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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Review: GOJIRA (1954)

Full circle, baby.  On July 21, I originally posted THE BIG LIST.  Over the ensuing months, we added more than thirty other films to it, making it ninety movies long.  We've reviewed them all ... except for the new one.

Today's movie is, one last time, Gojira (1954).

I'll go first:
I won't go through the plot again or do a full-blown review.  We did that once before.
Instead, I'll focus on the viewing experience after our recent run through the "Inspiration List."  Documentaries about the history of Japan and their experience in WWII, the atomic testing ... it fixes this movie in a very particular point in time. 
Think about it.  This was released just nine years after the end of the war.  Nine years.  Think about the imagery in this film and its relation to the atomic bombings.  The closest analogue we have today are collapsing buildings, billowing dust clouds, office papers fluttering over the street, the sound of firefighters' personal alarms wailing over the din ... and these have been used in films since 9/11 (CloverfieldWar of the Worlds, etc.) 
The panning shots of buildings reduced to kindling.  Flames engulfing whole city blocks or, occasionally, spots of fire in the debris.  The shockwaves of buildings collapsing.  The radiation effects on people, ticking the Geiger counters.  References to "atomic tuna" and strained diplomatic relations.  The fishing boats destroyed ... in fact, the opening scene played out very much like the Lucky Dragon 5 incident as described in the last doc we watched.   
Once again, I'm reminded of how deadly serious this movie is.  There are sweeping shots of despair and we see hundreds of people suffering in Godzilla's wake.  The scene with the mournful choir as Serizawa wrestles with his conscience choked me up even more this time around.  In reading a brief review of the new movie (no spoilers), it mentioned how serious the new film is.  Well, it would be hard pressed to top this one. 
Also mentioned in that review is the apparently limited screen time of Godzilla in the new film.  Well, I paid attention and the Big Guy isn't in the original movie so much, either.  There are a few sparse teases in the opening half hour or so, then his first big attack.  A breather for a little bit and then he attacks again.  Then it's a long dissection of the people impacted by the attack and the decisions over what to do about the monster.  Then the attack on him with the Oxygen Destroyer.   
The limited screen time actually helps in this case because Toho hadn't quite gotten the special effects down just yet.  Godzilla moves too quickly in many shots, especially when he's a puppet.  (The puppet doesn't hold up too well ... I half expected it to yell "Cookie!" on one occasion.) 
Gojira ... re-evaluating my score thanks to the documentaries we watched beforehand.  4.75 out of five atomic breath blasts.
Here's my son, James:
Well, this is my favorite monster movie. This move is related to the documentaries and the scenes in the movie are related to actual history.  It made me sad to see them because I remembered this was based on real life. the movie is great and this is the last (Monster) movie on the list 
The things I like about it is that they aimed it so right so that Godzilla looks big. The thing i don't like is that's this could have been in color, but this is 1954. 
So rating wise, i'll say 5 out of 5 Atomic Breaths of Awesomeness!!! 
Next, one last documentary before the new movie, Frontline: Inside Japan's Nuclear Meltdown (2011).

(GIF from ronaldcmerchant )

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