Today’s Loser Film Review: Godzilla

I just saw a great pitcher. Outside it was 100º. Inside our air-conditioned theater, a cool 52º. Well, not really 52º — more like 65º. But I thought this would be a good segue to mentioning that Gareth Edwards’s new blockbuster Godzilla, playing in most formats and dimensions (I saw it in 1-D wearing a monocle), is a remake of the 1952 Joan Crawford noir thriller Sudden Fear. Surprised? So was I. Here’s my evidence.

1. Good remakes are of course quite rare. Successful ones toss out the playbook of the original. They’re good precisely because they are not mere reproductions-by-numbers. The best ones are both subtly and radically different from the originals on which they’re based. For example, Human Desire (1954) is a cleverly disguised remake of Jean Renoir’s La Bête Humaine (1938). But you would never know, because the name of the hero, Jacques Lantier (played by Gabin in the original), was very slyly altered to Jeff Warren in the updated Glenn Ford vehicle. Also, Human Desire is in English, not French. In Godzilla, Crawford’s character is reprised by the richly talented Elizabeth Olsen who, though she nails the stunned, deer-in-the-headlights glaze-over that was Crawford’s trademark, does so with a completely different hairstyle. Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

2. Godzilla’s shriek is indistinguishable from Gloria Grahame’s, apart from the minor red herring of — you gotta stay alert, folks! — Godzilla’s shriek being seven or eight octaves lower than Grahame’s.

3. The Golden Gate Bridge is clearly visible in both pitchers, a dead give-away most viewers will fail to notice.

4. Joan Crawford lives on one of San Francisco’s famous hills, as does Olsen’s character, although — clever, clever! — not the same famous hill.

5. In the new Godzilla a three-hundred-foot mechanical lizard bursts out of the ocean, and this happens so eerily late in the story, you may begin to wonder whether you’d entered the wrong door of your multiplex. Likewise, in Sudden Fear, it’s almost three-quarters into the drama when a three-inch mechanical puppy, wound to the breaking-point by Jack Palance’s Lester Blaine, scampers across the floor of Miss Grahame’s murky apartment.

I rest my case, as Raymond Burr (notable for his star turn in 1956’s re-edited-for-white-people Godzilla, King of Monsters!) would have put it.

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