Kaiju #1: Gojira (Godzilla 1954)

I like to go on streaks or runs. In music, I think I am finally over my Fugazi streak, which involved listening to nothing but for 4+ months. In literature, I have been on a hard boiled fiction run (with very few breaks) for 2+ years. My movie streaks are often much shorter. I have just finished a Paul Newman streak of five films. Usually there is not a rational catalyst for these streaks, they are more organic. Therefore, I cannot divulge my reasoning for going on giant monster (or kaiju) kick. All I know is that before I could make sense of any of it, Amazon was sending me a seven-movie set of Godzilla and a three-movie set of Gamera flicks. What was I to do? Well, as a member of the press, I figured I shall watch and report on my findings. Rather than movie reviews, I am going to approach this more from the angle of the monsters involved. In these movies, every character around them only exist because the kaiju is laying a beatdown. I see little reason to worry about those poor souls (except when it is necessary or humorous). With that said, I started out with the Elvis of the kaiju, Godzilla*.

A flash of light appears in the Pacific, then a boat explodes (?**) and very quickly sinks. This is the first time Godzilla makes his presence known. The flash and ship sinking look like two separate – yet related – events, but we later find out that the light is the explosion… or something (1954 special effects leave some room for interpretation). Godzilla does this to a slew of other boats that come in the area. After his boat shenanigans, Godzilla makes landfall on the island of Odo during a rainy night, stomping on some shit, killing people, destroying a model helicopter, and waking everyone up – yet we do not see the wily kaiju. How do we know it was Godzilla? Well, the sound track gives us stomping noises throughout the movie to let us know when Godzilla is near.***

Godzilla making a cameo, promoting the night show at Bob's Country Bunker.

Godzilla first shows his face in a wonderful piece of showmanship. While a fact finding mission is on Odo, we hear the patented Godzilla stomp. Realizing that he is on the other side of a hill, the people run up it, hoping to catch a glimpse of the kaiju. Not one to disappoint a crowd, Godzilla peaks over the hill top. It is grand. He lets out his battle cry, chills a bit, teases his fans, then goes back into the sea (?), for presumably some more pressing matters. His next appearance is more of the same, only this time it is in the water (Tokyo Bay?) next to a boat, where he splashes around like a little kid. The dude knows how to build suspense. It is almost as if he is giving them the middle finger with gentle reminders that he is lurking and Japan is screwed.

Godzilla's natural diet: the train car

Godzilla does his first real damage when he emerges from Tokoyo Bay at night. The military (Shouldn’t post-WWII Japan only have a police force?) tries to stop him, but this is Godzilla and he is pissed (for reasons unknown). He has his way with the city for a bit, culminating when he chomps on a train car for a few seconds, then spits it out – which, in my opinion, is the highlight of the film. Where does he go from there? Well, fade to black, next scene, next day. I guess he was just on a bender and had a late night craving for some train car. Yet, that craving was hardly satisfied as Godzilla is back the next night (?), ready to do some real damage to Tokyo. And damage he does. The humans decided to stop Godzilla by erecting (in one day?) a huge electrified fence along the coast, that suspiciously looked like standard power lines of the times. Godzilla does not think much of this defense. In fact, I think he was insulted by it. After plowing through said defense, Godzilla introduces us to previously unseen weapon: fire/wind/breath/ray/thing. When Godzilla decides the time is right, his back spikes glow and he releases his weapon from his mouth. The result is stuff burning a few seconds after his weapon is released.

After laying Tokyo to waste for a while, Godzilla is bathing in the bay, when fighter jets shoot bottle rockets at him. It looks very clear that not a single bottle rocket hits him, yet Godzilla deems the party to be over and heads back into the ocean.

The next time we see Godzilla is during his demise. One of the human scientist created something called an “Oxygen Destroyer.” The Oxygen Destroyer “splits [oxygen] atoms into fluid.” Um, alright. The living organisms in the water are “liquified” and only bones remain. You can probably see where this one is going. The scientist and the movie’s main character go into the ocean where Godzilla is chilling and he gets liquified. So it goes.

Overall, Godzilla was a baddass kaiju. He started out stomping on shit and was completely unstoppable. Then he got pissed off at the electrified fence and whipped out his dragon breath, making him unstoppabler. If it were not for the ludicrous Oxygen Destroyer, Japan would have had to come up with some kind of diplomatic solution (or possibly blackmail?) with the kaiju because they had nothing on him. My only knock on Godzilla is his motivaiton. I cannot recall him eating a single person, opting to chew on a train car instead. His main goal seemed to be property damage, in which he was awesome at (maybe he hates insurance companies). If he was not going on his rampage for subsistence or survival, then what was his deal? I guess he was just kind of a prick. It is just a slight knock, but worth noting. (I doubt the other kaiju movies are going to provide any better motivation.) For being the original kaiju and and an undeniable wicked force, Godzilla gets the full three Reagans. Congrats ole boy!
On a side note, there was some kind of subtle message about nuclear weapons. You see, the professor in the movie reasons that nuclear blasts are what awoken Godzilla because his Geiger Counter reading is off the charts. What the message was exactly was way over my head. Seeing that it was a Japanese movie made within a decade of the conclusion of WWII, makes me think it was something like: Nuclear weapons, super cool!

*I opted for the original Gojira, not the American version where they used the same Godzilla footage, but heavily edited it and threw in Raymond Burr (because nothing gets the ladies going like Burr).
**Every question mark is very genuine and not meant to mock the film. Much the interpretation of this flick is pure guess work.
***These stomping noises do not always make a bunch of sense, as they happen when Godzilla is underwater as well. This presumably means that Godzilla is stomping while underwater. If this is the case, it must be a psychological move by the kaiju, as stomping on the bed of the ocean must be terribly difficult and exhausting.

About Judas Pato

Just another hard working member of the press, covering the Chicago Bulls and nonsense - often both, simultaneously.
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3 Responses to Kaiju #1: Gojira (Godzilla 1954)

  1. I have never seen any of the Godzilla movies. I think I may have caught a MST3K Gamera one. Any suggestions on where to start? It looks like Netflix only has this one with Raymond Burr. Of course, he does make it rather tempting…

    • Danny O'D says:

      Destroy All Monsters is probably the most badass Godzilla movie, since the plot basically consists of Godzilla fighting a ton of monsters.

      Godzilla v. Mothra is one of the silliest and therefore best.

      But the original Godzilla is definitely the film that sets the standard for the ones that followed.

      • Judas Pato says:

        Where to start? Well, the original is the closest to a believable movie (from the ones I have seen), which is saying little. The sequels progress like any series, which means that they keep piling on more shit, i.e. monsters, space, etc. I say read the descriptions, pick your poison, and then pick out a nice bottle of Scotch.

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