Godzilla may be a lusted after box office commodity in America, but in Japan he’s a cinematic legend on par with Humphrey Bogart or Charlie Chaplin. It was Japan’s Toho Studios that got the Godzilla ball rolling in 1954, turning what could have been a silly monster movie starring a guy in a suit trampling on cardboard buildings into a frightening parable for Japan’s suffering from nuclear warfare nearly a decade earlier. The metaphor wasn’t lost on anyone, and the Ishirō Honda creation developed a worldwide following that spawned dozens of sequels over the last six decades and at least two American remakes. But after a decade in retirement, the Japanese are looking to put their stamp on the legend once more. In other words, Toho’s back in the Godzilla business. (more…)
Welcome back to our newly revamped “Retro Reviews” column, where we explore both the movies you know and love, as well as the oft overlooked gems you should be spending more time with. Our fifth entry acts as a brief refresher on one of the pivotal moments in Japanese cinema, Ishirō Honda’s Godzilla (1954)…
Picture Godzilla in your head. What do you see?
For most, the image is simple — men in rubbery monster suits battling one-another amidst a chintzily built model, stepping on toy cars willy-nilly in an effort to put forth the feeling of destruction on an apocalyptic scale. To the average cinema-goer Gojira — excuse me, Godzilla — is an icon of pugilistic campiness; a towering figure akin to a scaly Macho Man Randy Savage, wrestling other goofy kaiju for ninety minutes while tiny Asian people point and scream “the monster is attacking the city!”
Like most successful franchise frontmen, the weight of Godzilla’s initial appearance has been watered down by subsequent sequels (twenty-seven, to be exact), to the point that many have forgotten the iconic monster’s original metaphorical meaning: a walking mushroom cloud, the fantastical representation of holocaust. Ishirō Honda’s monumental piece of Japanese filmmaking still stands as one of the greatest cinematic responses to the psychic trauma caused by war, ranking with Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove as a defining piece of pop art derived from the utter devastation of the nuclear bomb.