the flashback ends: Godzilla (a giant mutant dinosaur) has returned to the sea, but it is certain this is only for the moment.

Emiko reveals she may know a solution to the monster’s apparent indestructibility. She loves the young naval officer, but had until recently been engaged to a young scientist Dr. Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata), who was also Steve Martin’s friend in college. She has lost interest in him because he has become almost a recluse, to her and others. After her breaking up with him, he revealed to her the reason for his reclusiveness—he has developed a formula capable of destroying all oxygen in water, in the process of which any animal coming in contact with the “oxygen destroyer” is stripped clean of all flesh and organs, reduced to a skeleton. His anguish over what to do with this discovery has become a constant preoccupation. She had agreed to keep her knowledge of this a secret. But with Godzilla loose, she realizes this may be the only thing capable of stopping the monster, and informs her boyfriend and father.

The scientist is only reluctantly persuaded to use his remaining sample of the oxygen destroyer to try to kill Godzilla, provided he accompanies the young officer, in diving suit, to the sea bottom to place and release the formula more or less at the monster’s feet. After concluding this agreement, the scientist destroys all his notes and papers and formula and, once on the bottom of the sea, sends the young officer back up to the boat, releases the destroyer, and cuts his own oxygen hose and lifeline, thus destroying the last source of knowledge of his horrid formula. The young officer joins Dr. Yamane, Emiko and Steve Martin on the ship to watch as the oxygen destroyer does its work, reducing Godzilla to a skeleton. Afterwards, Martin’s last words were, “The menace was gone, so was a great man. But the whole world could wake up and live again.


As a fan of Godzilla films, it floored me to find out that I had yet to watch the one that started it all, Godzilla: King of the Monsters. If you’ve ever seen any of these monster films from this era, you will know that they normally don’t have the most serious of tones, especially the American versions, but this one seems to be an exception as it has an oddly dark tone.

I’m not really a fan of films with dark tones. They just aren’t my cup of tea, but this one doesn’t get too terribly dark, which allows me to keep interest.

One of the things that I despise about this picture more than anything is how the American version is a bit of a documentary, whereas the Japanese version is a pure film. Why the change? It really doesn’t work, but then again, I’m not a fan of documentaries, so I may be biased in that opinion.

This is a low-budget film from the late 50s, so effects are going to be pretty shotty. There is a scene on the island where you can really see the cheapness. While Godzilla is terrorizing the populace, the camera pans to the Sea of Japan and the helicopter, which is obviously a toy.

Godzilla, himself, looks totally different in later incarnations. Obviously, they learned and improved. As a matter of fact, except for his major rampage scene, you don’t even see all the monster, but rather, just his head.

One of the things that I hate about all monster movies from this era, especially the Godzilla films, is how they spend 3/4 of the film just talking and plotting to do whatever, then in the last 15 minutes or so, we get a rampage from the monster only for them to die. It is so formulaic, but my issue is with their lack of screentime, but I chalk that up more to the era than to writing and whatnot.

I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I do not like this film, because I do. There are a few good things to be said, and the negative things that I have mentioned are all minor. This by no means a bad film, but it is obviously the first. Compare this to one of Godzilla’s other films, such as Godzilla vs. Mothra, and you can see the difference. Still, it is a good start to one of the most iconic monsters in all cinema. I wouldn’t put this on your must see before you die list, but it is a good monster flick to see if you’re into the good old movies like I am.

3 out of 5 stars