The Showa Era
We’ve finally reached the end of the Showa Era of Godzilla movies, spanning fifteen films made between 1954 and 1975, and it only took me seven months to review them all!
The process of doing so was one of pure enjoyment as I rediscovered childhood classics that I found I still held love for, such as Destroy All Monsters and Terror of Mechagodzilla, and found new Godzilla movies I had not seen before that I ended up loving, like Godzilla (1954) and Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla. Then there were those I thought I’d dislike but ended up quite enjoying, mainly Mothra vs Godzilla, but also the likes of Invasion of Astro Monster and Ebirah Horror of the Deep. On the flip side were the films I thought for sure I’d enjoy, but ended up outright not liking at all; Godzilla vs Gigan and Ghidorah the Three headed Monster, mainly. Finally were those that were so infamous I pretty much knew I wouldn’t enjoy them; Godzilla Raids Again and All Monsters attack (big yikes for both of those). Of course there are many others I reviewed that all fit into these categories as well, and I’m glad to say that I had a blast reviewing them.
Getting to see Godzilla grow from this hyper serious threat into a lovable childish icon, and then get stuck somewhere in between by the end of it all was genuinely a fascinating sight. The Godzilla FAQ by Brian Solomon (a book I recommend fans take a look at) notes that Mothra vs Godzilla was the last time the character was an outright villain in the Showa Era movies. But one cannot help but notice that in the immediate following film – Ghidorah the Three Headed Monster and the sequel, Invasion of Astro Monster, Godzilla’s own motivations for saving the Earth are entirely selfish, and he often shows a huge disregard for human life as he does so… Kind of like a certain other depiction of the character in the American Monsterverse. Even so far as Ebirah Horror of the Deep – one of Fukuda’s more light hearted adventure stories – the characters fear Godzilla and must outright escape from him, with the help of Mothra, by the end of the movie. And in Son of Godzilla there is so little interaction between him and the humans that you really can’t tell his moral stance on the whole burning Japan to the ground thing.
Thusly, I would argue the first time we see Godzilla take the role of the hero – a selfless role that one takes because they know their actions will be for the good of all – was in Destroy All Monsters. Despite blowing a lot of stuff up in that movie, the guy was under mind control from aliens, and the moment the mind control ends he commits himself to unearthing the last alien base on the planet and absolutely wrecking it in order to protect his home and fellow monsters. It was thereafter that he settled into the hero role, first as a tough-loving dad in All Monsters Attack, and more overtly so in a lot of the monster schlock that followed it in the 70’s. Albeit, Ishiro Honda did attempt to make the character more intimidating and less of a joke, while still keeping him in the role of the hero, in Terror of Mechagodzilla.
The Showa Era was quite a sad tale in the way – a story of a Japanese cultural icon soaring through popularity and eventually into the role of a “has-been” character that just couldn’t keep up with the times, who eventually settled into an extended retirement following a bust at the box office. But by no means does this make the Showa Era any less entertaining. I’ve gone on at length about the differences in style between the series two primary directors Ishiro Honda and Jun Fukuda, both who bring very different types of talent to their respected films, but we must not forget some of the other unsung directors of this era:
- Motoyoshi Oda who directed Godzilla Raids Again because, as boring as I found the film to be, I do recall complimenting it for having an excellent finale that was genuinely enjoyable.
- Thomas Montgomery who made the American version of King Kong vs Godzilla by adding various new scenes to Ishiro Honda’s work. While some of these scenes fell flat and were purely meaningless exposition, there were one or two that at least gave me a better idea of the trajectory of the story.
- Yoshimitsu Banno who directed Godzilla vs Hedorah. Though far from the most impressive film in the franchise, and the one that gave way to the schlock to follow it, one cannot fault Banno for taking a stagnating franchise and trying his hardest to do something new with it through the truly unique villain, and the attempt to make Godzilla feel more contemporary (at the time) by giving it an anti-pollution message… Even if that message did fall flat on it’s face more often than not.
The result of all these directors, for all their strengths and faults, are a collection of often similar films about monsters fighting that all feel just stylistically different enough to stop you from getting bored of watching them all. And I think it is for this reason that I am so fond of the Showa Era.
Of course I will be reviewing the Hesei Era of Godzilla movies, there is no doubt about it. But I won’t be doing it right away. I do live in the UK after all, and Toho apparently hates that fact. It’s extremely hard to get hold of the Heisei movies without purchasing a region free DVD player and the rest of it. Those things shouldn’t be hard to get online, but the truth is that I feel like I need a bit of a break from the franchise before I dive back into it again.
Movie reviews will still be frequent and I have a VERY long list of one’s I’d like to get to, as well as some other franchises just as bizarre as Godzilla that I’d like to talk about. It’s entirely possible I’ll systematically work my way through another franchise before I return to Godzilla reviews as, believe it or not, I do have interests outside of big lizards with blue fire breath.
But for now, thank you to all those who have read my Godzilla reviews and gone on this long review process with me! I hope you stick around for the future.
Finally, I am going to leave the final ranking list of the Showa Era films below for all to reference back to; It is ranked from best to worst and contains all of the movies made between 1954 and 1975.
- Destroy All Monsters (1968)
- Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965)
- Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla (1974)
- King Kong vs Godzilla (1963)
- Mothra vs Godzilla (1964)
- Godzilla (1954)
- Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)
- Ebirah Horror of the Deep (1966)
- Son of Godzilla (1967)
- Godzilla vs Megalon (1973)
- Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster (1964)
- Godzilla vs Hedorah (1971)
- Godzilla vs Gigan (1972)
- All Monsters Attack (1969)
- Godzilla Raids Again (1955)
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