Sunday, April 02, 2017
Godzilla (1954 film)
Directed by Ishiro Honda and screenplay by Honda and Takeo Murata from a story by Shigeru Kayama, Goijira (Godzilla) is the story of a monster wreaking havoc all over Japan as the people try to figure out how to stop it. The film is considered the first monster movie of sorts but in a genre defined as kaiju where a monster just destroys everything in sight. Starring Akira Takarada, Momoko Kochi, Akihiko Hirata, and Takashi Shimura. Goijira is a tremendously chilling and monstrous film from Ishiro Honda.
Following the mysterious sinking of some boats and other destructive events believed to be caused by a monster, the film revolves around a group of scientists who try to figure out what the hell is wreaking havoc on the Japanese seas and in rural areas. The film is a traditional monster movie of sorts but it’s really a drama set during the emergence of the atomic age where scientists learn about this mysterious monster and the fact that it’s re-emerged due to the power of a hydrogen bomb. The film’s screenplay starts off with the incidents involving two different ships being destroyed with one survivor recalling what he saw. A paleontologist, his daughter, and a salvage ship captain would try to uncover everything as they would see the monster destroying things as he would eventually attack and destroy Tokyo no matter what the politicians and the military try to do. Even as a scientist has the answer in how to defeat the monster but refuses to reveal what he has created given the moral implications of what it could to the entire world.
Ishiro Honda’s direction is definitely grand in terms of the world that it’s set where it begins in the sea at a salvage ship as crew members are blinded by a sudden flash and then the ship sinks. Much of the compositions in the film are straightforward yet a lot of the scenes involving the titular monster are quite vast in their presentation. While Honda would shoot the film on various location in Japan with some studio recreation of the cities through miniatures. The scenes involving the monster attacking and wreaking havoc are immense with Honda creating moments of suspense and terror such as what people inside a train is dealing with or a family hiding somewhere in a building that is about to be destroyed. There is an element of drama that play into this new world that is the atomic age as the paleontologist wants to study more about this monster wondering how it survived and became awoken by the atomic bomb. Yet, there are others that want to destroy as it would destroy Tokyo leading to a showdown between the scientist that have the answer to destroy this monster but it would come at a great cost. Overall, Honda creates a thrilling and mesmerizing film about a monster destroying everything in his path.
Cinematographer Masao Tamai, with lighting by Choshiro Ishii, does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white cinematography to play into the sunny landscapes and Sea of Japan as well as the nighttime look including the sequence where the monster destroys Tokyo at night. Editor Taichi Taira does excellent work with the editing as it is very straightforward with a few transition wipes and other stylish cuts to play into the drama and suspense. Art directors Takeo Kita and Satoshi Chuko do fantastic work with the design of the miniatures and sets for the homes of the characters as well as board rooms where the scientists try to talk with politicians.
Monster designers Teizo Toshimitsu and Akira Watanabe do amazing work with the design of the monster as it has something that is a mixture of dinosaurs but with bits of the dragon as it’s worn by Haruo Nakajima and Katsumi Tekuza. Special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya does terrific work with some of the effects that include some of the electricity and the device that a scientist created. Sound recordist Hasashi Shimonaga does superb work with the sound in capturing the sound effects in some of the objects that the monster would destroy and other things in the film. The film’s music by Akira Ifukube is incredible for its orchestral score with its element of bombast in some of the suspenseful moments to an eerie yet ravishing piece for the film’s climax.
The film’s marvelous cast include some notable small roles from Haruo Nakajima in a dual role as the monster and a reporter, Katsumi Tekuza as the monster and a newspaper editor, Kokuten Kodo as an old fisherman who knows about the legend of the monster, Ren Yamamoto as a young fisherman from the village, and Toyoaki Suzuki as a young fisherman who would see the monster and aid the scientists in trying to research the monster. Akira Takarada is excellent as the salvage sea captain Hideto Ogata as a man that would survive one of the early attacks as he tries to help a paleontologist and the man’s daughter whom he’s in a relationship with.
Momoko Kochi is fantastic as Emiko Yamane as the paleontologist’s daughter who is in a secret relationship with Hideto as she goes to the man she’s supposed to with for help where she makes a chilling discovery. Akihiko Hirata is brilliant as Daisuke Serizawa as a reclusive scientist who has made a weapon that he believes would destroy the monster but copes with the moral implications of what he’s created. Finally, there’s Takashi Shimura in an amazing performance as Dr. Kyohei Yamane as a paleontologist who is trying to understand what the monster is about as well as comprehend the chaos that is looming as it relates to the usage of atomic weapons.
Goijira is a phenomenal film from Ishiro Honda. It’s a monster movie that is really one of the finest films of the genre but also a social commentary of sorts on post-war Japan’s role in the atomic age. Especially in how weapons can be misused and the actions it would bring in the worst way. In the end, Goijira is a spectacular film from Ishiro Honda.
© thevoid99 2017