GOJIRA DELUXE COLLECTOR'S EDITION (2 DVD SET) (1956)
Godzilla - Gojira Deluxe Collector's Edition (2 DVD set) (1956)
Actors: Akira Takarada, Momoko Kohi, Akihiko Hirata, Takashi Shimura,
Director: Ishiru Honda
Format: Collector's Edition, Color, NTSC
Number of discs: 2
Run Time: 90 minutes
- Audio commentaries
- Original trailers
- "Making of the Suite"
- "Godzilla: Story
in the mid-1950s some enterprising American film distributors saw potential
in a Black & White Japanese monster flick named Gojira about a
giant fire-breathing reptile that goes on rampage destroying much of Tokyo
in the process.
The only problem was that the movie only featured Japanese actors and was
thought to be inaccessible to Western audiences.
No, problem they decided, and simply excised twenty minutes of footage from
the film and inserted newly filmed scenes featuring American B-movie actor
Burr wasn't given much to do plot-wise: he just occasionally "interacted"
with some of the actors in the existing movie as well as react to and
comment on events. In that sense he was a sort of contemporary version of
those choruses in ancient Greek tragedies. It was a thankless job, and one
supposes that Burr did what he could under the circumstances. (Rumor has it
that all his scenes were shot within a 24-hour period. And no, despite
popular lore, none of them were actually filmed in Japan itself.)
Sure, there is some cultural chauvinism in inserting a Western actor in
order to tell a Japanese story, but this wasn't the first and last time
Hollywood would use American leading men to tell "ethnic" stories. Consider
also using Kevin Kline in telling the story of South African activist Steve Biko in Cry Freedom and Patrick Swayze in City of Joy in
bringing the poverty in India to the attention of western audiences.
However, the original Japanese version of the movie doesn't have a central
character of any sort to anchor the story; even Godzilla himself seems to be
a bit actor in his own movie, walking in and out of scenes almost randomly.
Burr - even though his character contributes nothing plot-wise - does supply
some sort of central focus to the film.
The movie was re-titled Godzilla King of the Monsters and a modern
pop cultural icon was born, so much so that the makers of
Independence Day would do an over-hyped big
budget remake in the late 1990s in which said reptile trashed New York
instead of Tokyo for a change. The American
Godzilla remake wasn't any good, but so to be honest were the many
Japanese Godzilla movies, including this one which started it all.
makes this first Godzilla movie interesting is how serious it is.
Made less than a decade after the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during
World War II, the movie is obsessed with issues such as radioactivity (the
Godzilla monster itself is radioactive) and the morality of producing
super-weapons (one is finally used to destroy Godzilla, but its maker is
reluctant for it to be used).
Much of these issues are toned down in the American version and it is easy
to understand why, considering that the Americans were the ones who dropped
the atom bomb on Japan in the first place! No doubt the last thing American
cinema audiences wanted a decade after WWII were a movie which incessantly
whined on about this.
THE DISCS: Both versions
American and the original Japanese one
available on this double disc set. On both films the image suffers from the
occasional speckles and scratches, but I suppose that that they are in as
good a condition as can be expected for a film that is half a century old.
Still, don't go expecting as pristine a restoration as the one done on,
let's say, Them, a monster flick about oversized
killer ants also made in 1954.
Sound is somewhat tinny. Image is presented
in accurate full screen aspect ratio. The audio commentaries by some film
historians are a bit on the dry side
- one would
expect for such fans of Japanese monster movies to be a bit more jovial.
WORTH IT? To be
honest while this first Godzilla flick has achieved a "classic"
status of sorts throughout the years, it isn't very good. The American
version is unintentionally funny while the Japanese one is a slow-moving
solemn bore. In the American version actor Burr's mugging in reaction to
off-screen events is simply camp, while the Japanese version lingers too
long on Godzilla's victims, something which frankly takes the fun out of
what is essentially a movie about a stuntman in a rubber suit destroying
models of a city.
Later Godzilla movies would
realize what a
ridiculous premise it all is and would be a whole lot less serious. In these
movies Godzilla would become sort of a champion of the Japanese people and
their island, endlessly defending them against other gigantic monsters.
of this particular subgenre would definitely want to check out this disc
set. More casual fans
expecting Mystery Science Theater 3000-style
should think twice before deciding on a purchase. After all, that Japanese
version really is a downer . . .