Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956)

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“This is Tokyo…”

“Gojira” was brought to American shores two years after its Japanese release. The movie was dubbed and new scenes were added featuring a very young Raymond Burr.

Steve Martin, an American journalist, surveys the damage done to Tokyo by Godzilla, and recounts the events that led him there.  A few days prior, Martin stopped over in Japan on his way to Cairo for an assignment.  While there, he hears about the recent destruction of several ships, and asks for permission to stay and investigate the incidents.  When a dying seaman washes up on the shores of Odo Island, Martin heads to the island with a representative of the Japanese security forces, Tomo Iwanaga.  The locals believe the ships are being destroyed by an ancient monster named Godzilla.  Dr. Yamane also comes to investigate the stories, and Godzilla makes his appearance on the island.  The story plays out the same as the Japanese version from here, with Steve Martin occasionally interacting with the Japanese cast in new scenes.  He is revealed to be old friends with Dr. Yamane and Dr. Serizawa,  He reports on Godzilla’s attack on Tokyo and is injured during it.  He is also present during Serizawa’s sacrifice with the Oxygen Destroyer, and eulogizes his friend while remaining hopeful for the future.

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The tone of the American version a bit lighter than the Japanese.  However, most of the character interactions from the original movie are intact here, even the love triangle has been preserved. In fact, the new American footage is mostly unobtrusive, plot wise. Raymond Burr’s character, Steve Martin, is presented as a journalist on assignment in Tokyo, occasionally interacting with stock footage of members from the original cast. It is fairly easy to reconcile his appearances with the original, as he seems to serve an “American” perspective on Godzilla’s attack.  The way he narrates over the raw Japanese footage almost gives it a “documentary” feel.  While the American character is front and center documenting the action, the original cast still perform their parts.  Martin even eulogizes Serizawa’s sacrifice at the end of the movie.  It was unusual for a Japanese character to be presented in such a heroic light during this period in time, especially when an American actor was available to film new scenes.

“Godzilla” was very popular with American audiences, which led to a steady localization of the Japanese movies as they were released, and a popularity that endures to this day.


Edmund Goldman saw the original Japanese film in a Chinatown theater and bought the US rights for $25,000.  He then sold them to Jewell Enterprises, who created the US version of the film.

Some elements of Japanese culture, such as more details about Emiko and Serizawa’s arranged marriage and the government meetings at the Diet, were trimmed for American audiences unlikely to be familiar with them.  The discussions of nuclear weapons were also toned down.

Apparently, the Japanese that Tomo speaks in the American version is rather poor.  Japanese audiences got a kick out of this when the American version was shown in Japan.

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~ by Chris on April 18, 2014.

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