Godzilla- A history of the world’s most enduring on-screen monster

Godzilla 1954


One of the silver screen’s most enduring movie stars, Godzilla started life as the brainchild of Toho company film producer Tomoyuki Tonaka. As the story goes, he was flying over the ocean looking down into the water, when the thought about the possibility of a giant sea monster occurred to him. What would actually happen if that became a reality? He quickly got approval for his idea and work began on the first Godzilla movie which unknowingly gave birth to a concept that would still be going strong over 60 years later.

When the first film was created, it was far more serious than any of its ‘monster’ movie predecessors. In the wake of World War 2, following the destruction of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the Japanese were left bruised and scarred by the horrors of war. With those horrors still fresh in their minds, Godzilla’s destructive power became a metaphor for nuclear power and a perpetual reminder of how fragile life is. The original Godzilla film was far more of a horror than anything else, striking fear into audiences with echos of the WW2 level of devastation, Godzilla flattened buildings, bridges, trucks with unyielding power. Tanaka said, ” mankind had created the bomb and now the bomb would take revenge on mankind.”

Godzilla (Gojira) Gorilla Whale in Japanese went through many different storyboard incarnations before the team settled on a design. It started as a giant octopus type creature, but producers changed their minds and settled for a dinosaur inspired look, the back plates resembling a Stegosaurus, the head of a T-Rex, but with a huge frame and hands that could rip and claw. The team added believable bulk to the design and the classic Godzilla monster which has remained relatively unchanged for over 60 years was born.

The director Ishiro Honda was famous for his documentaries on war and drama productions, so this is where some of the credit goes to for the dark destructive real-life horror feel of the original movie. Eiji Tsuburaya and Akira Ifukube were also key to the film’s success as they made the concept a special effects reality. They used pioneering techniques whereby the actor would wear a monster suit and walk through a tiny created miniature cityscape, and with careful camera use and lighting, this would give the impression of a 150 ft tall monster. The movie was received very positively and gained great praise from critics and fans alike, and thus began 60 yrs of our love for Godzilla!



Article-Emma Murfin for Movie-Reliquary