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Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (1956)

Aw yeah
Lovin that little comment in the corner: AWESOME - and then some!
 

Genre: Action Horror Sci-Fi (USA, Japan)

Starring: Raymond Burr (Rear Window"Perry Mason"), Takashi Shimura (IkiruThe Seven Samurai)

Directed By: Ishirô Honda (Terror of MechagodzillaFrankenstein Conquers the World), Terry O. Morse

Overview: When ships begin to sink off the coast of Japan, the only clue to the cause are reports of a mysterious flash of light and the warnings of primitive villagers. Something dark and destructive has awoken in the sea, and its destruction may have no end in sight.

Godzilla, cultural icon of billions and all around bad dude. But wait, there's Raymond Burr in this version too - yep, I was just as surprised.

You'll have to pardon my lack of Godzilla cannon - I decided to jump into a hot little primer of what I was pretty sure was going to be a pretty inferior King Kong-class tale in terms of the bad guy being huge but the story being really pulp. My obsession with trash cinema not completely sated, I thought the world's biggest monster would be right up my alley, so I went and rented a kitsch-inspiring bunch of 'the best' Godzilla films - turns out the first of them isn't even entirely Japanese. The King of Monsters! is actually an Americanized edit, tossing in the familiar face of Burr as an American reporter in Japan. Other tender subjects were changed to make it more palpable: this scrapped the all too foreign arranged marriage plot and, rather than being awakened by American A-Bombs, the awesome 400-foot tall creature is roused by 'nuclear testing' in the American version. Oh America, you so coy!

Let me breeze through what you know already: Big pissed-off fire-breathing dinosaur-mutant-thing goes around smashing Japan underfoot.

What I'll add is how the mood treats this tale with serious attempts at conveying fear, delivering it with dignity and really adding a heavy lesson, however diluted by US studios it became: don't mess with the stuff of the Apocalypse -namely A-Bombs. This Godzilla is not what the serial became, it's not a couple of guys in puffy suits spitting goo and zapping lasers and hoarking fire on each other while falling on buildings - the massive battles with Kong and Mothra were to come later. What Godzilla, King of the Monsters! really is at its core is one of the most durable original creature features about destruction and mayhem, with the then-still-fresh / now-old-nut of 'radiation made him huge and violent'.

But it's classic fare, and understandably so, because Godzilla, King of the Monsters! is kitschy fun while being serious at the same time.

And a serious Burr replaces a comic-relief Japanese reporter as the lead in the US version.
And a serious Burr replaces a comic-relief Japanese reporter as the lead in the US version.

Performance: 7 Cinematography: 7 Script: 7 Plot: 8 Mood: 8

Overall Rating: 74% (Well Prince at LEAST)
Aftertaste:

What Godzilla, King of the Monsters! truly suffers from is being one of those films that everyone (including itself with 28 different Godzilla films) has ripped it off time and again. It's like seeing the original Night Of The Living Dead, the first modern-day Zombie movie after having seen and knowing all about them. Watching this first Gojira might deflate your rubber monster suit a little, but I suspect that if you've seen any other epic-sized monster films, and like them, you'll certainly get a kick out of this one.

"If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you?!" - Squish's Mom

"If they were running from Gojira I would!" - Squish, seconds before getting grounded

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