Godzilla (1954)

It's impossible to talk about monster flicks without at least mentioning Mother Monster (no reference to Lady Gaga). "Godzilla" is where the monster film really sprouted wings—at least, that's what everyone says. Truth be told, the film is much more about the time period it was made in, the relationships between the characters, and nuclear fallout...oh, and a giant monster.
The movie starts with a boat at sea catching on fire and sinking. They just had time to send out a distress signal. News of the event spreads quickly, creating a panic. Soon another boat goes out to investigate and that ones vanishes as well; but three survivors are pulled from the water by a fishing boat.
News of the trio of survivors reaches Japan and the chaos that ensues is staggering. Family members want to know if their kids are safe, loved ones are hysterical. Right before the names of the survivors can be verified, the fishing boat becomes the third vessel to be sunk off the coast of Japan.
Something is in the water.
When a dead body washes up on shore, the inhabitants of a small island next to Japan become convinced that there is a monster present and ready to eat his share of human flesh. Legend tells of a creature called Gojira ("Godzilla" when it became Western-ized). The people of the island used to sacrifice a young woman to the water when their fish became scarce.
But these are just superstitions, not hard fact.
Enter a scientist (Takashi Shimura) who thinks the best way to learn about the beast is to go to the place of the reported sightings. When he gets to the island, Godzilla is kind enough to make a quick appearance. Shocked at the creature, the scientist returns home and tries to come up with a reason for how the beast came to be.
They surmise that the creature has been living in an underwater cave and the H-bomb testings has brought it to the surface. Godzilla's footprints are radioactive, and the path it leaves behind is a long stretch of destruction.
Now the people of Japan have to learn what to do with a killing monster, awakened by the inept decisions of mankind.
It becomes clear that to deal with the monster, another killing machine will have to be made that equals the power of the H-bomb; but at what consequences and how?
"Godzilla" is about the people and how they interact. At the verge of the apocalypse there is still time to ponder about relationships and watch how resistant humanity is. It sounds cliche and it is; but somehow it works in the piece.
When you see the puppet, there's no great shock factor. The original awe that it may have had has long since faded; but the point remains even stronger than ever. When the monster is stomping its way through the street of Japan, creating such devastating destruction; you get the feeling that this is a culture that will rebuild—because they've already done it before.
Made less than a decade after the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, "Godzilla" serves as a warning to future decades and a tribute to its own culture for being able to pull themselves off the ground.
The point of the film is not hidden at all; but what remains under the propaganda and the water puppets is a drama picture that could stand on its own feet.
Lucky for us we get giant monsters as well.

Score: ★★★½

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