GODZILLA: THE JAPANESE ORIGINAL (1954)

Director Ishiro Honda
Year 1954
Starring Takashi Shimura, Akira Tarada, Momoko Kochi, and Akihiko Hirata
Rating UR
Run Time 96min
Age Policy

18 and up; Children 6 and up will be allowed only with a parent guardian. No children under the age of 6 will be allowed.

More Info IMDb

This screening features the new digital restoration of the 1954 classic.

Godzilla may have become best known for participating in silly, cheap monster mashes, but the original 1954 movie - known as GOJIRA in Japan - is a cinema classic for a damn good reason. This movie doesn’t just have giant monster action, it’s also a sobering and honestly scary warning about the danger of nuclear weapons... made by people who know the truth all too well.

Ishiro Honda’s movie came out just nine years after Fat Man and Little Boy leveled Nagasaki and Hiroshima and after Tokyo had been largely destroyed by Allied firebombing. The scenes of destruction caused by the deep-sea nuclear terror-beast must have been not only thrilling to Japanese audiences - everybody loves watching monsters kick over buildings - but also troubling. While future films would be more or less superhero action larks, the original GODZILLA includes sequences where scientists test orphaned children for radiation contamination and the gravely wounded line hospital hallways, imagery all-too familiar to the Japanese population.

But GODZILLA isn’t a downer! While the movie wrestles with the threat of nuclear weapons and the morality of technology (in the form of the superweapon Oxygen Destroyer), it also works as a wonderfully suspenseful horror movie, slowly building up to Godzilla’s first rampage. GODZILLA is a movie with punch, where every civilian death is felt and the monster’s aggression is out of control.

GODZILLA’s cultural impact is, of course, still felt to this very day. It launched an entire genre of men-in-suits monster movies, but that was totally an accident. The original plan for GODZILLA was to have it be model animation, like KING KONG, but it was realized nobody in Japan had the skills required and that it would take a whopping seven years to finish the movie. So the legendary Japanese FX man Eiji Tsuburaya put an actor in a rubber suit and thus was born the kaiju movie! That process, known as suitmation, is now considered a Japanese craft art.

Don’t walk into GODZILLA expecting a cheesy romp. This is a real movie, with real stakes and a surprisingly bittersweet ending. There’s a reason Godzilla is King of the Monsters. (Devin Faraci)

(Godzilla ®, Gojira and the character design are trademarks of Toho Co., Ltd. © 1954 Toho Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.)

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