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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Godzilla

Want to know about Godzilla? Japan - It's A Wonderful Rife has compiled a ton of information for you.

Who is more famous? King Kong or Godzilla? If you were to judge by the number of kids who have action figures, comic books, or video collections, Godzilla by far outstrips his hairy American counterpart. It's not even close.

So... let's call Godzilla exactly what he is: The King Of The Monsters!

But, his name isn't really Godzilla. That's the westernized version of it. Godzilla is the product of Japan, and as such, his proper name is Gojira. It's pronounced - and I'm taking a shot here in trying to write it out even though I can say it properly - Go-zhee-ra... it's a 'z' and 'j' mixture that makes the Japanese language such a bugger to understand. Oh yeah... there's no "L" in the Japanese alphabet... they use the letter 'r' in place of an 'L'... but I suppose western movie production heads figured 'God-zirra' didn't flow off the western tongue as well as 'God-zilla', and they are correct.

Godzilla is known as a kaiju (怪獣), which is Japanese for "strange beast" - which is a decent enough approximation for the word "monster".

The Godzilla photo above - that was the first photo taken of Godzilla in the movie Gojira.

Godzilla, in the movies, is oft-times a confusing entity. Sometimes he's the hero who rises up out of the briny deep to rescue humanity from another monster attacking Tokyo, other times he's pissed off and is the one doing the destroying of Tokyo. But it doesn't really matter! What matters is Godzilla battling another kaiju and watching them both destroy Tokyo before Godzilla defeats his foe. Except in the first movie, which is a stand-alone classic, in my opinion.

Godzilla first appeared in 1954, in the Japanese movie: Gojira. I have a pretty complete list of Godzilla movies down below.

Here is a short clip of Godzilla's first classic roar:




After letting this blog sit for a couple of months, I began working on it again on Thursday, June 14. Well... guess what was on Turner Classic Movies on June 15? That's right - Gojira. The original Japanese version with English sub-titles.

I had thought I had seen it many times before - but nope! I had not! I must only have seen the American version!

The most stunning thing I can tell you, is that this is no campy monster movie.

This is a movie with a conscience! It is a horror movie that happens to have a monster in it. Why do I say that? Read on after this spot of info.

Here's some information taken from the movie (surnames first):
Toho Studios made the film in 1954. 
Producer: Tanaka Tomoyuki; 
Screenplay: Murata Takeo & Honda Ishiro; 
Story: Kayama Shigeru; 
Photography: Tamai Masao; 
Music: Ifukube Akira; 
Special Effects Director: Tsuburaya Eji; 
Director: Honda Ishiro; 
Starring: Kochi Momoko, Hirata Akihito and Shimura Takashi;
Godzilla: Nakajima Haruo

Nakajima was the man in the rubber suit for the first movie - and pretty much all the rest...

Godzilla setting radioactive fire to Tokyo

Here's a synopsis of Gojira:

There are some mysterious shipwrecks going on, which causes a newspaper reporter named Hagiwara to go and check it out, landing on a far away island where the natives say the shipwrecks are due to a monster myth from the area.

Returning a second time, Hagiwara and some scientists he managed to convince to come with him - yeah, like that would ever happen in real life - discover some enormous footprints... radioactive ones according to Dr. Yamane. Radioactive from Strontium 90.

Yamane now thinks that the legendary monster named Godzilla in the myths might actually be real, and soon comes to believe that Godzilla is a sea monster from the prehistoric era that somehow survived, but was asleep... and that some recent atomic testing in the area has woken him up.

Call it a cautionary tale, but Japan already has a pretty negative impression of atomic blasts, so why wouldn't the movie creators make it the reason why a monster was released - the proverbial djinn out of its bottle.

Yes... Godzilla is now on the prowl - heading for Japan's most populated city, Tokyo.

Japan's military might - which I thought was disbanded after WWII - attacks the 50-meter tall Godzilla when he makes landfall with a barrage of tank shells. They also try to electrocute him with a 80-meter high electric fence.

Godzilla is radioactive, and was reborn because of atomic weaponry - electricity just tickles his gonads - which as A guy I can tell you makes you a bit cranky, because most men don't really like to have their gonads hooked up to a super-charged car battery.

As such, this just pisses Godzilla off completely, and he takes his revenge on the city of Tokyo, breathing his atomic fire on places and people and damn near setting the whole city on fire. Thousands die, with large sections of Tokyo decimated. See - atomic weaponry is bad.


Godzilla roars as Tokyo burns!
People died in Gojira!
I figure Tokyo was a good choice considering the west side of Japan was bombed the hell out of in WWII  - so it's Tokyo's turn now!

Dr. Serizawa - who is engaged to the daughter (Emiko) of Dr. Yamane (Emiko, however, is in love with another man!) - has created a contraption that will destroy the oxygen around the area it is sprayed. The hope is that they can spray enough of this onto Godzilla so that he will pass out from the lack of breathable air, and then the military can then subdue him - though I am never sure how that would occur.

Serizawa, however, doesn't really want to use his spray, because he fears the Japanese military will, once it gets its paws on Godzilla, then use his oxygen killer as a weapon for themselves.

I don't think the military would do that? When has the military ever taken the works of a scientist and used it for destructive purposes? Oh yeah... all the time.

Serizawa's moral dilemma is soon put to rest, as he sees how much damage Godzilla is doing to Tokyo. Better to act now and hope the destruction is kept to a minimum.

You do realize that this is what the U.S. military was thinking in WWII when it decided to drop the atomic bombs over Hiroshima and on Nagasaki.

Still not trusting the military - or perhaps learning from Einstein - Serizawa destroys all of his research notes by fire and then allows the military to use the oxygen destroyer. Now... believe it or not, while aboard a navy destroyer in Tokyo Bay, they use a Geiger counter to search for where Godzilla might be resting down in the bottom of the Bay.

Now... the Oxygen destroyer isn't so much a machine as it appears to be a chemical reaction. Released from its glass cage, the large pill begins to dissolve the oxygen in the water... bubbling it away... but it doesn't just asphyxiate things in the water... it strips them of their flesh and then apparently disintegrates their bones!

Wow! It was pretty intense... and as a scientist, Serizawa was very much worried that his invention would be used by world powers as a super weapon.

So... to ensure that never happens, he decides to die under the water after releasing the oxygen destroyer.

So yes... Godzilla dies. And so to does the person who kills him. Serizawa dies like a kamikaze (divine wind), because there is nothing better than dying for your country. Except perhaps dying to protect the people of the world from other people of the world.

Failed plan to electrocute Godzilla who was spawned by H-bombs! D'uh.

The film ends with Dr. Yamane commenting that Godzilla was not unique, that another will eventually appear.

Yeah baby! Sequel! And other monsters! Mothra! Ghidorah! Rodan (the flying lizard - not the artist who misspells his name as Rodin! - though the monster is known as Radon in Japan!) Monster Island! Other movie studios who think that rather than a reptile, and amphibian would be better in the form of Gamera!

By the way... Gojira was slightly re-made as Godzilla King of the Monsters in the U.S., but it was so popular with all of the re-shoots and the inclusion of Canadian actor Raymond Burr, that the U.S. version was released in Japan as Kaiju O Gojira (Monster King Godzilla).

Godzilla films:
Showa Series (1954-1975): 

  • Gojira - 1954
  • (1a) Godzilla King Of The Monsters (U.S. version of Gojira - re-released as Monster King Godzilla (Kaiju O Gojira) in Japan in 1957 ) - 1956
  • Godzilla Raids Again (aka Gigantis The Fire Monster) - 1955
  • King Kong Vs Godzilla (there is a U.S. and a Japanese version - big differences) - 1962
  • Mothra Vs Godzilla - 1964
  • Ghidorah The Three-Headed Monster - 1964
  • Invasion Of Astro Monster (aka Monster Zero, also known as Invasion of Astro-Monster, Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, Monster Zero, and The Great Monster War) - 1965
  • Ebirah Horror Of The Deep (aka Godzilla Vs The Sea Monster) - 1966
  • Son Of Godzilla (aka Monster Island's Decisive Battle: Godzilla's Son) - 1967
  • Destroy All Monsters (actually the last film in the series chronologically) - 1968
  • All Monsters Attack (aka Godzilla's Revenge) - 1969
  • Godzilla Vs Hedorah (aka Godzilla Vs The Smog Monster) - 1971
  • Godzilla Vs Gigan (aka Godzilla On Monster Island) - 1972
  • Godzilla Vs Megalon - 1973
  • Godzilla Vs Mechagodzilla - 1974
  • Terror Of Mechagodzilla - 1975 
Heisei Series (1984-1995): 
  • The Return Of Godzilla - 1984
  • Godzilla Vs Biollante - 1989
  • Godzilla Vs King Ghidorah - 1991
  • Godzilla And Mothra The Battle For Earth - 1992
  • Godzilla Vs Mechagodzilla II - 1993
  • Godzilla Vs Space Godzilla - 1994
  • Godzilla Vs Destoroyah - 1995
Millenium Series (1999-2004): 
  • Godzilla 2000 - 1999
  • Godzilla Vs Megaguirus - 2000
  • Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah Giant Monster All Out Attack - 2001
  • Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla - 2002
  • Godzilla Tokyo SOS - 2003
  • Godzilla Final Wars - 2004 

US movie: Sony Pictures: 1998-2003
  • Godzilla - 1998

US Animated Series: 1978 - 1981 on NBC:
  •  The Godzilla Power Hour (September 8, 1978 – October 28, 1978), 8 episodes
  • The Godzilla Super 90 (November 4, 1978 – December 2, 1978), 5 episodes
  • Godzilla (September 15, 1979 – October 13, 1979), 5 episodes
  • The Godzilla/Globetrotters Adventure Hour (October 20, 1979 – December 8, 1980), 8 episodes
Re-runs:
  • The Godzilla/Dynomutt Hour (September 27, 1980 – November 15, 1980)
  • The Godzilla/Hong Kong Phooey Hour (November 22, 1980 – May 16, 1981)
  • Godzilla (May 23, 1981 – September 5, 1981)
US Animated Series 2: 1998 - 2000 on Fox:
  • Season 1 (September 12, 1998 - August 14, 1999), 21 episodes
  • Season 2 (September 18, 1999 - April 22, 2000), 16 episodes
  • Season 2, three (3) un-aired episodes  
Television (Japan): 
  • Zone Fighter (in Japan, Live-action) - 1973
  • Godzilla Island (animated via action figures) (October 6, 1997 - September 30, 1998), 256 three-minute episodes.  
As written up in an earlier blog, plans are afoot (a large radioactive foot!) for a new Godzilla movie in 2014. You can read about that HERE.  

Thanks for dropping by, and let me all urge you to go out and rent or buy a copy of Gojira. It's quite the serious movie, and is actually very well done. It's not camp or schlock at all and can be enjoyed by anyone with an open mind.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph 

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