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Godzilla: King of the Monsters (1956)
Not Rated

Starring: Raymond Burr, Akira Takarada, and Momoko Kochi

Rating:
***1/2
out of
*****

This Americanized version of the 1954 Japanese release, Gojira, inserts Raymond Burr as Steve Martin, a reporter who just happens to stop in Tokyo when Godzilla makes his first appearance.

When ships start mysteriously bursting into flames, an expedition is made to a small island south of Japan. While there, a severe thunderstorm appears to cause damage to a village. Upon further investigation, it is found that a large radioactive animal is responsible for the devastation. Then, in daylight, the monster strikes again. A 400 foot tall dinosaur-like creature that the natives call Godzilla reveals itself before descending back into the ocean.

The Japanese Navy attempts to destroy the monster with depth charges and appears to succeed. A relieved Tokyo is caught unaware as the monster strikes again, this time in Tokyo Harbor.

Taking into account that this movie is 44 years old, it's actually very good at what it does. The Japanese people are the only people in the world to have faced nuclear holocaust. Godzilla, a monster created by nuclear experiments, is their personification of the evil of nuclear weapons and the destruction they cause.

Raymond Burr's constant narration and occasionally awful special effects ruin what is otherwise a rather effective and somber bit of horror. Godzilla is pure evil in this film and, although obviously a man in a suit, makes for a pretty effective villain if one can suspend disbelief enough to allow for the sometimes cheesy puppet effects.

Although Godzilla was later dumbed down and made into a children's hero, this Godzilla is not cute or cuddly. He's simply an engine of destruction that plows into buildings and eats rail cars.

With some fine tuning and better effects, this could have been one of the best horror movies of all time, bar none. Only with a bit of leeway for the effects and the acting can the movie be considered a classic that anyone can enjoy. Still, in the right frame of mind, Godzilla truly is the king of the monsters.

Trivia: The original Japanese version of the film ran for 98 minutes. The US version, with its added scenes and somewhat choppy storyline, ran for 81 minutes. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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