Movie Maniac

May 11, 2014

Original ‘Godzilla’ was a dark, scary metaphor

If there’s any movie monster that’s had a bad rap, it’s Godzilla.

If there’s any movie monster that’s had a bad rap, it’s Godzilla.

Just the very mention of the name brings to mind silly monster rubber suits, overacting, bad dubbing of dialogue and cardboard miniature sets, as seen in countless “Godzilla” films and spinoffs through the years.

They were campy and funny, albeit mostly unintentionally.

Roland Emmerich’s 1998 big-screen “Godzilla” did little to change that. Probably because it just wasn’t a very good movie. Matthew Broderick didn’t help things, either, yucking it up like he was gasping for air.

That could all change with the release of the new “Godzilla” starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson on Friday. It looks to be a big-budget spectacle that treats “Godzilla” as a fearsome beast.

And that’s what Godzilla purists have been saying all along. That the monster is something to be feared, not laughed at. The original 1954 Japanese film “Godzilla (Gojira)” was a dark metaphor for a nuclear bomb-scarred country. The story was an allegory for a nation still reeling from radiation fallout.

“Gojira” was, in essence, a horror film.

That all got lost when the film was released in America as “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.”

“Gojira” was significantly altered. It was re-edited and re-dubbed, and added cheesy new scenes of American actor Raymond Burr (“Perry Mason”) to appeal to U.S. audiences. He played a reporter who watched the action from the sidelines in scenes that obviously didn’t fit in with the rest of the movie.

To make room for the new footage, 40 minutes were deleted from the original film – its heart and soul. The opening credits and main theme were ditched, also.

Well, it’s all back.

Rialto Pictures commissioned a full unedited restoration of the original “Gojira” and is releasing it in theaters across the country in celebration of the film’s 60th anniversary. It’s playing in Wichita at 7 and 10 p.m. Monday and Tuesday at Warren Old Town. Tickets are $5.

The story of “Gojira” begins when American H-bomb tests in the Pacific revive Gojira deep in the ocean. Apparently the big guy wakes up grouchy, so he sinks several ships before moving on to Tokyo, where he wreaks havoc.

“Gojira” is said to be greatly inspired by the commercial success of the 1952 re-release of “King Kong” and the 1953 success of “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.” “Gojira” would go on to inspire such American films as “Cloverfield.”

And Friday’s “Godzilla.” Here’s hoping the monster finally gets some monstrous respect.

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