Godzilla. King of the Monsters. Owner of the longest movie franchise in history (take that, James Bond!). If you’ve never heard of him, you must’ve been living in a cave for the last 60 years. Whether you’re a cave-dweller or not, I’m going to give you a little history lesson so that we’re all on the same page. (Emphasis on “little”; I highly recommend reading the Wikipedia articles on both the character and franchise!)
First, the name. Godzilla is the English-language name for what is known in Japanese as Gojira (ゴジラ). From Wikipedia, “Gojira (ゴジラ) is a portmanteau of the Japanese words: gorira (ゴリラ, “gorilla”), and kujira (鯨（クジラ）, “whale”)”. I’m American and I’m writing in English, so it will be “Godzilla” for me.
The original Godzilla movie, “Gojira”, came out (in Japan) in 1954. Two years later, a heavily edited version with new scenes featuring actor Raymond Burr was released as “Godzilla, King of the Monsters” in America. These two releases differ so greatly that the IMDb lists them as two separate movies.
Most of the subsequent sequels got an American release with far less editing, although they frequently had English titles that bore little resemblance to the original Japanese ones.
Toho kept cranking out Godzilla flicks until 1975, at which time they suspended production. Nearly ten years later, in 1984, a new Godzilla movie was released in Japan titled simply “Gojira“. This movie’s continuity threw out all of the previous Godzilla films except the first; it was, in effect, a direct sequel to the first film. Interestingly, just as was done with the first film, the American producers heavily edited it and inserted new scenes featuring Raymond Burr (again) playing the same character he had played 30 years prior. The IMDb lists them as only one film, though (the American title is “Godzilla 1985”).
This series of movies only ran for about ten years, with production going on hiatus after 1995’s “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah”. The pause was shorter also, as a third series began with 1999’s “Godzilla 2000”. Several more films were made up through the last Godzilla movie, 2004’s “Godzilla: Final Wars”.
These three runs of Godzilla movies are known as the Showa, Heisei and Millenium series. In all, Toho produced 28 Godzilla films. That would be the end of our little history lesson, except for three things….
In 1992, TriStar Pictures (I won’t link to them!) acquired the rights to make an American Godzilla movie, which they did in 1998. It. Did. Not. Go. Well. It went so badly, in fact, that once the rights reverted back to Toho, they renamed the American “Godzilla” (notice the scare quotes) “Zilla”, and made him just another monster in their vast collection distinct from the real Godzilla. They (the real Godzilla and “Zilla”) even have a brief fight in “Final Wars”. Fortunately for all of humanity, the two planned sequels never materialized.
Having learned nothing from the previous fiasco, Toho once again allowed an American company to make a Godzilla movie in 2014. This one was by Legendary Pictures. A sequel is in the works, slated to be released in 2019.
OK, that’s two, what’s the third thing? Spurred on by the success of the Legendary Films movie, Toho has for the third time rebooted their own series and has released the first new Japanese Godzilla film in 12 years, “Godzilla Resurgence”.
Now that we have all of that out of the way, I’m going to tell you the reason I created this post. My friend Mike watched and liked the Legendary Pictures movie, and urged me to watch it also. I was leery, because I actually paid money to see the 1998 TriStar abomination with Mike. To get him to stop bothering me, I made him a deal. I would watch the 2014 movie, but not until I had seen all of the 28 Toho movies first, in order.
To tell the truth, I wanted to see all of them anyway. I had always been a fan, but like most Americans had never seen all or even most of them. Some of them (*cough*, Biollante, *cough*) had never even had an American release. Well, along came Toho and their release of all 28 movies on Blu-Ray in one package! As a bonus, these were all the original Japanese cuts, in the original Japanese language. Now, I don’t speak or understand Japanese, but regardless of their provenance I prefer to watch foreign-language films in their original language with English subtitles.
Last month, one week before the official release of Toho Godzilla #29, I finished watching “Final Wars”. It took me two years, but I did it. Now I am obliged to watch the 2014 movie. I am sure I will get around to it before the sequel is released in another three years.