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© Carollynn Tice /

Begin Cutting

Everywhere in the bleached walls of the laboratory—the sterile linoleum flooring, the burnished metal of dissection tables, the zippered white bags used to veil the dead, the gleaming instruments used to cut them open—I saw the landscape of a story into which I was being written.

Godzilla’s Footprint

In summer 2004, fifty years after its debut, Godzilla played in cinemas all across the United States for the first time. Not the heavily reedited cult classic starring Raymond Burr but the original, Japanese-language picture that first unspooled in Tokyo on November 3, 1954, and has rarely been seen outside Japan in the five decades since then. The critics called it a revelation, and instead of complaining about bad dubbing and tacky special effects (Godzilla's two enduring claims to infamy), they praised the film's thinly veiled depiction of a nuclear holocaust, its documentary-style realism, its overpowering sadness, and of course its monster-mash entertainment value. A reviewer for said it best: "Godzilla is the most emotionally resonant fake monster movie ever made."

Here Be Monsters

In this issue, George Garrett reflects on his loopy and ill-fated role in writing one of these pictures. (In Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster the aliens aren't just after earth women; they're singling out go-go dancers!) These movies feel like high camp to us today, a kind of kitsch that seems trapped in time, but what held thousands of viewers at drive-ins across America in thrall? Surely, it didn't feel safe and distant then. It must have something to do with deep-seated anxieties about the future of our own planet, about our place in an uncompromising universe. Or even new parts of the world we thought we knew. Steve Ryfle, in his essay on Godzilla, reveals that the original 1954 Japanese version of the film—before the bad overdubbing and the cheeseball scenes with Raymond Burr inserted—was an overt commentary on the dangers we pose to ourselves in the nuclear age. The film's central figure, a scientist, has developed a weapon more terrible than the bomb and faces the dilemma of whether or not to use it against the monster awoken from the ocean floor by an atomic test. If we unleash this weapon, won't it only lead to another? Won't every new unknown be more horrific than the last?