Friday, April 27th at 8 PM at the Loew’s Jersey Theatre
“Godzilla” — Original Japanese Version. Starring Akira Takarada, Momoko Kōchi, Akihiko Hirata, Haruo Nakajima, Katsumi Tezuka. Directed by Ishiro Honda. 1954, 96mins., B&W. In Japanese with English subtitles. Restoration, screened digitally.
ADMISSION: $8 Adults / $6 Seniors & Kids.
And don’t forget Kong-A-Thon is the next day – Saturday, April 28. ALL 3 “King Kong Movies”, back to back: 2005 @ 2:30PM, 1976 @ 6PM and the original, 1933 @ 8:30PM. Look in the Loew’s Upcoming Events for more info.
Toho Studios’ Godzilla is one of the best known movie monsters of all time, whose stomping through, and smashing-up of the trappings of modern mankind is just as recognizable the world over as are the similar exploits of his simian counterpart. He’s a 400-foot-tall mutant dinosaur, awakened from the depth of the sea by atomic blasts, that has become a rampaging nuclear nightmare complete with glowing dorsal fins and fiery, radioactive breath. And the first “Godzilla” film not only inspired several re-makes like “Kong”, but also spawned one of the longest-running series in cinema history — over 30 films, so far — plus a multimedia franchise including video games, books, comics, toys and other media, which made monster movies and related merchandise some of Japan’s best known exports even before many people had heard the name Toyota.
Most American’s first encountered Godzilla in the version of the film that had been heavily re-edited, dubbed into English, and had new footage featuring American actor Raymond Burr (TV’s Perry Mason) inserted for distribution in the States. That version emphasized the comic book-esque “rock-em, sock-em” action of the monster, as did the many sequels and off-shoots produced over the next several decades by Toho. But as surprising as it may be to some American fans, the original Japanese version of the first Godzilla film, while still having plenty of action, also had a darker tone as it made a far more potent analogy between the danger and destruction wrought by Godzilla and the terror and devastation of the atomic bomb — which, of course, the United States had used against Imperial Japan to end World War II by forcing it to do what it had vowed never to: surrender, and end its occupation of China and other countries.
“Godzilla” had several origins. Toho producer Tomoyuki Tanaka got the idea for a giant monster film from the 1953 American film “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms” and the Daigo Fukuryū Maru incident in which a Japanese tuna fishing boat with a crew of 23 men was contaminated by nuclear fallout from the United States’ thermonuclear test detonation at Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954. Toho’s special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya submitted an outline of his own, written three years before, that featured a giant octopus attacking ships in the Indian Ocean. Sci-fi writer Shigeru Kayama was hired to prepare a story treatment. The screenplay was written by Takeo Murata and director Ishiro Honda. And there may have been one other, unacknowledged, inspiration: One of Max Fleischer’s “Superman” cartoons from the early 1940s featured a huge dinosaur, with a striking resemblance to Godzilla, that is revived by accident and then proceeds to rampage through the streets of Metropolis, including derailing and smashing elevated trains in a scene that is remarkably similar to one in “Godzilla” (and also “King Kong”). Like many pre-war American films, this cartoon was probably screened in Japan during the U.S. occupation after the WWII — and so may well have provided some either conscious or subliminal inspiration for “Godzilla”.
Special effects director Tsuburaya had initially wanted Godzilla to be portrayed using the same stop-motion animation that had been used for “King Kong” and “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms”. But budget limitations and tight deadlines forced him to mostly use a man in a rubber suit – sometimes called “suitmation” – instead. Some scenes of Godzilla were also shot using a hand puppet. The results are rougher, some might even say cruder than the special effects in “Kong”, but nevertheless they not only serve to move the action along nicely, but also — especially in the original Japanese version — convey a stark rawness that evokes a sense of dread and horror.
The heavily edited American release version had both critical and box office success from the start in the U.S., but the Japanese version received at best mixed reviews at the outset in Japan. Ironically, director Ishiro Honda credits the acclaim the American version received as being responsible for ultimately causing a critical and popular reassessment at home: “The first film critics to appreciate Godzilla were those in the U.S. When Godzilla was released there . . . in 1956, the critics said such things as, ‘For the start, this film frankly depicts the horrors of the Atomic Bomb.’, and by these evaluations, the assessment began to impact critics in Japan and has changed their opinions over the years.”
The original Japanese version of “Godzilla” was restored and made widely available for the first time in the United States in 2004. That version will be screened digitally at the Loew’s.