November 3, 1954: Godzilla is released. The 96 minute movie was directed by Ishiro Honda and produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka. The screenplay was written by Honda and Takeo Murata and based on a story by Shigeru Kayama. The film was distributed by Toho, also the production company. Filmed in Japan, it was the first of a series of films starring the prehistoric monster, Godzilla. The science fiction kaiju film set the tone for all future kaiju films. Kaiju literally translates to “strange creature” and as in this first film, usually portray monsters of any form either attacking a major Japanese city or fighting off a second (or more) monster in epic battle.
Godzilla was resurrected after repeated nuclear tests in the Pacific Ocean. The movie opens with a fishing boat attacked by a flash of light near Odo Island. On the island, after a second attack, the village elder remembered a time when girls were sacrificed to appease a giant sea monster. A storm came to the island and rather than appease a monster, Godzilla rose up. He eventually made his way to Tokyo. There, engineers tried to electrocute the monster without any success. The beast melted buildings with his atomic breath and decimated the city and its citizens. Daisuke Serizawa had created a secret weapon that could possibly destroy Godzilla, but the weapon was too dangerous to actually bring out. Godzilla’s destruction became so overpowering, Serizawa finally consented to let the weapon be created for a one time use only and then destroyed.
Hideto Ogata and Serizawa boarded a navy ship and left Tokyo Bay. They descended into the ocean and found Godzilla resting. They resurfaced, got their Oxygen Destroyer weapon and descended to kill the beast. Ogata returned to the surface as Serizawa activated the device but instead of rising to the surface as well, he stayed to make sure Godzilla was killed. Godzilla’s last act before succumbing to the weapon was to rise from the waters one last time and roar before sinking to the ocean floor and disintegrating leaving only a skeleton behind. The monster was killed, but with continued nuclear testing, another monster could appear.
In 1954, Godzilla sold over 9.6 million tickets in Japan alone and was the eighth best attended film in that country that year. Even now, it is the second best attended Godzilla film with only King Kong vs. Godzilla having a greater audience. Godzilla’s box office earnings was 152 million Yen or about $2.25 million. The film has been listed as one of the top 20 Japanese films of all time. The special effects used in the making of the film captured a nomination from the Japanese Movie Association. Many different Godzilla movies have been made since with three different series of them – 1954 to 1975, the Heisei series of 1984 to 1995, and the Millennium series from 1999 to 2004.
I can’t believe that Godzilla was the only surviving member of its species. If we continue nuclear testing, very soon, another Godzilla might appear, somewhere else in the world, again… – Dr. Yamane
Godzilla and Biollante aren’t monsters. It’s the unscrupulous scientists who create them who are monsters. – Dr. Shiragami
When mankind falls into conflict with nature, monsters are born. – Prof. Hayashida
f [the Oxygen Destroyer] had have been used on the ground, it is quite obvious that Tokyo would have become a cemetery. – Dr. Kensaku Ijuin
Also on this day: Greensboro Massacre – In 1979, violence broke out in Greensboro, North Carolina.
It’s a Dog’s Life – In 1957, the Soviets sent a dog into outer space.
Last Public Hanging – In 1783, Tyburn public hangings ceased.
Fashoda Incident – In 1898, the Fashoda Incident ended.