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"And what if a weapon such as I now have falls into the wrong hands?"
"Then you have a responsibility which no man has ever faced: you have your fears, which could become reality, and you have Godzilla, which is reality."
~ conversation between Dr. Serizawa and Ogata, respectively.
"Godzilla has turned the heart of Tokyo into a sea of fire."
~ Steve Martin as he watches Godzilla destroy Tokyo.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the 1956 Americanized version of the original Godzilla. New footage featuring Raymond Burr was shot by Terry Morse, and dubbing was done only for scenes where the Japanese characters appear without Burr's character. While the film downplayed the symbolism of the original, it still retains some of Dr. Yamane's lines about the Hydrogen Bomb being responsible for Godzilla's existence. Despite the fact that it runs at twenty minutes shorter than it's Japanese coutnerpart, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is actually one of the more tastefully done Americanizations of a Godzilla film, especially in regards to the fact that this was the first one. If it weren't for this film, then Godzilla would never have become popular in the west, and this page probably wouldn't exist.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters itself is roughly the same story as Godzilla, but told from the perspective of American reporter Steve Martin (played by Raymond Burr). Because of this, a full plot description is unneccessary. However, there are some key differences. In the Japanese version, the story opens and plays out much like a film Noir, slowly building up to the destruction of Tokyo, while the American version opens with the aftermath of Godzilla's attack, and the rest of the movie is told as a flashback, except for the scenes which take place after the attack, as those scenes are left relatively intact with the only major changes being that the dialogue was dubbed into English, and Steve Martin interacts with one or two characters.
Most of the sequences cut from the film involve the Japanese version's reporter character, some civilian evacuation scenes before and during Godzilla's first attack, and a portion of the conference held at the Diet after Godzilla's attack on Otojima Island. While Dr. Yamane's statement about Strontium 90 being found in the monster's footprints is left intact, he does not say that Godzilla is the illegitimate child of the H-Bomb as he did in the original, instead saying that Godzilla is an ancient beast that was resurrected due to H-Bomb testing. While this does remove much of the allegorical symbolism found in the original, it still managed to maintain Godzilla's connection to the bomb without being off-putting to American audiences at the time, which was arguably necessary for the film to become so successful in the west.
Interestingly enough, Godzilla: King of the Monsters was so successful that it would later be released in Japan as Kaiju O Gojira or Monster King Godzilla. Raymond Burr's character, Steve Martin, would become an influence on reporter characters in later movies, and the success of this film paved the way for future releases of Godzilla movies in not only the United States, but around the world.
This film contains examples of the following:
- And I Must Scream: In this version, screams were added (to an odd effect).
- Apocalyptic Log: Subverted. Steve Martin keeps recording Godzilla's attack on Tokyo until the monster destroys the building that he [Steve] is in. It's subverted because Steve survives.
- Attack of the 50 Foot Whatever: While Godzilla is 50 meters in the Japanese version, this version overshot his height to 400 feet for whatever reason. Probably to make Godzilla sound even more intimidating.
- Breath Weapon: Godzilla's atomic ray. Although it's more of a spray in this film, it is without a doubt the defining example of this trope.
- Contrived Coincidence: Unlike the Japanese version, the contrived conincidences are really blantant. Steve Martain somehow conveniently knew where to be at.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Being the first film to be dubbed and Americanized, the film has it's own share of weirdness. Such as:
- In the meeting with Dr. Yamane and the officials, Dr. Yamane says "Gojira", which is Godzilla's Japanese name. This occurs after Godzilla scare the patrons on the partyboat in the Japanese version. In this version, it was shown as an early scene. The Classic Media commentary lampshaded this weirdness.
- In the Odo island sequence, Tomo says the villagers are running up the hills so it would be safe. We see a closer shot seeing they're holding weapons on their hands. In the Japanese version, the villagers arm themselves to fight off the creature.
- Giant Equals Invincible: Godzilla. The big guy pretty much set the stage for this trope.
- Heroic BSOD: Serizawa has one after realizing the full weight that rests on his shoulders, the context of which is provided in the quote above. Steve Martin also appears to have a more subtle one while watching Godzilla destroy Tokyo. "Nothing can save the city now," indeed.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Dr. Daisuke Serizawa. Knowing that if he survives, then someone could capture him and force him to build another Oxygen Destroyer, he chooses to cut his life line and air hose, taking his secrets to the grave.
- In Medias Res: The film opens with the grizzly aftermath of Godzilla's second attack on Tokyo, and the rest of the film is told as a flashback.
- Intrepid Reporter: Steve Martin.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: In this version at least, Serizawa tells Ogata and Emiko to "Be happy together," after his sacrifice.
- Love Triangle: Serizawa, Emiko, and Ogata, although unlike the Japanese version, this version doesn't make it clear if Serizawa knows about Emiko being with Ogata, but since this is told from Steve's perspective, it's only because he doesn't know if Serizawa is aware of this or not. Steve even points out the love triangle to the audience, but he also notes that the triangle will play an important role in the events to come.
- Nigh Invulnerable: Godzilla, of course.
- No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Played with. Serizawa clearly has hundreds of research documents and notes for creating the Oxygen Destroyer, but he destroys all of it to prevent the device from ever being used again in the wake of his death and its eventual discovery.
- Nuclear Weapons Taboo: Although it was downplayed significantly, to avoid alienating American audiences at the time, the connection between Godzilla and the Hydrogen Bomb is still present.
- Oh Crap: Steve Martin when he realizes that Godzilla is only a few buildings away from him, and is getting closer, before trying to escape. "This is it, George. Steve Martin, signing off!" However, Steve does not make it out of the building in time, although he gets better.