Filmed in 1954 as Gojira, this grandaddy of all Japanese giant-reptile epics was picked up for American distribution two years later, at which time several newly filmed inserts, featuring Raymond Burr as reporter Steve Martin, were rabetted into the original footage. In both the Japanese and American versions of Godzilla, the story is basically the same: a 400-foot amphibious monster, brought back to life by underwater nuclear testing, goes on a rampage in a tinker-toy Tokyo. An eccentric scientist (Takashi Shimura) does his best to destroy the beast with his heretofore discredited invention, the Oxygen Destroyer. Though Godzilla is apparently disintegrated in the climax, this didn't prevent Toho Studios from grinding out an endless series of sequels with the title character becoming less destructive and more lovable with each subsequent film. Hampered by a low budget which precluded stop-motion animation, special-effects wizard Eiji Tsuburaya was forced to rely upon an actor (Haru Nakajima) in a rubber Godzilla suit. Incidentally, the name "Gojira", a combination of "gorilla" and "kujira", is Japanese slang for "big clumsy ox" and was allegedly the nickname of one of the Toho stagehands.
by Hal Erickson synopsis