Godzilla, King of the Monsters!

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Godzilla, King of the Monsters!
Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (1956) poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTerry Morse
Ishirō Honda
Produced byTomoyuki Tanaka
Richard Kay
Harry Rybnick
Edward B. Barison[1]
Screenplay byTakeo Murata
Ishirō Honda
Al C. Ward
Story byShigeru Kayama
StarringRaymond Burr
Music byAkira Ifukube
CinematographyMasao Tamai
Guy Roe
Edited byTerry Morse
Jewell Enterprises
Distributed byTransWorld Releasing Corporation (US, West)
Embassy Pictures (US, East)
Toho (Japan)
Paramount Pictures (Spain)
Release date
  • April 27, 1956 (1956-04-27) (United States)
  • May 29, 1957 (1957-05-29) (Japan)
Running time
80 minutes
United States
Box office$2 million (US)

Godzilla, King of the Monsters! is a 1956 kaiju film directed by Terry O. Morse and Ishirō Honda. It is a heavily re-edited American adaptation, commonly referred to as an "Americanization", of the 1954 Japanese film Godzilla.[sources 1] In the United States, the original film had previously been shown subtitled in Japanese community theaters only. Except for Spain and Poland, the film was unknown in Europe. This reedited version introduced all other viewing audiences to the character and labeled Godzilla the "King of the Monsters". In Japan the film was released as Monster King Godzilla (怪獣王ゴジラ, Kaiju Ō Gojira).

For this "new" version of Godzilla, some of the original Japanese dialogue was dubbed into English, and some of the political, social, and anti-nuclear themes and overtones were removed completely. This resulted in 16 minutes of footage being cut from the original and being replaced with new footage shot exclusively for Godzilla's North American release. Canadian actor Raymond Burr was cast in the lead role of American journalist Steve Martin, from whose perspective the U.S. version is told, mainly through flashbacks and voice-over narration. The new footage features Burr interacting with Japanese-American actors and look-alikes in order to make it appear that he was in the original Japanese production.

After World War II, a handful of independent, low-budget films had been made in Japan by American companies that featured Japanese players in the cast. For its U.S. theatrical release, this new version of Godzilla was given A-picture status and bookings, the first feature film to present the Japanese in principal, heroic roles and as sympathetic victims of the destruction of Tokyo (albeit via a fictional giant monster).

It was this version of Godzilla that introduced audiences worldwide to the character and its later franchise, which proved to be very popular and successful. The film was the only version that most critics and later film scholars had any access to until 2004 when the 1954 original was finally released in select North America theaters.[9]


Injured American reporter Steve Martin is brought from the ruins of Tokyo to a hospital filled with maimed and wounded citizens. Emiko discovers him among the victims and attempts to find a doctor for him.

Martin recalls in flashback stopping over in Tokyo, where a series of inexplicable ship disasters catches his attention. When a victim of those disasters washes up on Odo Island, Martin flies there for the story, along with Tomo Iwanaga, a representative of the Japanese Security Defense Forces (JSDF). He learns of the island inhabitants' long-held belief in a sea monster god known as "Godzilla", which they believe is causing the disasters. That night, a heavy rain and wind storm strikes the island, destroying many houses and killing some villagers. The islanders believe that Godzilla and not the storm is responsible for the destruction.

Martin returns to the devastated island with Dr. Yamane, who is leading a team to investigate its ruins. Huge radioactive footprints and a prehistoric trilobite are discovered. An alarm rings and Martin, the villagers, and Dr. Yamane's team head up a hill for safety. Near the summit, they see Godzilla's head and upper torso looking down at them, and they quickly flee downhill. Dr. Yamane later returns to Tokyo to present his findings: Godzilla was resurrected by repeated Pacific nuclear tests; he estimates the creature to be more than 400 feet tall. To Yamane's dismay, the military responds by attempting to kill the giant creature with depth charges. Martin contacts his old friend, Dr. Daisuke Serizawa, for dinner, but Serizawa declines due to planned commitments with his fiancé.

Emiko, Dr. Yamane's daughter, goes to Serizawa's home to break off her arranged engagement to him because she is actually in love with Hideo Ogata, a salvage ship captain. Dr. Serizawa, however, gives her a demonstration of his secret project, which horrifies her. She is sworn to secrecy and unable to bring herself to break off the engagement. Godzilla surfaces from Tokyo Bay, unharmed by the depth charges, and attacks the city, destroying a train before returning to the bay. The next morning, to repel the monster, the JSDF supercharges the tall electrical towers along Tokyo's coast.

The King of the Monsters resurfaces that night and breaks through the electrical towers and JSDF tank and artillery defense line using his atomic heat breath. With his tape recorder, Martin documents Godzilla's annihilation of the city and is injured during the attack. The military sends in more tanks and even fighter jets, but their counter-attack fails. Godzilla returns to the sea leaving Tokyo a burning, destroyed ruin (the flashback ends).

Martin wakes up in the hospital with Emiko and Ogata. Horrified by the destruction, Emiko reveals to Martin and Ogata the existence of Dr. Serizawa's Oxygen Destroyer, which disintegrates oxygen atoms in salt water and causes all marine organisms to die of acidic asphyxiation. Emiko and Ogata go to Dr. Serizawa to convince him to use his weapon on Godzilla, but he initially refuses. After watching a television broadcast showing the nation's plight, Serizawa finally gives in to their pleas.

A Navy ship takes Ogata, Serizawa, Yamame, Martin, and Emiko out to the deepest part of Tokyo Bay. Wearing deep sea diving gear, Ogata and Serizawa are lowered down by lifelines near the sleeping Godzilla to plant the weapon. On the bottom, they quickly move into position, awakening the monster. Serizawa signals the surface and Ogata is pulled up, but Serizawa delays his ascent and activates the device. He radios the surface to tell them that it is working and also wishes Emiko and Ogata happiness together. Removing his knife, he cuts his diving helmet's oxygen supply line and rope tether, taking the secret of his invention to the grave. Godzilla succumbs to the force of the Oxygen Destroyer, eventually dissolving to just a pile of bones. All aboard the ship mourn the loss of Dr. Serizawa. In this solemn moment, Martin makes a final observation: "The menace was gone...so was a great man. But the whole world could wake up and live again".



In 1955, Edmund Goldman watched the original Japanese-language Godzilla at a cinema in Los Angeles. He bought the international rights for $25,000, then sold them to Jewell Enterprises Inc., a small production company owned by Richard Kay and Harold Ross which, with backing from Terry Turner and Joseph E. Levine, successfully adapted it for American audiences. Levine paid $100,000 for his share.[12]

The adaptation process consisted of filming new scenes featuring Raymond Burr and others and inserting them into an edited version of the Japanese original to create a new film. The new scenes, written by Al C. Ward and directed by Terry O. Morse, were photographed by Guy Roe, with careful attention being paid to matching the visual tone of the original film. Burr's character, Steve Martin, appears to interact with the Japanese cast. This is accomplished through intricate cutting and the use of body doubles for the film's principals, in matching a dress, shot from behind, while indirect interaction with Burr's character.

A documentary style was imposed on the original dramatic material through Burr's dialogue and stentorian narration; he plays an American reporter, replacing a comical reporter character in the original. This turned out to be quite easy to do, as Ishiro Honda's original story had already unfolded in semi-documentary form.

More importantly, Burr's presence as the lead character served to ease American audiences into comfortable relationships with characters, whose mere nationality might otherwise have made them difficult to relate to. For similar reasons, protracted dialogue regarding the arranged marriage between the Japanese heroine and a scientist was greatly reduced. Such a concept would have been unfamiliar to a 1950s American audience. Scenes evincing an active affair between the two characters were also cut to avoid offending the parents of the film's youthful target audience.

A raging debate in Japan's Diet over the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the United States' continued nuclear testing was considered unlikely to be validated by American veterans of the recent world war, so the theme of Japan's devastation by nuclear warfare became sublimated during the editing process. This theme was not entirely eliminated, however, giving the film a subversive quality on the question that would later be consciously recognized by America's youngsters as they entered adulthood. The producers were still able to keep at least a hint of this since atomic-mutation monster films were becoming popular in the U.S. at that time. While Ishiro Honda's original feature had a very serious, anti-nuclear tone, it seemed to be overlooked by American audiences who had already become accustomed to watching Hollywood B-movie atomic story plot lines.

This production is one of the few general releases American films shot in Academy ratio after the widescreen projection transition of the early-to-mid 1950s. The new Guy Roe-shot sequences were composed for the Academy ratio to match the original Japanese footage. The end credits were blocked much too tightly for any amount of matting to be possible without causing lines of text to trail off the screen.


Poster for the Japanese release of Kaiju Ō Godzilla (1957)

There has been some confusion about who distributed the film to the U.S. The theatrical release poster states that it is "A Trans World Release", while it also bears a copyright notice for "Godzilla Releasing Corporation". Trade reviews from its New York theatrical engagement indicate that it was released by Embassy Pictures. Classic Media indicates that it was released by Jewell Enterprises, but the screen credits only show this company as presenting the film. In fact, it was adapted from the Japanese original by Jewell Enterprises, which took "presentation" credits on screen and in some of the advertising copy. In this adapted form, Jewell copyrighted the film under Godzilla Releasing Corporation and then nationally released it under control of TransWorld Releasing Corporation. All these companies were owned by Rybnick and Kay. The film was actually distributed in the western U.S. by TransWorld Releasing Corporation and in the eastern U.S. by Joseph E. Levine's Embassy Pictures, which was only a Boston-based states rights exchange at the time. In reviews and trade annuals published in New York, Embassy was most frequently noted as the sole distributor. Godzilla, King of the Monsters was given "A-film" promotion and opened on April 27, 1956, at Loew's State Theatre on Broadway and 45th Street in New York City.

New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther gave the film a bad review the following day. He dismissed it with: "'Godzilla', produced in a Japanese studio, is an incredibly awful film". After complaining about the dubbing, the special effects ("a miniature of a dinosaur") and an alleged similarity to King Kong he concluded, "The whole thing is in the category of cheap cinematic horror-stuff, and it is too bad that a respectable theater has to lure children and gullible grown-ups with such fare".[13]

Crowther notwithstanding, the film was a notable hit with the American public and was a box office success, grossing up to $2 million in the United States alone.[14] It easily exported to Europe and South America, where the original was unknown and where it also had a major impact. The door was thus opened in the Americas and Europe for the import of unexpurgated Japanese science fiction, horror, and other commercial film products; it also garnered western awareness of Toho Studios, which had retained producer credit. In 1957 the film made its way full circle back to Japan, where it was exhibited as Kaiju Ō Gojira (怪獣王ゴジラ, lit. "Monster King Godzilla"), becoming at least as popular as the original, replacing the latter in Japanese theaters and influencing future sequels and remakes.

After its theatrical run, Godzilla, King of the Monsters! became a television staple for decades, even into the cable era, opening up the international market for dozens of Godzilla sequels. In the era before widespread home videos, the film was regularly re-shown in repertory theaters and drive-in theaters. At the film review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 83%, based on 23 reviews, with an average rating of 6.8/10.[15]

In its original theatrical version, the film opened with the TransWorld Releasing Corporation logo. It was merely the Toho logo, with a rotating globe optically printed over it and the text, "A Transworld Release" overlaid in capital letters. Following the fadeout of the final scene, the schoolchildren's hymn being sung was reprised over the cast and credits. "The End" title followed in white lettering on a black background, with Godzilla's echoing footsteps eerily replacing the soulful music. However, when the film went into television syndication in the late 1950s, the credit sequence was removed to make room for more commercial time, leaving only the "The End" title card. In the early 1980s, Henry G. Saperstein acquired the film for TV re-syndication and for videotape and LaserDisc release by Vestron Video; the TransWorld logo was also removed, and all re-issues thereafter were taken from the Vestron-revised master (even the so-called "uncut" DVD version from Simitar released in 1988). This missing material was partially restored in 2006 on the Sony release; however, the TransWorld logo was left off and cast credits were presented in a "squashed" widescreen letterbox format and placed after "The End" card instead of before. In 2012 the Criterion Collection restored the film and reinstated all missing material in the correct order for their high definition Blu-ray/DVD release.

In its original TV syndication, a credit screen reading "Starring Raymond Burr, directed by Terry Morse and I. Honda" in white lettering over a black background, was placed between the main title and the opening shot of Tokyo in ruins. These "opening credits" have never appeared on home video.



In 1985, New World Pictures released Godzilla 1985, an American adaptation of Toho's The Return of Godzilla. Like Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, it used footage from the Toho film, with added footage shot in Hollywood, and the dialog re-recorded in English. Raymond Burr reprised his role as Steve Martin, acting as an adviser to the Pentagon, but did not interact within the main story as he had done in King of the Monsters. The Return of Godzilla was a sequel to the original 1954 film, and Godzilla 1985 served as a sequel to Godzilla, King of the Monsters!.


Italian theatrical release poster

In 1977 Italian filmmaker Luigi Cozzi released to Italian theaters, a further modified and colorized version of Godzilla, King of the Monsters’', with a soundtrack that used a magnetic tape process similar to Sensurround. Originally, Cozzi had planned to just re-release the original 1954 Godzilla (without the Raymond Burr footage). He was unable to secure the rights from Toho, so he purchased rights to the 1956 Americanized version. Being in black-and-white and already released in the 1950s, Italian regional distributors refused to release it, so Cozzi created a new version. After adding new footage, he hired Armando Valcauda to colorize the entire film, frame-by-frame, using a process called "Spectrorama 70". The process consisted of applying various colored gels to the footage. As a result, it became one of the first colorized black-and-white films.

This new version was advertised as "The greatest apocalypse in the history of cinema with the sonorous and visual wonder of Spectrorama 70". The film's content was also re-edited and added new scenes. These included a new opening of Bombing of Hiroshima, scenes from other famous monster movies and wartime stock footage of graphic death and destruction. This includs a famous scene where Godzilla destroys a train.[16] This increased the film's running time to 105 minutes.

The soundtrack was composed by Vince Tempera, Franco Bixio, and Fabio Frizzi under the "Magnetic System" screen credit. In cinemas, the soundtrack was played in "Futursound", an eight-track magnetic tape system based on Sensurround. Special sonic effects vibrated the seats each time that Godzilla took a step. Cozzi's version was a success and received generally positive reviews. Its theatrical release poster was later used as the cover for Fangoria #1.

Most prints of Cozzi's release were lost, but some still exist. A bootleg version was released on VHS tape, but the quality is poor when compared to the theatrical release print. The Cozzi version had only been released in Italy by 2012, but it has since been shown in Japan and Turkey.[17] On November 24, 2017, the Cozzi version was screened at the Fantafestival in Rome.[18]

In 2014 a bootleg, subtitled VHS copy was uploaded on YouTube in its semi-entirety, albeit in poor quality.[19] On February 7, 2018, a restored version of Cozzi's film (by television personality Geno Cuddy) emerged at the Internet Archive.[20]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Galbraith IV 2008, p. 106.
  2. ^ Ragone, August; Tucker, Guy (1991). "The Legend of Godzilla: Part 1". Markalite, the Magazine of Japanese Fantasy #3. Pacific Rim Publishing.
  3. ^ Ragone, August (November 2007). "Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters". Chronicle Books. pp. 46–47. Archived from the original on 2015-06-20.
  4. ^ "Classic Media Reissues the Original Godzilla on DVD". Scifi Japan. Retrieved September 1, 2014.
  5. ^ Hanlon, Patrick (May 14, 2014). "Godzilla: What Is It About Monsters?". Forbes.
  6. ^ Rafferty, Terrence (May 2, 2004). "The Monster That Morphed Into a Metaphor". NY Times.
  7. ^ Roberto, John Rocco (July 1994). "Godzilla in America". G-fan Magazine Issue #10. Archived from the original on 2014-10-06.
  8. ^ "Godzilla (1954) - The Criterion Collection". Criterion. Retrieved September 1, 2014.
  9. ^ Ryfle & Godziszewski 2017, p. 106.
  10. ^ a b Ryfle 1998, p. 54.
  11. ^ a b Ryfle 1998, p. 351.
  12. ^ Scheuer, P. K. (1959, Jul 27). Meet joe levine, super(sales)man! Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/167430798
  13. ^ Crowther, Bosley (April 28, 1956). "Screen: Horror Import; 'Godzilla' a Japanese Film, Is at State" (PDF, fee required). The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-07.
  14. ^ Lees & Cerasini 1998, p. 16.
  15. ^ "Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (1956)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved April 21, 2018.
  16. ^ Ryfle 1998, p. 209.
  17. ^ "Talking Cozzilla: An Interview with Italian Godzilla Director Luigi Cozzi". scifijapan.com. Retrieved November 10, 2012.
  18. ^ Programma 2017 Fantafestival (in Italian)
  19. ^ Gibson, Daniel (May 22, 2014). "Cozzilla (1977) full movie". YouTube. Archived from the original on July 8, 2014. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
  20. ^ Luigi Cozzi's Godzilla (Cozzilla, 1977) Geno Cuddy Restoration is available for free download at the Internet Archive


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