I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Akira Ifukube -- Godzilla (ゴジラ)

Before running home from junior high school with my friends to catch "Star Blazers" (aka Space Cruiser Yamato), I used to run home from elementary school (luckily a 3-minute run at most since my apartment building was across the sidewalk from the school) during Monster Week.

Monster Week, you say? Well, the local Buffalo affiliate of NBC had a show in the late afternoon which broadcast old movies, but once in a while, the theme for the week was Japanese monsters. And heck, boys and kaiju were always a great match. I think the first one I saw was "Monster Zero" which was known in Japan as "Kaiju Dai Senso"(怪獣大戦争...The Great Monster War) and officially known now as "Invasion of Astro-Monster". The late Nick Adams was in there, along with the hilarious dubbing, but the stars of course were Godzilla, Rodan and King Ghidorah duking it out.

I read on the "Dark Horizons" movie website that this year is Godzilla's 60th birthday. So, the big green guy is celebrating a yellow diamond anniversary, eh? Then, I think it's time to also celebrate his/her/its epic theme song. Yep, those urgent strings and horns signalling that something of dreaded nature is stomping its way to a fragile city near you. We Godzilla fans should thank movie score composer Akira Ifukube(伊福部 昭)for the theme. The Hokkaido native actually majored in forestry at Hokkaido University while practicing composing in his spare time. He finally became a professional composer near the end of World War II after suffering from radiation exposure due to his duty of performing X-rays without the necessary lead protection.

His first of more than 250 film scores was for the 1947 movie "The End of the Silver Mountains", but the big one for Ifukube was the one for the very first "Godzilla" movie in 1954. I remember watching the version that had Raymond Burr (the future Perry Mason and Ironside) spliced in for the English-language version of the movie, and realizing that this movie was a whole lot more serious on the dangers of the new nuclear age than the near-campy stuff from Monster Week. Ifukube was also the one who came up with the iconic Godzilla roar which was produced by "....rubbing a resin-colored glove over the loosened strings of a double-bass". He even generated the monster's footstomps via an amplifier box.

I caught J.J. Abrams' "Cloverfield" when I was living in Japan, and although I didn't think the film managed to quite live up to the hype, I did love Michael Giacchino's tribute to Ifukube's masterpiece via "ROAR".

You can take a look at the above patchwork battle royale among Godzilla, Ghidorah, Rodan, MechaGodzilla and spiky little Anguirus. The music from around 40 seconds into the clip was what I'd thought was the original Godzilla theme.

As I mentioned at the top, 2014 is Godzilla's 60th. However, it would also have been Ifukube's 100th birthday at the end of May this year. Unfortunately, he passed away at the age of 92 in 2006.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to provide any comments (pro or con). Just be civil about it.