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Greatest Golden Age Sci-Fi Movies - 1954: Godzilla

Updated on April 30, 2009

 It truly is a wonder as to how this motion picture ever became a legendary classic and one of the greatest pop cultural visual icons of the twentieth century.

This quintessential Japanese production does not significantly depart from the usual plot of science fiction B-movies of the time, many of whom had giant creatures endlessly threatening to endanger all of humanity, or at least an out of the way peaceful village or two. In this case the gargantuan reptilian monster is awakened from the typical nuclear tests reflecting the paranoia of the age, and it soon begins to threaten the metropolis of Tokyo while spitting fire like a dragon.

After all the weapons that the Japanese armed forces are able to throw at the dinosaurian beast have proved ineffective, it is up to the intrepid scientists to find a way to destroy it. If you think that this is not the most original plot in the history of science fiction movies of the Fifties, you're definitely not wrong.

But as it turned out, this movie was nothing less than a complete revelation in Japan where the huge success of Godzilla multiplied the cinematic output of giant monsters, good, bad, winged, amphibian, all ugly, and all obediently animated by plodding stuntmen in scaly suits smashing up papier mache buildings.

Given the huge box office takes of this entire series of virtually identically plotted motion pictures, you would think that at some point some effort would have been made to ensure that Tokyo looked more like a city and less like a high school art project cityscape, as you would think that something... anything... would have been done to make the monster look more like a T. Rex and less like a Japanese actor doing the Frankestein walk in a claustrophobic rubber suit. 

But I guess that in the final analysis the essential charm of Godzilla to many filmgoers is that inescapable and totally pervasive cheesiness. Now that we see spectacular CGI monsters destroy what seem like absolutely real cities, the thrill seems to have disappeared.

Could it be possible that superlative special effects have become counterproductive? Now that we have seen New York City get convincingly blown to bits in Independence Day and frozen over in Day After Tomorrow, can anything truly touch us and affect us in anywhere near the way that Godzilla frightened Japanese audiences in the mid Fifties?

1954: Godzilla

Directed by
Ishiro Honda
 
Screenwriting by
Ishiro Honda
Shigeru Kayama &
Takeo Murata

Cast 
 Hideto Ogata - Akira Takarada
 Emiko Yamane - Momoko Kochi
 Daisuke Serizawa-hakase - Akihiko Hirata
 Kyohei Yamane-hakase - Takashi Shimura
 Professor Tanabe - Fuyuki Murakami
 Newspaper Reporter Hagiwara - Sachio Sakai
 Nankai Shipping Company Manager - Toranosuke Ogawa
 Masaji the Fisherman - Ren Yamamoto
 Chairman of Diet Committee - Miki Hayashi
 Chief of Emergency Headquarters - Takeo Oikawa
 Parliamentarian Oyama - Seijiro Onda
 Shinkichi's Mother - Tsuruko Mano

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