Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Godzilla!

The signature Japanese monster was introduced in 1954 as a cautionary tale about nuclear weapons.

And he rapidly became an international phenomenon. In fact, Godzilla movies are still being made today - there's one scheduled for release in 2019. Kaiju - the Japanese word for monster - has developed a specific meaning in English and we talk about kaiju movies.

In 1954 there was no CGI and not really any animatronics. So, how did they do the monster?

The answer: A stuntman in a suit. And the man they hired was Haruo Nakajima - who had four credits as a stuntman in Samurai movies at the time. He was given no briefing on how to play the monster - so he spent hours at the zoo, looking at elephants, bears and other creatures to create the distinctive gait (and, of course, the distinctive victory dance).

Most people who aren't serious monster movie fans don't even know Nakajima's name (a common fate for stuntmen) - even though he played Godzilla 12 times and also took a turn as King Kong, Baragon, Matango, Rodan...basically, he played monsters (and on occasion swordsmen). He retired from acting in 1973, no doubt exhausted from all of those rubber suits. His last outing as Godzilla was in Godzilla vs. Gigan.

Nakajima died this week at the age of 88 after a struggle with pneumonia. I'm going to go attempt that dance now. Doesn't work as well without the rubber suit.