Godzilla: The Showa-Era Synopsis
The Godzilla: The Showa-Era films begins in 1954. An enormous beast clawed its way out of the sea, destroying everything in its path—and changing movies forever. The arresting original Godzilla soon gave rise to an entire monster-movie genre (kaiju eiga), but the King of the Monsters continued to reign supreme: in fourteen fiercely entertaining sequels over the next two decades, Godzilla defended its throne against a host of other formidable creatures, transforming from a terrifying symbol of nuclear annihilation into a benevolent (if still belligerent) Earth protector. Collected here for the first time are all fifteen Godzilla films of Japan’s Showa era, in a landmark set showcasing the technical wizardry, fantastical storytelling, and indomitable international appeal that established the most iconic giant monster the cinema has ever seen.
Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films In This Set
Godzilla (a.k.a. Gojira) is the roaring granddaddy of all monster movies. It’s also a remarkably humane and melancholy drama, made in Japan at a time when the country was reeling from nuclear attack and H-bomb testing in the Pacific. Its rampaging radioactive beast, the poignant embodiment of an entire population’s fears, became a beloved international icon of destruction, spawning almost thirty sequels. A thrilling, tactile spectacle that continues to be a cult phenomenon, the original, 1954 Japanese version is presented here, along with Godzilla, King of the Monsters, the 1956 “Americanized” version.
Godzilla Raids Again (1955)
Toho Studios followed the enormous success of the original Godzilla with this sequel, efficiently directed by Motoyoshi Oda as a straight-ahead monsters-on-the-loose drama. An underrated standout among the Showa Godzilla films, Godzilla Raids Again introduces the monster-versus-monster format that would dominate the remainder of the series, pitting Godzilla against the ferocious, spiny Anguirus as the kaiju wreak havoc in the streets of Osaka in a series of elaborate set pieces that succeed in upping the ante for destruction.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters! (1956)
Journalist Steve Martin is in route to Cairo for an assignment when he stop off in Tokyo for a personal visit. While there, the local media begins to report on strange happenings at sea with ships being destroyed and entire crews being lost. Steve decides to investigate and travels to a remote Japanese island where he encounters a gigantic prehistoric beast, dubbed Godzilla, which has apparently been awakened by H-bomb testing. Godzilla soon appears in Tokyo harbor but several attempts to destroy it fail and the city is destroyed. The only remaining hope is a new weapon that maybe more destructive than Godzilla himself.
King Kong vs. Godzilla (1963)
After his first two cinematic rampages, Godzilla was revived as an adversary for the Hollywood import King Kong. When Kong is discovered on a remote island by a publicity-hungry pharmaceutical company, the giant ape is set on a collision course with Godzilla, and Japan braces for a double dose of devastation. Both the Japanese-release version and the U.S.-release cut were rousing hits, cementing Godzilla’s status as a series-worthy star.
Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)
Mothra vs. Godzilla begins when a hurricane blows Mothra’s egg off Infant Island; causing it to drift to Japan. Banzo Torhata wants to make money off the find, but when Mothra’s twin priestesses show up, they plead with him to return the egg. They say once the larva hatches, they will cause great damage in its search of food. Torahata refuses before trying to kidnap the fairies. So they track down two reporters named Ichiro Sakai and Junko Nakanishi to see if they can persuade Torahata to return the egg. Torahata still refuses! Elsewhere, Godzilla wakes to begin another rampage. Now, Japan’s only hope is for Mothra to return to save her unhatched offspring, and Japan in the process as well.
Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)
Strange meteorites hit the planet around Japan. One large meteorite lands near Mount Kurodake while Princess Salno jumps from a plane over the ocean just prior to an explosion that destroys the plane. Miraculously, Salno survives but has no memory of her former life and claims to be from the planet Venus. She begins predicting a series of catastrophes around Japan including the devastating return of both Rodan and Godzilla, as well as predicting the arrival of King Ghidorah, the three-headed monster who could destroy the Earth.
Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965)
In Invasion of Astro-Monster, aliens from the mysterious Planet X hidden on the dark side of of Jupiter, come to Earth. They ask humanity to let them borrow Godzilla and Rodan to help save their world from the dreaded King Ghidrah. However, the aliens actually plan to use the monsters to take over our planet.
Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966)
On a secluded island in the South Seas, a group of castaways stumble upon a paramilitary organization whose nefarious nuclear activities threaten the world at large—and set the stage for kaiju clashes involving Godzilla, Mothra, and the giant crustacean Ebirah.
Son of Godzilla (1967)
A Japanese reporter is returning home in a plane when the craft is mysteriously effected by a beam of energy coming from a small island in the South Pacific. The plane alters course and drops the reporter off on the island to investigate. The reporter discovers the island actually contains a team of scientists who are working on a weather-controlling system, as well as a several giant monsters. However, when the mighty Godzilla arrives on the island, the scientists learn that the island actually contains additional secrets that may threaten not just the experiment, but the lives of every man and woman on the island.
Read the full summary, and listen to our film review on 10/7/2021.
Destroy All Monsters (1968)
The original Godzilla team of director Ishiro Honda, special-effects supervisor Eiji Tsuburaya, and composer Akira Ifukube reunited for this kaiju extravaganza, which features no fewer than eleven monsters. Set in the remote future of 1999, when the people of Earth have achieved world peace by confining destructive creatures to Monsterland (until an alien race intervenes), Destroy All Monsters mounts a thrilling display of innovative action sequences and memorable images that have made it a favorite for generations of viewers.
All Monsters Attack (1969)
Director Ishiro Honda returned again for the first Godzilla movie expressly for children. Economizing by reusing effects shots from other films in the series, All Monster Attack tells the story of Ichiro, a lonely latchkey kid who finds solace in his dreams of befriending Minilla, the titular progeny of Son of Godzilla, whose parent is also often absent. In this thoughtful, human-scale story, boy and monster learn together what it means to grow up.
Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971)
Intended to address the crisis levels of pollution in postwar Japan, Godzilla vs. Hedorah finds the King of the Monsters fighting an alien life form that arrives on Earth and steadily grows by feeding on industrial waste. Director Yoshimitsu Banno infuses the film with equal parts ecological horror, humorous monster antics, and sixties psychedelia straight out of San Francisco, making for a truly unique—and divisive—entry in the series.
Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)
An alien invasion prompts a tag-team battle between Godzilla and Anguirus, the planet protectors, and King Ghidorah and the new monster Gigan, a cyborg with scythe-like claws, an abdominal buzz saw, winglike back fins, and pincerlike mandibles. In this action-packed film, which veers from the sublime to the ridiculous, the cockroachlike aliens—disguised as humans—use Gigan and King Ghidorah as weapons of conquest in their plot to take over a contaminated Earth.
Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973)
Nuclear testing unleashes mayhem on the undersea kingdom of Seatopia, causing a series of environmental disasters that nearly wipes out Rokuro, the schoolboy protagonist at the center of this film. To exact revenge, Seatopia unleashes Megalon, a gigantic beetle with the ability to fire ray beams and napalm bombs. Meanwhile, Rokuro’s brother creates Jet Jaguar, a flying robot with a built-in moral compass. The inevitable matchup of Godzilla and Jet Jaguar versus Megalon and Gigan decides the world’s fate.
Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)
Godzilla’s evil twin Mechagodzilla first reared its head in this Jun Fukuda–directed film. A robot designed by aliens to conquer Earth, the enduringly popular villain has since been resurrected by Toho Studios several times. With the help of earnest direction, spectacular pyrotechnics, and guest appearances by veteran genre actors, this film recaptures the feel of the sixties Godzilla movies.
Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)
In Godzilla’s last gasp of the Showa era, aliens retrieve Mechagodzilla’s remains and rebuild it with the aid of an unhinged biologist (a scenery-chewing Akihiko Hirata), in hopes of defeating Godzilla for possession of planet Earth. This film marked the return of director Ishiro Honda, who had retired years earlier, disheartened by the increasingly kid-friendly approach of the series. For this final entry, Honda steers the King of the Monsters back into grim territory, interweaving an alien-invasion plot with a tale of tragic romance.
Godzilla: The Showa-Era’s Eight-Blu-rays Feature
- High-definition digital transfers of all fifteen Godzilla films made between 1954 and 1975, released together for the first time, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks
- High-definition digital transfers of Godzilla, King of the Monsters, the 1956 U.S.-release version of Godzilla; and the 1962 Japanese-release version of King Kong vs. Godzilla, presented with its original 4.0 surround soundtrack.
- Audio commentaries from 2011 on Godzilla and Godzilla, King of the Monsters featuring film historian David Kalat
- International English-language dub tracks for Invasion of Astro-Monster, Son of Godzilla, Destroy All Monsters, Godzilla vs. Megalon, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, and Terror of Mechagodzilla
- Directors Guild of Japan interview with director Ishiro Honda, conducted by director Yoshimitsu Banno in 1990
- Featurette detailing Godzilla’s photographic effects
- Toho Unused Special Effects Complete Collection, a 1986 documentary featuring archival making-of footage; scenes deleted from films including Destroy All Monsters, King Kong vs. Godzilla, and Mothra vs. Godzilla; and interviews with Honda, producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, special-effects director Teruyoshi Nakano, and others
- New interview with filmmaker Alex Cox about his admiration for the Showa-era Godzilla films
- New and archival interviews with cast and crew members, including actors Bin Furuya, Tsugutoshi Komada, Haruo Nakajima, and Akira Takarada; composer Akira Ifukube; and effects technicians Yoshio Irie and Eizo Kaimai
- Interview with critic Tadao Sato from 2011
- Illustrated audio essay from 2011 about the real-life tragedy that inspired Godzilla
- New English subtitle translations
- PLUS: A lavishly illustrated deluxe hardcover book featuring an essay by cinema historian Steve Ryfle, notes on the films by cinema historian Ed Godziszewski, and new illustrations by Arthur Adams, Sophie Campbell, Becky Cloonan, Jorge Coelho, Geof Darrow, Simon Gane, Robert Goodin, Benjamin Marra, Monarobot, Takashi Okazaki, Angela Rizza, Yuko Shimizu, Bill Sienkiewicz, Katsuya Terada, Ronald Wimberly, and Chris Wisnia
Learn more about the Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films on their official Criterion page.