'Godzilla' at 50 is longer and better than ever

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The 50th-anniversary restored print of the Japanese film Godzilla, premiering in Baltimore tomorrow, is strong enough to overcome Gen-X memories of the jokey 1998 American remake, which starred a computer-generated megalizard, and haunting enough to clear baby-boomers' minds of the dubbed and cut American-release version that filled Yankee TV schedules in the 1950s and '60s.

Director Inoshiro Honda's 1954 original has genuine pulp magic: Time has not diminished its tabloid docu-horror allure. H-bomb tests awaken a 400-foot sea dragon and send him wobbling into Tokyo, crushing trains and swatting down fighter planes like a fire-breathing King Kong.

The monster is obviously an actor in a rubber suit, but the destruction is smashing in every sense of the word, and Honda ladles out dollops of crude pop poetry, whether in his medieval mode (smoky tableaux of a remote Japanese island) or his futuristic one (an oxygen-depleting chemical sending fish skeletons plummeting to the bottom of a tank).

In the underwater climax, the slow-moving Godzilla is as glacially creepy as the dragon in Fritz Lang's Die Nibelungen. Plus, the new print restores 40 minutes never before seen in the United States and excises Raymond Burr's tacked-on role as an American reporter. So the immortal Takashi Shimura of The Seven Samurai emerges as the indisputable star.

The screenings take place tomorrow at noon and Thursday at 9 p.m. as part of the Charles' weekly revival series; for more information go to www.the charles.com.

'Third Man' redux

The Carol Reed-Graham Greene masterpiece of international suspense, The Third Man, set in postwar Vienna, plays locally for the second time in a month as the subject of January's Filmtalk at the Enoch Pratt Film Library Saturday. (The screening starts at 10 a.m. at Wheeler Auditorium; coffee and tea are available.)

Here's a suggested topic for debate: The one speech Orson Welles definitely contributed to the piece is the sole patch of grandiloquent hogwash in an otherwise exquisite, subtly ironic script.

It's the famous one that Welles delivers as villain Harry Lime: "Don't be so gloomy. After all, it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

Amazingly, for this gaudy, oh-so-jaded rhetoric, many writers have assigned Welles credit for the overall mood and look of the movie. For extra credit (and entertainment), Filmtalkers should see Reed's The Fallen Idol (Greene wrote that one, too) and Odd Man Out.

Cinema Sundays

Baltimore's preview-and-discussion series returns with The Assassination of Richard Nixon, Niels Mueller's fact-inspired movie starring Sean Penn as a failed American dreamer who channels his quiet rage and disappointment into a plan to kill the 37th president.

Co-starring Naomi Watts as the antihero's estranged wife, the movie also features Don Cheadle as his best friend and a jolting climax at BWI.

Doors open for bagels and coffee at 9:45 a.m.; the film starts at 10:35 a.m. Admission: $15. Information: www.cinema sundays.com.

CAmm Slamm

Creative Alliance Moviemakers pay tribute to "what a group of crazed filmmakers can do in a weekend" with Camm Slam rerun, a program of 10-minute shorts produced in that time-span for a contest last October, including the grand prize-winner, Dyke Squad, a mini-epic about sci-fi lesbian superheroes. The fun starts at 8 p.m. at Creative Alliance at the Patterson, 3134 Eastern Ave. Admission: $8 ($5 for members). Information: www.creativealliance.org.

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