Godzilla Raids Again (1955)


While Toho was a bit uncomfortable with Ishiro Honda's decision to make a monster movie that also had a bit of a political agenda, the gamble worked.  Godzilla was the third most profitable movie for the studio in 1954.  The re-cut version, Godzilla: King of the Monsters was two years away, so Godzilla was strictly a Japanese phenomena, and so much so that Toho decided it was in their best interest to get a sequel into theaters as quickly as possible. 

Honda had not planned on further movies at the time, even though the possibility of sequels was left open by Professor Yamane (Tokashi Shimura) stating at the end that he was concerned that others of Godzilla's species may be lurking in the depths.  Motoyoshi Oda was brought in to direct Godzilla Raids Again, and right away the tone is different.  It's still in black and white, but Honda used monochrome much the way his friend Akira Kurosawa did, taking advantage with lighting and effects to provide an impact not always available in color.  Oda, on the other hand, films naturally rather than using black and white as a tool.

Despite that it still maintains, at least for the first half, some of the same atmosphere as Godzilla.  Yamane shows up to provide some exposition as well to reiterate that this is a second member of the same species.  The original Godzilla which attacked Tokyo was killed by the Oxygen Destroyer and, since Dr. Serizawa sacrificed himself and has destroyed his work, there is no way to duplicate it.  Also, effects director Eiji Tsuburaya is back, as is Haruo Nakajima inside the Godzilla suit.  This time it is a different design; it's leaner, with strange snaggled teeth, but definitely recognizable.  He still has atomic breath, but this time his dorsal fins do not light up.  

When fish spotting pilot Koji Kobayashi (Minoru Chiaki) has to do an emergency landing on a small island off the coast of Osaka, his partner Shoichi Tsukioka (Hiroshi Koizumi) rescues him.  However, while on the island, they suddenly spot Godzilla.  Rather than roasting the humans, the big guy has another problem: a new monster has attacked him, and the two battle and fall into the sea.  Paleontologists come to the conclusion that the new creature is an ankylosaur, and they name it Anguirus. 

Concerned that Godzilla may attack Osaka, at the urging of Professor Yamane they impose blackout restrictions to avoid lights that may enrage the monster.  A series of events results in an explosion that foils attempts to use flares to guide Godzilla back out to sea, but the flares and explosion have also drawn Anguirus.  The resulting fight between the two monsters destroys a good part of the city, including a cannery owned by Koehi Yamaji (Yukio Kasama), Tsukioka and Kobayashi's boss as well as the father of Tsukioka's fiancĂ© Hidemi (Setsuko Wakayama).  

With the cannery in Osaka out of commission Kobayashi is transferred to work with the fishing fleet in Hokkaido.  When one of their ships disappears it is obvious that Godzilla has found a new hunting ground.  Tsukioka tracks the creature to a small island where the Japanese Air Defense Force attempt to trap it. 

The first half of Godzilla Raids Again is the equal of the first film.  One of the major questions that would pop up in later movies, of how Tokyo is rebuilt so quickly, doesn't come up.  This is, in a rare situation for the original run of movies, a direct sequel that evolves from what happened in the original.  The damage done to Tokyo is still there and they are still rebuilding.  Osaka offers a completely different target with its own distinctive landmarks, and Anguirus is a good monster for Godzilla to fight.  This time around the writers also try to get things a little more right when it comes to dinosaurs, placing Godzilla's origin in the Cretaceous Period, and giving it a foe that could conceivably have been a contemporary.  The only thing out of order is that ankylosaurs were herbivores, not aggressive predators, although given the size and armament of the creature it probably would not have been a good idea to approach one. 

The problem with the movie comes after the fight in Osaka.  Godzilla Raids Again begins to spin its wheels afterward, focusing largely on Kobayashi and then conveniently bringing everyone back together again prior to Godzilla's attack on a fishing boat.  While the fight with Anguirus is one of the longer monster battles there are still large portions where it is simply men sitting around talking about what is happening rather than showing it.  Still, if one is willing to wait out a slow middle, the final battle between the JAFD and Godzilla is worth it. 

Godzilla: King of the Monsters was successful in the United States when re-cut and released in 1956.  Godzilla Raids Again was not released until 1959, and when it was it came out as Gigantis: The Fire Monster, severely re-edited and with narration, and largely notable because some of the dubbing was done by George Takei.  Beyond that it was not well-received, as originally plans had been in motion to make a movie called The Volcano Monsters, which was to be a complete American remake of Godzilla Raids Again.  Releasing it, and renaming Godzilla as Gigantis, was a last-ditch attempt to get some money off the rights of the film.  Thus, for the longest time, this was one of the lesser known entries in the series.  The movie did not do as well in the United States, but was another box office hit in Japan and initially received better reviews than the original. 

I can understand why it was reviewed better as the effects have improved slightly, at least to the point where wires aren't as visible, and there is more focus on the human elements.  Also it seemed that, though rushed, Toho had presented a good ending to the series without letting it drag on.  As a result, the next film featuring the big lizard wouldn't appear until 1963.  This time Ishiro Honda was back in the director's seat, and Godzilla's next foe would be none other than King Kong.

Godzilla Raids Again (1955)
Time: 78 minutes
Starring: Hiroshi Koizumi, Minoru Chiaki, Setsuko Watayama, Haruo Nakajima
Director: Motoyoshi Oda

 

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