Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Godzilla has a surprisingly distinguished pedigree. Sharing the Toho stable with the big green monster was famed director Akira Kurosawa, who at the time was producing some of his most acclaimed films. Toho's other big release of 1954 was Shichinin no samurai (Seven Samurai), and the studio regularly rotated actors and crew among its projects. The director of the original Gojira, Ishiro Honda, was a lifelong Kurosawa collaborator, and the film's haunting martial theme was scored by the eminent composer Akira Ifukube. "This is the period of the great Japanese film," says Mark Schilling, film critic of The Japan Times and the author of The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture.

Godzilla: Final Wars, just opened in Japan, is the famous monster's last hurrah. "Final Conflict" discusses the reasons for stopping the franchise, the possibilities for a resurrection (who knows?) and the significance of the very first Gojira.
Indeed, the first film, when viewed today after decades of lighter monster-movie fare, is shockingly brutal and unafraid to heap scorn on the Americans. The blame for Godzilla awakening from his ancient slumber is laid squarely on US nuclear weapons testing. Scientists investigating a Godzilla attack visit a hospital and take a Geiger counter reading of a healthy-looking girl in pigtails, and a grim knowledge passes between them - she's doomed to a slow death by radiation poisoning.

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