Bombs vs. bombs. Missiles vs. missiles. And now a new superweapon to throw upon us all. As a scientist, no, as a human being, I cannot allow that to happen.Gojira
— Dr. Serizawa after his Oxygen Destroyer ends up being revealed to Ogata
for English-speaking viewers), is a black and white kaiju tokusatsu
film directed by Ishiro Honda
in 1954 and the first film of the Godzilla
The story is written by Shigeru Kayama. The film is roughly based on Honda's wartime experience as well as seeing the wasteland of Hiroshima caused by the atomic bombing. It had a profound effect on his outlook, leading to a strong dislike of nuclear weapons. Thus, the film is a metaphor for their destructive power. The opening scene is a direct reference to the Castle Bravo test, and Godzilla's rampage in the second act symbolizes the atomic bombings.
The film also has an ensemble cast of characters, Ogata (Akira Takarada), Emiko Yamane (Momoko Koichi), Dr. Yamane (Takashi Shimura), and Dr. Daisuke Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata). A summary of the film's story can be found on the franchise's main page.
Despite debuting to poor reception in Japan initially, (in subsequent years, Japanese film scholars and fans of the series have come to consider it one of the best Japanese films ever made
, take your pick), was praised by American viewers after the original film was made available outside of Japan with two DVD releases, by Classic Media and The Criterion Collection
. The English version, Godzilla: King of the Monsters!
was edited to add American reporter Steve Martin (Raymond Burr
), and remove some of the slower scenes. (Despite the edits, it still has merit.) There is also the Italian version, Italian Godzilla King Of The Monsters
, a much stranger recut that includes colorization and Stock Footage
from World War II
Something very important to note is that despite the infamous "cheese" factor of its later sequels, for this film, not so much
, its first sequel, Godzilla Raids Again
, and their American counterparts are horror films. It's amazingly dark and depressing
, and this is the first
film of the series.
Not to be confused with the French progressive death metal
band of the same name
This film shows the examples of:
- A-Team Firing: So the military brings out fighter jets to attack Godzilla as a last-ditch effort. Too bad the missiles keep missing him, even as he submerges into the ocean.
- Adult Fear:
- A woman holding her children, telling them they will see their father soon... wow...
- The child having a Geiger counter used on him, signifying he'll die from radiation poisoning.
- Apocalypse Wow: We see what happened in the second act and the aftermath of the third.
- Antagonist Title: Gojira
- Art Major Biology: Godzilla is supposedly from the Jurassic Era of dinosaurs(the era itself being 201.3± 0.6 Ma). Shigeru Kayama purposely date the Jurassic Era later than that to tie Godzilla's origins to man.
- Artistic License – Physics: Having the oxygen atoms in your body spontaneously destroyednote would be nasty and most likely fatal, but probably would not strip the flesh from your bones and disintegrate you.
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Godzilla is exactly 50 meters in the Japanese version. The dub overshot this with him being 400 feet tall, which is 121.92 meters. The latter is rather inconsistent, due to him being barely taller than a couple of buildings that would be over his height.
- Avoid the Dreaded G Rating: Averted. While there was a special event for children where Momoko Koichi and Haruo Nakajima (in the suit) in Hawaii uniforms (Godzilla even had a guitar around his neck), the film is still classified as a horror film.
- Bad Vibrations: An early example. It usually signifies an Oh, Crap for everyone, including the audience. However, the special effect used for other scenes is rather... odd. Since in the party boat scene, we can hear the stomping before Godzilla surfaces(it would made sense, but sound is usually not heard underwater), then again when it can be heard before Godzilla puts his head out of the water in his first rampage. In fact, Akira Ifukube accidentally stepped on a sound system, and it was used in the film.
- Berserk Button: Shine lights in Godzilla's face, he will absolutely kill you. Dr. Yamane even suggests not to use lights on Godzilla during the monster's short rampage. It's explained in the second film when Yamane says Godzilla doesn't like bright lights because they remind him of the glare of the atomic bomb which turned him into what he is today.
- Badass Normal: Daisuke Serizawa, a brilliant yet otherwise ordinary human, is responsible for one of the few times that the King of Monsters has been defeated.
- Big Bad: Aside from the pun, Godzilla's actions kick-started the plot, and his death has cast his shadow over the entire franchise in all 3 entire series, Showa, Heisei, and Millennium. However, his Showa successor went from a villain to a hero, Heisei successor from villain to antihero, and multiple ones who are villains and antiheroes in the Millennium series.
- Bittersweet Ending: After the death of Godzilla and Dr. Serizawa, Dr. Yamane laments the possibility of another Godzilla. He was right 3 series later.
- Breath Weapon: Godzilla's atomic breath. The monster hadn't used much of his atomic breath until he crossed the electrical wires.
- Central Theme: Tragedy and Consequences. What, you thought we were kidding? Even the central characters are not immune for the latter, which triggered the trope of the former.
- Contrived Coincidence: Godzilla seems to know where to go in this film. He lands on Odo Island (where Masaji happens to be), Came to Tokyo twice on separate nights. But since this is an Ishiro Honda film, it's Played for Drama. And he's damn good at it. Until Destroy All Monsters, Fridge Horror kicks in 'cause the monsters are aware of their target's location.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Godzilla and Dr. Daisuke Serizawa being disintegrated by the Oxygen Destroyer.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Godzilla vs. the army. Godzilla's like "What army?" as he steps on them.
- Deadline News: A radio crew reporting the attack on Tokyo realize they have no way out. Accepting it, they announce this fact to their listeners and continue reporting until Godzilla destroys the tower from which they're broadcasting.
- Darker and Edgier: It's a very dark film of its time. Before its Reverse Cerebus Syndrome and Lighter and Softer sequels (barring its first direct sequel Godzilla Raids Again), it is much darker than the radioactive monsters of the 50's and this is the first film of the film's overall chronology.
- Death by Irony: Masaji, the fisherman who survived Godzilla's third attack in the ocean, has an Oh, Crap when Godzilla comes to Odo Island during a typhoon.
- Decoy Protagonist: In the opening, Ogata seemingly shown as the protagonist of the film. He's not.
- Digital Destruction: The Classic Media Blu-ray of Gojira used a mediocre, rough looking print hit with excessive grain smoothing (which didn't even get rid of much of it to begin with). Fortunately, the Criterion Collection Blu-ray gave the film a proper restoration.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Considering Ishiro Honda directed this film and its screenplay, there are several references to Japan's experience in the aftermath World War II and the incoming Cold War:
- The Eiko Maru blowing up in the beginning is a direct reference to the nuclear incident that occurred earlier in the year, when the US "Castle Bravo" test detonated a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific and the Lucky Dragon 5 fishing boat got caught in the radiation burst by accident.
- Godzilla himself is not just a metaphor of the atomic bomb (or nuclear weapons in general), but also a living nuclear weapon. A rather sad part, Godzilla in the climax is treated as the monster itself is innocent, since it experienced the aftershock of the nuclear weapons that gave the monster its powers. How it went to "kill every single human that stands in my way", we will never know.
- The exchange with Ogata and Dr. Yamane when Ogata agrees with the army to kill Godzilla because of him being a reminder of the atomic bombings. Unfortunately, Yamane doesn't take it well, and kicks Ogata out of his house.
- The fire raids. Those of you don't know about the fire raids, look it up.
- A couple complains about using bomb shelters should Godzilla come again. The majority of the generation of that era would most likely be survivors during the time when US air raids were common during World War II.
- Doomed Hometown / Watching Troy Burn / The Tokyo Fireball: Geez, talk about fitting 3 tropes in one movie. Tokyo is utterly destroyed by Godzilla while its survivors literally watch it burn. It actually would make you cringe since it would remind you of what happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
- Emotional Torque: Hoy hell.
- Eye Patch Of Power: Again, Serizawa, the brilliant scientist who made the Oxygen Destroyer, wears an eye patch.
- Film Noir: While this movie isn't a crime drama, it nevertheless makes use of Noir-style lighting.
- Foreign Remake: Has 2 under its belt by the US. The much-maligned Godzilla (1998) and the 2014 remake for its 60th anniversary.
- Foreshadowing: In the beginning of the film, we see the fishing boats explode, and earlier, a blinding flash of light. In Godzilla's second raid in Tokyo, they are the result of his Atomic Breath
- From Bad to Worse: People finds out Godzilla is a giant radiation-mutated dinosaur. Said mutant dinosaur can use a radioactive Breath Weapon, and proximity towards him can make people suffer from radiation poisoning.
- Giant Equals Invincible: Godzilla. The big guy set the stage for "giant monster ignores heavy artillery".
- Godzilla Threshold: The Japanese government is willing to go to any lengths to eliminate Godzilla, including using an untested superweapon that will cause drastic long-term damage to Japan's own marine-based economy. The entire point of the film, in fact, is to examine how humanity is willing to develop and deploy ever more powerful weapons without regard for the consequences, making this an Unbuilt Trope.
- Grey and Gray Morality: As the DVD commentary says, the crux of the film is its moral ambiguity that Serizawa is wrestling with. If he does nothing, Godzilla will surely destroy his people, putting his inaction as culpable to the extinction of the Japanese. However if he uses the Oxygen Destroyer, it creates the danger of a new arms race, and one that has the power to cause the utter destruction of all mankind. It's because there is no third option in this film that Serizawa is so tortured by the decision he has to make.
- Happily Adopted: Somewhat, given the fact that Godzilla killed Shinkichi's mother and brother. Now he's Emiko's adopted brother, and doesn't mind being their new son. In Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, he really does seemed to get along with his adopted father in his picture with Dr. Yamane.
- Hell Is That Noise: Would you believe that Godzilla's roar was a result of a rubber glove used against a string instrument? It's damn chilling too.
- The Hero Dies: Daisuke Serizawa, who is the closest thing to The Hero in the film, makes a Heroic Sacrifice in the climax.
- Heroic BSOD: Serizawa has one after realizing the full weight that rests on his shoulders. One must wonder how Akihiko Hirata felt when playing the guy. As mentioned in the Bittersweet Ending entry, Yamane laments that Godzilla was the last of his kind, but if nuclear tests are continued to be conducted, another Godzilla will appear again in the world. Cue Fridge Horror for that part.
- Hope Spot: The military are throwing everything they can, including electrical wires, at Godzilla. Cue Atomic Breath and ensuing death that follows.
- Horror: For those of you who don't know, this is technically a horror film. Unlike most giant monster films and its later sequels (except Godzilla Raids Again) that weren't, this one sets it apart differently. The black and white nature of the film lampshades this, and it is actually meant to scare the shit out of you. Not just the picture format, but the music has its level of creepiness.
- Ignored Expert: Guess how Tokyo ended up when Dr. Yamane told them to never use lights on Godzilla? In Godzilla Raids Again, the military were wise enough to listen to him.
- Infant Immortality: Played with. Shinkichi survives (which is played straight). The children on the second act survives the attack from Godzilla, but their mother dies. Then one of Yamane's colleague uses the Geiger Counter on a boy who has the counter crackle near him.
- Intrepid Reporter: Though not a main character, Hagiwara tries to get the story as much as he can. Throughout the whole movie, he actually survives the entire film. Probably born lucky.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Daisuke Serizawa, one of the scientists involved in the story, is actually aware that Emiko Yamane is with Ogata the whole time. Even he knows she's inseparable with the man. During the climax, he willingly sacrifices himself so that Emiko and Ogata would be together. (Also to prevent his knowledge of the Oxygen Destroyer from falling into the wrong hands).
- Last of His Kind: Dr. Yamane believes Godzilla is the last of his kind. Then he revises this statement and says that another one will appear again. Unfortunately, he was right.
- Leitmotif: The theme for the opening credits was not meant for Godzilla, but for the military. Both Godzilla and the JSDF have two themes.
- It can be hard to hear at first, but the sailor's harmonica tune in the opening scene can be heard later as the Oxygen Destroyer's theme in Emiko's flashback (which is later used as its theme in Godzilla vs. Destoroyah)
- Littlest Cancer Patient: After Godzilla devastates Tokyo, there's a closeup of a little boy with a Geiger counter waved around his face.
- Love Triangle: This is the first monster film (albeit a rather tragic giant monster film) to use such a trope. Serizawa's obviously in love with Emiko, while she herself is in love with Ogata. This is further complicated when Ogata asks Serizawa to use the Oxygen Destroyer rather than Emiko, and thus proving his point that humans want to use any one superweapon to be used, despite a living nuclear weapon practically destroyed their hometown. But Serizawa relents after the destruction of Tokyo, and the love triangle shifted to him going to "I want my beloved to be happy" phase.
- Mad Scientist: Inverted. Serizawa's not a mad scientist despite his appearance and lab equipment. Kyohei Yamane, however, was originally gonna be one.
- Manly Tears: Both Ogata and Shinkichi cry when Serizawa made his Heroic Sacrifice at the climax of the film.
- Meaningful Background Event: Used in a horrifying level. During the typhoon scene as Shinkichi shouts to his brother, you can see the lower half of Godzilla on the upper left side of the screen as he destroys Masaji's house.
- Mighty Glacier: Just look at that suit. In production, it's the heaviest and stiffest suit ever made (the prototype suit is 200 pounds). This works well with the plot, as Godzilla's attack in the second act serves as a rolling nuclear explosion slowly killing everything in his path. Future suits would be made for Godzilla to become a Lightning Bruiser in later sequels.
- Missing Mom: Emiko's mother is not mentioned. We are assumed that Kyohei Yamane is widowed in this film, since Emiko lives with her father.
- Monumental Damage: The first film of its kind, with the destruction of the Wako Clocktower and the Diet Building. Later films will do this a lot. Interestingly though, the Diet Building scene was filmed first. However, the damage to the building did not crumble correctly, so it had to be reshot.
- National Geographic Nudity: In an early beach scene a couple of older fisherwomen are seen casually topless. Japan hadn't yet adopted Western attitudes towards that kind of nudity.
- Next Sunday A.D.: The film takes place in summer 1955 (specifically August) according to the original English sales brochure. However, unlike the Heisei series which always takes place a year than the actual release date, every film afterwards dates the movie in 1954.
- No Hugging, No Kissing: Even though Emiko and Ogata is the film's Official Couple (in the eyes of the audience), they don't try to both in this film. Ogata does indicate that he intends to ask Dr. Yamane for Emiko's hand, but this is quickly forgotten and in any case, there is no fiancé level affection.
- No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Played with. Serizawa clearly has hundreds of research documents and notes for creating the Oxygen Destroyer, but he destroys all of it to prevent the device from ever being used again in the wake of his death and its eventual discovery.
- No Sell: This is where Godzilla's Giant Equals Invincible comes into play. Military weapons has no effect on the guy whatsoever.
- Nothing Is Scarier: Used in the first act. You know something is destroying those boats, but the monster is nowhere to be seen. In the typhoon scene, you can hear the footsteps of the monster, then his lower half is shown, followed by crushed buildings, then a crushed helicopter ending with a Dramatic Wind. In that order.
- Not So Different: If you think the Japanese is heavily afflicted by the atomic bombs, then Godzilla isn't so different. In the climax, Godzilla looks peaceful and it's apparent that he just want to be left alone. Cue the fact that Godzilla ends up a Tragic Monster.
- Nuclear Weapons Taboo: The whole point of this movie is that not only nuclear weapons, but weapons of mass destruction in general. Dr. Yamane stated using said nuclear weapons could bring another Godzilla.
- Oh, Crap:
- Mass "Oh, Crap!": In the Odo Island scene, the villagers were scurrying to fight off the monster (apparently, they don't know how huge the thing is). While Dr. Yamane saw the monster, the whole village ran back down after seeing Godzilla.
- While the people on a partyboat are in a celebration, Godzilla appears unscathed, and scares the hell out of everyone in the boat.
- While blasting Godzilla to death (or attempting to), Godzilla melts the electrical wires, of course, it means run like hell!!
- Off Model: Several close-ups of Godzilla's head are used by a hand puppet, with varying degrees of success. For instance, in a few scenes where he shoots his atomic breath, his eyes were... weird to say the least. Other times, they would (sorta) match the up with the suit footage.
- Out of Focus: Hagiwara is very important in the first half of the film, but has a lot less to do toward the end.
- Platonic Life Partners: This is what Emiko initally believes regarding Serizawa. Unfortunately, he thinks otherwise.
- Played for Drama: Everything in this film is played for drama. Including the climax, where you'd expect the film to end on a high note. It doesn't.
- Posthumous Character: Both Godzilla and Serizawa are this. Godzilla especially (except Godzilla vs. Megaguirus), considering it's his actions in the film that makes him The Dreaded that any character will bring up the events of this film in all three series. Serizawa especially is one as well as he is the man who defeated Godzilla.
- Recut: Germany's cut was a simple dubbed and edited edition (running 82 minutes), while France got a unique hybrid edit of the original cut and King of the Monsters (running about 90 minutes).
- Reluctant Mad Scientist: Though not necessarily "mad", Serizawa relunctantly decided to use the Oxygen Destroy afer seeing the destruction Godzilla caused. Though he intends to use the Oxygen Destroyer once, his heroic sacrifice is foreshadowed in an eariler scene when he clearly states that he'd burn his notes at the event of his death.
- Reverse Cerebus Syndrome: For anyone who has seen the sillier Denser and Wackier and Lighter and Softer entries, this not such a film. This film is based on real-life tragedy and Ishiro Honda's traumatizing experience of the aftermath of the Little Boy atom bomb that desolated Hiroshima. The film also possess one of the most tragic monsters in an age where atomic monsters were a thing.
- Save the Villain: Played with. Kyohei Yamane does not want Godzilla to be killed because he survived the H-Bomb testing in the Pacific. Mention above, Yamane wants to study Godzilla because he's a paleontologist. However, he ends up having to agree to kill Godzilla after what he did to Tokyo.
- Scenery Gorn: Tokyo after Godzilla nuked the place. In a chilling way, it looks like the town has been nuked by an atomic bomb. Which, in reality, was the real intent.
- Sequel Hook: Though unintentional, Dr. Yamane's final line suggests there may be another Godzilla somewhere in the world. Three series later (except Godzilla vs. Megaguiurus), it ended up happening.
- Slasher Smile: The look of Godzilla facial expression looks like he has one.
- Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: Treated directional and in-universe. In case you don't know, it's Serizawa's and the director's point of the film. Since Honda's experience in the World War II and haunted by experience of Hiroshima's destruction by the first atomic bomb, Serizawa's line tells us humans can be and are destructive to the point we would use any kind of weapon and most likely to use it in a war. If someone has accidentally make a superweapon of some sort, it's your responsibility to never reveal its existence.
- Spell My Name with a "The": Der Godzilla is referred to with an integral article the way an animal would be in the German dub.
- Stripped to the Bone: What the Oxygen Destroyer does to living things.
- Super Not-Drowning Skills: Since this is the first film, Godzilla appears sleeping underwater when the climax starts. Justified as Godzilla is considered to be an intermediate dinosaur, capable of surviving underwater as long as he wants.
- Sympathetic Murderer: Monster example. You know that 50-metered giant radioactive monster that is hell-bent on attacking humanity and looks like he has a Slasher Smile? Not only is he a main villain, but the climax disturbingly treated him in a sympathetic light, compared to his Jerkass Woobie successors.
- Take a Third Option: Serizawa is faced with either allowing Godzilla to destroy Japan (and then the world), or using a weapon that he knows will spark another deadly arms race that could lead to the destruction of Earth by warring governments. In the end, he opts to use the weapon on himself and Godzilla, ensuring all research goes with him to his watery grave.
- Tempting Fate: So you'd think by now Dr. Yamane says that Godzilla survived an H-Bomb testing, and nothing could stop him. Yet the military bombards the thing when he crosses the high-tension electrical towers and he uses his atomic breath. They still attack him after he blows up and crushes every building in his way.
- Token Romance: A rather tragic example in a horror film, and of a Love Triangle version. It's one of the rare important subplots where it's another focus of the story, because writing it out wouldn't be as powerful as it than in the final product.
- Too Dumb to Live: The army and anyone else that tried to kill Godzilla. They tried, then they got blasted by the thing.
- To Serve Man: During his rampage Godzilla bites down on Tokyo tower to get at the people on it, and gnaws on a train.
- Tragedy: Aside Horror, this fits the bill as well. The de-factor hero dies killing the tragic monster.
- Tragic Monster: Godzilla himself. Mentioned before, Godzilla is also treated as a victim due to the aftermath of his horrible experience. No wonder Ishiro Honda felt so strongly that nuclear weapons would be mankind's undoing.
- Villain Protagonist: Godzilla, who is the central character and a tragic example.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Whatever happened to the military platoons attacking Godzilla in the second act? The first platoon was busy shooting Godzilla as he surfaces, then before his destruction starts, a whole platoon tries to annihiliate him when he uses his atomic breath.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Godzilla and Daisuke Serizawa.
- There's already enough scenes to show how much of a woobie Serizawa is, and he literally is a destoryer of worlds (accidentally). He's a Shell-Shocked Veteran, he's horrified by the creation of his Oxygen Destroyer, and he never intended its use as a weapon. Yet, he created a weapon by accident which severely damaged Tokyo Bay's ecosystem when he used it in the climax.
- Godzilla's as much as a woobie as well. He survived a nuke, he is horribly disfigured (yes, some of Godzilla's facial close-ups look like radiation burns), hates lights, and really wants to be left alone. The footnote on the 2006 Classic Media book even calls them "innocent victims of the nuclear age".