GODZILLA: A Brief Movie History

Godzilla HistoryGodzilla: A Brief History of the Monster on Screen

In 1954, when a director by the name of Ishiro Honda was given the task of creating a monster movie which fed into the unremittingly bleak fears of the nuclear age, Honda rose to the task. His film “Godzilla” is arguably one of the finest films about the apocalyptic nuclear era paranoia most of the world was struggling with on the eve of a different sort of world war. One that was
colder, a war which dealt in more subterfuge and less weaponized mayhem, and so much of those fears eventually matriculated down into cinema in films such as “The Manhattan Project,” “On the Beach,” through into the 1970’s and 80’s with “Testament” and “A Boy and His Dog.”

The idea of an utter catastrophe at the hands of a beast that was widely uncontrollable made for Hollywood fodder decades after the retitled “Godzilla, King of the Monsters” was finished and stored into film canisters. “Pacific Rim” turned the idea into creating flagrant barroom brawls between monsters that recalls Godzilla incarnations from “Godzilla Finals Wars” and “Destroy All Monsters.” However, Honda’s film was exploiting the present anxieties by filtering the embodiment of a nuclear threat through a 200-ton physical lizard. It had a body. It moved. It had a name that would resonate. It’s towering presence challenged even the holiest of men’s beliefs. A new God arrived and it was pissed.

“Godzilla” as a film, apart of the burgeoning genre of films featuring giant monsters called “kaiju,” would become popular in Japan, spawning further success with other monsters such as Gamera and Mothra. They would all find a place fighting embittered battles against Godzilla in sprawling metropolises, but Godzilla would remain the center attraction of a franchise already spanning 60 years of cinema. For the original 1956 film that was released in American theaters, the producers Terry Turner and Joseph E. Levine required the recording of new footage to appeal to American audiences. Hence, the additional scenes with Raymond Burr, as a journalist narrating the ominous carnage that Godzilla wreaks throughout the film, directed by Terry O. Morse (best known for directing crime dramas for Warner Brothers). They were, in essence, completely unrelated to the original Japanese production. But the filmmakers raised the question anyhow. Godzilla’s carnage would level cities.

“He’s as tall as a 30 story building…”

The original suit which Godzilla was acted in initially proved to be a hurdle for the production team. It needed to be versatile, providing that every new costume was created out of various molds. During the 1956 production, in close up shots, seperate feet were used in order to accommodate the illusion implied about the gargantuan size of Godzilla’s presence. Since then, there have been numerous changes to the Godzilla suit and at other times the giant lizard found himself being rebooted, killed off, resurrected and rebooted again.

Godzilla would crush whole buildings and homes. The startling amount of devastation Godzilla caused would eventually seep into parody and meaningless comedy. Sons of Godzilla and even the skeletal structure of Godzilla would occupy peculiar moments in the film saga.