Talking to other people about seeing the original Japanese Godzilla* I mentioned how dark the film was. The looked back incredulously saying that it is a film about a giant monster destroying Tokyo, of course it is dark. Perhaps my friends don’t get giant monster movies.

Dinosaurs vs robots = fun seems obvious to me, but perhaps enjoying a big meaningless fight is restricted to certain kinds of genre fan. Perhaps the nuclear holocaust subtext of Godzilla is so plain that it is impossible to enjoy the sheer (fake) destruction. But Godzilla, whilst played perfectly straight, is well aware of how much fun destroying buildings is. Whilst its anti-war, anti-weapon, anti-nuclear line is less a subtext than a raison d’etre, it becomes clear in the Tokyo destruction sequence that THIS is what the film is really about. Destroying stuff is safe on film because it is not real. Its almost as if halfway through making it, the film-makers realised this.

The ending with the underwater anti-oxygen bomb is therefore a massive anti-climax (also because it lingers on the hopeless love triangle storyline). It is also nicely paradoxical: inventing deadly weapons created Godzilla but an even more dangerous weapon destroys him. But Godzilla has already invented its own genre by this point, and later Godzilla films understand that it is the fighting and destroying that brings us in. A comparison with King Kong is instructive, but at this point at least there is no attempt to anthropomorphasize Godzilla. He is a force of nature: and nature is pissed off. And like King Kong, it has a great last line too: I have a feeling we have not seen the last of Godzilla. Unlike Raymond Burr.

*Well, I guess the original Japanese print probably did not have English translations of what the characters said at the bottom of the film.