While you’d be wise to be wary of any new Godzilla remakes, especially considering that 1998 Matthew Broderick trainwreck, the one hitting theaters Friday is getting some seriously good buzz. To give you a little perspective on how far things have come in the sixty years since the original, we dug up some fascinating facts about the 1954 film that started it all.
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1. The opening was inspired by actual events.
With the devastating bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima still a fresh memory, Godzilla served as a metaphor for the dangers of nuclear weapons. In fact, the opening scene where the monster attacks a shipping vessel was a direct reference to a real-life incident: a Japanese tuna fishing boat, the Lucky Dragon 5, was accidentally contaminated by the fallout of an American atomic bomb test in the Bikini Atoll.
2. The name "Godzilla" is actually a portmanteau.
It’s the botched English translation of the Japanese portmanteau for Gorilla and Whale (the two creatures it was initially intended to resemble).
3. Budget constraints prevented them from using state-of-the-art visual effects of the era.
The production company originally wanted to use stop-motion animation, but to keep costs down they had to get clever. They put an actor in a giant rubber monster suit, had him stomp around on a detailed miniature set of Tokyo, and called it “Suitmation."
4. Unlike many of its sequels, the original film received high praise within the industry.
It was nominated for Best Picture by the Japan Movie Association, though it ultimately lost to Seven Samurai. Kurosawa, how dare you.
5. He gets celebrity treatment.
While he may not be the only monster on there, Godzilla joins the ranks of Big Bird and The Simpsons as one of just a handful of fictional characters to have their name on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
6. James Bond ain’t got nothin’ on Godzilla.
In terms of a franchise, there have been many more films made about the murderous reptile than the martini-swilling spy. Toho itself — the production company behind the original — produced 28 in all. Bond clocks in at 23.
7. Godzilla’s roar was made with a leather glove.
That iconic sound was created by rubbing a leather glove along the strings of a double bass, then manipulating it in an echo chamber.
8. The monster was played by two different people.
The original film hired two actors to perform, allowing them to trade off duties when heat and exhaustion set in. They also portrayed regular citizens in at least one scene together.
9. Before Andy Serkis, there was Haruo Nakajima.
After wearing the suit in the original, Nakajima went on to play the monster in every subsequent Godzilla film through 1972.
10. The suit was nasty.
It weighed 200 pounds and was so hot and suffocating Nakajima fainted several times while filming. It wasn’t uncommon for them to drain a cup of his sweat from it at the end of the day. Weirdest hot yoga ever.
11. The version Americans saw was slightly different from the original cut.
The American release was heavily re-edited to appeal to Western audiences, adding scenes with Raymond Burr (a.k.a. the future Perry Mason), who also dubbed the narration.
Joe McGauley is a senior editor at Supercompressor. He thought the 1998 remake was an abomination, but Green Day's "Brain Stew" in the action sequences was perfect.