Film Review: Godzilla (1954) – 8/10

‘I can’t believe that Godzilla was the last of his species…’

Godzilla is one of cinema’s most beloved and persistent monsters. To date there have been 38 Godzilla movies and the franchise shows no signs of slowing down. Well, it all started with Ishiro Honda’s 1954 classic…

When a huge lizard emerges from the ocean, Dr. Yamane (Takashi Shimura) and his daughter Emiko (Momoko Kochi) must work with a pair of rouge scientists and the Japanese military to defeat the beast.

If King Kong was symbolic of Western anxieties about the ‘other’ invading our country and stealing all our blonde women, Godzilla reflects Japan’s trauma from the dropping of the hydrogen bomb at the end of WWII. This is there in both the text and the subtext. The H bomb is given as the reason for Godzilla’s emergence but the fallout from Hiroshima and Nagasaki can be seen in the violence of the great lizard’s path of destruction. Coming 20 years after King Kong, the effects had improved dramatically by the time this film was released. The beast is often viewed from a distance but his sheer size and scope are dramatically rendered using a mixture of models, costume and in-camera trickery. It still looks great.

What surprised me most about Godzilla was the tone of the film. This is a dark story with dark themes cutting through it. The footage of the destroyed cities with bodies being taken out on stretchers is still resonant today – a surprisingly bleak and pessimistic film.