GODZILLA: The Japanese Original

GODZILLA: The Japanese Original

A film by Ishirô Honda

60th anniversary restoration! The complete, uncut original! GODZILLA: The Japanese Original (a.k.a. GORJIRA) is the roaring granddaddy of all monster movies. It’s also a remarkably humane and melancholy drama, made in Japan at a time when the country was reeling from nuclear attack and H-bomb testing in the Pacific. Its rampaging radioactive beast, the poignant embodiment of an entire population’s fears, became a beloved international icon of destruction, spawning almost thirty sequels.

On a sunny day with calm waters, a Japanese steamer sinks in flames when the sea erupts; a salvage vessel sent to the rescue disappears the same way; exhausted, incoherent survivors babble of a monster. Could it be…? Then the biggest-budgeted film in Japanese history, the original Godzilla spawned 60 years of sequels and remakes, countless rip-offs, and a new genre: the kaiju eiga, or Japanese monster movie.

Released in the U.S. in a butchered version called Godzilla: King of the Monsters, it was re-cut, re-arranged and atrociously dubbed, with cheesy new scenes (shot in Hollywood) of a pre-Perry Mason Raymond Burr observing the action from the sidelines. To make room for Burr and to excise a strong anti-nuclear subtext, King of the Monsters deleted 40 minutes of the Japanese version — its very heart — including the opening credits and ominous main theme by the great Akira Ifukube; Tokyo commuters wisecracking about surviving yet another disaster; a vituperative session in the Japanese parliament; a TV announcer’s hilarious stomp-by-stomp account of the monster’s rampage; the original cautionary ending; and more scenes with the real (human) star of the movie, Takashi Shimura (also the Seven Samurai leader that year).

It’s a tour de force by special effects genius Eiji Tsuburaya, whose use of “suitmation,” the often-belittled “man in a monster suit” method, was due to time and budget restraints. But, in concert with noirish cinematography, this low-tech approach is still as thrilling as ever.

Subtitles by Bruce Goldstein and Michie Yamakawa. DCP restoration.

Godzilla®, Gojira and the character design are trademarks of Toho Co., Ltd. ©1954 Toho Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

SMASHING IN EVERY SENSE OF THE WORD! —Michael Sragow, New Yorker

THE PRE-EMINENT MOVIE MONSTER OF THE 50’S! Its significance can be glimpsed only in the Japanese version! —Terrence Rafferty , New York Times

 

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Technical Information

Production Year
1954
Country of Production
Japan
Language
Japanese
Running Time
98 mins

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