Original 1954 Japanese ‘Godzilla’ Will Have Rare U.S. Theatrical Run

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Rialto Pictures will screen the original 1954 Japanese Godzilla (Gojira), in a rare theatrical run throughout the U.S. in anticipation of the new reboot due out this summer.

Godzilla celebrated its 60th anniversary all around the world this year. This past year’s Comic-Con housed an impressive retrospective with toys, memorabilia, photographs, and the new Gareth Edwards film at its center. A fitting tribute to the God of all Monsters, this 60th anniversary restoration will be released to coincide with the new CG-driven blockbuster of the legendary kaiju.

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The original film, titled Gojira, had nearly 40 minutes of footage removed when it was acquired by Jewell Enterprises in the mid-50′s. They spliced in new footage of character actor Raymond Burr, portraying a reporter in the midst of Godzilla’s rampage over the Land of the Rising Sun. Lost was much of the emotional core of the film. Seeing Gojira is to experience an interesting point in the history of one country’s attitude. Japan had endured the aftermath of nuclear warfare as atomic bombs were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima during the second world war — less than ten years after that, Toho Studios released a film portraying a large, indestructible force – a monster; raining chaos over the land and seas of Japan.

Directed by Ishirô Honda, the original was a darker and more atmospheric tale than the American version and the subsequent sequels. Riddled with bleak starkness, many of the characters’ attitudes and performances were interchangeable between the film’s storyline involving a gigantic lizard monster and a narrative of a deeper nature; of regarding a cultural state of mind in Japan. This was a people riddled with the negative results of modern warfare and the science of destruction. Those speculating that director Gareth Edwards will approach the cautionary aspects of Godzilla in the same vein will have to wait a few more months. Through all the spin-offs, sequels, remakes, reboots, and knock-offs, will this new incarnation capture the overall mastery of metaphor for a new generation?

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The press release for the new restoration and re-release elaborates:

GODZILLA was originally released here in 1956 as Godzilla: King of the Monsters, an atrociously cut, dubbed and re-edited version that inserted American actor Raymond Burr into the action; only an hour was used of the original’s 98 minute running time. Burr does not appear in the original, uncut version, which has an all-Japanese cast including Kurosawa regular Takashi Shimura, who the very same year appeared as leader of the Seven Samurai.

As directed by Ishirô Honda, with special effects by the legendary Eiji Tsuburaya, GODZILLA: THE JAPANESE ORIGINAL is much darker in tone than the dumbed-down U.S. release version, which entirely eliminated the original’s underlying theme: in the Japanese version, the monster is clearly a metaphor for the nuclear menace and the film itself a cry for world peace and disarmament. The American version also cut out all of the original’s astonishing Strangelove-like black humor.

The original made its DVD release back in 2004, and anyone looking for a great blu-ray package, pick up The Criterion Collection‘s recent edition of Gojira; complete with a paper sleeve pop-up of Gojira and a plethora of bonus features.

The first screening of the Godzilla re-release will happen at New York’s Film Forum on April 12th, as part of the TCM Classic Film Festival. After that, Rialto Pictures will follow with screenings in a handful of other cities. A complete list cities can be found here.

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Images: Rialto Pictures, Toho International, Warner Bros.

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