You could probably argue that this monster movie is a bit too straightforward in its message — the dangers of a nuclear world can unleash terrifying consequences! — but given the context for the film, it’s pretty understandable. There’s a sub-plot about the moral qualms attendant on technological progress in the field of mass destruction, and at no point is it ever unclear what the reasons for all this hand-wringing are, so you can understand why it was heavily recut on original release for the non-Japanese market, given it hits perhaps a little close to home. Still plenty of other movies of the 50s were trading on the fears of an atomic age, including a number of the most prominent American sci-fi and horror features (along with noir gems like Kiss Me Deadly), so it’s not such a big gap to this Japanese film. Of course, the effects now look pretty dated, but the human drama is clear (this isn’t the only film of 1954 from the Criterion Collection that allegorises Japan’s place in the world and stars Takashi Shimura in a leading role, and it may be my favourite of those) and the sense of night-time Tokyo is strong.
FILM REVIEW: Criterion Collection
Director Ishiro Honda 本多猪四郎; Writers Takeo Murata 村田武雄 and Honda; Cinematographer Masao Tamai 玉井正夫; Starring Akira Takarada 宝田明, Momoko Kochi 河内桃子, Takashi Shimura 志村喬; Length 96 minutes.
Seen at home (Blu-ray), Wellington, Saturday 3 December 2022.