Godzilla (Ishirō Honda 本多 猪四郎,1954)

Spectacular special effects, a metaphor for nuclear weapons, the start of a still-popular franchise. There are many things that have been repeatedly said about the 1954 original of the Godzilla story by Ishirō Honda. But how does it stand up to viewing sixty years down the line?

I imagine a lot of people will seek the film out ahead of the release of the Gareth Edwards modernisation next month, a task made all-the-more easier by the fact it is out of copyright and there are plenty of copies available for free around the net.

For those not used to watching foreign or classic cinema, it might come as a shock. There are a few things you need to buy into if you’re going to enjoy it.

The use of miniatures at the time probably took most cinema-goer’s breath away, but nowadays you can spot them a mile away. What we are seeing looks very little like the complete destruction of Tokyo, but more like the complete destruction of a very little Tokyo. They’ve not even got the speed of the slowed-down film correct.

It’s also difficult to watch the film without seeing Godzilla as a man in a rubber suit. Haruo Nakajima is clearly putting a lot of effort into his portrayal but it’s hardly convincing by today’s standards. Remember, this is over two decades after King Kong had terrorised the big screen and there must have been some advances in technology in the intervening years.

I have seen this film before, probably around seven years ago. The flimsy conclusion to the film really had slipped my mind. Having annihilated several towns and cities in his reign of terror, we are quickly asked to buy into the concept that putting Dr. Serizawa’s Oxygen Destroyer under water will do the trick. Wait… Hasn’t he spent most of the film breathing fire on people above water? I know he’s sleeping underwater, so I guess he’s amphibious? We already know he can survive for hours above water so why does he die immediately? And why are there no dead floating fish at the surface? If the oxygen has been completely removed then why do the humans live on? I know, I know… He’s a giant fire-breathing dinosaur… Everything else is water under the bridge.

Overall I see this film as entertaining but flawed, historically significant but unbelievable. I enjoyed my time watching it, but I wouldn’t recommend it to someone looking to get into classic Japanese cinema.

And at least it wasn’t directed by Roland Emmerich.