Godzilla, King of the Monsters

ghidorahIt all started with a nuclear explosion.

That, in itself, is unusual, because usually things end with a nuclear explosion.  I don’t think that you can imagine a project that, if a nuclear explosion occurred in its vicinity, wouldn’t be impacted negatively by the blast.  In fact, you’d probably dust your hands together and remark, “Well, back to the drawing board”, or something of the like.  In fact, outside of every bit of matter in the universe, I cannot think of a single thing a nuclear explosion has created.

But, Godzilla was created in the fiery furnace of a nuclear test, with high temperatures, deadly radiation and alliterative ‘f’s.  You might be interested in what grading system is used in a nuclear test.  It is usually pass/fail.  Either there is a boom or there isn’t.  Although, I don’t understand why they have nuclear tests underground.  Perhaps it is to address the possible need of retaliation against Hobbits.  Underwater tests are to insure that if dolphins ever get too smart we can thin out their numbers quickly…

Frankly, I’ve always felt that an underground nuclear test is kind of a pout.  “Fine!  You don’t want us to test in the atmosphere, we’ll just test underground.  Not that we’ll learn anything…”

Definitely, critics of an atmospheric test would be chagrined to find that Godzilla was created during an underwater test.  Until the test, he was simply an ordinary dinosaur, hanging out at the ocean bottom, working his nine-to-five job as an anachronism.  After the test, he was a one hundred and sixty foot reptile with radioactive breath.  Did the test happen at night?  If so, Godzilla probably woke up with powers he didn’t have the night before and didn’t notice until his atomic breath melted his toothbrush…

Now, why the giant monster headed for Japan, no one will ever know or even bother to speculate about.  A fisherman disappears…a shack is stepped on, the authorities are skeptical.  Frankly that could’ve been ANYONE’S six meter footprint.  A dead seaman washes ashore and villagers call the police, the army and a fertility specialist.  Island natives speak of a sea monster that rises from the ocean, causes disasters and occasionally will ring doorbells and run.  An American reporter investigates…

…or not, depending upon which version of the movie you see.  The American version of the film added the character Steve Martin, played by Raymond Burr in a less wild and crazy manner.  The Japanese version has no Raymond Burr; consequently, the actors stand around during the Raymond Burr scenes looking off-camera until the newsman has finished; then, they start talking again.  Is the movie better for having Raymond Burr?  ANYTHING is better with Raymond Burr.  Sure, sex with a supermodel would be nice, if she’d gargled the smell of shad roe and vomit out of her breath; but, sex with a supermodel WITH Raymond Burr leering at you from the window would be GREAT!

Either version has, as its star, the great Takashi Shimura.  You might remember him from one of the many Akira Kurasawa movies he has starred in.  You probably don’t, but if I give you the benefit of the doubt your self-esteem will stay intact at least until I use a word you don’t know and have to pull out a dictionary.  Then, you’ll be racked with the feeling that EVERYONE ELSE knows the word…why don’t you?

You see, in any Godzilla movie, you simply need to keep an eye on the scientists.  Japanese people respect scientists almost as much as they respect game show hosts and high school girls in short skirts who happen to be endowed with cosmic powers and missing noses.  And, this movie has TWO scientists:  Dr. Yamane (played by Takashi Shimura) AND Dr. Serizawa (played by Akihiko Hirata, during his “blue” period).  One scientist, older and wiser; the other, brilliant, headstrong, penny-wise and pound-foolish.

The authorities finally take notice when a member of the main cast actually sees Godzilla.  I cannot understand why they didn’t take the villagers seriously before.  Frankly, if some uneducated hayseed told me that a giant lizard had stepped on his town and that he, along with the other hayseeds, was performing a special chant to calm the monster, I’d certainly take him at his word.  But, in the nine-to-five, button-down, ham-on-rye, overused-hyphen world of the Japanese Defense Force in the fifties, there was not much imagination.  When will people learn?  And, by that I mean, when will people learn to take seriously the fears of unbelievably superstitious and primitive fishermen?

It hardly matters.  What matters is that the Japanese Defense Navy brings to bear its full force against the monster:  Depth charges.  That is actually step three in the MicroSoft Windows helpdesk-like script for killing giant monsters.  The list is as follows:

 Q:  How do I kill the giant monster that is destroying my community?

  1. Did you:  Grab face in hands and scream until your lungs were bloody with the effort?
  1. Did you:  Shoot monster with small caliber pistol, such as standard police firearm?  Follow up:  If that failed, did you throw small caliber pistol at monster in frustration?
  1. Did you:  Explode monster?
  1. Did you:  Try exploding him again, perhaps with larger explosive?
  1. Did you:  Try exploding him one more time, because exploding things is all you know?
  1. Did you:  Try electrocuting him?
  1. Did you:  Consult scientist who had a plan so bizarre that you had to scoff and throw him out of your office?
  1. Did you:  Try exploding monster yet again, more out of habit than anything else?
  1. Did you:  Use bizarre scientific solution?

At this point, the user is transferred to the next level of technical assistance, which involves being on hold for twelve hours, then being unceremoniously disconnected…

 I commend the Japanese for skipping steps one and two and going directly to trying to blow Godzilla up.  If I learned anything from fifties monster movies BESIDES the fact that bras were very pointy back then, it is this:  Never shoot a giant ANYTHING with a small caliber pistol.  You shouldn’t try blowing them up, either; but, at least you are further down the list if that is the first thing you try…

 Depth charges fail and Godzilla, like most eighties metal bands, goes to Tokyo.  And, like the bands, Godzilla trashes the place up pretty horribly.  Unlike the bands, the number of teenage pregnancies DOESN’T go up when Godzilla leaves.  The monster leaves a swath of destruction, a wake of horror and a light sprinkling of disease.  Even Raymond Burr is injured…although he wouldn’t need a wheelchair for another decade…

 The giant lizard returns to the ocean…but, for how long?  After another attack by Godzilla, Tokyo will be reduced to nothing more than a Detroit with noodle stands.  Something must be done.  Bizarre plans must be made.  The daughter of Dr. Yamane thinks she has just the bizarre plan that will spell doom for Godzilla, or at least sound it out for him…

 The woman’s former boyfriend, Dr Serizawa (scientists only date the daughters of other scientists) has perfected a substance that strips the oxygen from water, killing anything in that water.  It is a brilliant idea that has a million applications from extinction of anemones to extinction of zebra fish.  Serizawa is reluctant to use his formula because of its potential as a weapon and because Pfeiser wants to test it as an antidepressant.  The formula strips any sea creature down to the bare bones, a process very similar to divorce.

 Frankly, I would LOVE to wipe out all life in the ocean.  I could live without seafood; and, I could swim at the beach without the fear of something with lots of teeth or tentacles biting me, stinging me or setting me on fire.  When you swim in the ocean and something brushes up against you…anything…it is a very unpleasant feeling.  The last thing you want to remember when you are in the ocean is that fish shit in the ocean.  You are simply wading in the world’s largest toilet waiting for a shark to bite you.  With all aquatic life extinct, there would be no danger except from drowning or someone dropping a bag of hammers out of a cargo plane.  Without sharks, though, we’d have to cull the surfer population periodically to keep them from over-breeding…

 Dr. Serizawa finally gives in and agrees to use his deadly formula on Godzilla and maybe Joey Bishop if there is any left over.  Before doing so, the scientist burns all of his notes and two of his fingers.  No one will ever learn of the secret to destroying life in the ocean, outside of simply polluting the water or dragging huge nets across it or irradiating it or introducing snakehead fish to it.  But, here’s the rub:  The secret is still IN HIS HEAD.  Serizawa takes care of that by, after killing Godzilla, also killing his head…along with the rest of his body…by cutting his oxygen line while underwater.  A noble and incredibly futile gesture…

 So, like the Olson twins, the giant lizard is reduced to a skeleton.  But, unlike the Olson twins, Godzilla will continue to be in movies for several decades.  He represents the irresponsible use of scientific knowledge…the dangers of nuclear testing…the cold hands of a urologist who says casually, “Roll over onto your side and drop your pants”.  He is society’s worst nightmare besides the one about attending final exams in its underwear.  And, he will be back…

 …and, he will have friends…