Quite the curio, this: the original Godzilla, repackaged for American audiences with the addition of Raymond ‘Ironside’ Burr as a reporter recounting the destruction for newspaper readers back home.
The conceit is a smart one for the presumably tiny budget they had to work with: rather than dub the Japanese cast or add subtitled, they just have Burr do a voiceover. (There’s even a scene where he leans into one of his native hosts to confess his Japanese is a bit rusty and he needs a translation. I like that.)
However, the cheapness of the American additions look even more bargain-basement compared to original director Ishiro Honda’s flair for composition (not to be unexpected from a long-time collaborator with Akira Kurosawa).
This version also guts some of the political angle from the original piece to make way for those Burr scenes, so it’s hard to tell who’s to blame for the film’s glacial pacing – though it does conclude with a satisfying city smash-up.
That was followed in quick succession by Rodan:
Too much jibber-jabber, not enough monster action. That it’s the first kaiju flick shot in Technicolor is about the best thing going for it. (Well, that and the bits that looked like direct inspiration for George Lucas when he was envisioning the X-Wing scenes in Star Wars.)
Things get a bit weird(er) with Mothra vs Godzilla:
AKA Godzilla vs The Thing, this one’s an exceedingly silly kaiju romp – with some surreal magical realist elements – that pleasingly ups the monster-battle quotient. Maybe a little too pastoral for my tastes, but the weirdness makes it worth the effort.
And the first Ghidorah movie? Well…
Two words: rock tennis.