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Kaiju Classics - Godzilla Raids Again (1955)
Following the success of Godzilla, Toho Studios quickly began plans for a sequel, introducing a second Godzilla as well as one of the most recognizable monsters in Toho's roster, Angilas. Having occurred in nearly every Godzilla movie apart from the 1984 Heisei film "The Return of Godzilla", this film also introduces what is now a staple of the franchise, a battle between Godzilla and another monster.
Given the inclusion of a new monster and a change in tone from the horrors of the atomic age, how well does this sequel stack up to the masterpiece of the original?
Note: This is a review of the original Japanese "Godzilla Raids Again", not the American "Gigantis, the Fire Monster"
Godzilla Raids Again was created by Toho Studios in 1955 under the direction of Motoyoshi Oda, who had studied under famed directors Akira Kurosawa and Ishiro Honda after enrolling at the Photo Chemical Laboratories, a film company in Tokyo. Among his other famous films was the 1949 "Lady from Hell" and the 1954 "Tomei Ningen", but Godzilla Raids Again would be his only movie to be released theatrically outside of Japan.
Eiji Tsuburaya would return from the first movie as the special effects director and is responsible for the creation of Angilas suits as well as the new suits used for Godzilla. Because Godzilla would be fighting against an opponent, the original, bulky suits used in the first movie were deemed too unsuitable for the range of motions needed, so a thinner, slimmer Godzilla model was created.
Masaru Sato would replace Akira Ifukube as composer for Godzilla Raids Again, being the first of several movies from Toho Studios for him to write scores for, such as Son of Godzilla and Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla. Although Ifukube was not directly involved in the film score, several exerpts from the original Godzilla were utilized in order to help further connect the two films together.
Godzilla Raids Again Trailer
The Cast of Godzilla Raids Again
Shoichi Tsukioka - Hiroshi Koizumi
Kôji Kobayashi - Minoru Chiaki
Hidemi Yamaji - Setsuko Wakayama
Koehi Yamaji - Yukio Kasama
Tajima - Yoshio Tsuchiya
Captain Terasawa - Seijirô Onda
Dr. Tadokoro - Masao Shimizu
Dr. Kyohei Yamane - Takashi Shimura
Two pilots, Shoichi Tsukioka and Kôji Kobayashi, are out over the Pacific in their planes, scouting for large schools of tuna in order to report them back to the fishing company they work for, so as to direct their fishing ships to those coordinates. During one of his passes, the engine in Kobayashi's plane gives out, and he's forced to make a crash landing on a deserted island.
Tsukioka quickly follows Kobayashi down to the island and finds his friend safe, but with a sprained wrist. As Tsukioka starts a fire, the two talk about how the "women", Hidemi Yamaji and Yasuko Inouye, were concerned about Kobayashi when Tsukioka suddenly hears a low roar, causing him to look up to see the giant form of a dinosaur-like monster looming over them. The two quickly rush for safety in a narrow crevase as Tsukioka comments that he's sure the monster is Godzilla, who is now engaged in combat with a similarly massive, quadrupedal creature with a spiked shell. The monsters struggle briefly with one another until they lose their footing at the edge of cliff side they were doing battle on, eventually falling into the ocean.
Tsukioka and Kobayashi quickly return to Osaka and report their discovery to officials. A meeting of Japan's military advisers and top scientists is called, and, as the two pilots begin to go over photos and illustrations of ancient dinosaurs, they come across Godzilla's adversary, an Angilasaurus. Dr. Tadokoro, reading from a book published by a Polish paleontologist, describes Angilasaurus, otherwise known as Angilas, as a carnivorous dinosaur that lived up to 150 million years ago, and had an intense rivalry towards predatory creatures, hence its intense combative nature against Godzilla. It is also revealed that its most vulnerable areas are its chest and abdomen, where its shell cannot protect, and that any attacks should be made in those areas to potentially kill it.
Turning the focus of the meeting to Godzilla, Dr. Kyohei Yamane, who had experienced the previous Godzilla's attack, reveals footage of the creature's attack on Tokyo before admitting that no countermeasure they utilized at the time had any effect on it whatsoever. When asked about the fact that the first Godzilla had been killed, Dr. Yamane comments that it was only due to the Oxygen Destroyer that it now lies dead in Tokyo Bay, but without Dr. Serizawa or his notes on his invention, there's no way they could reproduce one.
Dr. Yamane does comment that a possible course of action might be to lure Godzilla away. During the previous Godzilla's attack, it was noted that it grew angry at emergency lights and was lured by them, and a similar approach could be used again. It is decided that the military will use "light bombs", a special form of flare, to lure Godzilla back out into the ocean should it surface near Japan.
Later, Tsukioka and Hidemi, his fiancée and daughter of Tsukioka's boss, are looking over Osaka from a rooftop, and she laments to him that the silence and stillness of the city is frightening to her. Tsukioka comments that he believes that the city will be safe, but wonders how Tokyo will fare having only recently recovered from the first Godzilla's attack. He then tells her that she'll be able to see it for herself when the threat of the two monsters has passed.
Godzilla's path is revealed to be leading the creature to Osaka, and when it appears in the waters outside of the city that night, all lights in the city are dowsed as the light bomb plan is put into action. The military evacuate the city as they bring in heavy artillery along the coast should the plans with the flares fail. However, the plan seems to be successful, as Godzilla begins to head back out to sea following the light bombs being dropped by passing jets.
A prison transport is being driven to evacuate a number of prisoners to a different location, but the prisoners, feeling that the panic caused by the monsters would be a perfect time for them to escape, covertly signal to one another to jump the guard watching over them before escaping. A number of the prisoners are caught immediately, but three of them manage to commandeer a fuel truck as two officers try to give chase on foot. Tsukioka and Kobayashi, who happen to come along the two officers, quickly pick them up and begin to pursue the truck into an industrial area. Unable to control the truck during the chase, the prisoners crash into one of the industrial tanks, causing a huge explosion that sets the entire facility on fire.
Godzilla turns away from the light bombs towards the flames in the city, and the military open fire on the monster, though their attacks have no effect on it whatsoever. At the same time, Angilas makes its way on shore, and the two monsters quickly resume the battle begun on the island.
The two great creatures clash into one another again and again, biting and clawing their adversaries as their giant forms tear effortlessly through the surrounding buildings. Godzilla repeatedly blasts Angilas with its atomic breath, but the armored dinosaur manages to shake off the searing blasts without issue.
Their fight continues on until they reach Osaka Castle, where Godzilla firmly bites down into its rival's neck, causing the two to topple over into the building, destroying it in the process. Though it flailed about in attempts to loosen the hold on its neck, Angilas's strength began to wane until it collapsed into the water. Godzilla, letting out a roar of victory, sets its opponent on fire with its atomic breath, then turns back towards the ocean and leaves, leaving Osaka in flames and ruin.
Koehi Yamaji, president of the now destroyed tuna company, decides that it will be best to move the location to Hokkaido and has Tsukioka and Kobayashi go out to survey the waters before they find a perfect location for the new company. That night, Tsukioka, Kobayashi, and Hidemi go to an izakaya, a drinking establishment, in Hokkaido and find that Kobayashi has invited Captain Terasawa and Tajima, members of the Osaka Defense Corps and old friends of Tsukioka's, to come and celebrate his impending wedding. However, news soon arrives that one of the company's fishing ships has been destroyed by Godzilla, and Tsukioka quickly leaves to try to find Godzilla.
He eventually finds the monster heading towards an icy island and then returns to Osaka as Kobayashi takes over surveillance on the area, informing Terasawa and Tajima that Godzilla is making its way inland. It's decided that they might be able to bomb the area around the only opening into the island after Godzilla enters it in order to trap the monster there, and several jets are sent out. However, their plan is unsuccessful, and Godzilla begins to slowly make its way back out through the pass. Kobayashi, realizing that if Godzilla escapes, they may never get a chance to beat him, flies his plane down through the pass to get the monster's attention and turn him back inward. However, the monster blasts the pilot's plane and causes it to crash into the mountainside, causing a small avalanche that rains ice and snow onto it. Initially upset by the loss of his best friend, Tsukioka sees what happened with the explosion and tells Tajima to bomb the mountainside to bury Godzilla.
They manage to halfway bury the great monster, but the jets ran out of bombs before they could succeed, so they return to Osaka to re-arm. At the same time, a plan is made to line the mouth of the pass with fuel barrels and set them on fire to prevent Godzilla from escaping. The plan is set into action, and the jets, re-fueled and re-armed, begin to pelt the mountainsides with missiles, sending tons of ice and snow down onto the monster. Godzilla manages to destroy a number of the passing jets with its atomic breath, but their attacks continue relentlessly until it is all but completely submerged under the snow.
Tsukioka, given a jet after insisting to Tajima and Terasawa that he needed to be there, makes his approach and fires his missiles into the top of the mountain, sending the last waves of ice down onto the monster and encasing it in a bitter cold. Looking onward with tears in his eyes, Tsukioka looks out at the sky and solemnly speaks to his dead friend about their triumph.
"Kobayashi, we buried Godzilla for you."
The Effects and Music
As such a big fan of the original film, I felt that the majority of the special effects for this movie were a huge step backward. The sets and miniatures retained the Tsuburaya level of quality, looking very convincing in most every shot they were utilized in, and when they needed to be destroyed, the destruction was fairly realistic. A few of the set scenes had some pretty noticeable issues though, such as when the jets were firing at the mountain at the end of the movie in order to bury Godzilla. A number of times, when the "explosion" happened, you could see a black wire bounce outward from beneath the snow, likely a cable supplying power to the squib used to produce the explosion effect.
The major step backwards from the original was, in my opinion, the new suit design for Godzilla. Although it is meant to be the second monster of the species and obviously won't look identical to the original, there's too significant of a difference between the two designs in my opinion. I understand the reasoning for the slimming down of the suit to allow the suit actor to have a wider range of motion during the fight scenes, but my issue is mostly in the re-design of the head. The design of the original Godzilla's head was very animal-like and conveyed a dinosaur appearance while at the same time giving a sense of foreboding evil. There was a feeling of emotionless cold that the design of the original had.
With the new design, the eyes were brought closer to the front of the face like a human, and the eyes were given more human-like qualities as well. The neck was also slimmed down too much and didn't flow as effectively from the head to the torso.
Angilas's design was the better of the two, as it resembled the armored ankyolosaurus on which the monster was based, though the execution of the suit had some issues. A number of times during the fight between Godzilla and Angilas, the "shell" would bounce up off the body a bit, hurting the effect of it being a part of its body. If it only happened once or twice during the film it wouldn't be an issue, but in nearly every scene that shows Angilas from behind, the slightest movement by the monster would cause the shell to pop up.
To convey a sense of frantic ferocity to their battle, Eiji Tsuburaya suggested that the footage of Godzilla fighting Angilas in Osaka be sped up, so a good deal of their battle is shown in a sped up format. Combining this with many angles directly to the side of the monsters really hurt any attempts to convey a sense of size to the creatures. In the original Godzilla, the majority of the scenes filmed of the monster were done closer towards the ground while facing upward, and the footage itself was filmed with a slow-motion camera in order to help give the feeling that it's a giant, lumbering monster. With the change in angles and the increase in footage speed, the opposite effect occurs, and it looks more like people in suits fighting rather than actual monsters.
Masaru Sato's music is, for the lack of a better word, adequate. It doesn't effectively convey the same level of emotion and atmosphere that Ifukube's original and, while itself not terrible music in itself, isn't used properly in the majority of the scenes that it accompanies. The main theme, for example, is very lively and fast paced, but a number of the scenes that employ have little to no action in them whatsoever, leaving the two at odds.
What's your opinion of the Godzilla redesign?
Though it has a number of things working for it, this is definitely one of the weaker entries in the Showa series of Godzilla movies. The serious and gritty tone of the original movie is almost completely absent, and the "main event" of the film, the battle between Godzilla and Angilas, isn't executed effectively. From the moment the two are introduced, the film is setting up for the two to have a major, devastating battle, but the actual fight between the two is rather disappointing for multiple reasons. The fight between them is, in comparison to every major fight in a Godzilla movie after this one, very brief, even if you take into account the sped up footage, but what hurts it the most is where it's placed. Godzilla and Angilas's battle takes place roughly halfway into the movie, with the rest of the film focusing on defeating Godzilla, and with the entire first half setting up that battle, the second half seems very uninspired.
However, where the effects and monsters fell short, I felt that the human element, as a whole, was very strong. Even though it could be argued that he wasn't the "main" character, I found Kobayashi to be the most likeable and natural character in the film. He wasn't a military officer or anyone of great importance, but was an everyday sort of man that didn't hesitate for a second when he needed to be a hero. Tsukioka was also a very genuine individual, defiant when he felt the need to be, and willing to do whatever it took to avenge his closest friend.
If you're not a fan of Godzilla or giant monster movies, this isn't one that will change your mind, and even if you are a fan of the genre and Godzilla in particular, this isn't one I would advocate watching more than once. It's an interesting film and the human characters are very well written and acted, but Godzilla, Angilas, and their battles aren't very appealing, especially taking into consideration the films to follow. I can accept that it was Toho's first attempt at a movie like this and therefore wouldn't be perfect, but the execution as a whole left a lot to be desired.