Kaiju Profile: Godzilla 1954
A ～Redux～ version of the Kaiju Profile premiered on November 11, 2019; the 52nd overall episode.
Greetings kaiju fans, Titano here. In commemoration of the King of the Monsters' 65th birthday, we're presenting a revamped kaiju profile on the original ゴジラ!!
Toho's 1954 production "Godzilla" introduced to the world what would become one of the most iconic and universally-recognizable movie monsters of all time. Made by citizens of the only nation to have experienced atomic warfare, the film presented a creature far mightier than any ever shown on the screen, shrugging off modern weapons as he laid waste to Tokyo. Subsequent versions of the character have embodied a multitude of different themes, but the first Godzilla stands firmly as a striking anti-war and anti-nuclear allegory. The Bomb was a heated issue in Japan even nine years after the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On March 1, 1954, the crew of a Japanese fishing boat called the Lucky Dragon No. 5 was exposed to the fallout of the American Castle Bravo hydrogen bomb test, sparking international controversy.
Shigeru Kayama's initial story treatment called the monster "Godzira" (spelled with the uncommon kana "dzi") reflecting a tentative vision for a gorilla-whale hybrid. This became "Gojira," which more cleanly combines the two animals' names in Japanese, after Ishiro Honda and Takeo Murata started writing the script. A prevalent rumor posits that "Gojira" was the nickname of an imposing Toho employee at the time, but his identity has never been verified. The English name "Godzilla" was actually an invention of Toho's international sales department in 1955, not any American distributors.
"Godzilla" happened because "In the Shadow of Glory," an Indonesian-Japanese co-production, didn't. Supposed to be Toho's biggest movie of 1954, political tensions between the two countries led to the Indonesian government denying the filmmakers' visas. Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka had to scramble for a new idea. Looking out the window of his plane while flying back to Japan, he dreamed up a giant monster awakened by hydrogen bomb testing. He knew he could count on the help of special effects wizard Eiji Tsuburaya, who had wanted to make a giant monster movie ever since he first watched "King Kong." Tsuburaya referred him to a treatment he had submitted to Toho in 1951 about a mutant octopus, but it lacked much in the way of a human story. Tanaka wrote his own proposal, called "The Giant Monster from 20,000 Miles Under the Sea," an obvious reference to a 1953 American film with a similar premise. To refine it, he recruited Shigeru Kayama, an established horror novelist with a penchant for monsters. Kayama produced a story about a marine creature with massive ears mostly driven by the search for food. He discarded the title, but one moment, the monster attacking a lighthouse, came straight out of "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms." Director Ishiro Honda, who wanted to emphasize the anti-nuclear themes and the tragic Dr. Serizawa, worked with Takeo Murata to convert Kayama's story into a screenplay.
Manga illustrator Wasuke Abe was put in charge of designing the monster. His concept was nothing short of radical: a humanoid beast with a head shaped like a mushroom cloud. Though these drawings would only be used as loose reference for the modeling process, Abe was kept onboard to help prepare storyboards for the film, aided by a team of fellow mangaka. Looking through a dinosaur book for kids and a 1953 issue of "Life" magazine, art director Akira Watanabe and sculptor Teizo Toshimitsu decided to combine characteristics of a Tyrannosaurus rex, Iguanodon, and Stegosaurus. Toshimitsu modeled three clay concept maquettes of Godzilla in total: the initial one featured scales like that of a fish, the second sported wart-like bumps, and the third sought to emulate crocodile skin. Watanabe rejected the first two for lacking the necessary power, approving the third. Whether intentional or coincidence, the texture also resembled the radiation burns of Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors.
Tsuburaya would have preferred to bring Godzilla to life using stop-motion, but with the movie already scheduled for the end of the year, he didn't have the time. The solution: a man in a suit stomping through the miniature sets that were among his specialties. Using the maquette as reference, a team lead by Toshimitsu, Eizo Kaimai, and the Yagi brothers Kanju and Yasuei started on the first suit for Godzilla. It turned out to be something of a disaster. Made primarily out of a white raw rubber which had to be cut apart and kneaded like dough, it weighed over 100 kilograms (>220 lbs). Haruo Nakajima, a Toho contract player with a reputation for dangerous stunts, struggled through a 10-meter test walk inside the suit before he fell over, and veteran stuntman Katsumi Tezuka gave up after a few steps. The modeling team tried again, taking two weeks to produce a better costume. The interior of the second suit was more actor-friendly, if only by degrees, and still extraordinarily heavy. Mouth, eye, and tail movements were all wire-operated. The first suit would still see use however: its bottom half separated and used for close-ups of Godzilla's feet, and the upper half used for other close-ups, according to Kaimai. At least one small puppet operated by hand was additionally used for close-ups, providing audiences with their first clear look at Godzilla. In the initial version of this scene, the monster emerged with a cow in his jaws; a remnant of Kayama's story. Test shots were taken, but in the end, the effect was dropped. Toshimitsu sculpted an additional upper half suit to depict the monster emerging from the sea. For Godzilla's skeletal remains, a 50 centimeter miniature was employed. Contradicting testimonies as to the O.G. suit's color have been offered by different people who either worked on or with it: gray, a dull brown, or even reddish black. "Colorized" merchandise, especially figures, often present him as brown.
To prepare for this unusual role, Nakajima studied Tsuburaya's 35mm print of "King Kong," as well as the lions and bears at Ueno Zoo. We don't know how Tezuka got ready, but it's largely irrelevant, as he stepped through a weak point on the set on the first day of filming and faceplanted, injuring his jaw. Depending on who you ask, Nakajima was inside the suit for most or all of Godzilla's scenes thereafter. He was filmed at 72 frames per second, which made Godzilla appear more ponderous when the footage was played back at the standard 24 frames per second. That approach called for an extremely bright lighting setup, which only added to Nakajima's suffering; he passed out on set several times and lost 20 pounds over the course of the production. As Ed Godziszewski noted in his landmark article on the making of "Godzilla" for "Japanese Giants," the unwieldiness of the suit ultimately worked to the film's advantage. "Although a man in a suit, Godzilla's movements were decidedly not humanlike because such action was impossible for the actors. In addition, the suit's stiffness and bulk also disguised the human shape inside, making a believable dinosaur image."
When he first signed onto "Godzilla," composer Akira Ifukube thought that the monster, being a reptile, shouldn't roar at all. Honda explained it as another consequence of his mutation. Sound technicians Ichiro Minawa and Hisashi Shimonaga tried modifying the cries of lions, tigers, and night herons, but everything they produced was still too natural. It was Ifukube who hit upon the idea of using a musical instrument: the contrabass. He unwound the E string and recorded his assistant, Sei Ikano, drawing his hands across it with gloves covered in pine tar. The results are now legendary.
Toho has made two replicas of the original Godzilla suit in the 21st century. The first, modelled by Shinichi Wakasa and his company MONSTERS and consisting only of an upper body, was briefly seen through a flashback in 2002's "Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla." The suit was donned by actor Tsutomu Kitagawa, who portrayed Godzilla in nearly all of the films of the Millennium era. Having a smoother appearance compared to the original, the suit was often mistaken for CGI by fans, and even Gareth Edwards. The second, full-body replica debuted at Godzilla Fest 2018 in Hibiya. Master kaiju modeler Yuji Sakai led the team that worked on this suit, which has since appeared in a short film made for the Eiji Tsuburaya Museum as well as an advertisement for BOSS Coffee.
Godzilla's skeleton would also be recreated for "GXMG," again handled by MONSTERS. Conceptual sketches by Wakasa were prepared, followed by a small clay model the team could work from. The skull was sculpted by Norihiro Honda and cast, with the rest of the bones carved from polyethylene and weathered. The skeleton was laid across a large-scale set and filmed under blue lighting to better sell the illusion of it submerged underwater.
Godzilla (1954): Following the mysterious sinking of the fishing trawler Eiko-Maru and the rescue ship Bingo-Maru, journalists gathered at Odo Island just offshore of the Japanese mainland, where survivors had washed ashore. Their accounts of the ocean boiling and exploding caused an island elder to believe Godzilla, a legendary sea monster from their folklore, was responsible. One night, as a powerful storm struck the island, several houses were crushed from above by a tremendous force, with one witness reporting he saw a gigantic creature stomp on his home, killing his mother and brother. The Japanese government dispatched a fact-finding party led by paleontologist Kyohei Yamane to the island to investigate. They came upon a huge depression which they realized was highly radioactive. Inside it Yamane found a perfectly-intact Trilobite, and concluded that the hole was actually the footprint of a giant creature. Before long, warnings sounded on the other side of the island. The research party rushed up a hillside and came face to face with Godzilla himself. The creature shrieked at the onlookers before walking back into the sea.
In a special meeting at the Diet Building, Yamane set forth his theory that Godzilla had been living in a deep underwater cavern, potentially since the Jurassic period. While this explained the trilobite found in his footprint, the presence of strontium-90 in the sediment from the impression suggested that Godzilla had been roused from his peaceful existence and his habitat destroyed by recent hydrogen bomb testing in the area. Those assembled at the conference debated whether to make this revelation public, though eventually warnings were issued should Godzilla make his way to the Japanese mainland. While the government explored options to destroy Godzilla, Yamane protested, believing that the monster's ability to survive direct exposure to an H-bomb detonation meant he should be preserved and studied. The Japanese Navy dropped depth charges into the sea where Godzilla was believed to be located, but before the creature could be declared dead, he surfaced near a pleasure boat in Tokyo Bay. Godzilla soon came ashore in Shinagawa, smashing through the port area and dismantling a train before slinking back into the sea.
Desperate countermeasures were enacted for Godzilla's inevitable return. Most citizens within proximity to Tokyo were evacuated, while a gigantic barrier of power lines carrying 50,000 volts of electricity was erected around the entire metropolitan area. The plan failed. He made his way through the heart of Tokyo, setting the metropolis ablaze and smashing through landmarks with his tremendous bulk. The monster's rampage continued until he upturned the Kachidoki Bridge and re-entered Tokyo Bay.
Survivors of Godzilla's raid found themselves poisoned by the lethal radiation the beast left in his wake. After witnessing the devastation firsthand, Dr. Yamane's daughter Emiko chose to break a promise she made to her lifetime friend Daisuke Serizawa. She told her fiancé Hideto Ogata that Serizawa had invented a chemical compound which dissolved oxygen molecules in water, liquefying all life caught within the reaction. With both believing this Oxygen Destroyer to be the only way to stop Godzilla, they traveled to Serizawa's laboratory and pleaded with him to let his invention be used against the monster. Serizawa adamantly refused, fearing that politicians would quickly turn the Oxygen Destroyer into something far worse than nuclear weapons if they knew of its existence. However, he relented after seeing a televised "Prayer for Peace" sung by a choir of schoolgirls from Tokyo. Touched by this message, Serizawa agreed to use his device only once against Godzilla, and proceeded to burn his research notes.
Serizawa, Ogata, Emiko, and Dr. Yamane among others traveled aboard a boat which located Godzilla on the sea floor under Tokyo Bay. Serizawa was determined to detonate the device himself, but Ogata, a trained diver, insisted on accompanying him. The two men descended to the ocean depths, where they came upon Godzilla resting. They carefully approached the monster before Serizawa had Ogata pulled back to the surface and finally activated the Oxygen Destroyer. Before he could be pulled up as well, Serizawa wished Emiko and Ogata happiness together and severed his line, ensuring the secret of the Oxygen Destroyer would die with him. Unable to withstand the chemical weapon, Godzilla's remains were liquefied. As those aboard celebrated the monster's demise and honored Serizawa's sacrifice, Dr. Yamane warned that as long as nuclear testing continued, another Godzilla would almost certainly awaken someday.
The King of the Monsters' most recognizable power was his radioactive atomic breath, or incandescent light as it was initially named. This breath weapon took the form of a white vapor-like smoke, achieving temperatures high enough to melt metal and start raging fires which engulfed Tokyo.
Amphibiousness: Though primarily a sea monster, Godzilla could spend extended periods of time on land.
Physical Capabilities: Godzilla employed his tail, his fangs, and his sheer brute force while tearing through Tokyo.
Durability: The beast was impervious to tank and howitzer shells, while high-tension wires only briefly stopped his advance. And as Dr. Yamane put it, his ability to survive exposure to a hydrogen bomb explosion is the greatest testament to his resilience.
Weaknesses: The only weapon shown to have any real effect on him was the Oxygen Destroyer. In the original, it was so overpowering that it dissolved his body and left no trace of him behind. In the Kiryu Saga retcon, it withered away all but his skeleton.
Adaptations: Godzilla first reached the public in the form of a live radio drama which aired on Nippon Broadcasting from July 17 to September 25. The movie also received five different manga adaptations, three of which were reprinted together in 2014. Wasuke Abe, fittingly enough, wrote and illustrated "Science Adventure Picture Story Godzilla," published at least partially before the flick hit theaters. Reimeisha published "Kaiju Gojira" shortly after the movie's release. Shigeru Sugiura offered a less-than-serious take in March of 1955 for Shōnen Club. "Monster Picture Story Godzilla" was put out that same month in Bokura, wherein the monster looked straight-up like the classic outdated Charles Knight depiction of a T-rex… but with an over-the-top spherical body. Shigeru Fujita's 1958 manga added an obnoxious reporter, probably a dig at Steve Martin, the reporter character inserted into the American version of the film. There is another intriguing retelling in Tomoyuki Tanaka's 1984 book "Definitive Edition Godzilla Introduction," which shows Godzilla's family wiped out by a hydrogen bomb test. What's more, these two illustrations depict him with smoother skin, indicating that he was scarred by the radiation.
Video Games: The original Big G has had a surprisingly limited presence in video games. His appearances only include … "CinemaScope Adventure: Godzilla" on the PC-88 and FM-7, "Godzilla Generations" on the Dreamcast, "Godzilla: Trading Battle" on the OG PlayStation, "Godzilla: Unleashed" (Wii version only), and the mobile games "Godzilla: Kaiju Collection" and "Godzilla Defense Force." He also popped up in the RPG-style mobile games "Monster Strike" and "Kai-Ri-Sei Million Arthur" back in 2013 and 2016, respectively.
Godziban: The first "Godziban" live show since the beginning of its YouTube series introduced ShoGoji, a Gandalf-like figure whose design resembles the first Godzilla. Using his telekinetic powers and a second, larger puppet, he took on King Ghidorah to defend Mothra's egg.
Into the Goji-Verse: Toho has returned to the 1954 film multiple times in rebooting the series, sometimes retconning its events to better serve the stories they want to tell. The Heisei series revolved around a second Godzilla who first attacked Japan 30 years after the original, ignoring the 14 other entries in the Showa series. In the finale, "Godzilla vs. Destoroyah," he faced a colony of Precambrian crustaceans that were mutated by the Oxygen Destroyer. The original is also part of "Godzilla 2000"'s continuity, although it's only mentioned in supplementary materials and not the movie itself. "Godzilla vs. Megaguirus" presented an alternate universe where Serizawa never used the Oxygen Destroyer against Godzilla, digitally inserting the MireGoji suit into shots from the original for the sake of consistency. In "Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack," Serizawa deployed the Oxygen Destroyer in secrecy, allowing the JSDF to take credit for slaying Godzilla. Unfortunately, his sacrifice only delayed the supernatural creature's return. In "Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla," the Oxygen Destroyer left the original Godzilla's bones intact, allowing the JXSDF to use them as the framework for the anti-Godzilla mech Kiryu. They incorporated DNA extracted from the bones into Kiryu's computer controls… with volatile results.
That wraps up Wikizilla's kaiju profile on the original Gojira. Thanks for watching, and long live the King.
Created by Tomoyuki Tanaka, Ishiro Honda, Eiji Tsuburaya and Akira Ifukube, the original Godzilla debutted in the Toho’s 1954 film Godzilla, which pioneered the Kaiju genre. The original King of the Monsters stood at 50 meters tall, and weighed 20,000 metric tons.
Godzilla's name is a mix of the Japanese Gorira, meaning Gorilla, and Kujira, meaning whale. During one planning stage, the concept of "Gojira" was described as "a cross between a gorilla and a whale." The two words "whale" and "gorilla" describe Godzilla's traditional characteristics. The word whale represents his aquatic lifestyle and his bulky size. The word gorilla represents his sheer strength.
The original Godzilla boasted gray, burned, bumpy skin, a heavy lower body, small arms and a large, round head. The face had pronounced brows and small, round eyes with round pupils, and had pointed ears. It also featured two fangs, four toes, a rough underside on the pointed tail, and staggered rows of asymmetrical dorsal plates.
During filming, a separate pair of Godzilla legs were used for close-up shots of Godzilla's feet. For close-up shots, a hand-held puppet and the prototype suit were used. As a result, when the camera focuses on Godzilla's head in such close-ups, such as when he is firing his atomic breath, Godzilla appears to have larger, more glossy-looking eyes.
Godzilla was a type of undiscovered dinosaur from an era in which aquatic reptiles evolved into terrarian reptiles. He managed to survive the extinction of the dinosaurs along with others of his species, and slept in the Bikini Atoll region of the South Pacific Ocean. That is, until American Hydrogen bomb tests in 1954 killed the rest of his family and horribly mutated him.
While it was proposed by Dr. Kyohei Yamane that Godzilla might have been living in a colony of Godzillas, only one Godzilla emerged in 1954. After it attacked a cargo ship, a search party was organized on Odo Island where some survivors of the attack had been found. The Odo Islanders were convinced that the ship was the work of their ocean god, Gojira. Immediately after Yamane and the search party discovered one of the the monster's footprints, it appeared over the next ridge, forcing an evacuation of the island. The Japanese government then attacked the newly labeled Godzilla and declared it dead, but the world's relief was cut short when he emerged in Tokyo Bay completely unharmed. He damaged the wharf regions before returning the next day. Between attacks, the Japanese Self Defense Force set up power lines with 300,000 volts of electricity along the coastline, but Godzilla simply broke the circuit with his Atomic Ray and proceeded into the nest of tanks and jets inside the city. After destroying the military and the city, he returned to the bay. There seemed to be no way to stop Godzilla then. However, it turned out that a scientist by the name of Daisuke Serizawa had developed a chemical agent to destroy Godzilla--named the Oxygen Destroyer, the weapon removed all Oxygen atoms in an area, stripping the flesh and organs from any organism in the blast radius. He took the device down to where Godzilla was sleeping before detonating it and cutting his oxygen cable so that he and his device would die alongside Godzilla, so that it would never be used again.
In different continuities, different Godzillas emerged after the original’s death. However, the original Godzilla was still referenced and used in later films.
In "The Return of Godzilla," photographs taken of the Original Godzilla were shown to the sole survivor of an attack on a fishing vessel to help identify the new threat as another Godzilla.
In "Godzilla vs. Megaguirus," the events of Godzilla (1954) are retconned and the 1954 Godzilla is never killed by the Oxygen Destroyer, so the Godzilla vs. Megaguirus Godzilla is technically the same Godzilla as the 1954 Godzilla -- however, it is important to note that, this doesn’t mean that the 1954 Godzilla would have all the same abilities as the Megaguirus Godzilla or that any of the things that apply to that Godzilla would also apply to the original Godzilla.
The Godzilla in Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack is a vessel of the restless souls of those killed by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II, who comes ashore in modern-day Japan to seek vengeance against the nation. The film implies that this Godzilla is the result of these souls possessing and reanimating the remains of the original Godzilla that attacked Tokyo in 1954.
Finally, in the continuity of the Kiryu Saga, the J.S.D.F. would convert the bones of Godzilla into a new Superweapon, nicknamed Kiryu, to combat a new Godzilla.
Durability: Godzilla is shown to be totally impervious to conventional weapons, with none of the J.S.D.F.’s weapons managing to do any damage to him whatsoever.
Atomic Breath: Due to his Hydrogen Bomb mutation, Godzilla can fire a gaseous stream of radioactive energy from his mouth.
Radioactivity: Due to the Hydrogen Bomb test, Godzilla became irradiated and left everything he touched radioactive.
Amphibiousness: Godzilla is capable of breathing on land, and in water.
Despite his bones being plot points in future installments, the 1954 film distinctly shows Godzilla’s bones being disintegrated by the Oxygen Destroyer.
Originally, the sound effects team tried using many different animal roars for Godzilla. Unhappy with the results, Akira Ifukube created Godzilla's iconic roar by loosening the strings on a string bass and rubbing the strings with a rosin covered leather glove, and slowing down the resulting recording. This roar would later be altered for use as the roar of other monsters in the Showa era, including Varan, Baragon and Gorosaurus. In Japanese, the official onomatopoeia for Godzilla's roar is "Gyaoon" ギャオーン --additional "o"s can be added to extend the roar.
In the 2007 Toho drama film Always: Sunset On Third Street 2, a Godzilla design is seen destroying 1954 Tokyo in a dream sequence, but because it does not have the same design of the Original Godzilla, it is more of a reference to his film rather than the monster himself.
That's all there is to know about the 1954 Godzilla. Thank you for watching, see ya next time!