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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 9.33%
Average: 8%
Pretty Bad: 1.33%
Total Crap: 4%

4 reviews, 51 user ratings

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Godzilla (1954)
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by Jay Seaver

"Likely the best of the 1950s Monster Movies."
5 stars

Seeing the trailer for Rialto's uncut 50th anniversery release of Godzilla in front of every film at the Brattle was a lot of fun. After all, Rialto is mostly known for releases of French New Wave feautres, and the trailer has no footage, simply promising an uncut, uncensored version of a 50-year-old classic before revealing (to those who don't recognize the music) that the classic is Godzilla. There followed a reaction that was equal parts "the original Godzilla on the big screen? Yes!" and "you had me going" laughter.

One thing that's important to remember about Godzilla is that, as a monster movie, it in many ways has more in common with the Hollywood sci-fi/horror of the fifties than the roughly thirty sequels and remakes and remakes of sequels it has spawned over the past half-century. It is, at its heart, a cautionary tale about atomic weapons, with warnings about the weapons themselves and the arms race that surrounds them. It only weakens when, in the middle, it detours away from a giant monster crushing the Japanese countryside to spend time on a very conventional romantic subplot. This drags not just because it's not nearly as interesting as the science-fictional stuff, but because Momoko Kochi, the daughter of a scientist (Takashi Shimura) and girlfriend of a Coast Guard captain (Akira Takarada), just wasn't a very good actress; her response to any emotional situation seemed to be to smile a little wider.

What Godzilla has that its American contemporaries didn't, of course, is a very real first-hand understanding of what the atomic bomb meant; what was an abstract fear for Americans was a recent memory for Japan. Director Ishiro Honda works with those memories of destruction and wartime evacuations to make for some tense scenes. The action and effects generally hold up - yes, a scene where the Japanese Air Force fires approximately eight thousand missiles at a 50-meter-high monster without apparently scoring a hit is a little embarassing, and Godzilla often moves slowly and ponderously, but that also allows him to come across as an animal out of its time confused by all this human-build crap. But the miniature work is very nice, and one scene of his fire-hot radioactive breath melting a pair of electric towers was still pretty cool.

Godzilla stands out as likely the best of the 50s monster movies and apart from the kaiju movies it begat. It's good to see it presented that way, because even as Godzilla-the-monster has become a sort of timeless franchise, Godzilla-the-movie is very much a product of its time, and gains in stature when viewed as such.

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originally posted: 06/13/04 14:16:26
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sydney Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.
Trilogy Starters: For more in the Trilogy Starters series, click here.

User Comments

5/11/19 PUMP UP THE JAM A Classic Kaiju film. 5 stars
9/14/12 CORDWAINER SMITH A forcible sci-fi message film of the 1950s. Excellent. 5 stars
4/17/12 keith miron I like the mean Godzilla 4 stars
11/06/10 Sugarfoot Who doesn't enjoy Godzilla movies a little? 4 stars
6/21/09 Brad Barrett well said Mark Radburn and Jordan! 5 stars
3/16/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess Some images look as if they were lifted from the depths of hell. Scary. 5 stars
11/24/08 Craig D. Surprisingly excellent. It's good because it's good, not just because it's old. 5 stars
3/14/08 Wes He picks up a bus and he throws it back down! 5 stars
11/20/07 David Cohen Built on horror rather than camp charm, very effective 5 stars
6/06/07 Max Overrated, but good 4 stars
11/11/06 David Pollastrini classic 5 stars
9/14/06 Kyle Davis The Greatest of them all! Thumbs Up 5 stars
7/02/06 R.W.Welch Hokey but well plotted 50's pop classic. 4 stars
6/16/06 Mark Radburn Wake up Kcaj and Poopy Woopy you shit-heads, Godzilla rules and you two guys suck 5 stars
5/24/06 Kcaj A masterpiece of boring, stupid crap. 1 stars
4/22/06 Poopy Woopy ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!!!!! 1 stars
12/24/05 Green Gremlin This sure beats the 1997 Matthew Broderick fiasco !!! 5 stars
11/05/05 Jordan Roger Ebert hates this film, burn in hell you fat bastard 5 stars
10/29/05 George Jobson Godzilla towers above all monsters 5 stars
9/26/05 Carolyn Rathburn Wonderful old movie. you just can't beat the classics 5 stars
9/17/05 Aaron Savage I LOVE THIS FILM!! 5 stars
8/15/05 cristeen69 Godzilla can't be beat even in this time a classic!! 5 stars
7/30/05 Josh A Highly watchable Monster Movie 5 stars
7/24/05 Ben Farmillo Godzilla is truly the Monster that never dies, King Kong doesn't exist 5 stars
7/12/05 Kieran Friend Godzilla is a Masterpiece, The Granddaddy of all monster movies 5 stars
7/03/05 Matt Sutton Godzilla, You 5 stars
5/23/05 Luke BlackAdder Godzilla is a classic, King Kong is no fun 5 stars
5/18/05 Steven Brady Hail to Godzilla 5 stars
4/01/05 Mark Radburn Godzilla is the world's greatest monster 5 stars
11/26/04 alien assassin this leaves the bloated 1998 remake for dead ! 5 stars
8/21/04 Tyrantis It's great monster movie with a good message. 4 stars
7/25/04 Robert Patrick An A+ perfotmance! 5 stars
6/18/04 Wendy Lohman Forget the "Godzilla" you know--this film really has something to say! 5 stars
6/16/04 franknutz see the original it is one of the great movies of our time 5 stars
6/16/04 Chas E A Classic 5 stars
5/20/04 Renna cool for it's time/a classic 5 stars
2/19/04 Barry M. Brown Absolutely one of the best films ( bar none ) american, or japanese ever made !!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
2/12/04 Miguel The original 1954 version stands as an artisic expression of the atomic bomb experience. 5 stars
4/01/03 Godzillafan54 this movie is what i live for! not the crappy american one! Go Go Godzilla!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
6/27/02 Charlie Björklund Dont confuse this with the others. Kickass movie! 5 stars
4/02/02 Dojo Futisuju BAD 1 stars
3/28/02 NeuroManson Makes you think when 50+ lbs of rubber suits can outperform 2 million dollars in CG effects 5 stars
3/17/02 john one of the best!Not to be mistaken for the 1998 godzilla here in america 5 stars
9/23/01 Larry Smith Raymond Burr is out of place in Japan... He's Perry Mason/Ironside.. not for monster movie 4 stars
6/21/01 Gman2887 The greatest monster film of all time, made by the masters of the genre! 5 stars
6/21/01 Kook As much loved as it is, this really was a hokey flick. Watchable. 2 stars
6/19/01 Captain Spyro The greatest of all Godzilla films!!!! 5 stars
2/16/01 Steve in Prague A dark, moody, brilliant masterpiece 5 stars
3/08/00 David Rogers This is not one of Godzilla's best. But hey it's Godzilla. 5 stars
2/21/00 eejitgrrl This is the REAl lizard king!!!! 5 stars
3/13/99 Ah Dooey There was a Japanese monster movie!? 4 stars
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  27-Apr-1956 (NR)
  DVD: 05-Sep-2006


  02-Jul-1956 (MA)

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