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Godzilla (1954 film)

1954 film directed by Ishirō Honda

Godzilla (ゴジラ Gojira) is a 1954 Japanese science fiction Kaiju film in which American nuclear weapons testing results in the creation of a seemingly unstoppable, dinosaur-like beast.

Directed by Ishirō Honda.  Written by Ishirō Honda and Takeo Murata.
Incredible, unstoppable titan of terror!  (taglines)


I can't believe that Godzilla was the only surviving member of its species… But if we continue conducting nuclear tests, it's possible that another Godzilla might appear somewhere in the world again.
~ Kyohei Yamane-hakase
Chief of Emergency Headquarters:  This is quite a problem, professor.  If this keeps up, we'll have to suspend the international shipping routes.  Have you found a way?  Is there something we can do to defeat it?
Kyohei Yamane-hakase:  So, that's it…
Chairman of Diet Committee:  Professor Yamane, let's be honest.  If there's a way to defeat Godzilla, we need to know.
Kyohei Yamane-hakase:  It's impossible!  Godzilla absorbed massive amounts of atomic radiation and yet it still survived!  What do you think could kill it?  Instead, we should focus on why it is still alive.  That should be our top priority!

Daisuke Serizawa-hakase:  If my device can serve a good purpose, i would announce it to everyone in the world!  But in its current form, it's just a weapon of horrible destruction.  Please understand, Ogata!
Hideto Ogata:  I understand.  But if we don't use your device against Godzilla, what are we going to do?
Daisuke Serizawa-hakase:  Ogata, if the oxygen destroyer is used even once, politicians from around the world will see it.  Of course, they'll want to use it as a weapon.  Bombs versus bombs, missiles versus missiles, and now a new superweapon to throw upon us all!  As a scientist—no, as a human being—I can't allow that to happen!  Am I right?
Hideto Ogata:  Then what do we do about the horror before us now?  Should we just let it happen?  If anyone can save us now, Serizawa, you're the only one!  If…you use the device to defeat Godzilla, unless you reveal what you have done, who will know about it?
Daisuke Serizawa-hakase:  Ogata, humans are weak animals.  Even if I burn my notes, the secret will still be in my head.  Until I die, how can I be sure I won't be forced by someone to make the device again?

Kyohei Yamane-hakase:  I can't believe that Godzilla was the only surviving member of its species…But if we continue conducting nuclear tests, it's possible that another Godzilla might appear somewhere in the world again.


Quotes about GodzillaEdit

Having witnessed the destroyed city of Hiroshima one year after the atomic bomb was dropped, Honda became captivated with the idea of such destructive power in the hands of men. ~ Nikola Budanovic
The Shodai-Godzilla is popular with fans who prefer the first, serious tone Godzilla film. ~ Robert Biondi
The original 1954 Japanese film, Gojira was iconic, and only made a couple mistakes of any significance. ~ Aron Ra
  • The Shodai-Godzilla is popular with fans who prefer the first, serious tone Godzilla film. This suit featured a heavy lower body, small arms and a large, round head. The face had pronounced brows while the eyes were completely round with tiny pupils, a feature unique to this costume. The suit also included several features particular to itself and to the Gyakushu-Godzilla: fangs, four toes, a rough underside for the tail and pointed tail tip, and staggered rows of dorsal plates (these features would reappear with the “second” series of Godzilla films from 1984 to present).
    • Robert Biondi, "The Evolution of Godzilla – G-Suit Variations Throughout the Monster King’s Twenty One Films", G-FAN #16 (July/August 1995)
  • When someone mentions Godzilla and its Japanese origins, people often think of outdated visual effects, a clumsy man in a lizard suit, and a number of over-the-top actors who seem to be trying too hard to convince the audience of the creature’s dangers.
    That stereotype, however, was created by the 1956 American cut of the original Japanese film.
  • But what really downsized the quality of the original motion picture, directed by Ishiro Honda, was the censorship of its explicit subtext, which dealt with the devastating effects of atomic weapons―effects to which the Japanese were introduced to a decade prior to the release of the original film. The original version became a landmark of kaiju―Japanese film genre featuring giant monsters as main antagonists.
    Having witnessed the destroyed city of Hiroshima one year after the atomic bomb was dropped, Honda became captivated with the idea of such destructive power in the hands of men.
  • Apart from the two atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, many major cities including Tokyo were targets to extensive bombing campaigns that caused enormous material damage and the killing of between 241,000 and 900,000 people. All of Japan has seen its fair share of destruction and only nine years after the war, the scars were still fresh.
    This is why Honda’s film made such a huge impact. This metaphorical layer of Gojira sparked a debate on the potential dangers of scientific progress. In the film, a scientist character devises a weapon of such destructive power that he becomes scared of its misuse. Even though he lets the device be used on taking down the monster, he burns all of his notes and eventually commits suicide so that the weapon could never be used again. This act clearly illustrates Honda’s opinion on the use of science in military purposes that was shared by many of his countrymen. His decision to create a monster so cruel and unsympathetic towards anyone―including women, children, and the old―indicated that Godzilla was more of a god than a monster.
  • Along with King Kong, Godzilla is one of the most celebrated movie monsters of all time, yet hardly anyone in this country has seen the original that sparked the phenomenon.
  • When this original version was finally shown in America last year, people flocked to see it. They said it was an expression of nuclear anxiety to rank with Dr Strangelove [[[w:Stanley Kubrick|Stanley Kubrick]]'s 1964 black comedy starring Peter Sellers] and Hiroshima Mon Amour [directed by Alain Resnais in 1959].
  • With its images of panic and mass destruction - including spectacular nightly attacks on Tokyo - and its references to nuclear contamination, black rain, bomb shelters and the incineration of Nagasaki, Godzilla struck a chord of terror with Japanese audiences traumatised by recent history and still living with the fear of radiation poisoning.
  • Seen in context, Godzilla is not really a futuristic sci-fi fantasy, it's a very real reflection of contemporary terror drawn from contemporary events.
  • You might be tempted to laugh at what, by today's standards, are primitive special effects, but very soon this haunting, elegiac mood takes hold of it and you can't just laugh. It is ultimately quite sobering.
  • During the U.S.-led occupation, which lasted until 1952, there was a moratorium on any press coverage dealing with the atomic aftermath in any in-depth way. The thinking was that too much attention to the atomic bombings would derail democratization efforts and would undermine U.S. authority, particularly since the U.S. had already begun using Japanese territory as a base from which to launch bombing raids on Vietnam. With the end of the occupation, some activists and journalists started to deal directly with the atomic bombings, but they were not getting much traction. People were more interested in trying to rebuild. But then there was a real game-changer. The U.S. conducted a nuclear test over the Bikini atoll and a Japanese fishing ship, the Lucky Dragon, its crew, and all their fish were exposed to the fallout radiation. When this hit the newspapers, it ignited an enormous scare, as people throughout the country feared that they had been exposed to nuclear radiation through consuming tainted fish. That was in March 1954, shortly before the release of Gojira, the opening scene of which features a fishing crew exposed to an unexplained, destructive flash of light. So, when that hit the big screens, it touched a real nerve with the Japanese public.
  • The basic premise of Gojira, the original 1954 version, is that nuclear testing in the Pacific has awakened a terrible dinosaur which, in its wrath, is bent on destroying Tokyo. But, as Barak Kushner and others have noted, the film isn’t so much about destruction as it is about fear. Look at any screen shot of the movie, and pretty much every single person wears an expression of utter terror. This is true whether you’re talking about the scene where the radio reporter is declaiming into his microphone right up to the moment when the monster crushes him, or you’re talking about quieter scenes with the scientist in his lab.
  • It was a sober allegory of a film with ambitions as large as its thrice-normal budget, designed to shock and horrify an adult audience.  Its roster of frightening imagescities in flames, overstuffed hospitals, irradiated children — would have been all too familiar to cinemagoers for whom memories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were still less than a decade old, while its script posed deliberately inflammatory questions about the balance of postwar power and the development of nuclear energy.
  • Though the makers of “King Kong” had used stop-motion to create their monster, special effects guru Eiji Tsuburaya knew that method would take too long for the tight production schedule of “Gojira.” The suit his team created, which blended elements of dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus, Iguanodon and Stegosaurus, featured charcoal-colored skin with fibrous scarring similar to that of victims of the atomic explosion. Haruo Nakajima, who played Gojira, based the monster’s movements on his observations of bears, elephants and other zoo animals. Now 85 years old, the actor recently talked to the Wall Street Journal about wearing the famous suit during the film shoot, which took place in the summer: “The temperatures inside reached 140 degrees.”
  • About 9.6 million Japanese flocked to the theaters to see “Gojira” when it was released, out of a population of 88 million. Though initially critics panned the film as too Hollywood-esque, it became an increasingly popular hit, and would go down in history as one of Japan’s greatest movies. Produced near the beginning of a golden age in Japanese film—the same decade saw the release of classics like “Seven Samurai,” “Ikiru” and “Rashomon”—“Gojira” marked Japan’s return to the international stage after World War II, paving the way to its hosting of the Olympics in 1964 and the economic boom that would make it a major player on the world stage again.
  • The original 1954 Japanese film, Gojira was iconic, and only made a couple mistakes of any significance. (1) They killed him in the end, and we saw his body turned to skeleton. Not the best way to begin 60 years worth of sequels. (2) Godzilla was depicted as a dinosaur, and was associated with living trilobites. Even if there was some sort of ‘realm that time forgot’ out in the Pacific somewhere, Trilobites were already extinct before the first dinosaurs, and Godzilla was clearly no dinosaur. The conceptual artists reportedly referenced illustrations of dinosaurs, but that’s not what they rendered. All bi-pedal dinosaurs [Therapods] were digigrade, walking on their toes, like birds, and usually only three or four digits. Godzilla was plantigrade and pentadactyle, (having five digits and walking on the whole foot) just like lizards. It even looks like a lizard, apart from the fact that no reptile has an actual nose or external ears. In a sense, what Toho pictures created was actually an oriental dragon. These tend to mix reptilian and mammalian traits. Amusingly in 1954, Toho made a giant lizard and called it a dinosaur. In 1998, Tristar re-designed Godzilla as a dinosaur, but called it a lizard. Of course that wasn’t the only thing Tristar did wrong. They tried to ruin the monster completely. They took away the only thing that worked in decades of sequels, the look of the monster itself. Then they took away everything that made Godzilla appealing to Kaiju fans, then they tied it down and shot it. Such disrespect. If you’re going to make a movie that already has a fan-base, and they are the ones who will decide whether your film will pay off, respect those fans and the story they’re paying to see.
  • "Godzilla" is Mr. Honda's most personal film by far. And you can see the imprint that the war left on him. He worked personally on the script, you know, and he spoke many, many times over the years about how his desire for this film, while it was an entertainment film, by and large, but his desire was to send a message, not an indictment of America, the monster really - that's another difference between "Godzilla" and American monster movies of the same time period.
    The American monsters usually are stand-ins, as I said, for Cold War enemies. Godzilla is not really a stand-in for America. It is more of an indictment of the nuclear age. And Honda's hope was that somehow this film would inspire people to think about disarmament. I think today if he were still alive, he'd be very disappointed that, you know, nuclear weapons are possessed by more nations than ever before.
  • Godzilla was the most masterful of all dinosaur movies because it made you believe it was really happening.
    • Steven Spielberg, as quoted by Don Shay and Jody Duncan (1993) The Making of Jurassic Park, Ballantine Books, p. 15.
  • Godzilla, both the character and the film, are a reflection on the Japanese experience at the end of World War II: destruction beyond imagining, and a lurking sense that “We brought this on ourselves” somehow, even without meaning to. In the film we see both the guilt, the feeling that the punishment perhaps outweighs the sin, and the striving for redemption, all of which are typical for such stories. In some ways, there’s a similar arc in the origin of Spider-Man: radioactive accidental origin, great power used without regard for consequence (personal profit for Spidey), punishment out of proportion (the death of Uncle Ben), and eventual redemption as a hero.
  • Take Godzilla - from a narrative point of view, its origin was other giant beast movies, like King Kong or some of Ray Harryhausen's work. The first Godzilla film was a very dark, deep piece of filmmaking - almost disturbing in a way. But the love the country and the kids felt for the creature literally evolved Godzilla into a national hero.

External linksEdit

Wikipedia has an article about:
  Japanese films     Shōwa series     Godzilla  (1954) · Godzilla Raids Again  (1955) · King Kong vs. Godzilla  (1962) · Mothra vs. Godzilla  (1964) · Ghidorah, the Three-Headed
 (1964) · Invasion of Astro-Monster  (1965) · Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster  (1966) · Son of Godzilla  (1967) · Destroy All Monsters
  (1968) · All Monsters Attack  (1969) · Godzilla vs. Hedorah  (1971) · Godzilla vs. Gigan  (1972) · Godzilla vs. Megalon  (1973) · Godzilla vs.
 (1974) · Terror of Mechagodzilla  (1975)
  Heisei series     The Return of Godzilla  (1984) · Godzilla vs. Biollante  (1989) · Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah  (1991) · Godzilla vs. Mothra  (1992) · Godzilla vs.
  Mechagodzilla II
 (1993) · Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla  (1994) · Godzilla vs. Destoroyah  (1995)
  Millennium series     Godzilla 2000  (1999) · Godzilla vs. Megaguirus  (2000) · Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack  (2001) ·
  Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla  (2002) · Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.  (2003) · Godzilla: Final Wars  (2004)
  Reboot series     Godzilla Resurgence  (2016)  
  Foreign films     Adaptations     Godzilla, King of the Monsters!  (1956) · Cozzilla  (1977) · King Kong vs. Godzilla  (1963) · Godzilla 1985  (1985)  
  Co‑productions     Monster Zero  (1970)  
  TriStar Pictures     Godzilla  (1998)  
  Legendary Pictures     Godzilla  (2014) · Godzilla: King of the Monsters  (2019)  
  Related films     Rodan  (1956) · The Mysterians  (1957) · Varan the Unbelievable  (1958) · Battle in Outer Space  (1959) · Mothra  (1961) · Gorath  (1962) · Atragon  (1963) · Dogora  (1964)
  · Frankenstein Conquers the World  (1965) · The War of the Gargantuas  (1966) · King Kong Escapes  (1967) · Latitude Zero  (1969) · Space Amoeba  (1970) · The War
  in Space
 (1977) · Gunhed  (1989) · Rebirth of Mothra  (1996) · Rebirth of Mothra II  (1997) · Rebirth of Mothra III  (1998)  
  Television     Zone Fighter  (1973) · Ike! Godman  (1972–1973) · Ike! Greenman  (1973–1974) · Godzilla  (1978–1981) · Godzilla Island  (1997–1998) · Godzilla: The Series  (1998–2000)  
  See also     King Kong