I can't help but stress how much I love this film. The characters are funny, the pace is perfect, the score's great, and the monsters are characters in their own right (those are real people underneath those heaps of latex after all!). It kicked off the tried and true Godzilla formula that dominated the early sixties and seventies films, which was also brought back into the fold for the Heisei series. Perhaps my favorite character is Mr. Tako. He's such a loveable, childish eccentric, and character actor Ichiro Arishima did a fantastic job with him in both verbal and physical humor. Tadao Takashima and Yu Fujiki are also a great duo and would more or less reprise their roles a year later in Atragon
. Jun Tazaki's also great as the commanding General Shinzo, and Mie Hama's cute as ever. It's a pity not as many have seen Honda's original cut, though. Even though the U.S. version is still a fun action movie, just remember you're missing a lot of funny moments with the Japanese cast, so if you didn't gobble up the U.S. version, give it another try with Toho's version. It's worth it.
I originally quite venomously detested John Beck/Peter Zinner's cut, but after repeated viewings, it's grown on me. The film keeps its core. The characters are still a riot (Ryder Sound's dub is great), the U.N. scenes are left ambiguously intentionally/unintentionally funny (Eric Carter stares, puzzled at the camera when Dr. Johnson pulls out his Dinosaur book), the action's all there, and the soundtrack, while not directly superior to maestro Ifukube's work at all, is just fine in its own right. It fits the action better during many scenes and Peter Zinner did a good job selecting tracks, while William Stevenson buffed up the sound design a little (more Godzilla roars, punchier impact and explosion sounds, etc...). If the U.S. version kept just a little more of the Japanese version's integrity, I'm sure it would be unanimously positively received in fan circles today, but for what it's worth, it's still a fun Americanization, if a bit lopsided.
A fun flick, no matter which version you see first.
For viewing, I'd recommend Allen Perkins' fantastic DVD-9 restoration of the Japanese cut if you can seek it out, because of the way the film was preserved after the '70s, it's a revelation seeing this cut of the film in such good quality.