The Atomic Monster Film, that Launched a Thousand Rubber Suits.
This is the original 1954 classic Japanese version of the film that launched a myriad of rubber-suited giant monster flicks or Kaiju films. For those of you who grew up with Godzilla, this film is a must. This rare version of the film was only brought to the US in 2008 and saw an extremely limited art theater release. It brings the series back to its more serious, gritty, film noir origins and reminds us that for the Japanese, who had seen the devastation of nuclear war first hand, Gojira truly was the King of the Monsters.

Though Godzilla is not the first of the atomic monsters, he certainly has become the most iconic and long lasting. With 28 films produced in Japan, 1 in the United States, and another U.S. production scheduled for release in 2014, Godzilla is the longest currently running film franchise. He has been born, had children (though there is no Mrs. Zilla) and died several times, and yet continues to return again and again. Though he first sets foot on the screen in Gojira as the living embodiment of the horrors of atomic war, he was re-imagined as the defender of the humanity, friend to children, the guardian of the earth and nature, and the punisher of man’s hubris and aggression. He has fought against and alongside monsters from outer space, creatures from the future, cyborgs, a living embodiment of pollution, a robot version of himself, and even a genetically engineered rose made using his own DNA.... Don't ask.

In this film, H-bomb testing in the Pacific awakens the beast that time forgot who instinctively lashes out at Tokyo. Leveling city block after block and meeting all attempts to stop him with his trade mark atomic breath. Meanwhile the noted paleontologist, Dr. Yamane turns to his future son in law and tortured scientist, Dr. Serizawa, for a way to defeat Godzilla. Serizawa has come up with a weapon that can destroy all of the oxygen within an area of the ocean. But, he struggles with the need to defend his homeland and the terror that would result if the "Oxygen Destroyer" were ever to be unleashed upon the world. In the end, Serizawa, does the only thing he believes he can, he agrees to use the oxygen destroyer against Godzilla, but first destroys his research and finally sacrifices himself to ensure that the device is never used again.

It is important to point out that this film does lack the additional scenes added for the American version which included Raymond Burr. However, though I will always have a place in my heart for that version of the film, this movie is, in all ways, better. As opposed to its American cousin, which is essentially a disaster film, Gojira contains layers of meanings that, in my mind, were purposely removed to make the film more palatable to American audiences. Though you may expect the film to be a full-fledged criticism of the U.S. decision to use the bomb in WWII, I find the film to be much more subtle than that, if any giant monster film can be called subtle. In fact, far from being a slap at the US, Gojira is almost portrayed as Japan’s natural punishment for its sins in WWII. Though the film is certainly a bit of a melodrama at times, it is also dark, gritty, and a bit nihilistic. Whereas the American version is more flat, taking its perspective from that of the spectating reporter Steve Martin (Burr) instead of following those actually involved in the events.