Ishiro Honda, Monster Movie, 96 mins, June 7th
Starring: Takashi Shimura, Akira Takarada, Momoko Kochi, Akihiko Hirata
With the world’s favorite giant monster celebrating his 75th anniversary this year (along with a Hollywood reboot that won’t reach Japanese cinemas until late July), the original classic by Ishiro Honda will be hitting limited screens nationwide, and it is an absolute must-see.
Now Godzilla has a cult following, loved by geeks and small children in equal parts. But the first movie was anything but camp, and although the effects were hardly special, some of the best actors of the time portrayed this story of fear, retaliation, and the consequences of trying to outgun your enemy.
The monster itself is said by some to be the embodiment of the nuclear bomb; a giant beast that indiscriminately lays waste to anything in its path, with radioactive breath so intensely hot it can melt metal pylons. Others see Godzilla as a representation of the victims of the bomb, or hibakusha; a pocked-skin beast that is shunned, feared, and (perhaps) misunderstood.
Shimura’s Yamane sees potential in Godzilla; a creature that survived a nuclear blast has the potential to shed light on how radiation poisoning could be treated, or even cured. His rather bohemian approach to the city-leveling beast is obviously not a popular one, and a weapon known as the Oxygen Destroyer is developed to take down the creature…but should a weapon so powerful be in the hands of mere humans (another thinly-veiled allegory for the bomb-debate)?
Although there is a love triangle needlessly shoehorned into the narrative, the film thrives in the details; Tokyo is shown as a populated city, extras get dedicated scenes to voice their concerns, a mother cowers with her children as they face almost certain death. The consequences of Godzilla’s actions are real, and not just an excuse for a little destruction porn.
The franchise may have nosedived soon after, which only helps point out how thought-provoking and deep this seemingly silly horror movie is.