I grew up watching Godzilla movies. My favorites were the terrible ones where he fought King Kong and a robot Godzilla. The original Godzilla was kind of serious. Well, as serious as a story about a thirty story tall monster can be.
1954’s Godzilla King of the Monsters was a strange movie. Watching it now I can easily see the countless times Raymond Burr was wedged into the story and doubles were used for the actors in the original film. These are all shots with Raymond facing the camera and whoever he’s talking to has their back to the camera. Some of his connections are a bit of a stretch, but for the most part it works.
The topic of the movie is the sudden appearance of a thirty story tall monster who likes to sink ships and step on cars. Like all such films we have to wait a little bit before Godzilla makes an appearance, but when he does, he looks very much like a man in a rubber suit. That has always been one of Godzilla’s charms. That and his roar and his back lighting up as he breaths fire or whatever that is he breaths. It wasn’t exactly scary, but it was interesting. The idea that they had to build this small city for Godzilla to step on has always impressed me.
The music was the best part of the movie, but maybe that’s just the most familiar part. I still like the way the tempo builds as the monster grows closer and closer and then screams.
Raymond Burr put in a stunningly wooden performance, but he was working with doubles and pretending to see the city destroyed by a fairly silly looking monster. On the other hand, most of the actors from the original film seem to be doing pantomime and a lot of running and screaming.
I was always intrigued by the end of Godzilla. A Mad Scientist has invented something that removes all the oxygen from water, or something like that. The result of using his machine turns living fish into skeletons. This is a weapon he feels guilty for inventing, but he is talked into using it to save the world. As the movie ends, Godzilla is eaten away until nothing but his skeleton remains. Even for a movie with a giant lizard for a villain, it seemed a bit odd.
The most amazing thing about Godzilla is that it was the birth of a whole world filled with giant monsters and epic battles and an island where they all lived and had nine to five jobs and families to go home to. Well, sort of.