More Godzilla. More monsters
Godzilla Raids Again is the 1955 sequel to the 1954 classic original, Godzilla. This one stars a new monster, Anguirus, and introduces the concept of monster vs. monster, which would become a staple in nearly every Godzilla movie from then on. The movie was released in the United States under the title, Gigantis the Fire Monster, and was heavily altered. Some changes include an opening prologue with footage of atomic bombs, and footage from educational films and earlier U.S. films displaying dinosaurs, which were played before footage from the 1954 Godzilla.
Once again, the United States got its grubby little paws on what seems like a perfectly harmless Japanese monster movie and altered it in ways that are easily noticeable if played adjacent to the Japanese version. Like the 1954 Godzilla, I am reviewing the Japanese version, because it's pretty much a different film altogether, and a superior one at that.
The surprising truth is that Godzilla would go into a 7 year hiatus after the release of this film. During that hiatus, Toho decided to experiment with various other monster flicks, such as Rodan, Mothra, Varan the Unbelievable, and The Mysterians. Every monster that appeared in these non-Godzilla films would eventually be staged alongside Godzilla in future films, some more than others. It's cool that Toho was able to focus on other monsters for a while, but were people already sick of Godzilla after just two movies? Was Godzilla Raids Again really that bad? It is far from being the absolute worst Godzilla movie, but the film is at fault for having the dark tone and horrifying atmosphere of the previous film vanish without a trace. A lot of that would have to do with how rushed the film was with its production. It came out a mere six months after Godzilla was released.
The films opens with two pilots flying over the ocean, searching for fish to be given to a tuna cannery company. One of the pilots has his plane malfunction, and is forced to make an emergency landing on a nearby island. The other pilot gets word of what happened, and lands on the island as well. While there, the two pilots come across Godzilla, but notice that Godzilla is engaged in a battle with another monster. The two monsters fall from a cliff into the water and disappear. The two pilots get back to shore and learn that not only is the Godzilla they saw another member of its kind, but that the other monster that Godzilla was fighting is another ancient creature called Anguirus. Kyohei Yamane (Takashi Shimura), who witnessed Godzilla's destruction of Tokyo from the previous movie, is pessimistic because he knows that there is no longer a sufficient way for Japan to kill Godzilla. He proposes using flares to draw Godzilla away from shore, knowing that Godzilla is attracted to bright lights. This plans works, until a group of foolish criminals try a getaway, resulting in a massive fire breaking out in Osaka, which lures Godzilla back. As Godzilla is about to tear apart Osaka, Anguirus arrives and engages Godzilla in a fierce battle.
Godzilla Raids Again can be put in this way: a great Godzilla movie is trapped inside the body of a so-so Godzilla movie. For every good attribute that the film has, there is a disappointing one to go along with it. Godzilla has an entertaining fight with Anguirus, but the fight surprisingly happens barely halfway into the movie. The final sequence in which pilots attempt to bury Godzilla in snow is preceded by uninteresting character drama that drags on far longer than necessary.
- The fight between Godzilla and Anguirus is easily the best part of the film. The fight is effective because Godzilla and Anguirus really do fight like two wild animals that are trying to kill each other. Anguirus keeps trying to bite at Godzilla's neck, while Godzilla keeps trying to hold Anguirus down. Some might say that the fight looks awkward because, at times, it looks as if Godzilla and Anguirus are just pushing and shoving with no real coordination. These are savage animals. How in the world would they know how to punch and kick the way a martial artist would? My dog once got into a fight with a groundhog, and she didn't try doing crazy kung-fu moves on it. I would vouch for saying that this fight is one of the better ones in the franchise, because it perfectly embodies what a fight might look like between two animals that can't stand each other. Plus, buildings get destroyed left and right, which is where all of the building smashing is within the film. A Godzilla movie isn't a Godzilla movie without buildings getting destroyed.
- Anguirus barely gets any attention, outside of when he's fighting Godzilla and when some characters are reading a book about him early on. There's not a lot of intrigue and curiosity about Anguirus, and if characters talked about him more than they actually do, he could've served a better purpose than being just a monstrous plot device.
- The dark tone and horror aspect from the previous film are flat-out gone. Godzilla fighting Anguirus and destroying Osaka fits into popcorn entertainment instead of pure terror. There's no moment of characters watching the monsters fighting and quoting Colonel Kurtz, "The horror. The horror." There's even a supposedly happy moment of the main characters laughing and joking not long after the monster fight ends. I guess the choir of girls demanded too much of a pay raise.
- There are some signs of cheapness throughout the film. Godzilla travels to a snowy island near the end of the movie, and we get some overhead shots where he looks like a tiny black shadow that is standing totally still. There also isn't a notable shot that gives a sense of how large that the monsters really are. The first movie had several shots with Godzilla being filmed at a low angle while people are running and screaming. I don't know about you, but I think giant monsters are much more terrifying when you get some sense of how big that they are made out to be.
It's not that Godzilla Raids Again is terrible, it's that it is heavily disappointing, especially because of how soon that it follows Godzilla. The film is quite short at only around 80 minutes, so it's not like you can be overly upset if you feel like it's a waste of time. The big monster fight is entertaining, but the human characters are forgettable and provide an awkward gap between the monster fight and the film's final sequence. There is a great Godzilla movie stuck inside somewhere, and maybe if this movie wasn't speed lined to the theaters, that great Godzilla flick could've been found.
Recommend? No, but the film is totally watchable if you're really curious
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: