The 1950s was the era of atomic horror in cinema with giant monsters rampaging through various iconic cities throughout the world. At the head of the pack was the King of the Monsters himself Godzilla, also known as Gorjira in original Japanese. What better country to lead the way than one that experienced nuclear devastation first hand in less than a decade before. Inspired by recent "giant monsters running amok" fare like "The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms" and a recent re-release of "King Kong", famed Japanese film studio Toho took these simple concepts and interlaced their experience with nuclear ruin to present a film uniquely their own showcasing the terror of nuclear warfare that resulted in an iconic film legend with it's towering title character.
Recent hydrogen bomb testing in the South Pacific awakens a radioactive dinosaur in the form of Godzilla. This towering scaly bastard isn't just content on stomping the living hell out of major cities on the Japanese coastline but also incinerating inhabitants with its atomic fire breath. Desperate to rid the land of this beast, the Japanese turn to a scientist that may have the key to destroying the seemingly invincible monster with an oxygen disintegrator.
Unlike "King Kong" and "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms", Toho didn't have the budget or time to showcase stop-motion animation thus they had to settle for "a guy in a rubber suit" stomping on miniature urban models, a staple for every entry into the franchise to come. Despite its lower tier special effects, director Ishirô Honda does his best to hide the fact with atmospheric usage of black and white photography and low angles to make our titular beast look as massive as possible. Honda, mixed with a well written script, also reveals the beast at a nice pace, giving hints of the monster throughout the film before finally showcasing his rampage through Tokyo. The characters are also surprisingly well written (unlike its many sequels to come), complex and a love triangle is a welcome diversion to the carnage happing on the countryside.
"Godzilla" today is mostly known by its numerous cornball sequels and brings to mind guys in rubber suits fighting to the death. This original film is not like its numerous sequels that people have pre-conceived notions about. This version of Godzilla is serious, bleak and with a dread-like atmosphere about the horrors of nuclear warfare. Don't get me wrong as I do enjoy what the series would evolve into but it's a breath of fresh air to see the character be taken in a serious manner. "Godzilla" of course was a huge hit around the world (including an Americanized edit titled "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" having newly filmed scenes pointlessly added in with actor Raymond Burr to basically explain to English audiences what was going on) and spawned an impressive franchise for a total of 28 films and a crummy American remake in 1998. The sequels go as follows: "Godzilla Raids Again", "King Kong vs. Godzilla", Monthra vs. Godzilla", "Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster", "Invasion of the Astro-Monster", "Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster", "Son of Godzilla", "Destroy All Monsters", "Godzilla's Revenge", "Godzilla vs. Hedorah", "Godzilla vs. Gigan", "Godzilla vs. Megalon", "Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla", "Terror of Mechagodzilla", "Godzilla 1985", "Godzilla vs Biollante", "Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah", "Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth", "Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II", "Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla", "Godzilla vs. Destroyah", "Godzilla 2000", "Godzilla vs. Megaguirus", "Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack", "Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla", "Godzilla: Tokyo SOS" and "Godzilla: Final Wars".