[NOTE: If you missed the show, here is the link to the podcast]
In 1954, Toho Studios, in Japan, released the first Godzilla movie, entitled Gojira in Japanese, the first in what would become the longest ever-running film franchise, which has produced, as of 2014, over 28 entries, and that’s not even counting the Hollywood versions (on this blog, I have previously called the James Bond films the “longest running film series ever created”, and while that is technically incorrect, the Bond films present a more consistently unified storytelling universe than do the Godzilla films, so perhaps I can be forgiven for prioritizing the one over the other even if I am – ahem – wrong). In 1956, Raymond Burr headlined the first American Godzilla production – essentially a recut and dubbed version of the Japanese original, with additional scenes of Burr, as a journalist, traveling through Japan, witnessing the monster’s destruction – rebranded as Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (William Tsutsui, in his masterful memoir, Godzilla on My Mind, explains that the name change is really nothing more than a standard 1950s transliteration of the “ji” for “dzi” and the “ra” for “la”). While Gojira was a somber tale of nuclear hubris leading to disaster (in particular, American nuclear hubris), the 1956 Hollywood film weakened the moral lessons in favor of greater monster-movie thrills. And so it has gone since then, with most of the Godzilla films focused more on campy battles between monsters – sometimes with Godzilla as a hero, saving humanity, and sometimes with Godzilla wreaking all kinds of destructive havoc – than on the ethics of scientific testing and nuclear annihilation.
The 1998 Roland Emmerich-helmed Godzilla was a critical disaster – if a box-office success – and never led to the originally-proposed sequels, yet now, in 2014, 60 years after Gojira, Warner Bros. is releasing a new Godzilla, on May 16, directed by Monsters director Gareth Edwards. Will it prove to be the American Godzilla film that fans have long awaited? Join host Dan Rodricks and me on WYPR’s Midday this Friday, in the first hour, starting around 12:25, when we’ll discuss Godzilla’s legacy, the new film, plus review two other films coming out that day, Belle and Million Dollar Arm. If you can’t listen live on radio, on 88.1FM in Maryland, then you can stream it or check out the podcast later by visiting the show’s site. Should be great fun!
One final note – if you’ve never seen the 1954 original, it is currently traveling throughout the U.S. in a new digital print, and the Charles Theater Revival Series, here in Baltimore, has just booked it for the following dates/times:
- Saturday, May 31 @ 11:30am
- Monday, June 2 @ 7pm
- Thursday, June 5 @ 9pm
You should definitely go and check it out. It’s a wonderful restoration, and well worth watching!