As “Godzilla,” released in Japan in November 1954 became an instant box-office hit, viewers were struck by the film’s powerful imagery and themes. The monster film was re-released in the West with a different view of the Kaiju King.
The film “Godzilla King of the Monsters” was first released in the United States in 1956. It was a major change that changed “Godzilla.” The legacy of the franchise in America would be forever altered by this new edit. Along with new scenes featuring “Rear Window” star Raymond Burr as a news reporter chronicling the monster’s rampage, the film did away with many moments that explicitly referenced the bomb, including the heart-wrenching hospital scenes and Dr. Yamane’s (Takashi Shimura) final line warning about the dangers to come if nuclear testing continues. Toho’s vision of the original film, “King of the Monsters!” was stripped to the bare minimum. Critics have panned the film.
Later American efforts have also been criticized in a similar way. The 1998 version of “Godzilla” explains that the monster originated from bombings by the French, while the Legendary MonsterVerse version of Godzilla is a natural occurrence that the military aims to destroy with nuclear weapons in the 2014 film. As long as America continues to downplay its role in creating such horrors, Godzilla will remain a monster that destroys cities. Even as the tone of the franchise changed, later Japanese films found new ways to expand Godzilla’s potential.