The 1950’s were a critically important time for the Godzilla Series; as this was the decade where it all started! Without the 1950’s, well the series my never have started. For something to begin, it needs to begin, and therefore the 1950’s was a critical time for the series.
The birth of the Godzilla series is quite an interesting topic, as it was thanks to one film being shelved, and the dire need for a replacement; which led a producer to hear about a nationwide panic involving a nuclear test and the tragic story of a fishing boat, which when mixed with a monster movie released in America the previous year, sort of all led in turn to a pretty big idea!
But one film doesn’t make a series. If the studio decided that one was enough, then that would have been fine to some degree, as at the end of the day the original film is not just a classic, but a legend. But as it was a success, they did want more, so they made another. Now as it happened at the time, it seemed like two was enough, and so only two films in the series were made. It wouldn’t be for another 7+ years that another film featuring Godzilla was made; choosing to make other Monster Movies instead in the intervening period (such as Rodan and Mothra).
But at the end of the day (and possibly some foresight), Toho obviously found their calling, and would go on to make at least two Godzilla films per decade, over the next 7+ decades. And so it is time to go back in time to Godzilla’s birth decade, and choose my top two favourites. But, instead of writing a small-ish post about just two films, I choose to copy the format of a previous post featuring just two Godzilla films, and go a little bit more in depth with these two stone cold classics (even if the order is a little obvious). So, without further ado, here are my Top 2 Favourite 1950 Godzilla Films. Enjoy!
2. Godzilla Raids Again – Two fishing scout pilots make a terrifying discovery, as they discover a monster; who looks eerily familiar. But worst of all: he is not alone!
Released just a little over five months after the first film, this film features some major differences between the first film and itself. Firstly Godzilla’s appearance has changed drastically, with a different shaped head, and more prominent teeth. In addition to that, the film was directed by someone other than Ishiro Honda in Motoyoshi Oda, and has a soundtrack composed by a different person too, with Masaru Sato filling in for Akira Ifukube.
The story is less focused on the horrors of Nuclear Power, and focusses more on the personal lives of a family owned fishing company. This does slow down the film a bit, and it’s the bits in-between which keep the film going, and the audience focused on the film. But they key difference of course with this film over the original, is the first ever instance of Godzilla fighting another monster.
Step into the ring Anguirus; the first other monster in the series other than the titular star, and one of the series most prolific other monsters. The fight between the two is pretty cool and well done, in that rather than looking like a fight between two pro wrestlers, the two monsters look like they are genuinely trying to kill one another, thus creating a more believable, and primal sight of two separate types of animal duking it out.
But whilst the monsters are the stars of the show, the film does feature some other cool moments too. This includes the scene of some prisoners escaping from a prison van and leading the police on a goose chase around the city, whilst wearing tap dancing shoes (that’s how it sounds anyway)!
1. Godzilla (1954) – Several fishing boats are sunk out at sea, with barely anyone surviving to say what happened. Meanwhile a villager on an island mentions a strange legend that no one believes, a legend concerning a giant monster called Godzilla!
Godzilla as a film is brilliantly set up, as it focuses on it’s real life inspiration, to create the first few scenes, and create a sense of unease. Then as the film develops we get a picture of something big, dark, and monstrous heading for Japan, but one that is so well hidden, it’s true form remains unclear until a large amount of destruction has already been caused.
Once the monster has been revealed, the action builds up, to heighten the monster’s scale. In some regards, Japan’s history with Nuclear Weapons is therefore relieved, as an unstoppable force tears it’s way through the country’s people and cities. But the really clever thing about this film, isn’t down to it’s monster. But one of it’s more human characters.
Dr. Serizawa, played by Akihiko Hirata, is shown early on as a mysterious man, hiding a terrible secret, one which horrifies his ‘girlfriend’. This unknown secret could be seen as one thing, or the other, but the question remains, as you begin to wonder if he is Dr. Frankenstein, and if Godzilla is his monster. When the truth comes out though, it’s even harder for him, as you know what he should do, but knowing his history, he doesn’t want to relive it, and becomes the film’s real tragedy.
Yes, at the end of the day, it’s a film about a giant monster; but through some other clever devices, it becomes something else, and very soon you have two major, and captivating plots to follow, as eventually they both intertwine with each other; leading to a very tragic conclusion!