Saturday, November 25, 2006

Ishiro Honda was a young director, a friend of the great Kurosawa, who had been drafted into the Japanese military, and was a prisoner of war in China. Returning to Japan after the war, he passed through the devastated Hiroshima.

Honda admitted openly, then and years later, that he intended Gogira to raise the issue of the danger to humankind of nuclear testing and nuclear weapons themselves. The U.S. version makes but one reference to Godzilla being a prehistoric beast resurrected by H-Bomb testing--by 1956, lots of “bug-eyed monsters” were hitting U.S. drive-ins, all created by atomic bombs, so that much wasn’t unusual. But in the Japanese version, not only were the H-Bomb tests discussed several times, and Nagasaki mentioned, the whole story and whole mood of the original Gogira was integrated with these events and these issues that the Bomb and modern warfare raise, as Japanese audiences would clearly understand, and as any of us can see—and especially feel—today.

Gojira begins with a strange event at sea: the crew of a fishing boat is relaxing on deck, when they see a sudden white flash and explosion in the sea, which then sinks their boat. How this relates to the prehistoric monster is not explained (although according to the commentary it was in the script, but budget forced changes.)

In fact, it is very close to how one of the crew of the Lucky Dragon #5 described the H-Bomb blast: “Suddenly the skies in the west lighted up and a great flare of whitish yellow light splashed against the clouds and illuminated the water.” The witness even remembers one of his crewmates humming a song, and in the film they are all singing as someone plays a guitar (by the looks of it, an American one.) None of this was coincidence. Honda even has the #5 displayed on a life preserver, identifying this fishing boat with the Lucky Dragon #5.

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