A Brief History
On November 3, 1954, Godzilla, the giant fire-spewing, dinosaur-like dragon, born of nuclear bomb tests, emerged from the sea and onto the silver screen to ravage Japan.
When the first Godzilla movie hit the theaters, it was a sensation. By today’s standards, though, the special effects are laughable. A man in a monster suit walking around scale model buildings and cars is what passed for high tech in those days, but Japanese audiences loved the film and its anti-nuclear undertones.
In 1956, the film made it to the United States in the heavily Americanized version Godzilla, King of the Monsters! and found another eager audience.
Godzilla’s success resulted in a franchise surrounding the smelly monster with the hot bad breath, and he reappeared in numerous sequels to fight other monsters (including King Kong!) and the Japanese military over and over again. Re-makes of the movie were completed in 1998 and 2014. In conjunction with the 2014 film, the original 1954 version was released once again.
The budget of the original 96-minute film was $900,000 with a box office take of $2,250,000. That profit is a pittance, however, compared to the residuals and merchandising income that made this movie a fantastic investment for the producers.
As with any successful phenomenon, imitators and parodies were spawned. Many cheesy movie monsters owe their existence to the success of Godzilla, including Rodan, Mothra, MechaGodzilla, Megalon and King Ghidorah. Blue Oyster Cult even sang a song titled “Godzilla” in 1977. And that was not the only song about Godzilla!
Even Godzilla costumes are popular, with people dressing up their dogs and little horses as the “Destroyer of Tokyo.”
Question for students (and subscribers): Oddly enough, considering all the sequels and ongoing franchise, the original movie featured Godzilla dying in Tokyo Bay when he was subjected to a secret weapon called the Oxygen Destroyer which caused the great monster to disintegrate to a skeleton, which leads us to the eternal question, “Is Godzilla tougher than Megalon? Well, is he, Pop?” Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Ragone, August. Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters: Defending the Earth with Ultraman, Godzilla, and Friends in the Golden Age of Japanese Science Fiction Film. Chronicle Books, 2014.
TSUTSUI, WILLIAM. GODZILLA ON MY MIND. Griffin, 2004.