On this date in 1954 the first Godzilla movie was released in Japan. Godzilla (ゴジラ Gojira) is the first film in what became the Godzilla franchise and the first film in the Showa series. The film was directed by Ishirō Honda, with a screenplay by Honda, Takeo Murata, and Shigeru Kayama and stars Akira Takarada, Momoko Kōchi, Akihiko Hirata, Takashi Shimura, with Haruo Nakajima and Katsumi Tezuka as the performers for Godzilla. Nakajima went on to portray the character until his retirement in 1972.
In 1956, TransWorld Releasing Corporation and Embassy Pictures released Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, a heavily re-edited “Americanized” version of the original film with additional footage featuring Raymond Burr as a U.S. reporter. In 2004 Rialto Pictures gave the original 1954 film a limited theatrical release in the United States to coincide with the franchise’s 50th anniversary.
Here is the original movie plot (in italics so that you can skip it if you want):
When the Japanese freighter Eiko-maru is destroyed near Odo Island, another ship – the Bingo-maru – is sent to investigate, only to meet the same fate with few survivors. A fishing boat from Odo is also destroyed, with one survivor. Fishing catches mysteriously drop to zero, blamed by an elder on the ancient sea creature known as “Godzilla.” Reporters arrive on Odo Island to further investigate. A villager tells one of the reporters that “something large is going crazy down there” ruining the fishing. That evening, a ritual dance to appease Godzilla is held during which the reporter learns that the locals used to sacrifice young girls. That night, a large storm strikes the island, destroying the reporters’ helicopter, and an unseen force destroys 17 homes, kills nine people and 20 of the villagers’ livestock.
Odo residents travel to Tokyo to demand disaster relief. The villagers’ and reporters’ evidence describes damage consistent with something large crushing the village. The government sends paleontologist Kyohei Yamane to lead an investigation to the island, where giant radioactive footprints and a trilobite are discovered. The village alarm bell is rung and Yamane and the villagers rush to see the monster, retreating after seeing that it is a giant dinosaur, which then roars, and returns to the ocean.
Yamane presents his findings in Tokyo, estimating that Godzilla is 165 feet (50 m) tall and is evolved from an ancient sea creature becoming a terrestrial animal. He concludes that Godzilla has been disturbed from its deep underwater natural habitat by underwater hydrogen bomb testing. Debate ensues about notifying the public about the danger of the monster. Meanwhile, 17 ships are lost at sea.
Ten frigates are dispatched to attempt to kill the monster using depth charges. The mission disappoints Yamane who wants Godzilla to be studied. Godzilla survives the attack and appears off-shore. Officials appeal to Yamane for ideas to kill the monster, but Yamane tells them that Godzilla is unkillable, having survived H-bomb testing, and must be studied.
Yamane’s daughter, Emiko, decides to break off her arranged engagement to Yamane’s colleague, Daisuke Serizawa, because of her love for Hideto Ogata, a salvage ship captain. When a reporter arrives and asks to interview Serizawa, Emiko escorts the reporter to Serizawa’s lab. After Serizawa refuses to divulge his current work to the reporter, he gives Emiko a demonstration of his recent project on the condition she must keep it a secret. The demonstration horrifies her and she leaves without breaking off the engagement. Shortly after she returns home, the sound of Godzilla’s footsteps approaching is heard. Godzilla surfaces from Tokyo Bay and enters the city, scattering residents from its path. A passing commuter train collides with the monster, who then destroys the train. After further destruction, Godzilla returns to the ocean.
After consulting with international experts, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces construct a 100 feet (30 m) tall, 50,000 volt electrified fence along the coast and deploy forces to stop and kill Godzilla. Yamane returns home, dismayed that there is no plan to study Godzilla for its resistance to radiation, where Emiko and Ogata await hoping to get his consent for them to wed. When Ogata disagrees with Yamane, Yamane tells him to leave. Godzilla resurfaces and breaks through to Tokyo, unleashing a more destructive rampage across the city. The Tokyo Tower and the National Diet Building are destroyed and there is a large loss of life.
Distraught by the devastation, Emiko tells Ogata about Serizawa’s research, a weapon called the “Oxygen Destroyer,” which disintegrates oxygen atoms and the organisms die of a rotting asphyxiation. Emiko and Ogata go to Serizawa to convince him to use the Oxygen Destroyer but he initially refuses. After watching a program displaying the nation’s current tragedy, Serizawa finally accepts Emiko and Ogata’s pleas.
A navy ship takes Ogata and Serizawa to plant the device in Tokyo Bay. After finding Godzilla, Serizawa unloads the device and cuts off his air support, taking the secrets of the Oxygen Destroyer to his death. The mission proves to be a success and Godzilla is destroyed but many mourn Serizawa’s death. Yamane reveals his belief that if nuclear weapons testing continues, another Godzilla may rise in the future.
The original Japanese name for the monster, Gojira (ゴジラ), is a portmanteau of the Japanese words: gorira (ゴリラ, “gorilla”), and kujira (鯨 , “whale”), which was created because in the early planning stages, Godzilla was described as “a cross between a gorilla and a whale,” alluding to its size, power and aquatic origin. One popular story is that “Gojira” was actually the nickname of a corpulent stagehand at Toho Studio. Kimi Honda, the widow of the director, dismissed this in a 1998 BBC documentary devoted to Godzilla, “The backstage boys at Toho loved to joke around with tall stories.”
Godzilla’s name was written in ateji as Gojira (呉爾羅), where the kanji are used for phonetic value and not for meaning. The Japanese pronunciation of the name is [ɡodʑiɽa]. The Anglicized form is /ɡɒdˈzɪlə/, with the first syllable pronounced like the word “god,” and the rest rhyming with “gorilla.” In the Hepburn romanization system, Godzilla’s name is rendered as “Gojira”, whereas in the Kunrei romanization system it is rendered as “Gozira”.
When Godzilla was first released in 1954 the film sold approximately 9,610,000 tickets and was the eighth best-attended film in Japan that year. It remains the second most-attended “Godzilla” film in Japan, behind King Kong vs. Godzilla. Its box office earnings were 152 million Yen ($2.25 million). The film initially received mixed to negative reviews in Japan. Japanese critics accused the film of exploiting the widespread devastation that the country had suffered in World War II, as well as the Daigo Fukuryū Maru (Lucky Dragon) incident that occurred a few months before filming began. Ishiro Honda lamented years later in the Tokyo Journal, “They called it grotesque junk, and said it looked like something you’d spit up. I felt sorry for my crew because they had worked so hard!” Honda also stated “At the time they wrote things like ‘This movie is absurd, because such giant monsters do not exist.'” Others said that depicting a fire breathing organism was “strange.”
Honda believed that Japanese critics began to change their minds after the good reviews the film received in the United States. He said “The first film critics to appreciate Godzilla were those in the U.S. When Godzilla was released there as Godzilla, King of the Monsters in 1956, the critics said such things as, ‘For the start, this film frankly depicts the horrors of the Atomic Bomb.’, and by these evaluations, the assessment began to impact critics in Japan and has changed their opinions over the years.” As time went on, the film gained more respect in Japan. In 1984, Kinema Junpo magazine listed Gojira as one of the top 20 Japanese films of all time, while a survey of 370 Japanese movie critics published in Nihon Eiga Besuto 150 (Best 150 Japanese Films), had Godzilla ranked as the 27th best Japanese film ever made.
The film was nominated for two Japanese Movie Association awards. One for best special effects and the other for best film. It won best special effects but lost best picture to Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. The film was re-released theatrically in Japan on November 21, 1982 as part of Toho’s 50th anniversary.
In 1955 and in the 1960s, the original Gojira played in theaters catering to Japanese-Americans in predominantly Japanese neighborhoods in the United States. An English sub-titled version was shown at film festivals in New York, Chicago and other cities in 1982.
Obviously Godzilla themed Japanese food is appropriate to celebrate, although you may struggle a little. I found a recipe for Godzilla sushi rolls here: http://www.favfamilyrecipes.com/godzilla-rolls/ You could make them yourself, but I would not recommend it.
Here’s the list of ingredients:
For the Roll
1 sheet nori (dry roasted seaweed)
2-3 pieces shrimp tempura
2 slices avocado
3-4 tsp cream cheese, cut into long, rectangular slices
½ cup flour
oil for frying
For the Spicy Mayo:
½ cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp Sriracha sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
All right. Let’s assume you can find such ingredients as nori and Sriracha; they are not too hard to find in oriental groceries in the West. Making good sushi rice is best left to the experts although I’ve made a passable job once in a while. Making good tempura is also a skilled practice. Then you have to put the whole roll together. That too is not impossible, but, true to Godzilla, this is a BIG roll and takes experience even if you have the right ingredients. Here’s a video of a sushi chef:
All told, I’d go out for sushi if I were you.