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Classic Horror From earliest Horror Classics - 1950's.

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Old 02-27-2012, 10:51 PM   #1
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Default Godzilla (1954) Review

The original masterpiece from Ishiro Honda that inspired arguably the most enduring "franchise" in film history. I use the term franchise in quotations because in my opinion Godzilla is more like a genre than a franchise at this point, with films varying in quality from this (at the very top) to countless campy trash classics, and a few bloated and abysmal failures. This started the formula, and as such the story is much what you would expect from a Godzilla movie. Godzilla has awaken from the sea, and has come to inflict as much destruction as possible upon Japan. What sets this film apart from it's followers and is it's astute sense of social context. This film isn't just an entertaining monster movie, but also is greatly concerned with issues of ethics and atomic power. This film spends a lot more time on justifying Godzilla's presence, the back story being that he is monster of man's creation, as he is the result of atomic energy. When it becomes apparent that he is impervious to all known weaponry of man, it becomes obvious that a new form of weapon will be necessary. One doctor has developed such a weapon, an oxygen destroyer, but this doctor is a very ethical man, and knows that if he turns his weapon over to the military it will be used again for less humanitarian reasons. There is also the conflict of the zoologist, played wonderfully by Takashi Simura, whom I've grown to be a pretty big fan of, through his many films with Akira Kurosawa, who argues that the important issue is why Godzilla is unharmed by the atomic weapons of man, rather simply than how to destroy the monster. In short he feels it is more important to understand Godzilla and why he wants to destroy human society, than it is to destroy him, and continue on the course that man has taken. This film couldn't have been made anywhere but Japan, and there are obvious ties between the nihilistic destruction of Godzilla and that of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. This social commentary is delivered very poignantly and is not exactly subtle, but those of you who don't have any interest in context or rationalisation won't be disappointed either. This is still a highly entertaining monster Sci-Fi/Monster film, just one that has more of a brain than is usually expected or possibly wanted by some. Effects wise this is more or less what you would expect, but the stark black and white removes the campy air that usually drags Godzilla films down, and overall it feels much more haunting and menacing than most of the films that followed it. In short required viewings if you've ever been even mildly entertained by any Godzilla film. If you haven't, you still owe it to yourself to see this, just check your preconceptions at the door, because this is so much more than what audiences have come to expect from the Godzilla name. 5/5.

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Old 03-17-2012, 08:47 AM   #2
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Love it! This one, and Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack are the only two Godzilla movies i really love and reccomend to others.
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Old 03-17-2012, 08:53 AM   #3
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I love Godzilla. He was a huge part of my childhood.
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Old 03-18-2012, 08:20 AM   #4
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The Ishiro Honda film is a very well made, and classic film. Everything works. The storyline, the monster, the drama, the score, the commentary, the direction. Everything.

I also very much respect the Americanized 1956 version as well. As it's the film most of the world had seen and knew of for decades that led to Godzilla becoming a fixture in popular culture.
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Old 03-24-2012, 03:30 AM   #5
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I'm not a huge fan, but I respect the original as a deconstruction of atomic fear. The acting and script is blunt, but nine years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, what's the value in subtlety?

What I've never understood is the idea of a guy in a rubber suit as an imposing antagonist. I suspect that's why all the later films refitted Godzilla as a campy hero.
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Old 03-24-2012, 03:02 PM   #6
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Question

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Originally Posted by Dead & Messed Up View Post
What I've never understood is the idea of a guy in a rubber suit as an imposing antagonist.
The man-in-suit was more commonplace before the days of CGI becoming the norm. Ever see Alien? Another imposing antagonist that's essentially, yes, a man-in-suit.

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I suspect that's why all the later films refitted Godzilla as a campy hero.
It wasn't until the 5th movie in the series (and mid way thru it at that) where the big G ceased being villainous.
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Old 03-24-2012, 08:33 PM   #7
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Quote:
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The man-in-suit was more commonplace before the days of CGI becoming the norm. Ever see Alien? Another imposing antagonist that's essentially, yes, a man-in-suit.
Obviously, but there's an enormous difference in terms of execution. Ridley Scott did a fantastic job working with man-in-suit limitations (mostly by hiding it as much as possible), and his villain was supposed to be man-sized. Having what is very clearly a man in a rubber dinosaur costume walking past miniatures is disappointing.

Even for the time. I mean, the film was inspired by the American film The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, but the filmmakers didn't have the resources to invest in stop-motion photography, and their window of opportunity to make the picture was already small. Godzilla's creation was Corman-esque, in that it's not worth marveling at the execution so much as the fact that they went ahead anyway. Bully for them, but the result is cheesy and distracting.
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Old 03-25-2012, 12:59 AM   #8
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The CGI Godzilla in the 98 version is beyond awful. I loved the man in the suit Godzilla from the original and from the sequels that followed.

With that in mind, as much as I love the 1954 version (and even like the Americanized one) I'm a bigger fan of King Kong (1933) and the modern day monster films The Host and Cloverfield. Granted though without King Kong or Godzilla The Host and Cloverfield wouldn't even exist.
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Old 03-25-2012, 08:32 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Dead & Messed Up View Post
Obviously, but there's an enormous difference in terms of execution. Ridley Scott did a fantastic job working with man-in-suit limitations (mostly by hiding it as much as possible), and his villain was supposed to be man-sized. Having what is very clearly a man in a rubber dinosaur costume walking past miniatures is disappointing.

Even for the time. I mean, the film was inspired by the American film The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, but the filmmakers didn't have the resources to invest in stop-motion photography, and their window of opportunity to make the picture was already small. Godzilla's creation was Corman-esque, in that it's not worth marveling at the execution so much as the fact that they went ahead anyway. Bully for them, but the result is cheesy and distracting.
Contrary to popular belief, suitmation (a process more or less perfected during this era) wasn't a clear science, and alot of what was seen in Gojira/Godzilla was extremely experimental. Right down to the man-in-suit walking past miniatures, and evoking a sense of size and power.

Later films, involving the man-in-suit as an antagonist, undoubtedly enjoyed the luxury of seeing what worked best, and what could possibly work better. Godzilla, on the other hand, was clearly a empirical work in progress, and one that not only turned out to be a financial success in both the east and the west (thanks to some smart editing that made it more americanized for western audiences), but also a film that clearly endured and kickstarted an entire genre.

Where Beast from 20,000 Fathoms had the time along with animation, Honda had to work within the confines of what he was dealt, and I doubt any majority of giant monster fans, or film fans in general to be perfectly honest, would say Beast is the superior film. Despite the so-called distracting cheese.
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Old 03-25-2012, 10:30 AM   #10
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I've gotta agree with Godzilla King of Monters on this one. The man in suit practice is what it is. Honda did incredibly well with his limited resources. I didn't find it distracting at all, as it was what I was expecting from the get go. I'm also a lot more impressed by what film makers are able to accomplish despite their limitations, than what someone can produce by throwing more money at the problem. The 98 Godzilla is laughable compared to the 54 rubber suit one, and I find the CGI a lot more distracting. I was not aware of the The Beast of 20,000 Fathoms so can't comment on the so-called superiority of it's stop motion animation. Special effects were at a primitive stage at this point though and film makers had to take risks to find out what worked best. Sometimes these risks worked, other times they didn't. Given the legacy of 1954 Godzilla, I'd say it was a success. Especially since it's actually a top notch film a side from the special effects with great story, character's and social critique giving it depth and purpose.
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