Godzilla: Incredible, unstoppable titan of terror!
The Paradox at the Heart of Godzilla
From The Atlantic
On Sunday mornings in the 1970s, I was the first in my house to wake up. As soon as I got out of bed, I’d retrieve the thick Sunday edition of the newspaper, pull out the comics section, and then dig for the weekly TV guide. I’d flip to the listing for the following Saturday to see which monster movies would be part of that morning’s “Creature Features.” Any film would’ve thrilled me, but I was always hoping for ones starring the heavy-footed, radioactive behemoth known as Godzilla. Having first debuted in Ishiro Honda’s 1954 film Gojira, the Godzilla I knew was an unpredictable force of destruction. But he could also sometimes be a friend to humanity—a savior in moments of crisis, a mythological titan that danced when he won a battle.
Godzilla movies have typically tried to highlight both of these qualities—often in the same film—with varying degrees of emphasis. Many of the movies in the 1970s were almost comical, featuring kaiju (giant monster) battles that resembled professional wrestling. The films of the mid-’80s through ’90s took on a much darker tone, with Godzilla reemerging as a menace even as he delighted in his fights with other monsters. His power was fearsome, and he couldn’t be controlled or negotiated with. Nevertheless, when a bigger threat to humanity’s survival emerged, Godzilla would rise as our champion. No matter how playful or haunting his movies have been over the decades, this duality—Godzilla as both a terrifying metaphor for mankind’s hubris and a protector capable of almost cosmic benevolence—has always been at the heart of the character.
Hollywood’s latest Godzilla movie, subtitled King of the Monsters, is set to maintain this tension. A sequel to 2014’s Godzilla, the film sees the desperate people of Earth calling upon the creature they’re most afraid of in order to fight an even greater peril. Early trailers presented the destruction wrought as a giddy extravaganza, with actors spitting out punchy one-liners while the world collapses around them. The classic Godzilla movies I grew up with embraced the same sort of approach, taking the giant lizard seriously, but not too seriously.
From SyFy Wire
Reality is often far more terrifying than fiction. As such, horror and science fiction have often looked to real-world anxieties for inspiration.
The U.S. occupation of Japan ended in 1952, but that same year, the first test of a full-scale thermonuclear bomb took place on an island in the Pacific Ocean — at a distance that was probably still too close for Japanese citizens. Still bearing the physical and mental scars of two atomic bombs dropped on their cities in 1945, this 10-megaton H-bomb was 1000 times more powerful than Hiroshima. Two years later, a 15-megaton H-bomb was dropped on Bikini Atoll (a total of 23 explosions were carried out in this area), inadvertently exposing military personnel and Marshall Islanders to high radiation levels.
A Japanese fishing trawler by the name of Daigo Fukuryū Maru (Lucky Dragon No. 5) was hit by the nuclear fallout, causing acute radiation syndrome and killing the boat's chief radioman, Aikichi Kuboyama, who succumbed to his injuries six months after the blast. Japanese film producer Tomoyuki Tanaka said this event inspired the monster called Gojira, spawning 35 movies across 65 years, making Godzilla the longest continuously running franchise (as per Guinness World Records).
A fishing boat is destroyed at the start of Godzilla (Gojira), a cinematic version of what happened to the Daigo Fukuryū Maru trawler. Man didn’t do this, but these tests are the reason the monster known as Godzilla has been awakened. Anyone would be grumpy if they had been sleeping peacefully only to be rudely woken up by a thermonuclear device. Godzilla was minding its own business — meanwhile, these tests underscore the arrogance of thinking this much power can be unleashed without consequences. Wartime trauma is a big factor, and this movie doesn’t shy away from the human cost. This isn’t a Marvel or DC movie destroying cities in a sanitized fashion. Instead, it depicts real suffering and human loss.
Godzilla Kingdom Of Monsters #4 June 2011 IDW Publications Grade NM
Cover A by Eric Powell. Eric Powell & Tracy Marsh (w) o Phil Hester (a) o Eric Powell, Jeff Zornow (c) France is in danger when the mysterious egg that washes ashore begins to hatch, but should the military be worried about what's inside the egg or those creepy kids who found it? Also, a community of monks has a religious experience of the 3-headed variety. And all the while, Godzilla seems hell-bent on coming to America...but hasn't Anguirus already claimed it as his turf? Fight! Fight!
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The Best Horror Movie of 1954: Godzilla
From Paste Magazine
The intermingling of horror and science fiction cinema is in full swing here in 1954, as the two genres combine to create some of the features we think of as being most indelibly tied to the imagery of “1950s monster movies.” The most prominent and long-lasting in its appeal and impact is of course Godzilla, given that it’s been receiving sequels for more than 65 years now, including 2019’s King of the Monsters. It’s hard to overstate what a persistent and foundational presence Godzilla has been in both Japanese and American pop culture, informing on some level every other representation of giant monsters in the years that followed.
In the moment, however, there’s little doubt that in the American market, the most immediately influential horror film of the year was Them! This tale of radioactive, giant ants laid the foundation for so many of the “big bug” and “radioactive monster” films that quickly followed that it was practically a complete template for every subsequent offering, from The Deadly Mantis to The Black Scorpion, The Giant Gila Monster and Empire of the Ants. These films weren’t exactly delicate in their nuclear age paranoia, and were less than scientific in their depiction of the effect of radiation on living tissue, but when you really get down to it, there’s nothing here any less realistic than the content of comparable, modern B movies like Birdemic or Geostorm. In any era, there will be audience members who would prefer to be titillated by the fantastically anthropomorphized worst case scenarios of current pop cultural fears, like giant monsters, rather than grapple with the reality of how things like nuclear proliferation or climate change might genuinely mean mankind’s destruction. In 1954, it was simply easier to dismiss a giant ant puppet than it was to dismiss the reality of Kruschev amassing an ever-growing nuclear arsenal. As ever, movies represented a brief respite from such harsh truths.
Other notables from 1954 include Alfred Hitchcock’s relentlessly entertaining, single-location thriller Rear Window, which is certainly horror adjacent but difficult to give the top spot in any kind of proper horror count-down; Gog, which set plenty of the tropes for future “killer robots on the loose” movies such as Chopping Mall; and Creature From the Black Lagoon, the oft-forgotten last proper entry in the original Universal Monsters cycle, filmed in 3D but largely presented in 2D thanks to the gimmick’s popularity fading into obscurity relatively quickly. Although the titular Creature, also referred to as “Gill-Man,” is typically counted among the earlier Universal Monsters, the film itself feels like something of an outlier—a would-be science fiction horror film with hints of an ecological message, hampered by dated tone and structure that feel straight out of the early 1940s. Thanks to the sight of the radiant Julie Adams in her iconic white bathing suit, though, the film has managed to retain a certain vivid place in the collective memories of those who came of age in the 1950s.
The History of Godzilla’s Iconic Roar
Nine years before the release of the 1954 original Godzilla, Akira Ifukube lay in a hospital bed listening to the radio narrate his nation’s surrender to Allied forces, hoping the radiation poisoning wouldn’t kill him. Recent work on reverse-engineering a de Havilland Mosquito for the Japanese military had unknowingly exposed him to dangerous amounts of X-rays, his capillaries literally disintegrating while his team threw their research files onto a bonfire in anticipation of Occupation soldiers. Ifukube had already collapsed to the ground from vomiting blood by the time the Americans arrived. He knew the danger he was in—his brother, Isao, had succumbed to a similar fate only a few years earlier, while researching fluorescent paint usages for the Imperial war effort. Earlier that month, Ifukube had witnessed atomic fire incinerate Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Now, he listened from his bed as reporters described General MacArthur descending aircraft steps to receive Japan’s terms of surrender. A military band struck up a march, their first notes of Kishi Mai instantly recognizable to the sick man. If the end of the world wasn’t already surreal enough, it was now being soundtracked by one of his own songs.
Born on May 31, 1914, Akira Ifukube is widely considered one of the most well-regarded and prolific composers of modern Japanese classical music and film scores. His revolutionary blend of traditional ainu (Japanese folk) melodies and instrumentation with Western classical theory paved the way for cultural merging and experimentation in the years to come, sort of like a Japanese Philip Glass—although, given their respective eras, it’s more accurate to call Glass an American Ifukube.
A largely self-taught musician, Ifukube worked as a lumber processor in the small sub-prefecture of Akkeshi, which led him to help his government reverse-engineer wooden-framed Allied aircraft like the Mosquito. Despite the radiation sickness’s severity, Ifukube managed to fully recover, and soon returned to his music while teaching at the Tokyo University of the Arts. For the next few years, Ifukube continued to expand the boundaries of classical music in his own work while simultaneously composing original movie scores for a lucrative, reemerging Japanese film industry.
The three brothers, Godzilla, Minira and Little, are working hard today to train for a great monster!
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