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The Return Of Godzilla

There’s a new Godzilla movie coming out. We’ll look at the history, meaning and re-emergence of Godzilla.

A still from the original 1954 film, "Godizilla." (Toho Co / All Rights Reserved)

A still from the original 1954 film, “Godizilla.” (Toho Co / All Rights Reserved)

The first time Godzilla appeared, in 1954, Japan was still deep in the trauma of nuclear destruction.  Hiroshima and Nagasaki was fresh and terrible memories.  US nuclear tests in the Pacific had just rained more death down on Japanese fishermen.  And here came the monster.  Godzilla.  The great force of nature from the deep.  Swimming ashore.  Stomping through Tokyo.  Raising radioactive hell.  Godzilla came back again and again.  In movies and more.  Now, maybe Fukushima’s nuclear disaster has roused the beast.  It’s back. This hour On Point:  the rise and return of Godzilla.

– Tom Ashbrook


August Ragone, expert on Godzilla and Japanese monster movies. Author of “Eiji Tsubaraya: Master of Monsters.” Blogs at “The Good, the Bad and Godzilla.” (@RagoneAugust)

William Tsutsui, incoming president of Hendrix College. Expert on modern Japanese business and economic history. Author of “Godzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King Of Monsters.” Co-editor of “In Godzilla’s Footsteps: Japanese Pop Culture Icons on the Global Stage.”

From Tom’s Reading List

San Francisco Examiner: New ‘Godzilla’ goes back to roots of Japanese legend — “The new origin story has the monster being awakened by U.S. nuclear testing in the Bikini Atolls in the 1950s, with subsequent nuclear tests being failed attempts to destroy the creature. ‘Just that one thing proves to me that these guys know what they’re doing,’ Ragone says.”

The Good, The Bad And Godzilla: Pondering Gareth Edwards’ “Godzilla” – “No matter what happens, be it glorious or apocalyptic, I’m not placing all of my hopes and dreams on this one film. Would I like to behold something as creatively and spiritually successful as Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Pacific Rim’? Yes, of course I would.”

Vulture: What Everyone Who Sees Godzilla Will Be Talking About – “Are you expecting the reboot of Godzilla to feature an endless array of monster-on-monster fight scenes, where two nigh-invincible creatures slug each other with computer-generated punches until one of them finally goes down for the count? If so, you’d better wait for the fourth Transformers film, because Godzilla is so not that movie. In fact, though the press saw Godzilla for the first time today in Los Angeles, they didn’t actually see much of the titular monster, who remains an elusive presence in his very own film. Director Gareth Edwards wouldn’t have had it any other way.”

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  • Ed75

    Love that screen door.

  • JP_Finn

    How are they gonna top the 90s Hollywood version: Matthew Broderick, that French dude from the Professional? Green Day and Puff Daddy (back when he was still Puff Daddy) on the motion picture soundtrack? Can’t top that, lol.

    • http://onpoint.wbur.org/about-on-point/sam-gale-rosen Sam Gale Rosen


  • ThirdWayForward

    TRUST, BUT VERIFY. Ever-hopeful for a good, new sci-fi movie.

    I had a similar experience as a child watching Godzilla on our B&W TV — it was a gigantic dinosaur destroying a city, both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. I guess we all secretly want to be Godzilla for a moment.

  • Jerry

    Just got to see the original 1954 Japanese version of Godzilla last night at the Somerville Theatre. It was great to see it on the big screen. There was some laughter in the audience from the dated special effects, but it was also thought provoking. The scene with the children’s choir was very powerful.

    • JoshuaHendrickson

      The original is a good movie–yes, sometimes the fx are laughable–the jet planes and rockets, especially, and there’s that fire truck crashing–but the miniature work is really exquisite, and the tone of the film is quite somber, not at all campy. The later movies, however, just get sillier and sillier.

  • TELew

    Hello to President Tsutsui from a Hendrix College (1986) graduate.

    I was a kid in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and watched a lot of Saturday afternoon Godzilla movies on TV. The one Godzilla movie I saw in the theater was Godzilla versus the Smog Monster. At the time that was really scary. The monster had three forms: the form in flight; the “humanoid” that actually fought with Godzilla; and an amorphous slime. I can even remember the song from the movie–”Save the Earth! Save the Earth! I’ve got a solution, stop all pollution, save the Earth!” It amazes me today just how poorly we’ve done in that regard.

    Of course, having seen the movies in later life, it amazes me at just how obvious the “man in the monster suit” was in the various 1960s-1970s Godzilla and similar movies. Still, Godzilla earned a place in my heart as a child and I really look forward to seeing the new movie.

    • JoshuaHendrickson

      I remember being especially freaked out by the Smog Monster as well. Haven’t seen that one since I was a kid, however–have no idea whether it holds up (although I know it has a particularly bad reputation amongst the monster movies).

  • Tanvi Shah

    I’ve never watched Godzilla or had the desire to before, but hearing about it on On Point makes me want to watch all the versions mentioned!

    • Alchemical Reaction


  • http://onpoint.wbur.org/about-on-point/sam-gale-rosen Sam Gale Rosen

    You’ll hear it as our show ends, also!

  • creaker

    Godzilla made cheesy fun – surprised there is no mention of the lousy language overdubbing on the US version.

  • JS

    Best Godzilla movie ever!


    • jefe68

      Kind of reminds me of Mr.Bill.

      • hennorama

        Or the foot in the Monty Python’s Flying Circus opening sequence.

  • Tanvi Shah

    I’ve never seen any of the Godzilla movies before or had any desire, really, but hearing it on On Point makes me want to see all the versions now! Love the humor in this discussion!

  • Rick Evans

    I grew up in New York and pigged out on Godzilla on WPIX Million Dollar Movie where the movie was played every night for a week then all day long on Saturday. It’s amazing I can’t recite the script from memory.

    • JS

      Don’t forget the 4:30 Movie and Monster Week!

    • jefe68

      I remember the Million Dollar Movie, but it was on WWOR TV. Which also had the Joe Franklin show. Channel 9 in the New York area.

      • Rick Evans

        “I remember the Million Dollar Movie, it was on WOR TV”

        Oops! You’re right.

    • Lophius

      WPIX had Chiller Theater! Remember that claymation 6-fingered hand coming out of the blood? :-)


  • jefe68

    I bet Mothra is having monster envy.


    • Phyllis Craine

      ^^ best comment !! ^^

  • JoshuaHendrickson

    I can still remember my first glimpse of Godzilla on a b/w tv in the early 70s. I fell in love. I got one of the big plastic toy Godzillas for my birthday, the one with the flame tongue and the spring-loaded firing fist (?). Instead of a teddy bear, I slept with that hard plastic monster and loved it. I still have it, still love Godzilla, and consider the radioactive city-stompin’ train-chompin’ fire-breathin’ monster to be Our Savior.

  • JoshuaHendrickson

    While I am looking forward to the new Godzilla film,I still want to see PACIFIC RIM–I know Guillermo del Toro knows how direct a monster movie. But I remember what a great and beautiful movie MONSTERS was–and wasn’t that directed by Gareth Edwards?

    • JS

      Save your time and money

  • hennorama

    Ohhhh, no …

  • incognito

    “US nuclear tests in the Pacific had just rained more death down on Japanese fishermen”. (Tom Ashbrook)

    Hey Ashbrook, the French were detonating nuclear bombs in the Pacific Ocean as well. You conveniently left that out.

    • jefe68

      The French nuclear test sites were in the South Pacific and they hit a huge part of Polynesia with radioactive fallout. That said it should have been mentioned.


      • JS

        Thats right. In a story about a Japanese monster movie, we should mention French nuclear test in Polynesia.

        • jefe68

          I beginning to think you have some kind of problem. No need to be an a$$.
          A comment was made by Tom Ashbrook on nuclear testing in the Pacific. I responded to a post on it.

  • Phyllis Craine

    I wish my business card said “Godzilla Historian” :D

  • Alchemical Reaction

    Kind of disappointing that H.P. Lovecraft wasn’t even mentioned!
    Godzilla wouldn’t exist if not for him!

    Just like game of thrones wouldn’t exist without lord of the rings.

    I wonder if geneticists could make a creature as large as Godzilla; Throw in some Spinosaurus and T. Rex DNA… Might have to selectively breed them for a while, for size.

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