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Artwork copyright (c) 1954 Toho Co., Ltd.; review copyright (c) 2004 James Southall



Fiftieth anniversary edition of Japanese classic


To mark the fiftieth anniversary of the movie, La-La Land Records has released on CD Akira Ifukube's score for the iconic first Godzilla movie, released in Japan in 1954.  For all its relatively serious Hiroshima/Nagasaki allegory, I can't really fail to note how silly it all is, and that the fact that so many grown men seem so excited by it all is really rather frightening.  At last count, there have been eight hundred and sixty thousand sequels, of increasing silliness, with many of them scored by Ifukube.  His "selected filmography", presented inside the album packaging, includes such classics as King Kong vs Godzilla, Dagora the Space Monster, Zatoichi and the Chess Expert and Godzilla vs Destroyah, in which the great green monster was finally killed off, only to be resurrected by the mighty Roland Emmerich in his risible American version shortly thereafter.

The problem with many of these iconic film scores is that they're only really iconic because the films are, and for those who are not fans of the films the music is likely to have no appeal whatsoever.  Fortunately, Ifukube's work is on a higher level and, while there are certainly a few odd moments, in general this is fine music.  The gradually-building, tension-filled main theme is a good example of how to score impending doom and its larger-than-life, brassy sound brings to mind some of John Barry's James Bond scores of the following decade.  There are some big marches and thunderous action but, surprisingly, it is in the softer, emotional moments that the music is at its best.  "Tragic Sight of the Imperial Capital" is a genuinely moving piece of music, really quite beautiful, and one may be forgiven for thinking that it would represent the emotional peak of the story, if only it weren't for the unbelievably anguished, extraordinary "Prayer for Peace", which is - and I don't say this lightly - as moving as anything put together by Ifukube's legendary Hollywood contemporaries in their biblical epics.

Sound quality is slightly tinny mono, though it's generally fine and perfrectly acceptable considering it's half a century old.  Liner notes are by David Hirsch and are interesting enough (though his knowledge of Japanese monster films is slightly more than I would expect a well-respected man to admit) and there are also tributes from the writer/director Don Coscarelli and the erudite Harry Knowles.  It's quite good and worth picking up.

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  1. Godzilla Approaches (SFX) (:49)
  2. Godzilla (1:31)
  3. Ship Music / Sinking of Eikou-Maru (1:06)
  4. Sinking of Bingou-Maru (:23)
  5. Anxieties on Ootojima Island (:50)
  6. Ootojima Temple Festival (1:21)
  7. Stormy Ootojima Island (1:53)
  8. Theme for Ootojima Island (:34)
  9. Japanese Army March I (:42)
  10. Horror of the Water Tank (:42)
  11. Godzilla Comes Ashore (1:52)
  12. Godzilla's Rampage (2:25)
  13. Desperate Broadcast (1:12)
  14. Godzilla Comes to Tokyo Bay (1:25)
  15. Intercept Godzilla (1:27)
  16. Tragic Sight of the Imperial Capital (2:18)
  17. Oxygen Destroyer (3:11)
  18. Prayer for Peace (2:48)
  19. Japanese Army March II (:21)
  20. Godzilla at the Ocean Floor (6:20)
  21. Ending (1:41)
  22. Godzilla Leaving (SFX) (1:04)
  23. Godzilla (film version) (2:03)
  24. First Landing (film version) (3:37)
  25. Tokyo in Flames (film version) (2:17)
  26. Last Assault (film version) (2:21)