In 1954 two films were released in Japan that would have everlasting effects on the cinema, world wide and American pop culture. Although coming from the same shore each film’s director had drastically different styles and careers but they both shared a lifetime friendship.
The films were Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai & Ishiro Honda’s Gojira or better know as Godzilla.
Both films at the time were high grossing films in Japan and both would very shortly be imported to America.
Seven Samurai would be hailed as a brilliant artistic achievement and play in high brow art houses in its original form with English subtitles. In contrast Gojira was retitled Godzilla King of the Monster was heavily edited with additional newly created scenes and was released in B movie houses. Both film would be well received in America and become classics as well.
Seven Samurai is a tale of peasant farmers who hire wondering Samurai to protect them from an outlaw band of thieves. The story has been copied dozens of times since its release. The films director Akira Kurosawa who already had fame in his own country would gain the reputation of a master film maker in America as well and would have many other well renowned films and also influence many young American films makers.
Godzilla is a icon of movie monsters, and would appear in sequel after sequel for the next fifty years. This films director Ishiro Honda although would not have the reputation of Akira Kurosawa would have a long standing career making similar types of films and owned Japaneses science fiction films during the 50s, 60s and 70s. And later in life would work closely with his good friend Akira Kurosawa.
I was first introduced to Godzilla as a child watching Creature Double Feature on channel 56 in Boston. I loved that show and it created in me a deep admiration for Japanese Monster movies. At that age I did not appreciate that the bulk of these films were directed by Honda, I just thought Godzilla was cool, something above the rest of the other giant monster movies that aired on the same program on a regular basis.
I did not see Seven Samurai until I was in my mid twenties. I was amazed by the scope and the depth of this film, and was well aware from the start who the director of this film was. Shortly after I devoured all of the Kurosawa films.
Its funny that many of these films were made in a similar time period and from the same studio. Good examples of the range of different types and quality of Japanese films out there.
As I have gotten older I have gained a great appreciation for Foreign films and it all started with Godzilla and other Japaneses monster movies and grew from there to other Japanese films and other languages.
Recently many of Ishiro Honda’s films have been released on Dvd in both the original Japanese language with subtitles and the English language edited version, many with commentaries. The Akira Kurosawa films are all readily available in Japanese Language with English subtitles, many with commentaries.
I highly recommend both these directors works and suggest that you rent a few and give them a try:)