The Great Godzilla Movie Marathon: Part 1 – The Showa Series

The Great Godzilla Movie Marathon: Part 1 – The Showa Series

Hi crew! 👋🏻 Back in September, I was inspired by a YouTuber I watch to carry out a pretty big project for Sci-Fi Month. That YouTuber, Quinton Reviews, binge-watched the entirety of iCarly and made two four hour videos talking about the series.

I don’t exactly have the means or the desire to make videos, but I am capable of making gigantic blog posts. So I decided that I would watch every single Godzilla movie and give mini reviews for each one.

This is not an easy task for anybody because since 1954, there have been 36 movies featuring the Big G. I am a glutton for punishment so I counted US recuts as separate movies, bringing the count up to 40. I love Godzilla so that is a challenge I am willing to accept.

These review posts will be split up into each of the series: Showa (1954-1975), Heisei (1984-1995), Millennium (1999-2004), Reiwa (2016-present), and the American made movies.

Today, I’m focusing on the original Showa series, which is also the longest series, lasting 21 years and 15 movies. All of these movies are rewatches for me as I got the Criterion Collection box set for Christmas last year.

As a note, for the Japanese made movies, I watched them with the original audio track and English subtitles. I hate watching dubbed live-action movies so I can’t comment on their quality, but when I cover the American made movies, I will be covering the US recuts that exist of the first three movies in the Showa series and of The Return of Godzilla which is part of the Heisei series.

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Godzilla (1954)

GODZILLA

Directed by Ishiro Honda
Released 1954
Run time: 96 minutes (1 hr, 36 mins)
My Rating –

Talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, show stopping, spectacular, never the same, totally unique, completely not ever been done before, unafraid to reference or not reference, put it in a blender, shit on it, vomit on it, eat it, give birth to it.

Jokes aside, I have watched this movie so many times that I’m eventually going to run out of ways to praise it. When I say that monsters can be so much more than just a scary looking thing, this is usually the example I go towards. In this movie, Godzilla isn’t a big dinosaur who entertains children, he’s a physical metaphor for the fears the Japanese had towards nuclear power and Hydrogen bombs in the years after the Second World War. Humans created this monster and although they killed this one, there will always be more coming around the corner because humans will always create monsters.

The only reason I don’t give this movie five stars is that the special effects are very dated by modern suitmation standards, but that’s to be expected from a Japanese movie from the 1950s that took only 51 days to make. That being said, you completely forget that Godzilla is a man in a rubber suit because his movements look like what you’d expect a gigantic radioactive dinosaur’s movements to be.

Basically: this is one of my favourite movies ever and restricting myself to a mini-review of it is not doing it justice. Definitely watch this one if you are able to read subtitles.

Godzilla Raids AgainGODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN

Directed by Motoyoshi Oda
Released 1955
Run time: 82 minutes (1 hr, 22 mins)
My Rating –

This movie really falls victim to sequelitis for me because it has some huge shoes to fill. It’s nowhere near the masterpiece that I think the first movie is, but it’s not a bad movie either, it’s just okay.

I liked how Dr Yamane returns in this film but he ends up being sadly underused because his appearance feels more like a cameo where he says “the only way to defeat Godzilla has already been used and the creator took it to his grave but good luck.” There isn’t much of a plot because it kind of just sets up the battle between Godzilla and Anguirus, and while I can commend it for trying to have a human drama side, it’s just not strong enough to carry the movie.

Again, the special effects are very dated as to be expected, but the main problem I have here is that the monster battle formula that the series is best known for and starts here doesn’t really work in black and white. The fight between Godzilla and Anguirus looks a little silly because the dorsal plates on the Godzilla suit are almost gelatinous and wobble around. Plus, I’m not a big fan of the suit in this movie: the neck’s too long and looks a little goofy, and doesn’t match the puppet that’s used in closeups which has teeth to make it look more menacing. The Anguirus suit looks much better but I do still wish it was in colour (especially since at one point during the battle, Godzilla bites Anguirus’ neck so roughly that he makes him bleed and it’s a little difficult to see.)

This is far from the worst the series has to offer, but it’s cool to see Anguirus’ first appearance before he disappears for thirteen years. Anguirus is one of my favourite Toho monsters so I have a soft spot for him.

King Kong vs Godzilla (1962)

KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (JP VERSION)

Directed by Ishrio Honda
Released 1962
Run time: 97 minutes (1 hr, 37 mins)
My Rating –

This is where I feel the series is starting to become what it’s famous for. We have a colour film in glorious TohoScope (or widescreen in layman’s terms) and the format makes the monster battles really shine and pop.

What I love the most about this movie is that it doesn’t pretend to be a serious affair and acknowledges how ridiculous the premise is. The director of a pharmaceutical company is sick of declining ratings on the TV shows they sponsor so he sends two PR men to go find King Kong and then Godzilla appears, the monsters fight, and the TV people are there to get it all on camera. It’s so ridiculous and it works because it’s not taken seriously. There is something to be said about media sensationalism, but who really cares when a giant ape fights a dinosaur?

While the Godzilla suit in this movie isn’t one of my favourites due to its more reptilian face, it’s much better made than the previous suit. The same can’t be said for the King Kong suit which looks a little off, but this was made in the early 1960s and they had to modify it from a stop motion figure so I’m willing to forgive them.

The only thing that’s stopping me from rating this movie higher is the use of brownface in scenes that take place on Kong’s home island. This is a Japanese movie from the early 1960s so all of the native Pacific Islanders are portrayed by Japanese actors in skin darkening makeup and it is very awkward to watch. Some of them look like they’ve just been in the sun for a bit while others look like they’re cake in brown greasepaint. It’s the product of the past and there will be dark-skinned people in the world who don’t think much of it, and it doesn’t affect my enjoyment too much but it’s still a little awkward to see.

Mothra vs Godzilla (1964)MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA

Directed by Ishiro Honda
Released 1964
Run time: 89 minutes (1 hr, 29 mins)
My Rating –

Four movies in and I have yet to dislike a movie so we’re going strong. My main complaint with this movie is that even though the human side of the story is good enough to keep me from falling asleep. I did find myself falling into a trap that I told myself I wouldn’t: whining about how long it takes to get to the monsters.

That being said. I like how even though this is a crossover movie, it feels somewhat accessible. It expects you to know Godzilla, obviously, but it also doesn’t expect you to know every single thing about Mothra, whose movie I still haven’t seen yet. A lot of things about Mothra are explained in the movie so we know that she’s the hero here and not the villain.

We’re still in the period of Godzilla movies having sociopolitical messages, and this one is mostly about corporate greed as the true villains are corporate swindlers who scam a small fishing village out of a crapton of money by stealing Mothra’s egg and then building a huge incubator and not paying the rent on the land. And of course there is the standard anti-nuclear stance that is essential to the series but it’s a little ham-fisted this time around.

I think the special effects in this movie are on a par with the previous movie, and I do like the design of the Godzilla suit more but it’s still a bit too rubbery and that shows up later in the film due to Haruo Nakajima (the guy in the suit) breaking the suit’s jaw and it not getting fixed. It’s also a little cockeyed when the camera focuses on it head-on but it’s not something that ruins my experience. The Mothra puppet looks good too and I wish the main fight sequence didn’t use so many cuts to hide that it’s a puppet. The second fight scene at the end of the movie that has Godzilla get tag teamed by the two Mothra larvae looks better and the shot of Godzilla covered in silk looks cool.

Oh, and the brownface wearing islanders return in this one. Yay.

Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster

GHIDORAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER

Directed by Ishrio Honda
Released 1964
Run time: 93 minutes (1 hr, 33 mins)
My Rating –

This movie is bonkers, I can’t help but like it. Instead of a movie with a social message, we now have a story about a magnetic meteor with an evil alien dragon inside it, a prophet from Venus who looks like a princess, and assassins who are trying to kill the princess. Oh, and Godzilla, Rodan, and Mothra are there too.

One of the only problems that I have with this movie is that it is very continuity heavy. If you didn’t know who Rodan is before going into this movie you’d probably be a bit lost. I still haven’t seen the Rodan movie but I already knew who he was so I didn’t have any trouble.

The other problem I have is that the big monster fight starts ten minutes before the end of the movie. Godzilla has a couple of spats with Rodan and there’s a scene where Mothra tries to talk them into fighting King Ghidorah (literally), but ten minutes before the end seems way too late for the climax of a movie.

That being said, the effects in this movie really hold up to this day. The shot of Ghidorah appearing for the first time still looks good 57 years later, as do the beam effects. The head of the Godzilla suit has been replaced since the last movie due to damage. It’s not strikingly different but more improved, and the moving eyes are a nice touch.

Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965)INVASION OF ASTRO MONSTER

Directed by Ishiro Honda
Released 1964
Run time: 94 minutes (1 hr, 34 mins)
My Rating –

I was surprised to learn that this is one of the better-received movies in the series because I spent a lot of the run time sitting twiddling my thumbs waiting for the monsters to show up. For a Godzilla movie, Godzilla only has five and a half minutes of screen time. Critics complained up and down that Godzilla didn’t have enough screentime in the 2014 American movie but this movie has even less and that’s okay? People can have their opinions, but I just don’t understand.

Anyway, the plot of this movie is less bonkers than the previous movie because there isn’t as much going on. We have aliens contacting Earth astronauts for help protecting them from King Ghidorah (but not really) so they ask for Godzilla and Rodan to go onto their planet and fight Ghidorah. It’s a simple plot and it works because it’s easy enough to follow. We don’t have a social message here for the first time, and that’s fine because we’re here to watch monsters fight anyway.

The effects in this movie are the best of the series so far. Watching all of these movies one after another shows how much the SFX team had improved since pretty much inventing suitmation back in the 50s. The Godzilla suit looks really good and solid and it still has the cool moving eyes from the previous suit. Oh, and Haruo Nakajima could do a victory dance in it so that makes it a good suit. I still love the Ghidorah design and it looks even better with the improved effects. The only issue I have with the effects is the Rodan suit which looks less like a pteranodon and more like a bird. Rodan’s a dinosaur like Godzilla but the difference is that Rodan is based on a dinosaur that actually existed so I feel like he should resemble the thing he’s based on more.

Ebirah Horror of the Deep

EBIRAH, HORROR OF THE DEEP

Directed by Jun Fukuda
Released 1966
Run time: 87 minutes (1 hr, 27 mins)
My Rating –

We’re now going into what I consider to be the weaker movies in the series, and while this one isn’t terrible, it’s not the strongest.

I read on Wikizilla that this movie was originally planned to be a King Kong movie and it really does show in how Godzilla interacts with the human characters. He’s never had any interest in human women, so why give him a trait that comes from Kong and never shows up again?

I do wish a new suit was made for Godzilla because it looks a little shoddy and out of shape, but I get that there are always budget issues to consider. It doesn’t look too bad from the side but from the front, it doesn’t look good.

This movie is so 1960s that Austin Powers could come out of nowhere and you wouldn’t question it. The soundtrack is heavily inspired by surf music, and there’s a gogo dancing contest at the beginning.

As for Ebirah, I don’t consider him (it?) to be one of the more memorable monsters because he’s just a giant lobster thing. He sticks out in the villain roster which is made up of weird mutant monsters and aliens, and he shows that this was supposed to be a King Kong movie because a giant lobster is the kind of thing you’d expect King Kong to fight.

And I’m getting tired of mentioning the brownface wearing islanders so I will mention them just this once more.

Son of GodzillaSON OF GODZILLA

Jun Fukuda
Released 1967
Run time: 86 minutes (1 hr, 26 mins)
My Rating –

I don’t know where exactly I stand on this movie because the plot and the characters are just okay, but I hate the designs of the Godzilla and Minilla costumes so much that it ruins it a little for me.

From the neck down, the Godzilla suit is better than the previous one because it’s brand new and not beaten up. From the neck up, however, it’s the ugliest of all the designs. The eyes are too buggy, the head is too small, and the nose is too stubby. I understand that the suit was designed so that it would resemble Minilla more closely, but Minilla isn’t a prize pig either.

My complaints aside, I do enjoy the fun vibe of this movie and the scenes of Godzilla bonding with Minilla and teaching him how to be a monster are adorable. I also like how the human characters aren’t forgettable like a lot of them are in the later movies. Also, being able to see Akihiko Hirata (who was most famous for playing Dr Serizawa in the very first movie) again is always a joy.

Destroy All Monsters

DESTROY ALL MONSTERS

Directed by Ishiro Honda
Released 1968
Run time: 89 minutes (1 hr, 29 mins)
My Rating –

This movie has a similar plot to Invasion of Astro-Monster, but I much prefer this one because it has more monsters and a bit more screentime for the monsters. Not a lot, but still more than the five minutes of monster time in Invasion of Astro-Monster. Ishiro Honda just knew how to do Godzilla best, I feel.

The effects in this movie are top-notch; we have another new Godzilla suit that is so much better than the previous, and the miniature sets of various cities are up to the Toho standard. Plus, the destruction scenes look so cool. The only downside is that some of the monster suits and puppets are old and beaten up which makes them look not very convincing, but it’s to be expected when Godzilla was the only monster who had new suits regularly.

My only problem with this movie is that because this is a big crossover event, some monsters who appear are monsters who have appeared in other Toho movies but not Godzilla movies, so a complete newcomer to the franchise wouldn’t know who they are. Gorosaurus, Manda, Varan, and Baragon were names I only knew in passing before watching this movie for the first time and even on a second viewing, I didn’t really know them because I haven’t seen their original movies.

All Monsters AttackALL MONSTERS ATTACK

Ishiro Honda
Released 1969
Run time: 70 minutes (1 hr, 10 mins)
My Rating –

I know I just said that Ishiro Honda did Godzilla best, but this movie makes me want to reconsider that statement.

This movie is the only live-action (and non-educational) Godzilla movie made primarily for children and I don’t believe on going easy for things just because they’re made for kids. Children aren’t stupid and deserve quality entertainment just like adults do.

The biggest issue with this movie is that it takes place in the “real world” with all the monster scenes taking place in a little boy’s imagination. The message of learning go stand up for yourself is an important one for children, but it feels so out of place in a series about a giant monster created by nuclear weapons.

The next issue I take is the amount of stock footage used in the imagination scenes. Godzilla’s appearance changes from one scene to another because a new suit wasn’t made and a lot of footage from Son of Godzilla is used which features my least favourite design.

My last big issue is with Minilla. Because the movie takes place in a child’s imagination, we have a child-sized Minilla who can talk. And he’s so annoying when he commentates over the monster battle like it’s a football match.

I’m probably extremely biased against this movie because it comes after Destroy All Monsters, but I can’t figure out a way to enjoy this movie. At least it’s only an hour long so it’s not too painful.

Godzilla vs Hedorah

GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH

Directed by Yoshimitsu Banno
Released 1971
Run time: 85 minutes (1 hr, 25 mins)
My Rating –

We have another movie with a social message! This time, Godzilla is literally fighting pollution in the form of a monster made of sludge. I’m not exaggerating, that’s the plot.

I believe this movie is one of the more divisive in the series because of how nuts it is, but that’s part of why I enjoy it so much. We have a radioactive dinosaur fighting a sludge monster alien, intersected with animation that wouldn’t look out of place on Sesame Street, a bunch of hippies dancing to a psychedelic environmentalist song, and Godzilla using his atomic breath to fly backwards. Yes, the tone is inconsistent and the movie beats you over the head with the message, but it’s just so bonkers that I can’t help but love it.

Something I find interesting is that it’s so hard to believe that Japan would need to make movies with strong environmental messages since they have a reputation for being one of the cleanest countries in the world. Back in the early 1970s, Japan had more pollution than in the USA due to rapid industrialisation after the war and the government not checking on waste products. We have environmental messages in everything these days but it is interesting to see that this movie (along with other tokusatsu media) actually made an impact on audiences and led to Japan making a difference.

Godzilla vs GiganGODZILLA VS. GIGAN

Jun Fukuda
Released 1972
Run time: 89 minutes (1 hr, 29 mins)
My Rating –

Before I say anything else about this movie, I have to mention that I can’t stand the opening credits. Showa Godzilla movies don’t always have the most imaginative credits but this one has this awful shrill noise everytime a name appears that hurts my ears.

This is another of the middle of the road movies and we’re getting near to the end of the series so the budgets are getting smaller and it does show at times. A lot of stock footage from previous movies is used and when Gigan and King Ghidorah first appear, they’re obviously models and not suits

That being said, the movie makes up for that by having a strong human cast and I can hardly call this movie boring. Like with the other late Showa movies, the plot is a little silly and reuses the “aliens are controlling the monsters” concept from previous movies, but it has its good moments once the monsters show up.

As the title says, this movie introduces Gigan, who is one of the better villains because of how ferocious a monster he is. He made Godzilla bleed, he’s that vicious. Ghidorah has decayed in power a little, but I always enjoy seeing Ghidorah, so I don’t mind that much.

The special effects here aren’t up to the usual Godzilla par, but they’re not terrible. Other than the Gigan suit, the monster suits are looking a little worse for wear. The Godzilla suit is visibly falling apart from being used so much that it makes sense they would have him be cut by Gigan.

Oh, and Godzilla and Anguirus are able to communicate with each other in this movie through speech bubbles. So that’s something.

Godzilla vs Megalon

GODZILLA VS. MEGALON

Directed by Jun Fukuda
Released 1973
Run time: 81 minutes (1 hr, 21 mins)
My Rating –

Hang in there, friends, we’re on the home stretch!

I have pretty mixed opinions about this movie: on one hand, it has my favourite Showa Godzilla suit design (which you can see in the GIF at the top of this post) and the action scenes are delightfully goofy, but this movie isn’t really about Godzilla and he was just put in for marketing. Plus, this movie was made after Haruo Nakajima (the original Godzilla performer) had retired from suit acting and his presence is missing for me.

Part of me wants to call this one of the worst movies in the series because of how cheap it looks but it’s so camp and silly that it comes full circle into being an enjoyable movie. It’s like watching the Adam West Batman show: you want to hate it for being a goofy title in a more serious franchise, but it’s way too goofy to hate.

This is probably the best one to show kids since it’s so child friendly. There isn’t any complicated politics to confuse them and no blood to scare them, just a couple of shots of a truck with a Playboy centrefold in it for some reason.

I do like Megalon, though. He has a cool design and is a competent fighter when he’s not being restrained by a robot and kicked by a 20,000-ton radioactive dinosaur sliding on his tail. That scene has to be seen to be believed.

Godzilla vs MechagodzillaGODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA

Jun Fukuda
Released 1974
Run time: 84 minutes (1 hr, 24 mins)
My Rating –

While I don’t think this movie is a masterpiece, it is a huge improvement compared to the last couple of movies. I am getting a little tired of the “aliens controlling the villain monster” plot which shows up so often in this series, and there are only so many ways aliens can hide in human society. We’ve had them looking exactly like people, being space cockroaches, and this time they have gorilla faces for some reason.

That being said, I do enjoy Mechagodzilla as a villain. It may seem cliched to have a character fight itself as its “ultimate villain” but Mechagodzilla is ferocious enough to justify that. He breaks Anguirus’ jaw at the beginning of the movie which hurts my soul because Anguirus didn’t deserve that at all.

I’m glad to see Akihiko Hirata back again as a scientist and it’s wild to see how many different characters he played in this one series alone. I don’t think many of his characters are as memorable as Dr Serizawa however.

I guess I should talk about King Caesar, who serves as Godzilla’s ally in this movie, but I barely remember him at all. He has a cool design but he very rarely crosses my mind, especially when he’s so overshadowed by Mechagodzilla.

Terror of Mechagodzilla

TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA

Directed by Ishiro Honda
Released 1975
Run time: 83 minutes (1 hr, 23 mins)
My Rating –

Last movie in this series! It has been a long journey filled with roars and explosions but we made it to the end of the Showa series after fifteen movies. We have Ishiro Honda returning for the finale along with Akira Ifukube who was the original series composer and this movie opening with the classic Godzilla theme tells me that I’m in for a good time.

I prefer this movie to Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla but only slightly. I love the darker movies of the series and this one is darker in tone than the previous movie but it falls victim to having a somewhat forgettable third monster. This time we have Titanosaurus who is set up to be the main threat for most of the movie when Mechagodzilla is the reason why I’m here.

However, I like that the main theme of this movie is revenge and how it can consume someone who is grieving. I’m a little biased towards the darker movies since the first movie is one of my favourites of all time.

The monster fights in this one are also a good time to watch. Seeing Godzilla go up against two enemies instead of one will always be entertaining and while I often forget that Titanosaurus exists, he has a pretty cool design.

Oh, and there are boobs in this movie. They’re not important but I just like pointing that out.

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Have you seen any of the Showa Godzilla movies?

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6 Comments

  1. November 6, 2021 / 3:05 pm

    OMG! This list is priceless and a great reference for anyone looking for Godzilla movies. And yes, another huge fan here who’s probably seen all these at least once! 😉

    • Louise
      Author
      November 7, 2021 / 5:02 pm

      Glad you enjoyed, Alex 😀

  2. November 10, 2021 / 2:51 am

    Oh this is amazing! So glad I found this. And yes to G and Jet Jaguar shaking hands. 🙂

    I’m probably most familiar with the Showa movies since I’ve seen a few of them but no t so many of the newer films. But it’s been years since I’ve seen any of these probably. and I absolutely need to sit down and watch the original film one of these days…

    As a kid one of my frustrations was how long it took to actually get to the monsters haha, so I can relate. As an adult I’ll probably be more patient. 🙂

    I always felt bad for Mothra and wanted her to be safe. And I loved Ghidorah

    I like Megalon too. Godzilla vs Hedorah must have been Godzilla vs the Smog Monster at some point (Americanized?) but I remember that one. Son of Godzilla has the mantises right?

    I loved reading your thoughts on each film, thanks so much for sharing- if there are awards for favorite SciFi Month posts i would nominate this!

    • Louise
      Author
      November 30, 2021 / 3:11 pm

      Definitely watch the original! It’s one of my favourite movies of all time so I can’t recommend it enough 🙂

      Yep, Hedorah was called the Smog Monster in the US title and Son of Godzilla does have the mantises 🙂

      I’m glad you enjoyed it, Greg! 😀

  3. November 10, 2021 / 5:38 am

    I love this! Aside from the original, my favorites from the Show era are definitely Destroy All Monsters and Son of Godzilla. It’s just the cutest to see little Minilla learnk g to be a little monster. I don’t know about you but I’ve always thought Minilla looks like a deranged combination of Baby from Dinosaurs and Thomas the Tank Engine… Or maybe that was just me! 🙂

    • Louise
      Author
      November 30, 2021 / 3:16 pm

      The scenes of Manilla learning how to use his powers are the best part of Son of Godzilla for me, they’re the only times when I find him adorable 😂

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