Godzilla 1954

Celebrate Godzilla's 60th anniversary with the original film's return to theaters

Contributed by
Feb 19, 2014, 3:15 PM EST (Updated)

Just one month ahead of the release of a massive new reboot, the original Japanese cut of Godzilla will return to U.S. theaters in honor of its 60th anniversary.

A new restoration of the 1954 film will debut on April 12 at the fifth annual TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood, followed by a national release that will kick off on April 18 with a weeklong run at New York City's Film Forum.

Why is this important? Because the original Godzilla -- actual title Gojira -- directed by the great Ishiro Honda, is a very different film from the version released in the U.S. in 1956 as Godzilla, King of the Monsters

The original Gojira was a dark, somber and powerful cry of anguish over the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, filtered through the metaphor of Godzilla as untamed nuclear power. Scenes of radiation burn victims and sobbing children amid the wreckage of Tokyo still pack an incredible punch today.

They were also a little too much for the U.S. distributor, who thought that the explicit references to the atomic attacks against Japan were anti-American in nature. Nearly a third of the original film was removed and replaced with scenes of Raymond Burr as an American reporter covering Godzilla's rampage on the ground in Japan. 

While the 1954 film -- which features an all-Japanese cast -- is available on Blu-ray thanks to the Criterion Collection, it has only been screened sporadically in the U.S., making this a fantastic opportunity for fans to catch up to a film that is now widely regarded among the greatest examples of Japanese cinema.

Gojira/Godzilla is also the movie that launched the kaiju genre and, after decades of sequels, spinoffs and remakes, it arguably remains the best. And it may be the perfect film to see before director Gareth Edwards (Monsters) unleashes his own vision of the king of the monsters on May 16. 

Godzilla is back!