Monday, January 27, 2014

Notes: Godzilla, King of the Monsters

Godzilla, King of the Monsters is the 1956 American version of Gojira (1954). It’s quite different from the Japanese original. The love story has been greatly reduced, with most of its scenes cut from the film. In particular, they have eliminated the scene where Ogata was going to tell Prof. Yamane about his Emiko’s love for one another. That scene was the structural center in the Japanese original.

Further, the story was drastically reframed. A lot of new footage was shot involving Raymond Burr as an American reporter, Steve Martin. He was in Tokyo on his way to Cairo, and visiting his friend Dr. Serizawa, when Godzilla attacked.

The American version opens after Godzilla’s attack on Tokyo. We see Steve Martin badly wounded in a room that had collapsed. He’s narrating in voiceover. He’s removed to a hospital where he sees, and recognizes, Emiko (as daughter of Dr. Yamane). She leaves him to get a doctor and Martin starts telling the story.

He starts with himself being on a plane on the way to Tokyo to visit Serizawa. Then we get the attack on the first boat, which is where the Japanese original started. We then get the rest of the story in flashback with scenes rearranged and with Steve Martin scenes inserted. Martin doesn’t do anything except report on what is happening. He has no role in the Godzilla story nor in the all-but-eliminated love story.

The business about Serizawa’s secret research has been changed. The Japanese reporter who has been investigating the story has been dropped from the film. So he’s not visiting Serizawa to find out about THAT. Emiko visits Serizawa alone with the intention of telling him about Ogata. Serizawa doesn’t even let her get started. Instead, he shows her his lab, as in the Japanese version. He also swears her to secrecy about what she sees. As in the Japanese version, we don’t see all that happened on the visit.

The two attacks on Tokyo have been rearranged so that the sense of two different attacks is much reduced. We get the first attack, then meetings and defense preparations, and then the second attack. It’s brutal, and we see Martin getting injured as the room he’s in collapses.

At this point we join him in the hospital, where we’d left him (c. 1:01:16). Ogata is with Emiko. This is when she tells Serizawa’s secret, as much at Steve Martin’s urging as at Ogata’s (1:01:51). So, she reveals this secret entrusted to her by her betrothed to an American in the presence of her current beloved. As in the Japanese original, this is through a flashback (1:02:23). That’s a real change.

After that flashback we come back to the present, where Ogata and Emiko continue to talk with Martin (1:03:54). They decide to visit Serizawa to convince him to use his secret weapon against Godzilla.

As in the Japanese version, we get a tussle between Ogata and Serizawa and then, when things have calmed down, then we have a conversation where Ogata and Emiko try to convince him to use the oxygen destroyer. We get the children’s hymn on the television. As in the Japanese original, that’s when Serizawa makes his decision.

From here to the end it’s very like the Japanese version, but a bit shortened. The sense of ritual is greatly attenuated. Talking through the intercom, Serizawa tells Ogata that it is working and then we see him cut his breathing line. It’s over. Yamane: “Serizawa.” Anonymous voiceover: “People of the world, Godzilla is dead. Give us strength to rebuild our beloved land.” Ogata: “He said, ‘Be happy together.’” Steve Martin voiceover: “The menace was gone. So was a great man. But the whole world could wake up and live again.” We hear the children’s choir in the background.

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