The cast and crew of the 1954 Japanese kaiju monster film Gojira probably had no idea that they had created the first movie in what would become the longest running franchise in cinema history. Directed by Ishirô Honda and written by Takeo Murata with Honda, it was a marvel of Japanese cinema in terms of attendance, even though the critics gave it negative reviews after accusing it of using the tragedies of World War II as the basis of its story. While that is true, it was done with reverence, not disdain. It was an attempt for the Japanese people to channel their fear, sorrow, and pain of the atomic bombings into a science fiction parable.
What many people might not realize is that the version they’ve seen, the one that stars Raymond Burr as a reporter in Japan, isn’t the original edit. Rather, Godzilla, King of the Monsters! was a reshot version because the powers that be figured American audiences didn’t want to see a film with this kind of message so early after the war. After all, the US won the war, so why would audiences want to watch something from the perspective of Japanese victims? Something like 20 minutes of the film was excised while an additional 30 minutes were reshot, resulting in a butchered version of the original that would become the “canon” version until the mid-2000’s, when Honda’s vision was restored and became more widely available.
Below is a video by YouTuber KaptainKristian, who analyzes the original version of Godzilla and then talks about the impact the American version had on the franchise and why this was a sad path for the series to go down. It’s a beautifully edited video that is brimming with empathy, reason, and respect. I highly recommend giving it a view.
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