- Godzilla aka Gojira (1954)
Takashi Shimura, a noted actor who frequently worked with director Akira Kurosawa, brings gravitas and dignity to the role of Dr. Yamane, a scientist who wants to study Godzilla instead of simply destroy him. Akihiko Hirata conveys anguish, regret, and, ultimately, brave determination as Dr. Serizawa, whose tortured genius provides the key to ending the threat of the monster. Momoki Kochi as Yamane’s daughter Emiko, and Akira Takarada as her secret lover Ogata (she’s actually engaged to the aloof workaholic Serizawa), are not as compelling, but the forbidden nature of their romance and the sacrifices they are willing to endure for the greater good make them worthwhile characters.
The big question, in terms of watching this movie: The Japanese version or the 1956 Americanized version with footage of Raymond Burr as reporter Steve Martin edited into the narrative?
The last couple of home releases of the original Japanese version, through Classic Media and most recently the Criterion Collection, included the U.S. version, so you can watch both and decide which one you prefer.
- Godzilla Vs. The Thing, aka Mothra Vs. Godzilla (1964)
- Monster Zero, aka Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965)
And yet, I enjoy Monster Zero, primarily because I found the human characters so likable. First and foremost, there’s the character of Glenn, a United States astronaut played by American actor Nick Adams.
- Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah (1991)
For starters: It features one of the best-looking Godzilla suits ever made, without a doubt. The fight scenes between Godzilla and Ghidorah are very well staged. And as dopey as the storyline is, I love the fact that Godzilla is first presented as a major threat to humanity, and then becomes our only hope when Ghidorah replaces him and turns out to be even worse. And then, after a restored Godzilla defeats Ghidorah, he turns around and attacks Japan in what I consider to be one of the best “rampage” sequences ever done in a giant-monster movie. The final battle, between Godzilla and a Ghidorah resurrected with 23rd-century technology, is a hoot.
- Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993)
- Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)
The Godzilla suit gets a refurbishing in this film, and it looks fantastic—his eyes are completely white, making him look like he’s possessed by an evil demon.
- King Kong Vs. Godzilla (1963)
And yet . . . the Godzilla suit is absolutely iconic, one of the most popular ever created.
By the way—having seen the Japanese version, let me take this opportunity to dispel a myth that has persisted since the 1960s. The U.S. version and the Japanese version of King Kong Vs. Godzilla have the same ending: Kong and Godzilla fall into the ocean, Kong pops up and starts swimming home, and Godzilla is not seen again. Godzilla does not win in the Japanese version. Tell your friends, okay?
© All text copyright Glenn Greenberg, 2014.