Is it time to bring back the giant monster movie? Given the dismal state of the world at the moment and the general amount of fear and hopelessness in the air, the time couldn't be better. The next question, then, would be: what do giant monster movies have to do with current events? Just about everything, it turns out. The first two giant monster movies, The Mysterious Island (1929) and King Kong (1933) coincided with the Great Depression. Perhaps audiences found it cathartic to pin their invisible troubles on a visible beast. Giant monster movies took a breather for a while until the 1950s, when looming threats of atomic energy and Communism sent ordinary citizens into fits of terror. A virtual army of giant beasties stomped and swam forth from drive-ins and Saturday matinees all through the decade, from the beloved: The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), Them! (1954) and It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955) to the wretched: Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), Earth vs. the Spider (1958) and The Giant Gila Monster (1959).
Japan added their smash-hit Godzilla franchise, spawning dozens of movies and various spinoffs. In the US, Godzilla was just another giant monster movie, and was released in 1956, edited, dubbed, re-titled "King of the Monsters" and riddled with new footage of American actor Raymond Burr. Of course, Hollywood chipped in with its big-budget American version in 1998, but times here were fairly good (at least in retrospect) and the movie failed to enter the zeitgeist. However, in 2004 the original, unedited, subtitled Godzilla opened for its 50th anniversary re-release. Critics in honest-to-goodness newspapers reviewed it and found it excellent, including an all-out rave from David Sterritt in the Christian Science Monitor, and positive reviews in the Washington Post and the Boston Globe. (Only Roger Ebert turned up his nose, while turning down his thumb.)