If you enjoy those Godzilla movies where our gigantic reptilian hero fights a nonstop collection of colossal creatures, each more ridiculous than the last, you might be surprised by the original “Godzilla.”

If you enjoy those Godzilla movies where our gigantic reptilian hero fights a nonstop collection of colossal creatures, each more ridiculous than the last, you might be surprised by the original “Godzilla.”

Because, trust me, it’s really not that kind of movie.

For one thing, the original “Godzilla” is in stark black-and-white, looking more like one of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s samurai dramas than your run-of-the-mill monster movie. But even more striking is how the original “Godzilla” isn’t so much something suited for the Late Night Horror Show as it is a serious, sometimes somber reaction to Japan’s radioactive past.

The thing to keep in mind is that the original “Godzilla” was first released in 1954, less than a decade after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were hit with what remain the only nuclear weapons ever used in war.

More to the point, “Godzilla” was released the same year that a Japanese fishing ship sailed into waters surrounding an American H-bomb test and the crew developed radiation sickness. A similar event kicks off the action in “Godzilla” and leads to the rebirth of the monster, a dinosaur warped and awakened by the most dangerous force of the 20th century.

Make no mistake: In this movie, Godzilla isn’t some silly sci-fi creation. He’s the dangers of radiation given the shape of a giant, fire-breathing lizard. And when he’s rampaging through Japan, it doesn’t look silly or campy. Those scenes of citizens fleeing as the city burns behind them have become a creature feature cliché, but back in 1954, they looked unsettlingly like recent history.

Of course, even with all that radioactive baggage, “Godzilla” is still a movie about a giant monster, and it’s a good one at that. The non-monster parts feature some interesting characters played, believe it or not, by some of Japan’s finest actors, and the monster parts still have an eerie, ominous power despite the sometimes crude special effects. You can enjoy the sight of a big lizard wreaking havoc without considering the sociological implications — but, to be honest, it’s more interesting when you think about why you’re watching — and why it was filmed in the first place.

That’s what’s so great about the new Criterion DVD/Blu-ray release of “Godzilla.” Not only does it feature a top-notch print of the film — as one expert says, this is just what original Japanese audiences saw back in 1954 — but it puts everything in context, with entertaining commentary from Godzilla expert David Kalat, interviews with actors and special effects men, and other informational features. Plus, the disc includes “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” the 1956 Americanized version of the movie. The differences go way beyond the English dubbing — as you might guess, there’s a lot less talk about Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the U.S.A. version.

Read Will Pfeifer’s Movie Man blog at rrstar.com/blogs/willpfeifer/ or email him at wpfeifer@rrstar.com.