The man in the original Godzilla costume walked off into the sea. Haruo Nakajima died of pneumonia on August 7th. He was 88-years-old and had been in the Godzilla suit 12 times from 1954 to 1972, first donning the famous Godzilla suit for the 1954 movie “Godzilla“.
Godzilla has always been a favorite of mine. He always stomped a city like the true king he is and Haruo Nakajima was behind that majestic stomp.
Nakajima last played Godzilla in 1972 for the film “Godzilla vs Gigan“; however, he played a number of other monsters (as well as other roles, including a bandit in “Seven Samurai“) during his career, including King Kong in “King Kong Escapes“. An Andy Serkis for the giant monster set.
He has played Rodan – a giant Pteranodon (a monster he almost drown portraying), Moguera – a giant fighting mecha beast, Varan – a gliding lizard Godzilla wanna be, Baragon , a liquid person H-Man, Magma – a giant walrus, a mutated mushroom Matango, a flying lion, a giant rat, and Gezora – a giant cuttlefish.
That’s a lot of monstering for one guy.
In honor of the man who first brought Godzilla, that lovable metaphor, symbol and pop icon to life on-screen (go ahead and take a moment to remember Nagasaki today – 72 years later), I decided to watch one of Nakajima’s non-Godzilla films, “The War of the Gargantuas“.
“The War of the Gargantuas” is a semi-sequel to “Frankenstein Conquers the World” with Nakajima as one of two Frankensteins (Gargantuan in the US version) born from the cells of the titular monster in the first film.
The two giant brothers battle it out. Nakajima is the violent, green, sea gargantua, Gaira. The gentle, brown, mountain brother Sanda is the defender of Tokyo.
I just got back from a family gathering this past weekend. When I heard that Nakajima had passed, naturally I thought of brothers fighting and so to “The War of the Gargantuas”. I’m still not sure which brother I am. I guess we’ll just have to duke it out. Winner gets to be the hero.
Is it any wonder that the brother grew up mean when little Sanda was getting the full spoiled little monster treatment? Gaira really excels in throwing angry tantrums, but Sanda still loved the big, green galoot. At least until he found Gaira eating some boaters. I guess Sanda doesn’t like between meal snacking.
This movie gets overlooked in the pantheon of Japanese monster flicks, but it’s one of the better ones. Any movie that starts with a kraken attack is solid in my book.
You might recognize Russ Tamblyn (you might not, I certainly never did), the actor playing gargantua expert Dr. Paul Stewart, as Riff, the leader of the Jets in West Side Story. See how far you can go if you leave the streets behind?
Dr. Paul’s assistant Akemi Togawa is played by Kumi Mizuno, a legend in Godzilla films who may or may not have been romanced by Godzilla in Godzilla vs the Sea Monster – a movie that was originally meant to have Kong, who we know is quite the player. Nakajima wore a wetsuit under the Godzilla outfit for all the scenes Godzilla was in the water ripping the claws off the giant lobster. Nakajima was a pro. I’m sure there was a vat of clarified butter already warming over a fire pit.
Two brothers fighting, a city under attack, a Pan Am flight, probing into secrets, Science!, and the great maser ray gun. As the trailer says, “filmed in absolute realism”. You just can’t beat that.
It all ends in smoke and fire, but what doesn’t?