Leapin' Lizards!

Updated August 5, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

Does the Return of Godzilla Mean Anything Big?

by Alicia Potter

As any film theorist will tell you, a monster is never just a monster. Indeed, ever since an army of sci-fi films invaded the '50s, cinematic creatures have roared and ravaged as symbols of our most dogged cultural fears–communism, the nuclear age, technology's advance. Leading the pack of these moviehouse miscreants is, of course, that 250-foot, 400-ton, fire-spewing dino-mutant, Godzilla.

Monster as Metaphor

The great beast first reared his scaly head in the 1954 Japanese film Godzilla, King of the Monsters. Hopelessly hokey, the film's bathtub special effects and poor splicing of Raymond Burr into an all-Japanese cast still inspire peals of Mystery Science Theater-style snickering. However, the origins of this Saturday-matinee standby are anything but funny. In fact, the original Godzilla–or Gojira, as he's known in Japan–hatched from the real-life horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the film, the misunderstood monster rouses from his prehistoric state of suspended sleep when atomic-bomb experiments rock his underwater abode. Confused and more than a little mad, Godzilla rampages Tokyo, leaving a truly frightening tableau of bloody bodies and burning wreckage in his wake.

It breeds...

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