Godzilla: King of the Monsters (1956) “A Poor Shadow of it’s Predecessor”

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When an American studio says they are going to remake and “Americanize” a foreign film One of the many hip things to say on the internet is, “oh why do they have to remake this? Hollywood is running out of ideas!” As if this is something new Hollywood has been doing. Most recent examples of this would be “Oldboy” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”. Whenever something like this comes out we get the same old battle cry “Hollywood is out of ideas!” Hollywood has done this throughout movie history, and one example of that is 1956’s “Godzilla: King of the Monsters”. This is the America version of the 1954 Japanese film “Gojira”. However what makes this different, and in many more lazy, instead of being a vision of the story from a different director like the examples mentioned above, this version take roughly 40 minutes of the original “Gorjira” and cuts it out. The filmmakers kept the remaining 50 or so minutes and added in about 25-30 minutes of new footage (and a new subplot) with American actor Raymond Burr. Also dubbing over most of the scenes that involved the Japanese dialogue.

This was actually my first experience with the original film. I didn’t realize what the filmmakers had actually done to the film at the time. Something was a bit off watching that version. I could tell even though I had never seen the true original. Watching the Japanese version conformed many of my thoughts, and since the new 2014 version of “Godzilla” is coming out, I’ve decided to go back and review a few of the “Godzilla” films and this is one of them. How is this first American version? With it not being a true remake, it has a loss of identity. It’s never sure of what it wants to be, with the new subplot not adding any impact to the over arching story, even if the non liner storytelling was an interesting move by the filmmakers. When watching this you realize the best parts of the film was the stuff that was already shot by the Japanese. But, they don’t hold as much weight since the new subplot takes away from the development of the characters and pushes aside many of the prolific themes the 1954 version was trying to communicate.

The premise of this film is relativity the same as the Japanese film with a few differences. In this version, an American journalist recounts his journey to Japan to find the truth about the disappearances of sea ships, and the rumors of a terrifying beast that could destroy them all and all of Japan.

The story in this version doesn’t have any focus. This draws from the problem that this isn’t a straight up remake. The movie has more of a documentary feel because the journalist, Steve Martin, is narrating the events leading up to the destruction of Tokyo but in that it feels very choppy. The movie jumps from one thing to the next trying to explain the very basic information of Japanese version for the American audiences but lacks any sort of cohesive development which means you can’t get attached to any of the characters since we barely spend any time with them.

It doesn’t help that the new character that we are forced to follow doesn’t any affect any part of the plot or the drive of the narrative. Nothing he does affects any outcome. He doesn’t have any meaningful interaction with any of the main cast, if any at all. Many of the scenes where he is “with” the cast of main characters from the Japanese version, he is in reality he is just spliced into the scene to only give the illusion he is there with them when it very easy to tell, even as a first time viewer, that he isn’t there.

As I mentioned before the non liner approach was a smart and certainly appealing as the viewer. It does help distinguish itself from it’s predecessor, giving the story itself a new spin, if you will. However the rest of the redeeming qualities that come from this version of the movie, is the parts that were already filmed and released 2 years early in Japan.

Never will I be the one to say the original or the foreign version is better simply because they are the original. Always will I give credit where credit is due, however here belong all the credit belongs to the original 1954 version “Gojira” while this 1956 American version doesn’t deserve any of it. Its choppy, and lazy while the new plot adds nothing new. It was a pointless addition that in a strange way has its place in history to bringing the monster to American audiences, so for that, it deserves that credit but as a film on its own, it’s okay. As a remake, it is horrible. A very difficult film to review since it is so many things at once. As a movie you’ll enjoy it with the many flaws. But as a remake it is sorely lacking.

Final Score

5/10

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