Gojira (1954)

Directed by Ishirô Honda [Other horror films: Gojira no gyakushû (1955), Jû jin yuki otoko (1955), Godzilla: King of the Monsters! (1956), Sora no daikaijû Radon (1956), Godzilla (1957), Tokyo 1960 (1957), Bijo to ekitai ningen (1958), Daikaijû Baran (1958), Half Human: The Story of the Abominable Snowman (1958), Gigantis: The Fire Monster (1959), Mosura (1961), Varan the Unbelievable (1962), King Kong vs. Godzilla (1963), Matango (1963), Mosura tai Gojira (1964), Uchû daikaijû Dogora (1964), War-Gods of the Deep (1965), Furankenshutain tai chitei kaijû Baragon (1965), Furankenshutain no kaijû: Sanda tai Gaira (1966), Gezora, Ganime, Kameba: Kessen! Nankai no daikaijû (1970), Gojira tai Hedora (1971), Godzilla (1977), Godzilla 1985 (1985), Gojira vs. Desutoroiâ (1995), Gojira tai Megagirasu: Jî shômetsu sakusen (2000)]

Very much a political statement against nuclear weaponry (a statement I entirely agree with), this is a classic movie that I’ve seen bits and pieces of before, but never the whole thing at once. To the modern eye, Gojiria may not seem that special, but it’s still a decent amount of fun and overall a well-made monster movie.

You can definitely get an epic scope from the destruction that Godzilla causes during his rampages. How many people were dislocated, how much property damage, how many killed? These questions apply both to the lizard monster, and also to the U.S.A.’s dropping of nuclear bombs on two Japanese cities. It’s utter destruction, and the only viable solution is an idea that a scientist doesn’t want to share, for the sole reason that he knows it’ll be weaponized in the future.

Godzilla has a lot to say about the state of war, and I think it says it well. I found the distinction between approaches interesting (Takashi Shumura’s desire to study the creature vs. Akira Takarada’s agreement with the military to destroy it), and I see the validity behind both points (in a way, it reminds me of Day of the Dead). Takashi Shumura made for a very compelling character, and when he threw Akira Takarada’s character out (in front of Shumura’s daughter, who Takarada was hoping to marry), talk about dramatic.

I think the most interesting character here, though, is Akihiko Hirata’s, the scientist with an idea to destroy the threat of Godzilla, but the unwillingness to share with the military (for good reason). The very moral arguments that he had with himself would have been difficult, as again, you can sort of see both sides of the argument. When this opportunity is made clear to Momoko Kôchi’s character on the promise of silence, she eventually breaks her word to let Takarada know, and that leads to perhaps my favorite scene in the film.

Much more than just a giant monster causing untold death and dismay, Godzilla is a moderately deep and pretty moving story. I can’t personally say it’s one that I’d watch again and again, but I thought they did really well with the issues at hand, and I’m happy that I’ve finally seen this, despite taking me this long to get here.

7.5/10

Them! (1954)

Directed by Gordon Douglas [Other horror films: Gildersleeve’s Ghost (1944), Zombies on Broadway (1945), The Fiend Who Walked West (1958)]

I’ll be honest and say that I don’t have that much to say about this film. It’s a classic for a reason, and though I’d not seen Them! in many years since this most recent rewatch, it’s clear to me that this will likely always been considered a classic, despite some personal dislikes in the latter half of the film.

There was little to criticize insofar as the performances went. Both James Arness and James Whitmore were great co-leads, and Joan Weldon made for a solidly strong woman, especially during the excursion into the anthill. Personally, though, it’s Edmund Gwenn who I suspect will stick with me the longest, as I rather loved his absent-minded portrayal (and gave us some of the few comedic scenes this film had).

As far as the horror goes, there were some good, suspenseful sequences near the beginning that definitely had a creepy vibe to them, though after the point in which we saw the first ant (a great scene in itself, actually), I think they somewhat quickly lost the terrifying vibe. It had a more epic feel, to be sure, but the ants themselves lost something in that transition.

Which is a small shame, because while the shift makes a lot of sense story-wise, I didn’t care that much for it. Oh, I enjoyed the investigation portions quite a bit (and they sometimes reminded me of what you might see on Dragnet), but going for a wider scope, a more disaster movie type plot, sort of makes the film lose a little of what it had before.

None of this is to say I don’t like the movie, it’s just that I didn’t love the second half of the film. It was still great, especially the sequences that took place in the sewer system, but I didn’t love it. Even so, Them! remains one of the better giant insect movies, perhaps one of the best, of the 1950’s. It has great performances, a fun story and setting (once they left New Mexico for California, though, I thought it lost a little of the magic), and fantastic effects for the time period. There’s a lot to enjoy about this film, so give it a shot if you’ve not already.

8/10

The Snow Creature (1954)

The Snow Creature

Directed by W. Lee Wilder [Other horror films: Phantom from Space (1953), Killers from Space (1954), Fright (1956), The Man Without a Body (1957)]

The Snow Creature’s an overly tedious film, partially because of the documentary-feel it has for the first half, and the stale nature of the second half. Though it’s just under 71 minutes, I couldn’t really help but feel bored with the plodding story. It might have had been a decent movie with a higher budget, or a different direction, but as it stands, it’s just not that good. Even toward the end, when police were scouring the sewers, I felt absolutely no dread. The whole movie felt, for the most part, pretty soulless. The Snow Creature’s dull and tedious. Had it been slightly better made, it’s possible it could have possessed a certain charm to it, but as it was, it really isn’t anything to remember fondly.

4.5/10