Monday, July 25, 2005

a screaming comes across the sky

.... In 1953, Tanaka Tomoyuki, a young film producer working for the Toho Film Studio, was assigned to produce a film entitled In the Shadow of Honor, a Japanese –Indonesian co-production. It was a story about a former Japanese soldier who stayed on following Japan's surrender and participated in the Indonesian independence movement. However, rising diplomatic tensions between the Japanese and Indonesian governments forced the canceling of the project before filming began. With a substantial sum of money allocated for the project, Tanaka had to find a quick alternative project to utilize this budget to make an attractive popular film. Tanaka was a visionary who later produced some of Kurosawa Akira’s best films such as Yojimbo, Sanjuro, and Aka-hige (Red Beard). Facing this crisis, he decided to take advantage of a recent incident that was had captured the popular imagination. That was the hydrogen bomb test Bravo shot that the U.S. conducted on Rongelap (or Bikini) Atoll in the Marshall Islands in March 1954. The radioactive fallout from the test enveloped a Japanese fishing boat called the 5th Lucky Dragon with deadly effects. Influenced by the popular success in 1952 of the re-release of the 1933 classic film King Kong, Tanaka set out to film a giant monster film like The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, the 1953 American film. [...]

Godzilla's preference for darkness and intense dislike of light evokes the behavior B-29 bombers, which flew at night and sought to evade searchlight beams. From the raid on Tokyo on March 10, 1945, Brigadier General Curtis LeMay, the Commander of the XXI Bomber Command, changed U.S. bombing strategy from precision bombing during the day to carpet bombing with recently developed napalm bombs at night. The U.S. carried out “saturation bombing” until the end of the war in August 1945, repeatedly attacking cities from Hokkaido to Okinawa, including Tokyo, Kawasaki, Nagoya, Osaka, Kobe, Fukuoka and Naha. More than 100 cities were destroyed, causing one million casualties, including more than half a million deaths, the majority being civilians, many of them women and children. Indiscriminate bombing reached its peak with the use of atomic weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, Truman's claim to the contrary notwithstanding. Of course, many Japanese who saw the original Godzilla film had first hand experience of aerial bombing and had lost relatives and friends as a result.

In one scene, a boy cries “Chikusho (“You brute”), watching Godzilla stalking away towards the ocean from Tokyo Bay after a rampage. This scene vividly reminded the audience of B-29 bombers flying off after dropping tens of thousands of bombs on their urban target. The film includes scenes of people trying to escape carrying household goods, of a burning city, of injured people being brought into a safe shelter, and of screaming children. These pictures evoked the horror of napalm attacks in cities throughout Japan. [...] it all: Godzilla and the Bravo Shot: Who Created and Killed the Monster?, History News Network, 25 July 2005