Director: Ishiro Honda

Japan| 1954. English subtitles. Black and white. 96 min.

In the West, most cinemagoers have a completely mistaken image of the original Japanese Godzilla as a silly monster-on-the-loose picture. This is because they are only familiar with the shoddy Americanised version, which replaced 16 minutes of cuts with 20 minutes of new footage featuring Hollywood actor Raymond Burr as a news reporter trying to make sense of the mess. Now released here for the first time, the original is one of the great films of science-fiction master Ishiro Honda (Akira Kurosawa’s great friend and occasional second unit director). In Japan, Godzilla is regarded as a classic and is rated as one of the top twenty Japanese movies of all time by the prestigious journal Kinema Junpo.
Godzilla was made in the shadow of the newly developed hydrogen bomb. In March 1954 the crew of a Japanese tuna boat all developed radiation sickness following the American detonation of a 15-megaton H-bomb on Bikini Atoll. The incident sparked a massive outcry in Japan, and this is in effect the moment at which Godzilla opens, with the bomb tests awakening a long dormant prehistoric monster with white-hot radioactive breath. The film’s images of panic and mass destruction and its references to nuclear contamination, black rain, bomb shelters and the incineration of Nagasaki struck a chord of terror with Japanese audiences.
Director Honda cast Takashi Shimura (a great actor best know for his Kurosawa roles) as the human hero, a revered palaeontologist who insists that Godzilla must be studied, not destroyed, whilst the true star of the film, the 30-storey-high Jurassic behemoth, was created by special effects genius Eiji Tsuburaya. The film-makers created a monster that would enter the lexicon of popular culture, spawning more than twenty sequels and a new genre: the kaiju-eiga or Japanese monster movie.

Book Tickets