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Monster Gallery: Godzilla (1954)


The detonation of the nuclear bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not instantly kill all their victims. While those closest to the blast radius were instantly vaporized, many had to succumb to their wounds in the following hours. Among the horrors witnessed by the survivors, the most poignant ones have to be the so-called ‘ant-walking alligators’, people deformed to an extreme by the exposure to the explosion. Bombing survivor Tsutomu Yamaguchi described them as men and women who “were now eyeless and faceless — with their heads transformed into blackened alligator hides displaying red holes, indicating mouths. The alligator people did not scream. Their mouths could not form the sounds. The noise they made was worse than screaming. They uttered a continuous murmur — like locusts on a midsummer night.”

The idea of Godzilla was first conceived by producer of the film Tomoyuki Tanaka in early 1954, one year after the release of The Beast from 20.000 Fathoms. The film had not yet opened in Japan, but Tanaka was at the very least familiar with its story — and the concept of a giant monster linked with nuclear weaponry resonated with him. The core idea of the project was thus that of a creature that represented a physical manifestation of the atomic bomb — a ghost of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Tanaka recalled in retrospect: “the theme of the film, from the beginning, was the terror of the bomb. Mankind had created the bomb, and now nature was going to take revenge on mankind.”

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