BY SARAH MILES
Year released: 1954
How it fared back then: Really well. In its native Japan it grossed almost double its $1,500,000 budget despite mixed reviews. It was nominated for Best Picture at the Japanese Movie Association awards, losing out to Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. A year later it would be re-edited and dubbed for American audiences featuring new footage with actor Raymond Burr and released as Godzilla, King of Monsters! going on to achieve Box Office success there as well.
Why It’s Lasted: This is where it all began. This was the beginning of the Kaiju movie movement, bringing us bigger and badder monsters over the years. However what’s unique about Godzilla is that it’s a lot darker in tone compared to the usual 50s B-movie, unsurprising considering it was made not even a decade after the devastating bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The shadow of nuclear threat hangs over the film and Godzilla, the creature, is an embodiment of this with his atomic breath and seemingly unstoppable capacity for annihilation. Alongside this is the city-wide destruction and innovative special effects that went on to inspire countless filmmakers and bring us one of the lasting figures of popular culture.
Classic moments: The attack on Tokyo. Models or not, this is some rampant chaos and damage going on here. Fires raging, bridges getting thrown, this is perfect monster rampage action. A darker moment of this sequence stands out as a mother shields the eyes of her children kneeling in an alleyway, promising them that they’ll be seeing their father soon, starkly realistic and chilling alongside the giant monsters.
Does it hold up? It’s certainly at a much slower pace than what modern audiences might be used to, Godzilla doesn’t show up much beyond a few pop-up appearances until about halfway through and the third act is largely a debate on the ethical use of a super-weapon to destroy Godzilla, but what it lacks in modern blockbuster boldness it makes up for with some genuine thoughtfulness and atmosphere leading up to the main disaster. The black and white colour scheme only serves to enhance the horror, framing Godzilla’s silhouette in front of the blazing fires of the city in simultaneously beautiful and devastating fashion.
Godzilla is a classic in every sense of the word; it set a precedent that many films would come to follow, delivers a strong message from the filmmakers and ultimately does this by being engaging and entertaining. King of Monsters indeed.