Cast & Crew
American reporter Steve Martin comes to amid the rubble of Tokyo, a city almost completely destroyed the previous night. After Steve is rescued and taken to a makeshift hospital, he thinks back to a few days before: On the way to a new post in Cairo, Steve flies to Tokyo to visit old college friend Dr. Serizawa, a prominent theoretical thinker. In the waters below Steve's plane, a ship bursts into flames and sinks, moments after sending out a distress signal. At the Tokyo airport, Steve is asked by security officer Tomo Iwanaga if he noticed anything unusual during the flight. Tomo sadly reveals that he does not know what they are dealing with, then takes Steve to the communications room of the company that owned the sunken vessel. As Steve and Tomo observe, it is revealed that a rescue ship dispatched to the area of the disaster sank in a similar manner. After eight ships are obliterated, the Japanese begin to panic as news of the disasters are broadcast throughout the world. A meeting of Japan's top officials is held and Dr. Yamane, one of Japan's greatest scientists, testifies as Steve looks on. Yamane suggests that the investigation must begin on Odo, a sparsely inhabited island near where the ships sank. Meanwhile, on Odo, fearful natives rescue the sole survivor of one of the ships, but he dies after uttering a few hysterical words. Next morning, a helicopter carrying Japanese officials arrives on the island. Steve and Tomo, who are part of the group, learn from one terrified islander that he saw a monster. That night, Steve and Tomo watch a native ceremony that dramatizes the legend of a monster called "Godzilla," which islanders fear is responsible for the ship disasters. During the night, as a violent storm pounds the island, horrendous roaring sounds are heard as many of the villagers and their homes are destroyed. The next morning, officials bring some villagers back to Tokyo to testify before Japanese leaders about what they saw. Yamane then testifies, stating that they should not dismiss the native's comments and suggesting an expedition be formed. After his testimony, Steve, who had met Yamane on previous occasions, asks if he may come along on the expedition. Onboard the ship bound for Odo is Yamane's daughter Emiko and Ogata, a young officer with whom she is in love, even though she has been engaged to Serizawa since childhood. When the ship arrives at Odo, Yamane observes the destruction and discovers that a local well has been contaminated and is surrounded by radioactive footprints of a living creature. When an alarm sounds in the hills, everyone runs toward it then flee in terror as a huge, dinosaur-like creature appears on the horizon. Back in Tokyo, Yamane describes the Jurassic Age to officials, explaining that there was once an intermediary creature, called Godzilla by native peoples, that could live on both land and in the sea. Yamane then reveals his conclusion that, based on the presence on the island of Spendium 90, a bi-product of the H-bomb, the 400-foot tall Godzilla was resurrected due to "repeated experiments of H-Bombs." Later, Steve speaks on the telephone with his boss, George Lawrence, and relates that officials have decided to use sonar to locate Godzilla, then destroy it with depth charges. That afternoon, as Emiko is about to tell Serizawa that she wants to marry Ogata, Serizawa takes her into his laboratory filled with tanks of exotic fish. After Serizawa causes all of the fish in one tank to be completely destroyed, Emiko is terrified but agrees to his request that she not reveal to anyone what she has seen. Soon a large portion of the Japanese fleet is launching depth charges to try to kill Godzilla, even though Yamane feels that Godzilla should be studied rather than destroyed. After the day's bombardment, the Japanese celebrate Godzilla's destruction until revelers see the monster in Tokyo harbor. The army is mobilized, but when Godzilla rises from the harbor, machine gun fire has no effect. Thousands of frightened citizens try to flee Tokyo as Godzilla walks onto the land, crushing all buildings, trains and bridges in his path. Godzilla returns to the water after destroying the dock area, and the next morning officials work on a plan to stop the beast by entrapping it in the network of electrical power lines encircling the city. In anticipation of Godzilla's reappearance, and fearful of what might happen, Steve sets up his tape recorder to dictate a record of what he sees. Even though the city's electrical wires carry 300,000 volts of electricity, Godzilla is unaffected by their power. Heavy artillery fire is also useless, leaving Tokyo completely vulnerable. As Godzilla advances through the streets, impervious even to tank attacks, its incendiary breath causes huge fires to erupt, setting most of the city ablaze. Observing from the distance, Steve and other reporters are incredulous, but soon they, too, are trapped, forcing Steve to dictate "Steve Martin signing off from Tokyo, Japan." After destroying most of Tokyo, Godzilla returns to the harbor. As Yamane, Emiko and Ogata watch, the Japanese air force attacks Godzilla from the air, sending it back down into the water. In the morning, after Steve awakens in the hospital, Emiko and Ogata are at his bedside. When Steve wonders aloud what can stop Godzilla, Emiko tells him about what she saw in Serizawa's lab and reveals that Serizawa told her he accidentally came upon a means to destroy all oxygen in water, thereby killing all life. On Serizawa's insistence, she promised him not to tell anyone about the oxygen destroyer until he found a counter measure. Urged by Steve to try and change Serizawa's mind, Emiko and Ogata go to see the scientist. Emiko confesses that she broke her promise and begs him to use the oxygen destroyer against Godzilla. Angered, Serizawa rushes into his lab to destroy his experiments, but after knocking Ogata out in a scuffle, realizes that he and Emiko are right. Some time later, Steve becomes one of the witnesses who will observe Serizawa help Ogata destroy the beast. The two men dive off the ship and soon find Godzilla's resting place. Ogata rises to the surface, but Serizawa remains on the ocean floor holding the oxygen destroyer to ensure its success. After wishing Ogata happiness with Emiko, Serizawa unleashes the oxygen destroyer. Godzilla rises to the surface then flails back under the water as his flesh disintegrates. With Godzilla destroyed, those on the ship salute Serizawa for his sacrifice.
Godzilla, King of the Monsters!
Godzilla, King of the Monsters!
Godzilla - GODZILLA - The Criterion Collection Edition of the 1954 Japanese Sci-Fi Epic
This original Japanese-language Gojira balances its spectacular monster rampage against human issues and post-atomic moral questions. Japanese sailors are irradiated and their ship sunk by an unknown flash of light and heat that continues to destroy other vessels. Searching for the cause, scientist Dr. Yamane (Takashi Shimura) travels to a tiny fishing island, and is confronted by a colossal water dragon. It soon comes ashore to march through Tokyo, leaving a broad wake of utter destruction. Conventional weapons prove useless, which puts the mysterious, secretive Dr. Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata) in a bind: he's invented a new device he calls an "Oxygen Destroyer" but refuses to use it against the monster. He feels morally compromised: if the device's existence is revealed, governments will rush to exploit it as another weapon of mass destruction. Serizawa's fiancée Emiko Yamane (Momoko Kôchi) begs the scientist to reconsider.
The scenes of Godzilla crushing Tokyo underfoot thrilled American youngsters of the 1950s. Toho would later expand and tame the franchise, adding new monsters and adapting the formula to create a series of increasingly juvenile epics. But every schoolchild of the late '50s knew that Godzilla was a symbolic substitute for The Bomb, and was curious why the Japanese would make such a movie. According to the esteemed Japanese critic Tadao Sato, the vision of Tokyo once again reduced to ashes allowed Japanese audiences to deal with the communal guilt still felt over the war. Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka did not copy the theme of Ray Harryhausen's The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, a popular movie about a dinosaur revived by a bomb test. Godzilla is not a dinosaur but a new force of nature, a dragon that breathes Atomic fire.
Godzilla was made soon after the end of the American Army's occupation of Japan. Rather than address the wartime nuclear bombings, events still spoken of in hushed tones, producer Tanaka seized upon the topical Lucky Dragon 5 incident, in which a Japanese tuna boat defied warnings to stay clear of the Bikini Atoll, unaware that the U.S. was testing its new Hydrogen bomb. As critic David Kalat points out in his Criterion commentary, Gojira restages the event, substituting the radioactive monster for the nuclear blast. The horror-beast rising from the Pacific to threaten Tokyo is an enormous political statement: for much of the world, America will forever be seen as an Atomic aggressor.
Seen in this rejuvenated presentation, Eiji Tsuburaya's special effects look better than ever. Considering the limited technical means available in 1954, the resourceful Toho technicians found clever ways to combine their rubber Man-in-suit-a-saur with live action and impressive miniatures. Hand-rotoscoped mattes are employed to composite the beast into several shots. Stop-motion animation sees use in a couple of shots as well. What's most impressive is the depth of focus maintained on the miniatures, even with the camera rolling at four-times speed.
The "towering titan of terror" is unlike the giant monsters in American movies. Godzilla is not a dinosaur or giant animal, but a cultural fantasy. He rises from the sea not to eat or spawn, but for the express purpose of annihilating Tokyo. Godzilla is a post-modern version of a traditional Yokai demon, writ large. And that billowing, notably non-reptilian hide? He's meant to look like a walking atomic mushroom cloud!
Ishiro Honda's sober and respectful direction makes its anti-nuke statement without resorting to
moralizing speeches. The specter of the bombings is always present, even if no spokesperson steps
forward to deliver an overt author's message. Godzilla involves us in its human drama, even if
the characters are orchestrated along familiar lines. The scientist has a beautiful daughter (Momoko
Kochi, with her endearing, Gene Tierney-like overbite) who must choose between an eager young salvage
operator and her fiancé, a morbidly-obsessed scientist who does bad things to goldfish in his
Rotwang-like mad lab. All that is missing from the American formula is a representative of the
The Criterion Collection's Blu-ray of Godzilla improves substantially on all earlier video versions. The blizzards of dust specks that marred earlier releases have been all but eliminated. Many scenes still carry fine scratches, but all the major damage has been repaired.
Criterion disc producer Curtis Tsui is responsible for some of the label's best fantasy discs, including Georges Franju's Eyes without a Face. His extras for Godzilla are on the same level as those for any other great work of world cinema.
First up is the 1956 American re-cut, Godzilla, King of the Monsters, the version most commonly shown in other international markets. Director Terry Morse skillfully shoehorned additional scenes with Raymond Burr into the narrative. Burr's fly-on-the-wall reporter narrates the movie, aided by a newly imposed flashback structure. Rather than a pastiche, the American version is well written and cleverly assembled. This transfer is from pre-print film materials and looks far better than earlier videos. It includes the original Trans-World logo and closing credit crawl, albeit from a 16mm source. Author David Kalat provides an impassioned pair of commentaries for both feature versions. He explains what the original Godzilla represented to Japanese audiences, and examines the strange cultural re-mix of the American version.
Critic Tadao Sato explains some of the political context of the time in Japan, and offers his personal analysis of Japan's monster-who-became-a-friend. Other interviews give us input from the beloved composer Akira Ifukube, actors Akira Takarada and Haruo Nakajima, the man who played Godzilla inside the rubber suit. Two effects technicians also comment, but an effects-oriented featurette has only a few examples to offer. Much better is a piece about the terrible fate of the sailors of the Lucky Dragon 5. With last year's near nuclear meltdown at Fukushima, Godzilla's anti-nuke stance is more relevant than ever.
Trailers for both movies are included. The soundtrack for the King of the Monsters trailer throws an uninterrupted tirade of hyperbole at the audience, that must have left schoolboys in 1956 with their mouths hanging open:
Criterion's packaging sports colorful, imaginative cover art, which has instant possibilities as a commercial poster. As a special surprise, the folding disc holder opens up like a pop-up book to display a fiery image of "Big G" in all his glory. I imagine that some of the more fanatical Godzilla fans will be incensed that the monster image is not the original Godzilla, but a leaner, meaner design from the 1990s. Critic Sato opines that the fast-moving American Godzilla from 1998 had little appeal, and after seeing the Criterion extras we understand why. The 1998 monster is just a big lizard coming home to roost in New York City, like Ray Harryhausen's The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. Toho's original Gojira is a symbolic demon from the ghost-subconscious, the Stuff that Atomic Dreams are Made Of.
For more information about Godzilla, visit The Criterion Collection. To order Godzilla, go to TCM Shopping.
by Glenn Erickson
Godzilla - GODZILLA - The Criterion Collection Edition of the 1954 Japanese Sci-Fi Epic
This is Tokyo. Once a city of six million people. What has happened here was caused by a force which up until a few days ago was entirely beyond the scope of Man's imagination. Tokyo, a smoldering memorial to the unknown, an unknown which at this very moment still prevails and could at any time lash out with its terrible destruction anywhere else in the world. There were once many people here who could've told of what they saw...now there are only a few. My name is Steve Martin. I am a foreign correspondent for United World News. I was headed for an assignment in Cairo, when I stopped off in Japan for a social call; but it turned out to be a visit to the living HELL of another world...- Steve Martin
You have your fear, which might become reality; and you have Godzilla, which IS reality.- Ogata
The Oxygen destroyer must not be used!- Dr. Serizawa
If we do not defend ourselves from Godzilla now, what will become of us?- Ogata
And what will become of us if a weapon, such as I now have, falls into the wrong hands?- Dr. Serizawa
Then you have a responsibility no man has ever faced. You have your fear which might become reality. And you have Godzilla, which *is* reality.- Ogata
I'm afraid my Japanese is a little rusty.- Steve Martin
All the scenes with Raymond Burr were added after the Japanese version of the film was finished.
Godzilla's roar was made by dragging a leather glove up and down a cello.
Toho released this American version of their own 'Gojira (1954)' to Japanese audiences in 1957. The studio ballyhooed it as being a Cinemascope production, when in fact what Toho did was chop off the tops and bottoms of the frame. These mutilated shots later made it into the studio's 'Daikaiju Baran (1958)' .
In the original Japanese version, there were several references no only to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but there was a reference to the fire bombing of Tokyo. These were deleted in the American version of the film.
The Japanese version of the film received an Japanese Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, but lost to Shichinin no samurai (1954). The film did win the award for Best Special Effects. It is the only Godzilla movie to receive a nomination for Best Picture.
Several months before this film received its editing job, the original Japanese version was shown on a limited release in the United States.
Godzilla, King of the Monsters! was originally released in Japan in 1954 under the title Gojira and had a working American title of Godzilla (The Sea Beast). According to contemporary and modern sources, the name "Godzilla" was used for the American version as, in English, it closely resembles the phonetical sound of "Gojira" in Japanese. The print viewed carried only an opening title card, with no personal or company names credited. At the conclusion of the story, a title card reads "The End," but no additional credits are shown. The above credits were taken from reviews and other contemporary sources.
According to modern sources, the inspiration of Gojira, which is a name combining the Japanese words for gorilla and whale, was an incident that occurred in March 1954 near the Bikini Atoll in which a Japanese vessel carrying a crew gravely ill from radiation poisoning drifted into the area, which was used at the time by the United States as a nuclear testing site. Japanese producer Tomoyuki Tanaka used the incident's relevance to Cold War nuclear fears and the actual 1945 bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a springboard for the story. Modern sources also note that the original Gojira was the highest budgeted film made in Japan to that time.
As noted in various contemporary sources, Jewell Enterprises, Inc. partners Richard Kay and Harold Ross purchased a print of Gojira and brought it to the United States. Boston-based distributor Joseph A. Levine bought the rights to Gojira and distributed it under his Embassy Pictures Corp. banner in the U.S., although a February 27, 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item stated that Edward Barison, president of Cinema Distributors of America, and Levine were finalizing an agreement to form "a new international production and distribution corporation, TransWorld Releasing Corporation," and that the first venture of the new company was to be Godzilla (The Sea Beast). The Daily Variety review noted that Terry Turner and Harry Rybnick were also affiliated with Barison and Levine in the distribution deal. Many modern sources credit Levine's expansive marketing strategy to the box-office success of the picture in the U.S. and point to this as a springboard to his long and successful career as a producer and distributor.
Additional footage for Gojira was shot in the United States, with American Terry Morse directing the new footage and editing it into the original Japanese film. According to modern sources, the American scenes were shot on a small, rented sound stage on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles and cost approximately $100,000 to produce. While the American release ran 80-81 minutes, the Japanese original ran approximately 96 minutes. All of the footage featuring Raymond Burr as "Steve Martin" was added to the Japanese footage. However, contrary to statements in most reviews and modern sources, Burr was not the only American actor in the cast; Japanese-American actor Frank Iwanaga, who portrayed "Tomo Iwanaga," was also in the added scenes, as were several Asian-American bit players and extras. The film's opening sequence, as well as a number of scenes within the long flashback, combine original Japanese footage with interpolated shots or scenes of Burr, Iwanaga and other American-based actors either observing what is happening or reacting to it.
For example, in one sequence set on Odo Island, when the Japanese cast is seen running up and down the hillside, shots are interpolated of Burr and Iwanaga on a similar terrain, as if in the same sequence. Other scenes were made to appear as if Burr was in the same shot with some of the Japanese actors by use of stand-ins, photographed from behind, who physically resembled and wore the same clothing as the Japanese actors. There are no subtitles in the American version, and very little of the dialogue was dubbed into English. Most of the Japanese dialogue is either unnecessary to the understanding of the unfolding action, is related in Steve's running narration or is translated into English by Iwanaga to Burr. As noted in many contemporary and modern sources, the figure of Godzilla was sometimes a model and sometimes a man in a rubber suit.
The film received mixed reviews when it opened in the U.S., with some reviewers praising it and others comparing its story and special effects unfavorably with the 1933 King Kong (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40). In his original New York Times review, critic Bosley Crowther called the film "incredibly awful...with a miniature of a dinosaur made of gum-shoes and about $20 worth of toy buildings and electric trains." John L. Scott, in his Los Angeles Times review, wrote "American monsters will have to look to their laurels now that the Japanese has dredged up Godzilla...If you're a horror devotee, "Godzilla" should go on your shopping list." Crowther later rebutted critics who had praised the film by chastising them for causing the film to "be exalted by such a mighty claim." Crowther further stated "One might remotely regard him [Godzilla] as a symbol of Japanese hate for the destruction [of] Hiroshima one pleasant August morn. But we must assure you that the quality of the picture and the childishness of the whole idea do not indicate such calculation. Godzilla was simply meant to scare people."
Modern sources add Takeo Oikawa, Kokuten Kodo, Toranosuke Ogawa, Ren Imaizumi and Kenji Sahara to the cast, credit American actor James Hong with the dubbing the voices for the characters "Ogata" and "Dr. Serizawa," and credit Haruo Nakajimi, Katsumi Tezuka and Ryosaku Takasugi as "Gojira." According to modern sources, the American version of Gojira was released in Japan on May 29, 1957 under the title Kaiju O Godzilla (Monster King Godzilla).
Numerous additional Godzilla films were produced by Japan's Toho Co., with many of the initial sequels either directed or produced by Tanaka and written by Honda, including the 1963 release Godzilla vs. King Kong and the 1964 release Godzilla vs. the Thing (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70). Burr revived his character in the Toho-produced Godzilla, 1985, released in Japan in 1984 as Gojira. An American-produced version of the saga was released by Columbia/Tri-Star in 1998, directed by Roland Emmerich and starring Matthew Broderick. For that film, the setting was changed to modern-day New York City.
In May 2004, New York City-based Rialto Pictures, which had acquired the rights to Godzilla, King of the Monsters, released the original, uncut Japanese Gojira, in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of its release. In March 2004, Toho announced that Godzilla: Final Wars (2004) would be the final entry in the fifty-year-long series for at least a decade. Slumping box-office sales for the series were cited as the reason for terminating the franchise, which included more than two dozen films.
Released in United States 1956
Released in United States 2014
Released in United States Spring April 27, 1956
Re-released in United States April 18, 2014
Re-released in United States May 7, 2004
Released in USA on video.
2004 re-release celebrates the film's 50th anniversary, presenting the original, uncut Japanese version of the film, which does not feature actor Raymond Burr.
Released in United States 1956
Released in United States 2014 (Special Events - 60th Anniversary Screening - Restored Japanese Original)
Re-released in United States April 18, 2014 (New York)
Released in United States Spring April 27, 1956
This was the first "Godzilla" film that spawned the now-famous franchise.
Under new title: "Godzilla: The Japanese Original", the 2014 re-release of 1954 original includes 40 minutes of additional footage.
Re-released in United States May 7, 2004