1954 ゴジラ • Godzilla

Release Date: Novermber 3, 1954
Producer: Tomoyuki Tanaka
Director: Ishiro Honda
Special Effect Director: Eiji Tsuburaya
Original Story by: Shigeru Kayama
Screenplay by: Takeo Murata & Ishiro Honda
Musical Score: Akira Ifukube

Godzilla . . . . . . . Haruo Nakajima & Katsumi Tezuka
Dr. Daisuke Serizawa . Akihiko Hirata
Dr. Kyohei Yamane. . . Takashi Shimura
Emiko Yamane . . . . . Momoko Kochi
Hideo Ogata. . . . . . Akira Takarada
Hagiwara (Reporter). . Sachio Sakai
Shinkichi Yamane . . . Toshiaki Suzuki
Odo Island Elder . . . Kokuten Kodo
Senator Ozawa. . . . . Kin Sugai
Senator Ooyama . . . . Seijiro Onda
Partygoer. . . . . . . Kenji Sahara
Newspaper Editor . . . Katsumi Tezuka

1952 [The Ghostly Whale Who Came from the Sea to Attack Tokyo]
 `-1953 "A giant octopus destroys Japanese whaling ships in the Indian Ocean"-+
1954 [In the Shadow of Honor]                                                 |
 |                                                                            |
 `-[The Giant Monster from 20,000 Miles Beneath the Sea]                      |
    |                                                                         |
    `-[Project G]<------------------------------------------------------------+
      Shigeru Kayama
       +-Takeo Murata & Ishiro Honda 1st Draft
       | Takeo Murata & Ishiro Honda 2nd Draft

       | Takeo Murata & Ishiro Honda 3rd Draft
       |  |
       |  +-[Kaiju Gojira] (Radio Show, 11 episodes, July 17th to September 25th)
       |  |  |
       |  |  `-[Kaiju Gojira] (Novelization)
       |  `-[Godzilla]
       |     |
       |     +-+-+-[Science Adventure Picture Story Godzilla]
       |     | | |
       |     | | `-1957 [Horror Adventure Comics: Godzilla's Last Moment]
       |     | |
       |     | `-+-[Monster Godzilla] (Reimei-sha Comic)
       |     |   |
       |     |   +-1955 [Godzilla] (Kodansha Comic)
       |     |   |
       |     |   `-1958 [Monster Feature Comic: Godzilla]
       |     +-1956 [Godzilla, King of the Monsters]
       |     |  |
       |     |  `-1977 [Godzila, il Rei di Monstri]
       |     v
       +-"Godzilla and Anguirus"--------+
       |                                |
       `-"Tokyo Destroyed by Godzilla"--+
                                        `-1955 [Godzilla: Tokyo and Osako version]

From out of a dense cloud of smoke and radioactive ash, a vague, ancient dinosaurian shape emerges from a combination of economic, scientific, and socio-political pressures. This unique oven gave birth to the king of the monsters, the god of destruction, the epitome of post-modern mythology, Godzilla.

Godzilla's story, in a meta-fictional context, could arguably trace its direct roots as far back as the turn of the century, with the prediction of the Russo-Japanese war in a book that would later inspire the Gotengo, a war which brought Japan into the world's stage in a major way, and paved the way for their bloody empire days, which were the direct impetus for the only offensive use of the bomb in history, being of course Godzilla. However, that might be pushing the meaning of the word "direct" a bit too far. In a purely fictional context, as the myth itself, Godzilla's story really begins with what is considered to be the "wimpiest" of the six great mass extinctions, the end-Triassic event, which was nestled between the "extinction of the dinosaurs" (as it's popularly referred to, still, for some reason, despite the fact that dinosaurs have been doing just fine since then) and the great dying. This event singled out dinosaurs among the other archosaurian groups for a tremendous radiation, and those pressures when applied to Godzilla's ancestor's "outdated" theropod model forced a series of evolutionary changes that created a symphony of physical attributes perfect for being the most powerful monster on Earth. But out here in stark reality, the story of Godzilla began sometime between Shigeru Kayama's original story and when Takeo Murata and WWII veteran Ishiro Honda hammered out their first draft of the screenplay. Specifically between May 23rd and June 15th of 1954.

Godzilla Concepts
The decision to make Godzilla a dinosaur was Tomoyuki Tanaka's, who felt that this would be the most modern route to go in. Ray Harryhausen's The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms was still new, and featured some manner of prehistoric creature which doesn't really even resemble an archosaur, but to the moronic masses all large roaring things are equally "dinosaurs" (still a problem to this very day), and more importantly, the addition of a vague radioactive component to the paleontological background of the monster (not really a character) signaled to Tanaka that what was "hip" these days was science. Science FICTION that is! And he wasn't wrong, from there on out U.S. matinees and drive-ins would be flooded with a torrent of soggy sci-fi schlock about alien spider brains from Venus who try to take over the world with teenage zombies from the 5th dimension. The landscape of myth was changing in a fundamental way. Early modern monsters like Dracula, Cthulhu, and of course Frankenstein, represented a fear of and apprehension towards scientific advance, the toll it had taken, and how little we seemed to understand it. After the bomb fear of the unknown was supplanted by fear of the very real, it wasn't that we were scared of what technology might make possible, but rather we were afraid of what we already knew we were capable of doing, and indeed had already done. Technology is just a tool, we were simple scared of ourselves. But while in the west these tales would be nothing more than a confused mess of red scare propoganda, in post-war Japan science fiction was being used as a vehicle for international understanding, corporation, and, eventually, progress.

A vague concept of the monster as a bipedal dinosaur with spikes along it's back was established by the time storyboarding began. Storyboards, at the time still a very new idea used previously only by Disney for their animated features, were indispensable in helping to visualize the scale of what was being created, as nothing like this had ever been done before. But compounding the absence of the final look of the monster, storyboards on the film where also drawn by a large number of different artists, causing Godzilla's appearance to vary wildly from board to board. If Godzilla was ever pitched as a literal gorilla-whale, by now that idea was long gone.

Godzilla's final appearance was designed by Akira Watanabe and Teizo Toshimitsu, who sculpted three successive marquettes, each named after their skin texture. The first was the "Scaly Godzilla," who in addition to being covered with fish-like scales was also a slightly slimmer creature with a larger, wider head more akin to a Tyrannosaurus-like "sheer crushing force" predator. The second, "Warty Godzilla," was covered in irregular bumps, but in body shape was in-line with the final "Alligator Godzilla" which of course looked nothing like an Alligator but rather featured the scarred, radiation-burned skin which cemented the final look of Godzilla. Although the marquette looks a fair bit different from the final shooting suit, all of the elements are in place. With the look of the monster finalized, work on the suit began.

Proto-Goji & Shodai-Goji Suits
The film was officially announced on July 5th, and with filming to begin in early August, that gave the crew about a month to finish the suit before production started. Eizo Kaimai, aided by the Yagi brothers Kanji and Koei, created the suit as a frame made of bamboo and wire. They coated this with chunks of latex, melted under heat lamps, stirred by hand, which was then coated over the suit's infrastructure and the monster's details were sculpted in.

This, the first Godzilla suit ever constructed, was truly a sight to behold, far more elegant and feral-looking that the second. Unfortunately, it was not the one that was worn in the majority of the actual film. When Haruo Nakajima tested the suit, the thing was completely inflexible, and obnoxiously heavy, weighing in at well over 100kg (some say150, others as high as 200). The latex was some sort of cheap nonsense that hardened into a hollow statue, giving no slack at all to the joints. Not only was it disappointing, but dangerous, as Nakajima's test run ended with him collapsing from heat exhaustion.

The second suit, the "Shodai-Goji" as we know it today, was really only marginally more manageable. Bamboo was still utilized as part of the form, but now urethane foam was used as part of the construction, in addition to lighter plastics as part of the covering. The costume gave more slack, but was unable to elicit much more of a performance than walking in a straight line. The weight was reduced, but the actors still sweat buckets and were unable to stay in-costume for more than a few minutes at a time. An additional problem, born of inexperience and a lack of forethought, arose with the lining of the suit, which was a rough cloth. This caused the actors to suffer from skin abrasions as the suit having more slack didn't mean that it had much. As dangerous and difficult as it is to play a monster in contemporary times with a crew of specialized craftsmen who have been trained specifically to build monster suits, in 1954 this kind of thing just wasn't done, and the attention to the detail of the suit over the concern for the actor inside took it's toll. It's hard to imagine how much worse things would have gone if they weren't fortunate enough to have Nakajima and Tezuka inside the monster.

When completed, the suits measured two meters in height, or 1/25 scale to the height Tsuburaya had chosen for the monster, 50m. What color is Godzilla? This seems like an easy question to answer now, and that the film is in black and white, for most folks, doesn't really complicate matters. But the true color of the Shodai-Goji suit (and its predecessor) is actually unknown for certain. For one thing, there were two costumes built, and there's no guarantee they were painted the same color. More than that, there were four Godzilla costumes constructed in the 1950's (two in 1954, one in 1955, and one in 1957) all intended for a black and white film. Additionally, this was many decades ago, and over the course of time memories dim and fade, and then, again, there's of course the issue with intentionally creating legends about the film's genesis that complicates the issue. We know that by 1962 Godzilla was officially charcoal grey, but that was 5 years after the "Gigantis" costume. Eizo Kaimai says the body was painted grey, with the mouth being bright red. Sadamasa Arikawa said the suit was dark red. Yoshio Suzuki, a modelling assistant, claimed that the suit was a dull color, either grey or brown. And although this confusion is expressly over the Shodai-Goji suit, if their memories are this contradictory, what reason do we have to believe that the Gyakushu-Goji suit was the one where the standard charcoal grey color was established? We don't, because... well, the movie is in black and white, you know. And considering how little I care to call any of these people liars, and how many reasons there are for the confusion to exist, I'm almost positive that all of them are right somehow, and maybe they're just talking about different suits and got all mixed up along the way.

So as to not waste the effort, the "Proto-Goji" suit was cut in half, with the lower half being used to close-ups of Godzilla stomping things, and the upper half being used for some brief shots of Godzilla rising from the water. In addition, two hand puppets were made, a "biting" and a "fire" puppet that was rigged to spray water from its mouth for the fire effect. Which sounds rather ironic, but there's a hell of a lot you can get away with in black and white, using a bunch of black trash bags with glitter on them as a stormy ocean in HPLHS' Call of Cthulhu is probably my favorite example of this.

The last bit used to bring Godzilla to life was a stop motion puppet of his tail. While Tsuburaya's main inspiration for Godzilla was King Kong, he was unfortunately not able to utilize the stop-motion animation technique that he longed for. However, I'm going to take a break from past commentators here and point out that both of his primary reasons were actually something of a cop-out. First of all, regarding Japan lacking anyone experienced with the technique, there's plenty of truth to this, sure, but there was also no one experienced with making a monster suit. And maybe that just sounded like an easier time to Tsuburaya, but remember, just three paragraphs ago, that Kaimai and the Yagi brothers screwed up the first suit in a major way, and the second one wasn't much better. Tsuburaya was also apparently pretty terrible at math, somehow coming to the conclusion that making a feature length monster movie with stop-motion could take up to 7 years to complete. Where the hell did this number come from? King Kong and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms didn't take 7 years to complete, why on Earth would it take seven times longer for Godzilla?

Ishiro Honda
Takeo Murata and director Ishiro Honda hung out at an inn for around three weeks, while they turned Kayama's story into a screenplay. Murata was the one that turned the eccentric gothic version of Dr. Yamane into Takashi Shimura, and Honda turned Godzilla into... well, Godzilla. Other changes the two made to the story included the introduction of the love triangle, the addition of the reporter character Hagiwara, and the diminishing of Shinkichi's role, which was originally much larger, although in what capacity I'm unsure.

Honda made Godzilla into what we know today based on his personal experience. Honda was drafted into war, serving three tours in China, was a prisoner of war for six months, and saw the devastation in Hiroshima first hand. In between all this, he would work for Toho (and PCL, their predecessor) on their various war propoganda films. Honda, the son of a monk, was... upset, by the war. Of his early features, directed in the time between the end of the occupation and the one-two punch of Godzilla and Seven Samurai that changed Japanese cinema forever, two of them, Eagle of the Pacific and Farewell, Rabaul are war dramas with a strong anti-war slant. Honda's derision of the horrors of war was emblematic of post-war Japan, but at the time his was also an extremely pessimistic outlook. It wasn't the hopeful, idealistic Honda that gave us Gorath and Latitude Zero.

An animal, he reasoned, would simply be killed with weapons. That wasn't what people, and certainly not Honda, were afraid of. Not knowing whether your food is contaminated, but knowing that the government and military, people supposedly in power who are supposed to have all the answers, are dealing with forces they clearly have no comprehension of, and the kind of looming dread that the bomb put on everyone's shoulders, about a weapon that couldn't be stopped or controlled, that's the monster. Not a simple sea monster who was hungry, but something that inherited the attributes of the bomb, not a metaphor, but a personification. Honda's Godzilla made conventional warfare look like a pathetic joke, it destroyed everything indiscriminately, and it belched flames and radiation, poisoning everything it touched. Godzilla's most lasting legacy as a direct offspring of the bomb and the horrors of WWII, even the necessary ones, is entirely Honda's doing.

In all, three drafts of the screenplay were written, the first two of which were still called "Project G." The last one had the title spelled in blood. A little spooktastic, but given the relentlessly miserable tone and theme of the film it's not exactly inappropriate either.

Deleted and Unfilmed Scenes
Either one of the drafts was written after production started, or was edited during, because one of them featured a totally different Odo Island sequence, part of which was actually filmed. As it originally went, Yamane et co. investigated the island for a whole day prior to Godzilla's attack, spending it visiting the graveyard with Shinkichi to mourn (which was filmed), caring for the wounded with Emiko, and discovering radioactivity in the beach and wells with Dr. Kyohei Yamane. That night, the doctor reveals to Emiko he knows what's responsible for the attack already, but he won't tell us because it's too fantastic. You can make your own mind up about whether that's some cornball 50's nonsense or affective suspense.

The next day, in another scene that was filmed with Honda's crew but not with Tsuburaya, Emiko and Ogata at walking along the beach when they spy a huge rock that wasn't there before, and also begins to move. This, of course, is Godzilla's tail. Ogata fires a few pointless shots at it before it disappears, and from here we pick up Godzilla's appearance over the mountain. This is also different, and was also filmed, and Godzilla carries a dead cow in its mouth, the last vestige of the hunger angle of Kayama's story. Godzilla drops the cow and burns the mountain with his breath, disappearing into the smoke. Following this, Dr. Yamane examines the monster's footprints, and this is when he discovers the trilobite.

A handful of scenes fleshing out the characters a bit were left out, presumably for pacing reasons. One has all four human leads in a car, with Ogata up front and the others in the back, where Dr. Serizawa and Dr. Yamane discuss the implications on international politics regarding Godzilla's apparent origin by U.S. nuclear testing. This scene gives us a look at the relationship between Daisuke and Kyohei, which is never really addressed in the film, establishing them as colleagues and reinforcing Serizawa and Emiko's relationship at the expense of Ogata.

Later, a scene on a rainy street corner as by standers discuss their feelings of fear at the notion of yet another threat to their security while a wounded veteran looks on unphased, who also happens to be Dr. Serizawa, would have been a bit more of a window into the character's gloomy disillusionment, both an echo of Honda's own feelings at the time and a stepping stone for his reluctance to use the Oxygen Destroyer and his ultimate sacrifice. Similarly, there was also a scene of Dr. Yamane before arriving home before the first attack on Tokyo. He was actually at a pub, watching the depth charges being dropped along with a room full of excited, drunk revelers. Similar to the Serizawa scene, this doesn't really tell us anything we don't already know, but it does give us a more elaborate picture of exactly why he was in such a shitty mood when he came home.

A special effects scene that was never filmed was one of a group of fleeing civilians being incinerated by Godzilla's ray, this was cut because it was considered too gruesome, and a little cheap considering where all the rest of Godzilla's shock value comes from. Other scenes scripted (and storyboarded) but not filmed were an abandoned plot point that the two divers had to lure Godzilla to the deepest part of the bay for the Oxygen Destroyer to work, and a final scene of Emiko and Ogata dropping a wreath from a helicopter over the ocean as a tribute to Dr. Serizawa.

Finally, there is a series of photographs of Akihiko Hirata and Momoko Kochi hanging out on some sort of... picnic? Or something? But no one really knows what this is all about for sure. Some say it was a scene that was shot, others that they were just publicity or test shots. Some say this was a flashback to Emiko and Serizawa in their younger days when they were presumably closer to (but probably still not really) a romantic relationship, but there are others who say this is actually supposed to be from the time when Akihiko Hirata was considered for the part of Ogata. One of these is probably true, I figure, and if I had to bet I'd go with them being publicity stills from when Hirata was supposed to play Ogata, but that's just a guess.

Akira Ifukube
The last major component of the four keystones of Godzilla to contribute was the composer, Akira Ifukube. Ifukube was the one who truly breathed life into the monster, and gave him his voice, both literally and figuratively. His interest in music stemmed from his fascination with the Ainu culture, and his natural talent for it became apparent early on, and he began composing as early as his teens during the inter-war period. Before working in films, he had already amassed an impressive repertoire of compositions, and after his portfolio only continued to balloon, scoring an almost criminal number of them. While his work outside of films is internationally recognized and admired in its own right, it is Godzilla who he, probably more than any other single person, defined so rigidly. In fact, unlike either director's chair, Godzilla actually seems to now be completely dependent on Ifukube. Despite the fantastic scores of both 80's Godzilla films, Toho actually went and pulled Ifukube out of retirement just to keep doing them, and even after Michiru Oshima dragged Godzilla kicking and screaming into accepting new traditions, the films still contained the iconic "Godzilla Theme" no matter what. Hence, I can't imagine anyone reading this couldn't hum it right now.

There's also Godzilla's roar. This sound was created using a rubber glove, rubbed against the strings of a contrabass, and slowing down the resulting sound. All things considered I think there was a little more tweaking than that involved, but audio technology in the 50's wasn't quite in the same boat as what the psychedelics were using. The loud "thoom" of Godzilla's stomps were Ifukube's doing as well, although this occurred on accident. a result of accidentally bumping an amplifier her forgot was on sometime before Godzilla, and when it came time to do the sound effects for a giant monster, this memory jumped back at him. This is attested to by the man himself, but there are apparently some other stories going around, like one that rather anticlimactically attributes the stomp to a pre-recorded explosion.

Actually Ifukube was quite open and did a lot of interviews, so we don't have many mysteries regarding his contributions, but bizarrely there are other stories floating around. Because of the amount of time Japanese film scores were expected to be completed in at the time, Ifukube was but in the unenvious position of having to write the score before the film was even finished. This has led to some differing ideas to the extent of what or if he saw any of the footage while doing so, no doubt spurred on by Tsuburaya's refusal to show Honda the effects scenes before they were done. But of course the truth is pretty obvious, Tsuburaya showed Ifukube what he could in order to help his efforts (why the hell would you actively work to sabotage your own film?), but the effects scenes literally weren't done yet, did I mention Ifukube had to score the film before it was finished? In place of this, Tsuburaya would just describe the action so Ifukube could get a sense of what was going on. It's amazing to me how scrapped together this unbelievable film is in almost every aspect, but here is where I think, more than anything, the true superhuman abilities of these people really shines through. It is nothing short of a miracle that Ifukube could manage to compose that score, with accurate timing, pauses, synched up perfectly (of course editing is involved but music still plays at a certain tempo and the tracks are still of a certain length) in such a short amount of time with such a poor idea of what's supposed to be happening. Fate is a bunch of baloney, sure, but Ifukube was born to score this film.

    At 19:05 on August 13, 1954, the Japanese fishing vessel Eiko-Maru is sunk under unknown circumstances in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Japan. A search and rescue ship dispatched after it also disappears. And so on, and so forth. A break in the case occurs when a survivor washes up shore of nearby Odo Island. The island has a local legend of a sea monster named "Gojira," which has an associated festival that, in the "old days" actually included sacrificing a human to appease the monster. Although the legend itself has almost been forgotten entirely in the days of skepticism and modern science, the monster itself the stories were about has gone nowhere, as several horribly shaken villagers testify after an alleged "typhoon" rips through the island later that night.

Dr. Kyohei Yamane (along with his daughter Emiko) investigate, discovering radioactive contamination, a living trilobite, and... so it happens, the monster itself, Godzilla, whom Dr. Yamane immediately pegs as a creature from "the Jurassic era." It doesn't take long for the doctor to put it together, and it's apparent that fish and sailors aren't the only ones who were affected by March's nuclear test. The weapon had quite literally awoken a sleeping giant, some previously hidden and unknown deep sea descendant of a marine dinosaur adapted to a more amphibious lifestyle (a perfect niche to remain undetected in the trenches and island chains of the South Pacific), has been forced out of obscurity and into the light of day.

A relict animal of a branch long thought extinct, of a totally new morphology, a creature that puts "Nessie" to shame, which also just so happens to be capable of not only surviving a nuclear weapon, but thrives on, transforming into some sort of incredible super-monster. It's the discovery of a lifetime, revolutionizing the way we think about evolutionary history, radiation poisoning, and even basic bio-mechanics with the creature's size being an unbelievable 50 meters tall, but much to Dr. Yamane's dismay all anyone seems to be thinking about is how to kill it, because of the threat it poses. Upsetting, but to be fair, not unreasonable.

And sure enough, it isn't long before Godzilla moves from from the little fishing village to the sprawling Tokyo metropolis, and the world sees firsthand just exactly what kind of threat Godzilla poses to the world. Attacking the monster with depth charges proved completely ineffectual, so plans are made for a strong defense against a repeat attack by the monster. A giant electric fence perimeter is built around the city, and battalion of tanks and jets all ready themselves to confront Godzilla should the need arise, and of course it does. In a terrifying repeat of the last landfall, however, none of the preparations seem to matter, and even the most modern military vehicles can't even seem to scratch the monster. It begins to sink in that the question is no longer if Godzilla should be killed, but if he even can be, as approximately half of the entire Tokyo metropolitan area is completely destroyed, with millions dead, injured, homeless, childless, orphaned, widowed, and/or dying of radiation poisoning.

Emiko, for all of this, has her own personal drama going on. Although in an arranged marriage with her long time friend and her father's professional colleague Dr. Daisuke Serizawa, her feelings are for Ogata, a sailor with a ship salvage company. While all three are sucked into Godzilla's story for various reasons, Serizawa's concern, which he lets slip to Emiko out of his weakness for her, turns out to be the final piece of the puzzle needed to give mankind a reprieve from Godzilla's wrath. Although sworn to secrecy, while volunteering to care for the victims of Godzilla's rampage, seeing the damage up close forces her hand, and she turns to Ogata for help in convincing Serizawa to cooperate.

The secret is a weapon, one which Serizawa calls the "Oxygen Destroyer," something incredibly and distinctly deadly to all aerobic creatures, which does exactly that. The Oxygen Destroyer targets only living things, not structures, and is not a radioactive weapon which means there is no fallout. The military uses of such a device, Serizawa realizes, are horrifying, even more so than the doomsday weapon we already have, and it is his hope to work quietly until a positive use for his discoveries can be found. Unfortunately, the situation with Godzilla has forced his hand as well, and although he fights briefly for his own self-preservation, he understands that Emiko is right, and it's up to him to save mankind from it's own hubris in the form of Godzilla.

And so it is that Serizawa and Ogata dive down to the bottom of Tokyo Bay, with the Oxygen Destroyer in tow, and locate Godzilla. A blinding flash of light, the sea churns and bubbles chaotically, and of the three, only Ogata returns to the surface to live out the rest of his life with the woman he loves. For the moment, Godzilla is gone, and life can return to normal, but as Dr. Yamane makes clear, it's highly unlikely that Godzilla was the very last of his species, and if there's at least another one out there, let alone a breeding population, then there's no reason to think more of them haven't been affected by nuclear tests. Godzilla is ultimately just a symptom, Pandora's box has already been opened, now we have to live with those consequences.

1956 Godzilla, King of the Monsters • 怪獣王ゴジラ
Release Date: April 27, 1956
Executive Producers: Joseph E. Levine, Terry Turner, Ed Barison
Director: Terry O. Morse
Writer: Al C. Ward

Steve Martin . Raymond Burr
Tomo Iwanaga . Frank Iwanaga

1977 Godzilla, il Rei di Monstri
Release Date: ????, 1977
Director: Luigi Cozzi

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