Starring Akira Takarada, Momoko Kochi, Akihiko Hirata, Takashi Shimura, Fuyuki Murakami
Directed by Ishiro Honda
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)
The people of Japan are beset by a gigantic and radioactive lizard monster rising out of the sea that causes devastating destruction, but a scientist may have the one weapon that can stop it.
This was the iconic Japanese monster film that started the long-running Godzilla series as well as the diverse kaju genre, both of which are still continuing today. Although Godzilla (Gojira in Japanese) would later become the hero of much more light-hearted films, he is a grim engine of destruction in this picture, with a convincing monster suit so well-photographed in stark black and white photography, that the creature is more terrifying here than he's been in any film since. This isn't just a great Godzilla movie, but also a great movie, with thrilling special effects, a wonderful score from Akira Ifukube, and a realistic look at a threat to a nation, effectively scripted with fine performances. Although the love triangle between Takarada, Kochi, and Hirata isn't as well-developed as it could be, Hirata stands out as the noble Dr. Serizawa, and we can feel his angst over a weapon he fears could destroy the world. I first saw this film in the American re-edited version, Godzilla: King Of The Monsters, which excised some scenes to make room for explanatory footage with Raymond Burr, but the original Japanese version is well worth seeking out, and packs a more powerful punch.