Gojira (1954)

gojira poster 1954 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Classic Godzilla but a bit classier than most that came afterwards

Generic story

Movie Info

Movie Name: Gojira

Studio: Toho

Genre(s): Horror/Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Release Date(s): November 4, 1954

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

gojira first appearance 1954

Introducing….GOJIRA!!! (or Godzilla)

Nuclear testing awakens and mutates a creature from the deep.  Now the Japanese coastline and Tokyo are threatened by an unstoppable beast:  Gojira.  Dr. Kyouhei Yamane (Takashi Shimura), his daughter Emiko Yamane (Momoko Kochi), Hideto Ogata (Akira Takarada), and Daisuke Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata) set out to find a way to destroy the monster before it destroys Japan.

Directed by  Ishirō Honda, Gojira (which combines the words Japanese words gorira and kujira…gorilla and whale) was the start of a franchise.  The film was released in 1954 in Japan and was released in the United States in 1956 as Godzilla:  King of the Monsters! in a highly re-edited format (though the film did see a limited release in 1955 in areas catering to Japanese-Americans).  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of Gojira and Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (Criterion #594) and it also was included as part of Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films, 1954-1975 boxset (Criterion #1000).

gojira akira takarada momoko kochi akihiko hirata takashi shimura

Well…this is…awkward

Godzilla was a Saturday mainstay when I was a kid.  Godzilla’s battles with kaiju seemed to be on every weekend though the original Godzilla:  King of the Monsters! wasn’t frequently in the rotation (I think the TV stations felt the monster battles were more of an attraction than plot).  The heavily edited version of the film loses a lot of Gojira’s nuances and social commentary and causes the film to be written off…which is a shame.

The differences between Godzilla:  King of the Monsters! and Gojira are immense; it is almost like watching a different movie.  American version dumbed down the story, and it didn’t really even make sense.  Raymond Burr never really interacts with the characters who the plot is built around, and any scenes with them involves over the shoulder looks.  It really takes away from the love triangle between Emiko Yamane, Hideto Ogata, and Daisuke Serizawa when you have this American guy talking about their emotions.

gojira atomic breathe godzilla

Eat my atomic breath!

That is one of the stronger parts of Gojira is that the story and acting are quite good.  It is an interesting post-war story and warnings about the danger of nuclear weapons.  Gojira is a result of the horror that happened during World War II and was released less than ten years after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  At this point in time, the full effects of the nuclear bomb weren’t completely known and this fear is reflected in the film.  In addition to the fear about the nuclear bomb, Serizawa’s oxygen destroyer is seen as a progression of dangerous weapons and Serizawa’s demonstrates a desire to end the escalation of weapons.

Visually, Godzilla is Godzilla no matter if it is called Gojira.  I will say in this film, there seems to be much more attention to detail and more experimental shooting.  Later entries in the Godzilla series simply has Godzilla stomping on miniatures throughout the course of the movie.  Here, there is a bit more stylized shooting and you can tell Gojira is a better film than its sequels.

Godzilla is normally seen as a kids type movie with a popcorn appeal, but the original Gojira really feels like it could have headed another direction.  If you’ve never seen Gojira and think your really know Godzilla check it out.  Godzilla isn’t a hero…he’s just a reflection of the times and fears of the world.  Gojira was followed by Godzilla Raids Again in 1955.

Followed By:

Godzilla Raids Again (1955)

Related Links:

Godzilla:  King of the Monsters! (1956)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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