A TV newscaster is reporting the scene of Tokyo under attack. “What you’re looking at through T.V. is no motion picture, no drama. This is the disaster of the century. It looks as if we are thrown into the world of two million years ago.”
American reporter Steve Martin (Raymond Burr) is on the scene reporting a 400 foot Tyrannosaurus Rex woken from undersea hibernation off the coast of Japan during atomic bomb testing. Now the “Godzilla” has his sights on the destruction of Tokyo!
Godzilla, King of the Monsters! 7.0
eyelights: the original score. the original footage.
eyesores: the poorly managed insertion of new sequences. the excision of the original themes.
“My name is Steve Martin. I am a foreign correspondent for United World News. I was headed for an assignment in Cairo, when I stopped off in Tokyo for a social; but it turned out to be a visit to the living Hell of another world.”
This was my second time watching ‘Godzilla, King of the Monsters!’ and, quite frankly, I only watched it so as to compare it to its Japanese counterpart, ‘Gojira‘; I remembered that the chopped up, Americanized version, had left me relatively unimpressed.
And it still does.
Although it’s nonetheless considered a pop culture landmark, or even a classic, it’s hard for ‘Godzilla’ to have the same impact as the original: they pretty much tore out much of the plot and all of the sociopolitical discourse that made ‘Gojira’ so meaningful.
In its stead, they introduced a new plot line: that of an American journalist who happens to be in Japan when Godzilla surfaces and who spends most of the film reporting on the events as they take place. And when he’s not reporting on the events, he’s witnessing them from the sidelines.
In the gargantuan form of Raymond Burr, this new protagonist (amusingly named Steve Martin) was crudely inserted via new footage made up to look like the original. The problem is that the film quality is completely different, and the stand-ins that surrounded Burr rarely matched the original actors – even from behind.
Raymond Burr doesn’t even look like he wants to be there, anyway. I don’t have a sense of how long it took to shoot his scenes (perhaps it was a rushed job?), but he spent most of the film looking on with a neutral/stunned look on his face. Either that, or with googly eyes protruding from beneath his heavily sweaty brow.
Steve Martin: “I’m afraid my Japanese is a little rusty.”
What was especially funny is that he rarely got to speak on screen, seeing as he couldn’t interact with the original actors. Often, we would find his thoughts expressed in the form of a narration or news report – an essential part of the picture because half of the film wasn’t even dubbed over from the original Japanese!
This means that, for large chunks of the picture, especially at the onset, viewers are left watching Japanese actors talk in Japanese without any subtitles or any sense of what’s going on – and, seeing as these scenes are dialogue-based, there is little on-screen action to provide context.
So, without the anti-war message, warnings about nuclear testing, the romantic subplot, or the professor’s central role, and, instead saddled with a bulky, oozing robot as our lead, ‘Godzilla’ loses much of its humanity and is transformed into a big dumb monster movie.
Which, in and of itself, isn’t necessarily a bad thing: they can be fun, and ‘Godzilla, King of the Monsters!’ is one of the decent ones. The problem is simply that, because of all these massive changes, the true “king of the monsters” ends up being ‘Gojira’ – besting this beast in all respects.
Steve Martin: “The menace was gone… so was a great man. But the whole world can wake up and live again.”
Date of viewing: November 22, 2012