This week’s release of the original 1954 Japanese Godzilla (Gojira) on Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection is a major step in recognition for the film in the US. Yes, that’s the Criterion Collection, the premiere quality home video release company, acknowledging that Godzilla is a world cinema classic.
As a life-long Godzilla and giant monster fanatic, I can tell you what a long journey we’ve taken to get to this point. When I became feverishly interested in Japanese fantasy cinema, beyond the boyhood love, in my early twenties, Godzilla and its brethren had almost zero respect in North America. And zero quality home video releases. Even as the awful Roland Emmerich Godzilla hit screens to howls of hatred, there was no corresponding move to get the real films out to North American viewers in editions with subtitles and decent widescreen presentations.
In the mid-2000s, the shift started. The original Godzilla, not the Americanized version with Raymond Burr, got a theatrical stateside release, and then a DVD from Classic Media. G-Fans such as myself were finally freed from having to see the movie on bootleg VHS tapes and could recommend it easily to friends, promising them that the Japanese original would blow their mind with its quality. Now, we’re getting into the big-time cineaste world with Hi-Def and the Criterion Collection.
However, I’d like to temper my enthusiasm for 1954’s Godzilla with this statement: although a great film, it is not my favorite Godzilla movie, nor is it representative of the series.…