Godzilla Raids Again

∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗

(5/10) After the success of Gojira, Toho rushed its next Godzilla film into production, led by quickie director Motoyoshi Oda. Godzilla and Anguirus/Angilas battle it out in Osaka and Hokkaido, while special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya conjures up his own Japanese air force to take the monsters out. Not as thought-provoking or grim as the original film, nor as campy as the later kaiju movies, this money-grabber is still a well-made, though not very well written, transitional film.

Godzilla and Anguirus battling it out in Godzilla Raids Again.

Godzilla and Anguirus battling it out in Godzilla Raids Again.

Godzilla Raids Again (1955, Japan). Directed by Motoyoshi Oda. Written by Takeo Murata, Shigeaki Hidaka, Shigeru Kayama. Starring: Hiroshi Koizumi, Setsuko Wakayama, Minoru Chiaki, Mayuri Mokusho, Masao Shimizu, Yukio Kasama, Takashi Shimura, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Haruo Nakajima, Katsumi Tezuka. Produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka for Toho Company.
IMDb rating: 6.0/10. Tomatometer: N/A. Metacritic: N/A. 

Poster.

Poster.

In 1954 Toho studio released Gojira (review), a film that went over budget and that the studio hoped would make back production costs. Nobody at the studio could anticipate the enormous success of this stark, frightening allegory of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, represented by a giant, radioactive dinosaur. Despite mostly bad reviews from the press and accusations that the filmmakers were profiting on a national trauma, the audience turned up in droves. The film’s box office earnings almost tripled its cost, making it the eighth most viewed film in Japan in 1954. It was supposed to be a one-off, as Godzilla died in the end, but as soon as producer Tomoyuki Tanaka saw the lines to the ticket vendors, he decided there had to be a sequel – and fast. Almost as soon as the opening night of Gojira was over, Toho went into high gear to produce Godzilla Raids Again (ゴジラの逆襲, Gojira no gyakushû, literally: Counterattack of Gojira, released in the US as Gigantis: The Fire Monster).

The film opens with two pilots spotting fish for a fish cannery factory, Soichi Tsukioka (Hiroshi Koizumi) and Koji Kobayashi (Minoru Chiaki). After an engine failure, Kobayashi is rescued from a small, craggy island by Tsukioka, but before they take off, they witness the horror from the past, Godzilla, doing battle with another giant dinosaur monster. They return to the city of Osaka to alert authorities that Godzilla is back.

Katsumi Tezuka as Angilas/Anguirus.

Katsumi Tezuka as Angilas/Anguirus.

The plot is rather convoluted and sort of all over the place, so I won’t even try to retell in in any sort of detail, but basically the point of it all is that another Godzilla (in addition to the one that died in the first film) has been awakened by nuclear testing, along with what is called an angilosaurus in the English translation, but was probably thus christened by translators who didn’t know of the (past) existence of the ankylosaurus, which is what the actors actually refer to. In the English translation the monster is thus christened Angilus, in Japanese it sounds closer to Angirasu. In later English canon the monster goes by the name of Anguirus. And yes, I will be calling the other monster Godzilla, although I used Gojira in my review of the first film.

Takashi Shimura as Dr. Yamane.

Takashi Shimura as Dr. Yamane.

Star actor Takashi Shimura, who played one of the leading roles in the first movie, reprises his role of Dr. Yamane in a cameo to tell the authorities that he has no way of killing Godzilla, because Dr. Serizawa took the secret of the Oxygen Destroyer to his death when killing the previous monster. An evacuation of Osaka is ordered, just in time for Godzilla and Anguirus to turn up and wreak havoc on Osaka. Locked in battle, Godzilla finally kills Anguirus (which doesn’t prevent it from turning up in subsequent films) and then retreats, awaiting nightfall. Someone comes up with the idea that Godzilla is a nocturnal monster, and after the blast that awakened him, he now attacks any bright lights. A plan is devised to turn off all lights in Osaka, and have the air force draw Godzilla out to sea with rocket flares.

But in a totally unrelated subplot we follow three prisoners escape from a prison transportation and steal a truck. They are chased through Osaka by the police, who just so happen upon Tsukioka and Kobayashi in a car, commandeer the car (or rather get in the back seat, while Tsukioka becomes designated stunt driver), to take up the chase, and it all ends with the three prisoners crashing their truck into the fish cannery, setting it ablaze (and somehow escape with their lives). The fire distracts Godzilla from the flares, and he bears down with all his might on Osaka, just like he did with Tokyo on the previous movie. The army unloads all it has on Godzilla, but just like before, nothing can harm the radioactive beast. When he’s done stomping Osaka, he retreats into the sea once more. The prisoners? We never hear from them again.

Hiroshi Koizumi and Minoru Chiaki.

Hiroshi Koizumi and Minoru Chiaki.

This may be a good time to mention the parallel plot, if it can be called as such. Like the first film, Godzilla Raids Again is an ensemble piece, even if the two heroes, Tsukioka and Kobayashi, are more active participants in the proceedings. But there’s also their good-natured boss Koehi Yamaji (Yukio Kasama) and his daughter, radio operator Hidemi Yamaji (Setsuko Wakayama), fiance of Tsukioka. Her colleague Yasuko Inouye (Mayuri Mokusho), on the other hand, is trying to catch the eye of Kobayashi, who in turn is oblivious to her advances. There’s a whole subplot with Tsukioka feeling unworthy of marrying his boss’ daughter and him meeting his old friends from the Japanese air force at a birthday party, which leads to a feeble attempt at some kind of feminist statement when the men start making sexist jokes. At the same time we follow Inouye trying to hook up with Kobayashi. There’s about 20 minutes of the film devoted to these personal subplots when we follow the rebuilding of the fish cannery in Hokkaido. But the proceedings are cut short when reports come in that Godzilla has been spotted outside of town. This then leads to the climactic showdown with Kobayashi and Tsukioka, now somehow in charge of the Japanese air force, trying to take out the monster.

*** From here on there be spoilers. ****

Haruo Nakajima in the Godzilla suit getting covered in ice.

Haruo Nakajima in the Godzilla suit getting covered in ice.

Kobayashi spots Godzilla on an island surrounded by snowy mountains, and we get 20 full minutes of beautiful model work by special effects master Eiji Tsuburaya of fighter jets bombarding the monster with bombs and rockets. As before, nothing sticks, until Kobayashi sacrifices himself like a true kamikaze pilot, missing Godzilla, but crashing into a mountain, starting an avalanche. This gives Tsukioka an idea, and he tells the remaining pilots to bombard the surrounding mountains, thus burying Godzilla in ice, from which it can conveniently be thawed for the next film.

Gojira producer Tomoyuki Tanaka.

Godzilla producer Tomoyuki Tanaka.

Producer Tanaka and Toho wanted the film out as fast as possible, following up on the Godzilla craze, and they didn’t even have time to wait for director Ishiro Honda to finish the film he was working on at the moment. Instead they chose as director Motoyoshi Oda, a director of the same generation as Honda and Akira Kurosawa. Oda wasn’t known for big epics, but rather for shooting fast and cheap, and for the ability to churn out close to one film a month if need be. Having worked with Eiji Tsuburaya on the invisible man movie Tomei ningen (1954, review), he also had a shorthand with the special effects genius. Godzilla Raids Again stands as the pinnacle of his career, and he left the business in 1958 – it is possible he took a desk job at Toho, or simply retired, even Japanese Wikipedia doesn’t seem to have much info on his latter years.

Setsuko Wakayama, left, and Mayuri Mokusho.

Setsuko Wakayama, left, and Mayuri Mokusho.

I admit to being at loss regarding the budgets of the Godzilla films. IMDb and Wikipedia both give the estimated budget for Gojira as 175 000 dollars, however a google search gives me a budget of 1 million dollars, whereas both IMDb and Wikipedia state that the budget for Godzilla Raids Again was 800 000 dollars. We know that the latter film was cheaper to make, so there has to be some issue here with dollar conversions from yen and inflation that gets these things mixed up. Please comment below if you can clear this up for me. What we do know is that despite the fact that Godzilla Raids Again is often called a ”lesser” of the Godzilla films, it sold almost as many tickets as the first movie, with over 8 million admissions in 1955 – Gojira topped 9 millions. Godzilla Raids Again is, to this day, the Godzilla film that has sold the fourth most tickets internationally. The American movies don’t even come close (of course this partly has to do with the fact that tickets were cheaper, there were far more movie theatres in the fifties and films were distributed in a whole different way back then – and in Japan few people had TV’s in the fifties).

Haruo Nakajima as Godzilla and Katsumi Tezuka as Anguirus stomping Osaka.

Haruo Nakajima as Godzilla and Katsumi Tezuka as Anguirus stomping Osaka.

Like its predecessor, Godzilla Raids Again is filmed in beautiful, stark black and white. The miniature work by Tsuburaya’s team is great once again, the miniatures of Osaka just as impressive as those of Tokyo in the former movie. In some instances, such as the aerial attack against Godzilla in the end of the film, the special effects are better than in the first one. Godzilla bearing down on a dark Osaka is a throwback to WWII, when lights were turned off during American air raids, and there is a haunting scene of Hidemi watching the city burning from her window. But apart from this, much of the gravitas of the original movie is gone. There isn’t the same focus on the victims of Godzilla’s attacks, and the film has a much lighter tone overall, focusing more on humour and action. The film is sometimes moving on an emotional level, but these instances have more to do with the characters’ personal losses, and it lacks the poignancy and the philosophical undertones of Gojira. It’s more about individual humans and less about humanity. The characters were flat in the first Godzilla movie, but that didn’t matter much, because the film wasn’t about them, not really. Here the characters are even flatter, but here we are supposed to care about them.

Hirosho Koizumi.

Hirosho Koizumi.

One of the problems is that the human subplot is so damn confusing. Even with subtitles I can’t keep track of who is getting married to who, if someone already got married and who are these pilots that suddenly turn up? And all it really amounts to is padding. What happened to the three prisoners that we followed running up and down the streets of Osaka? After their dramatic escape from the flames you expect them to turn up again, but the films just forgets about them. Was the whole sequence just a ploy to make the cannery blow up? Or did they just want a car chase in the film? And why are Tsukioka and Kobayashi suddenly the leaders of the Japanese air force in the end? And of course, the big question is: why doesn’t Godzilla just use his atom breath to melt the ice he’s buried in? He melted steel in the previous movie.

Making Anguirus.

Making Anguirus.

This doesn’t mean the film is bad at all, in fact it’s a rather enjoyable movie to watch. Even though it isn’t as gritty, bleak and heart-wrenching as Gojira, it’s still a serious film, and a long way away from the camp of later entries into the franchise. Godzilla still hasn’t turned anthropomorphic, but is clearly animalistic in nature, nowhere is this clearer than in the fight scenes with Anguirus. Interestingly, there is less of the slow-motion movement than in the previous movie and Godzilla is a lot more agile. In Gojira, Tsuburaya filmed all scenes with Godzilla with an over-cranked camera, sometimes as fast as 72 frames per second, which gave the monster’s movements a sense of size and weight. Throughout the film, the footage doesn’t seem to be quite as over-cranked, and in some scenes it is even under-cranked, speeding up the fight between the two beasts. According to head special effects camera man Teisho Arikawa, in the book Godzilla Days, they had three cameras on the special effects unit, and one of the cameramen at one point made the mistake of cranking the camera the wrong way. Tsuburaya is said to have liked the movement we he first saw it in the dailies, and after that made sure that one of the cameras were always under-cranked in order to create a contrast between slow-motion and sped-up footage. I’m not sure it was a good solution, because the sped-up movements instantly reveal that we’re just watching guys in suits, rather than giant monsters.

Haruo Nakajima with a later Godzilla suit.

Haruo Nakajima with a later Godzilla suit.

For the creation and the thought behind Godzilla, please see my review of the previous film. The suit that was used for the first film was a nightmare for stunt actor and Godzilla legend Haruo Nakajima, who played the monster in 12 films. As Toho had no experience with this kind of makeup – if you want to call it that – they sort of made it all up as they went along, building up a bulky suit with bamboo sticks, chicken wire, tons of cotton padding and a thick layer of sculpted latex. The suit weighed over 200 pounds or close to 100 kilos, and Nakajima was barely able to walk in it, let alone give any sort of performance. It was also not made to fit his body, and in a BBC documentary he says that he sort of rattled around inside the suit. The new suit was made lighter and slimmer and it was based on a plaster mould of Nakajima’s body so that it fit him like a glove, giving him a much greater ability to actually perform with it. It was also based on cloth, rather than bamboo and chicken wire, which unfortunately shows, as the cloth sometimes tends to bag up. However the new suit also had a motor in it that controlled the eyes and the mouth, with the motor placed between Godzilla’s legs, at the base of the tail. According to the great book Japan’s Favorite Mon-Star by Steve Ryfle, Nakajima said that every time he jumped he was in horrific pain.

Katsumi Tezuko serving tea to Harua Nakajima.

Katsumi Tezuko serving tea to Harua Nakajima.

The other monster, Anguirus or Angilas, was a four-legged beast covered in spikes with a horned snout, and it is perhaps the most convincing four-legged monster that Toho ever made, thanks to the fact that it was built and filmed in such a way that the audience never really saw much of its hind legs, hiding the fact that it was a man in a suit. The man playing Anguirus was Katsumi Tezuka, who was originally supposed to double as Godzilla in the first film, but ended up as more of an assistant to Nakajima, since he simply wasn’t strong enough to act inside the original Godzilla suit. As Anguirus, however, he turns out a truly energetic performance. A former baseball pro, Tezuka was an actor and stuntman at Toho, and an extremely liked person in the studio, often showing up on shoots even if he wasn’t acting, just to help out and create a good mood. There’s a famous picture of Tezuka serving a Godzilla-clad Nakajima tea in the first film. Tezuka would later double as Godzilla in later films, and also played monsters such as Moguera, Varan the Unbelievable and Mothra.

In an interview Nakajima says that the most difficult thing for him during filming was the end scene, where he is covered in ice. Instead of using some sort of lightweight plastic or other substitute, Tsuburaya opted to actually bury Nakajima in real ice (the endless suffering this poor stuntman went through in all his kaiju films …). He states that a special effects technician called Eizo Kaimai was operating the eyes and mouth of the suit, and that at this very moment Kaimai was standing directly beneath the floor of the set where Godzilla was buried in ice. But apparently the set designers hadn’t taken into consideration that not only would the floor had to hold a rather heavy monster, but a few hundred kilograms of ice as well, and says Nakajima: ”The floor of the set collapsed because the ice was very heavy, so Mr. Kaimai was buried along with me.”

Hiroshi Koizumi.

Hiroshi Koizumi.

The cast do their jobs fairly well, and if there are problems with the characters, it isn’t the actors’ faults. Hiroshi Koizumi is stable as the handsome leading man without making much of an impression. Koizumi would become a tokusatsu staple for Toho, appearing in Mothra (1961), Atragon (1963), Matango (1963), Dogora (1964), Ghidorah: The Three-Headed Monster (1964), Godzilla vs. Mothra (1964), Prophesies of Nostradamus (1974), Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974), Godzilla 1985 (1984), Tetsuo II: Body Hammer (1992) and Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003). He often got roles as scientists or doctors. He started his career as a presenter for Japanese public broadcaster NHK, before he got picked up the the Toho New Face acting class, from which many of Toho’s tokusatsu heroes were found. From 1970 to 1980 he got the job as host for the popular game show Quiz Grand Prix, but continued to appear in movies on the side. He passed away in 2015.

Minoru Chiaki in Seven Samurai, 1954.

Minoru Chiaki in Seven Samurai, 1954.

The third best known of the lot is probably Minoru Chiaki, playing the only interesting role in the film, Kobayashi. Kobayashi is partly comic relief, but also the actual hero of the film, and Chiaki plays him funny when he is supposed to, but retains a very human and believable element, giving a good-natured, but sincere and very likeable performance. Chiaki was a promising athlete in the thirties, and studied economics at university. However, his true passion was acting, which he took up on stage in 1936. One of his first films roles was a bit-part in Akira Kurosawa’s Stray Dog (1949), and after that he became part of Kurosawa’s family of actors, appearing in many of his films, including Rashomon (1950), Seven Samurai (1954) and The Hidden Fortress (1958). He would often play comedic characters that had a sense of tragedy about them. His only other sci-fi role was in the non-Toho film Tanin no kao (The Face of Another, 1966). He suffered a crippling stroke in the mid-seventies, but recovered, and in 1985 he won the Japanese Academy Award for his role in Hana ichimonme (Grey Sunset). He passed away in 1999, as the last remaining of the original seven samurai.

Paleontologist Dr. Kyohei Yamane (Takashi Shimura) and his daughter Emiko (Momoko Kochi).

Takashi Shimura in Gojira, 1954.

Takashi Shimura is the only returning actor from Gojira (except Nakajima). Shimura was one of Japan’s most praised character actors in a career that spanned six decades. He was a favourite of Akira Kurosawa’s because of his charisma and verisimilitude. He played one of his few leading roles in Kurosawa’s Ikiru in 1952, a film that won both the Kinema Junpo and the Mainichi awards for best film of the year, and his role earned him a Bafta nomination for best foreign actor. Another one of his best remembered roles came in 1954 when he played Kambei Shimada in Seven Samurai, which earned him yet another Bafta nomination. All in all, Shimura appeared in over 250 movies, 20 of them for Kurosawa. But he was no stranger to Toho’s tokusatsu, either. He appeared in The Mysterians (1957), had small roles in Mothra (1961), Gorath (1962) and Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965) and Prophecies of Nostradamus.

Yoshio Tsuchiya as the reporter.

Yoshio Tsuchiya in Tomei ningen, 1954.

In a supporting role we see one of Japan’s bigger stars, Yoshio Tsuchiya, who had worked previously with Oda on Tomei ningen. See more on this fascinating man in my review of that film. He also appeared in The MysteriansVaran the Unbelievable (1958), The H-Man (1958), Battle in Outer Space, The Secret of the Telegian, The Human Vapor (1960), Matango (1963), Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965), Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965), The Killing Bottle (1967), Son of Godzilla (1967) Destroy All Monsters(1968), Space Amoeba (1970), Tokyo: The Last War (1989) and Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991).

The movie is packed with Toho contract players, many of whom would turn up in a number of both Kurosawa films and science fiction movies. One could perhaps single out Shoichi Hirose, who appeared in a total of 19 sci-fi movies.

The original story for the movie was written by mystery, horror and sci-fi writer Shigeru Kayama, who also laid down the groundwork for the original movie. The script was then written by Takeo Murata, who had worked on the Gojira script with Honda. Finally, director Oda brought in Shigeaki Hakada, a Toho staple, who had previously worked in Oda’s Tomei ningen and would later contribute to The Final War (1960).

Masaru Sato.

Masaru Sato.

Masaru Sato’s music isn’t as iconographic as Akira Ifukube’s legendary Gojira score. Much of it, like the title music, sounds a bit too upbeat, almost like something from one of those WWII propaganda film about US marines setting out to sea to save the world. There are more quiet parts that work better, but all in all it’s a mixed bag. Sato would become a Toho staple and did a lot of music for kaiju films later, especially during the Jun Fukube era. Sato has later said that he was still trying to learn the craft during the making of Godzilla Raids Again.

Cinematographer Seiichi Endo is a rather anonymous character, but does his job very well. A shout-out must go to editor Kazuji Taira, especially for the final scene of the air force bombarding Godzilla, which is sublimely edited. They could have made the scene 15 minutes shorter (I’m not even exaggerating), but it is well edited.

Haruo Nakajima and Katsumi Tezuka in their suits with Eiji Tsuburaya in the middle.

Haruo Nakajima and Katsumi Tezuka in their suits.

Even though Godzilla Raids Again did good business, it failed to create the same enthusiasm as the original film. Steve Ryfle quotes special effects cameraman Teisho Arikawa: ”Something was missing when we wrapped Godzilla Raids Again. At the screening people were talking about the first Godzilla movie”. Producer Tanaka has also admitted that time constraints took their toll on the film: ”… it would be difficult for me to say that the production was successful”. The lukewarm reception of the film led Toho to shelve Godzilla for seven years, and instead brought out new monsters with every kaiju movie. It didn’t help that Ishiro Honda soon took creative leadership of Toho’s tokusatsu films, and he was less than enthusiastic about reviving Godzilla. However, the film showed Toho that a monster film could be done quickly and for a reasonable amount of money. The company started to roll out a barrage of monster and science fiction films, and other studios soon followed suit, creating Japan’s very distinct brand of colourful and often child-friendly science fiction films, most of them regarded as high camp today, at least outside of Japan. The two early Godzilla films also established the rather ambitiously named ”suitmation” technique, i.a. a man in a suit, as the preferred technique of bringing monsters to life. This hands-on, in-camera approach would define the Japanese style of special effects, even when Hollywood turned to CGI in the nineties.

Godzilla trapped.

Godzilla trapped.

The review above is, of course, of the original Japanese version, available with subtitles. However, for a long time American audiences never saw this version. The original Gojira film was bought up by a small independent production company in 1955, and was heavily re-edited to remove politically inflammatory material regarding the atom bomb and the American occupation of Japan, and to tighten the pace of the film. 20 minutes of new footage of Raymond Burr was filmed and the movie given bad dubbing and a voice-over. It was released in 1956 as Godzilla: King of the Monsters to deadly reviews, but it became a commercial success.

Despite this it wasn’t until 1959 that Godzilla Raids Again was released in the US, as Gigantis: The Fire Monster. The rights were bought in 1956 by a production company that partly consisted of the same people who bought the previous film. Originally the idea was to only use the special effects scenes and create a whole new film around them with American actors and a completely new story called The Volcano Monsters. The screenplay for the film was written by a Danish cult writer and director Ib Melchior, today best remembered for writing and directing The Angry Red Planet (1959) and for the story The Racer, on which Death Race 2000 (1975) is based, as well as his then flatmate Ed Watson. Apparently this was a highly ambitious script that removed all reference to Godzilla’s radioactivity and portrayed the two monsters as dinosaurs from the past, sprung free from the bowels of the Earth by a volcanic eruption and doing battle in San Fransisco.

Poster.

Poster.

The movie went far into pre-production at the independent company AB-PT, which had previously made The Beginning of the End (1957) and The Unearthly (1957). Melchior and Watson delivered a highly detailed 129-page shooting script with precise notes on which shots from the original film to use, and how the new story was to be shot around it. This involved a number of new special effects sequences, including an elaborate setup with scientists removing the hibernated dinosaurs from a volcano in Japan with cables and cranes, and shipping them to San Fransisco for scientific study. As the destruction of Osaka was filmed as a night-shot, they thought they would get away with substituting Osaka for San Fransisco, and placing much of the action in the city’s famous Chinatown area. Toho already had a good working relationship with Hollywood. Godzilla: King of the Monsters had been a huge success, and in 1955 the studio had shipped over the yeti suit to Hollywood so that new shots could be made for Ishiro Honda’s Yu jin yuki otoko (1955, review), which became Half Human: The Story of the Abominable Snowman (1958). Astonishingly, Toho also greenlighted AB-PT:s plans to completely butcher Godzilla Raids Again, and shipped over both the Godzilla and the Anguirus suit to the studio for new footage. However, it was not to be. AB-PT folded in 1957, and the next year the rights to the movie were picked up by three investors whose names are hardly of interest.

George Takei in 1960.

George Takei in 1960.

The script for The Volcano Monsters was scrapped, since there was no money or interest in doing any new footage, instead the trio settled for a modest Americanisation and dubbing, directed and re-edited by Hugo Grimaldi, best known for producing cult exploitation films like The Phantom Planet (1961), The Human Dupicators (1965) and Mutiny in Outer Space (1965). Among the dubbing talent hired were three people who had previously worked on the dubbing of Rodan: Keye Luke, Paul Frees and none other that a young George Takei.

According to Takei, the ”screenwriting” was a very collaborative effort, where Grimaldi and the voice actors would sit down and try to come up with lines that would match the lip movements of the Japanese actors. This basement-grade production resulted in a famously bad dubbing, including the legendary ”Ah, banana oil!” spoken by Tsukioka, voiced by Keye Luke (not Takei, as is often believed). The comment appears in a segment where Hidemi is complementing Tsukioka, and he lovingly rebuffs her by saying she talks nonsense. In an interview Takei stated that they struggled with finding an English substitute that would match the lip movements, and someone remembered an old twenties flapper expression ”banana oil”, which was used to describe nonsensical flattery akin to ”pouring sugar in one’s ear”. However the phrase was definately archaic in 1959. Later criticism against the dubbing has pointed out how Kobayashi is turned into a dim-witted buffoon for comic relief. Apparently much of the English is nonsensical and badly written, and the overall opinion seems to be that the dubbing is a butchery of the film.

Hiroshi Koizumi and Minoru Chiaki.

Hiroshi Koizumi and Minoru Chiaki.

The movie was released in 1959 as Gigantis: The Fire Monster. It is unclear why the name change was made, since there doesn’t seem to have been any problem regarding the usage of the name Godzilla. Toho owned the name, and when the new production company bought the rights to the film, they also bought the rights to the name. The most common theory is that either the American producers or Warner Brothers, who picked up distribution rights, wanted to sell off the creature as a totally new monster, although anyone who had seen Godzilla: King of the Monsters would instantly recognise it. And considering the marquee value of Godzilla, even at the time, it seems a stupid move. The film was no hit with audiences, partly because Warner didn’t put much effort into the marketing, and partly because of the bad dubbing. The movie was syndicated for TV in the early sixties, but then fell off the grid for decades, until the rights to the movie reverted back to Toho in the eighties. Toho then again syndicated it for US TV, thus bringing a ”lost” Godzilla movie to the small screen again.

Katsumi Tezuka lighting a cigarette for Haruo Nakajima, smoking through Godzillas eye-hole.

Katsumi Tezuka lighting a cigarette for Haruo Nakajima, smoking through Godzillas eye-hole.

If one is predisposed to the stark seriousness of the first Godzilla film, then Godzilla Raids Again is probably preferable to the later campy sequels of the franchise. The movie serves as an interesting transition between the two schools by focusing more on action than on content, and it also brings in a fair element of humour, without in itself being a comedic or (intentionally) campy film. On the other hand, it neither succeeds in being as thought-provoking as its predecessor, nor as fun to watch as the later movies. However, the film is historically relevant as the movie that set the template for later monster mashes.

Janne Wass

Godzilla Raids Again (1955, Japan). Directed by Motoyoshi Oda. Written by Takeo Murata, Shigeaki Hidaka, Shigeru Kayama. Starring: Hiroshi Koizumi, Setsuko Wakayama, Minoru Chiaki, Mayuri Mokusho, Masao Shimizu, Yukio Kasama, Takashi Shimura, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Seijiro Onda, Sonosuke Sawamura, Minosuke Yamada, Senkichi Omura, Ren Yamamoto, Shin Otomo, Junpei Natsuki, Shoichi Hirose, Haruo Nakajima, Katsumi Tezuka. Music: Masaru Sato. Cinematography: Seiichi Endo. Editing: Kajuzi Taira. Production design: Teruaki Abe, Takeo Kita. Sound: Ichiro Minawa, Masanobu Miyazaki. Special effects director: Eiji Tsuburaya. Special effects art director: Akira Watanabe. Stunt choreographer: Haruo Nakajima. Produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka for Toho Company.

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “Godzilla Raids Again

  1. Pingback: Gojira | Scifist

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s