Godzilla’s 1954 Arrival and First Look at ‘Godzilla MINUS ONE

Godzilla, the iconic monster brought to life by TOHO over half a century ago, needs no introduction. Recently, the Japan Society in New York City held a special event. They screened a long-preserved 35mm print of the original 1954 Godzilla film to honor the King of Monsters. Additionally, the audience was treated to an exclusive sneak peek of Takashi Yamazaki’s live-action movie, “Godzilla Minus One,” set to hit U.S. theaters on December 1.

However, Godzilla isn’t just another creature feature; it’s a powerful metaphor for the haunting specter of nuclear weapons. This film’s significance has endured through the years, resonating even in newer interpretations like Hideaki Anno’s “Shin Godzilla.” The Japan Society succinctly encapsulated the creature’s enduring legacy as follows:

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“Godzilla stands as the roaring patriarch of all monster movies, while also being a profoundly humane and melancholic drama born in a post-World War II Japan grappling with the aftermath of nuclear testing in the Pacific. This rampaging radioactive beast, a poignant symbol of a nation’s collective fears, has, seven decades later, evolved into a cherished international icon, spawning over 40 sequels.”

Decades may have passed, but Godzilla’s allure remains undiminished. This film masterfully traverses various genres, from its incisive political commentary to elements of horror, action, and even romance. Tension escalates throughout the runtime as Godzilla’s presence becomes synonymous with the ominous disappearances of ships. The audience, aware of the monster’s culpability, can’t help but be drawn into the characters’ palpable trepidation.


As the film hurtles toward its climax, it does show its age, especially during Godzilla’s city-wrecking rampage. The claymation and toy effects that were likely groundbreaking in their time now elicit laughter from modern audiences. Nevertheless, it’s crucial to appreciate these pioneering techniques within their historical context. The original 35mm print, featuring a comparatively diminutive ‘zilla, still manages to evoke terror, with its particularly eerie eyes.

Watching Godzilla on 35mm, in its original black-and-white glory with the unmistakable sound of the 1950s, is a transportive experience. It serves as a poignant reminder of how cinema has evolved over the decades. Akihiko Hirata, portraying the eyepatch-wearing, self-sacrificing Dr. Daisuke Serizawa, unquestionably stands out as the film’s most brilliant character.

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After the screening, the audience received a tantalizing glimpse of “Godzilla Minus One.” The connection was evident from the start, as this film also immerses viewers in 1950s Japan. The visuals capture the era’s enchanting yet antiquated architecture, wooden and iron trains of yesteryears, and a blend of Westernized fashion with traditional Japanese style. The action sequences, reminiscent of Michael Bay’s style, offer an exciting deviation from modern Godzilla renditions, focusing on how Japan might have confronted this iconic monster decades ago, with the artistry of contemporary cinematic techniques.


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