tek's rating:

Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (not rated)
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streaming sites: Max

Caution: spoilers!

This is a 1956 Americanized version of the 1954 Japanese kaiju movie "Gojira." Not a remake, mind you, but an edited version, with an American character spliced into the film. I haven't seen the original version, but I'd certainly like to, someday. Anyway, sometime in the Aughts, a friend of mine gave me a box set of five DVDs (four of them are Godzilla movies, and one is Rodan, a different kaiju who would later appear in a Godzilla movie that isn't in this set). I'm not sure how long it was after my friend gave me this set that I first watched this movie, but I guess at the time I didn't bother writing a review. I don't remember why, but it could be because I wanted to wait until I saw the original version. But then in 2013, "Pacific Rim" came out, and because I couldn't see that in a theater, I thought it would be a good time to finally get around to watching all the movies in the set (since that movie was inspired by kaiju movies). I don't think I'd watched any but this one, but I figured I might as well start out by watching this again, and finally writing a review. And then... when I watched it, nothing about it particularly seemed like anything I'd seen before. So either it's incredibly unmemorable, which I doubt, or I'm mistaken about thinking I'd watched it once. Which I also doubt. Honestly, I'm at a loss, here. But whatever, I've watched it now, fore sure, whether this was the first time or the second.

Anyway, Raymond Burr played American reporter Steve Martin, who narrates the film. Martin was on his way to Cairo, but stopped in Tokyo to visit his old friend, Dr. Serizawa. However, he doesn't get to see Serizawa. Not long before his plane landed, a ship had been mysteriously destroyed nearby, with no survivors. Several more ships are soon destroyed, so of course everyone wants to figure out what's going on, including Martin. So he stays in Tokyo to cover the story. Most of the time he's accompanied by a guy named Tomo, a member of the Japanese security forces, who translates for him. (There are also portions of Japanese dialogue that are neither dubbed, nor subtitled, nor translated by Tomo. But there are some portions that are dubbed into English... rather badly, IMO.) The main guy who's interested in learning about whatever's going on is a scientist named Dr. Yamane, whom Martin had met a few years ago through Dr. Serizawa. (Incidentally, I found it particularly cringeworthy whenever Yamane's English dub voice mangled the word "phenomenon," though there were also a couple other words that were mispronounced. But what bugged me even more than that is a few times Martin himself mispronounced certain English words. Which is weird, considering it's his native language.)

Um... I need to mention that Dr. Yamane had a beautiful daughter named Emiko. She and Dr. Serizawa had been betrothed to each other as children, I guess, but now she was in love with a naval officer named Ogata. She goes to visit Serizawa and tell him that, but before she can say anything about it, he shows her a demonstration of a scientific discovery he's made, which the audience doesn't see, and he makes her promise not to tell anyone about it. Meanwhile, Martin and Tomo and Dr. Yamane and tons of other people go to Odo Island, which is near the location the ships had all been destroyed. The islanders believe they were destroyed by a monster that they call Godzilla. And eventually we see that they're right. Godzilla is kind of a cross between a Tyrannosaurus and a Stegosaurus (with some other features thrown in), but probably about ten times bigger than actual dinosaurs. And it has radioactive breath that melts metal and sets stuff on fire. Anyway, Godzilla causes some destruction on the island, so the military tries to kill Godzilla. So then Godzilla attacks Tokyo. Eventually, Emiko reveals Serizawa's discovery to Ogata and Martin (who had been injured in the attack). It seems Serizawa's discovery could be used to kill Godzilla, so Emiko and Ogata beg him to use it. But he doesn't want to, because it could become a terrible weapon for people to use against each other. But of course he eventually does use it.

And I guess that's all I want to say about the plot. I definitely feel like I probably would have liked the original version better. But this was okay. And I actually didn't feel like Godzilla himself was terribly fake-looking, as most people probably do. But there were models of buildings and vehicles and things that I did think looked terribly fake. Well, at least the vehicles did. OMG, did the vehicles look fake! And toward the end, there were divers who looked terribly fake whenever you saw their whole bodies (though closeups of their faces in the diving helmets were real). Um, what else can I say? Oh yes, Dr. Yamane theorized that Godzilla had been awakened by the testing of nuclear bombs. I guess in the original it was actually supposed to be the bombs the U.S. had dropped on Japan in World War II, but I certainly didn't get that impression in this version. Either way, I guess the movie is a cautionary tale. Though I also always thought Godzilla was so huge because of exposure to radiation, though I'm not at all sure that this movie says the radiation caused him to grow, or anything. (Probably accounted for his destructive breath, though.) Supposedly the Odo islanders had known about the monster for at least a couple of centuries (though it's possible this particular one isn't really the one from their legends, I dunno). And... I'm probably forgetting stuff I wanted to say. But maybe not. Oh wait, yeah, I think they said the Jurassic period was 2 million years ago, when of course it was much longer ago than that.

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