Haruo Nakajima in behind the scenes photograph from the set of Godzilla Raids Again.

“With a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound he pulls the spitting high tension wires down. Helpless people on a subway train scream bug-eyed as he looks in on them. He picks up a bus and he throws it back down As he wades through the buildings toward the center of town.” This is the opening stanza to the song “Godzilla,” a 1977 hit by American rock group Blue Oyster Cult about arguably the most famous movie monster of all-time.

Yesterday at the age of 88, Haruo Nakajima, the man who first donned the iconic rubber suit, died reportedly of pneumonia. While he had roles in other monster films, the monsters themselves called kaiju, including Mothra in the eponymous 1961 film, “Godzilla” remains his most famous work.

Nakajima played the irradiated terror no less than twelve separate times between the monster’s 1954 debut and 1972’s “Godzilla vs Gigan” (which I will admit openly is one of my favorite kaiju films). It feels ironic that Nakajima’s death coincides roughly with the anniversary of the atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki given that he became famous for his role in which his character sought to wreak havoc on Tokyo with his atomic breath.

The way that the Godzilla movies were made used a technique called tokusatsu which involved actors such as Nakajima dressing in suits and doing the action scenes, destroying models of the buildings featured in the films.

Following his retirement in the 1970s, Toho, the company responsible for the invention of the character with which he is now forever linked, made over 20 additional Godzilla films ensuring that even though nuclear weapons have not been used in roughly three-quarters of a century, and Mr. Nakajima retired over 40 years ago, that the fabled roar of his most famous role will live on.

Featured Image via Wikimedia Commons