So, as those of you who have been with MMT since those first faltering baby steps on Geocities in 2003 will know, this used to be an all-Godzilla-all-the-time review site. Back when I was first teaching myself how to write html and pirate copyrighted images, I ate, breathed and lived Godzilla (and associated Toho kaiju). Heck, of the first 17 movies I reviewed back then, 15 were Godzilla and the other two were Rodan and Mothra. And then the inevitable burn-out set in and since about 2005 or so I've not even watched a minute of a Godzilla movie, let alone considered reviewing another one.
But then my lovely partner-in-snark Pam picked Godzilla Raids Again for our next review, and after some initial hesitation, I found myself enjoying the Big Green Guy once again. So, today, thanks to Netflix streaming and the "print screen" button on my laptop, we will be digging into the second Godzilla movie ever made, 1959's Godzilla Raids Again
And, yes, I know, the original Japanese version of this film was released in 1955, but the American-market version we're watching/reviewing today has been cut/slashed/burned up so badly as to be, for all intents and purposes, a completely different movie. So there. If you want to see the original, feel free to fork over your hard-earned money for the region 2 DVD (tell me how it is, by the way, I'm curious).
Alright, before we begin, lets get you caught up on the timeline. Godzilla Raids Again is the sequel to 1954's Gojira (reviewed here as 1956's Americanized version Godzilla, King of the Monsters), in which our beloved mutant dinosaur leveled Tokyo and made a mockery of modern weaponry before succumbing to the legendary Oxygen Destroyer. Soon after that movie began raking in the Yen by the truckload, Toho Studios realized that maybe, just maybe, they shouldn't have been so hasty in killing off their new star monster. A script for a sequel was banged out and now Godzilla could, indeed, raid again.
Remember when Godzilla ate that train like it was a sausage link? Loved that movie.
Ok, like most of the 1950's era Godzilla movies, this one drags a bit in the opening act, where we meet a bunch of bland interchangeable people who we pretty much forget about once the monsters start rampaging later on, so keep this in mind. As we open, a Japanese fishing company has a couple of floatplanes that they use to spot for schools of tuna, and one of them is in trouble and has to make a forced landing on an isolated offshore island. We learn all this from a droning voice-over that was surely added just for the American release because we Americans are insanely impatient. I've noted my dislike of voice-overs before, but I do realize that drive-through movie goers of the era probably appreciated being able to keep up on what was happening on the screen while they were busy making out with Becky the skanky cheerleader in the back seat.
Their model Cessna wobbles a lot.
The other floatplane comes to the rescue, landing nearby so the stranded pilot doesn't get lonely. The pilots are named Shoichi Tsukioka and Kojikawa Kobayashi and th...ok, ok, I know, for us English-only speakers those are four of the most gibberishly incomprehensible words ever put to print and there is no way in hell I (or you) am going to remember either of those for very long (just forgot them...). So let's just call them Sho and Koji for the time being. Both men play nearly equal roles as Co-Heroic/Romantic Male Leads, though one is ultimately doomed, and for most of the movie I kept wondering why they didn't just combine their roles into one character to save on the production's talent budget. If they had cut Sho out and given all his lines to Koji, just think of how many more dinky plastic toy tanks and jets-on-strings they could have bought. This is why I'm not a filmmaker.
They both look exactly alike, as well.
So while the two pilots are lounging about the island on company time, undoubtedly conspiring to cheat the worker's comp rules with Koji's oh-so-painful "bruised wrist", they are witness to the amazing spectacle of two monsters fighting nearby. One they recognize immediately as Godzilla (or a Godzilla-type), dispelling any notions that Godzilla Raids Again will exist outside of the established Toho Godzilla Showa canon. The other beastie is this lumbering spiky armadillo/anklyosaurus sort of thing with a long spiky tail and some snaggly Arkansas hillbilly teeth. The two monsters take their grievance to the sea and the pilots are left to wonder just what it is about the Northwestern Pacific Ocean region that attracts such violent megafauna.
The only logical reaction to giant monsters.
Meanwhile, back in in the port city of Osaka (where the pilots were based), we have some (ultimately pointless) subplots with a couple of cuties in the office radio pool, one of whom seems to be romantically entangled with Sho and the other is just really horny. These scenes seem to serve little purpose other than to give work to some Toho contract actresses and to pad out the running time. If I sound bitter it's because I am. Having enjoyed kaiju movies for years I can tell you that every minute spent watching some random short-haired long-skirted chick fret over some oily-haired button-downed dude is one less minute we could be watching sweaty stuntmen in rubber suits wrestle around while model tanks shoot bottle rockets at them. And yes, I realize I slam most movies for their lack of believable character development and here I am irritated at Godzilla Raids Again for their well-intentioned, if paltry, attempts at fleshing out their non-radioactive-monster cast members. I need not be consistent, I'm the boss.
Anyway, the two pilots report back to Japan that monsters are afoot and the entire nation collectively loses their shit. While we never really hear just how long ago (in "movie time") Godzilla roughed up Tokyo, it was clearly a short enough time ago that knickers are definitely knotted up over the thought of it happening again. Godzilla's return is blamed on the American's continued insistence on testing atomic bombs in the Pacific, the fallout bringing to life all these nasty brutish monsters. That is actually from a tacked-on prologue full of stock footage mushroom clouds and Atlas rockets, which places the blame square on America (odd as that wasn't actually in the Japanese version, only in the 1959 US-released version).
So very tired of seeing this one atomic test in every single b-movie ever made.
As intrepid reporter Steve Martin was apparently busy, it's up to famed Godzilla expert Doctor Yamane to try and figure out what's going on. Yamane, from what I can see the only carry-over from the first movie, debriefs the two pilots with the help of an 8mm library film on dinosaurs and an obscure Polish textbook on monsters. Yamane (who is looking really old and frail here) determines that the Godzilla type beast is a cousin of the last Godzilla type beast that was killed in Tokyo Bay. The other one is also a brought-back-to-life dinosaur from the same era called Anguirus and that the two monsters really hate each other (probably fighting over some woman).
Anguirus, in profile.
Seriously, Yamane looks physically ill in this scene.
They talk about the "current view" of ancient history, namely that all the dinosaurs moved underground when cosmic rays were destroying the surface world and then adapted to the lava and became fire monsters that are now immune to flames, energy and 155mm howitzer shells. The atomic bomb tests brought them out of their subterranean slumber and here we are. Wait, what? Why do the t...you know, never mind, it's not worth it. Doctor Yamane is not confidant that the monsters can be stopped by earthly means, saying that humanity's fate is now in the "hands of the gods", which seems a strange thing for a scientist to say.
Our pilot heroes are just as confused as I am.
So, fighter planes fly around searching for the beasts, especially the tall pudgy biped. It's called "Gigantis" in this movie, but I'm just going to stick with "Godzilla" for this review (mostly because that's what the title card says). The monster appears off the Shikoku-Kishu coastal area near Osaka and the military kicks it into high gear with a well-nigh-endless series of stock footage clips of steaming ships and diving subs and zipping planes and trundling tanks and spinning radar antennae, all so dreadfully boring after a while. Well, not so much boring as just familiar, we've seen this sort of military hardware montage in every single Toho kaiju film and it grates a bit by now.
Tanks clatter to the front lines.
Destroyers pound the sea in pursuit.
They make a couple of heavy-handed refs to the fear of Godzilla "making a landing" on their shores with overwhelming force. With Godzilla having always been a thinly-veiled stand-in for America, these scenes really do play like fearful wartime propaganda. This would be alright if this movie was released in 1945 when the war was still raging and there was a real, tangible fear that the US Marines would come storming ashore on Honshu, but this was made in 1955, at a time when Japan and America were BFFs. Just seems a bit dated.
Lots of spinning newspaper fronts in this movie.
Anyway, so it's a false alarm and all the stock footage citizen of Stock Footage Osaka celebrate their non-monster-stomping by going out to stock footage night clubs and stock footage dive bars and partying the stock footage night away. Seriously, this is why you hire second unit directors, to shoot new insert scenes so you don't have to duct tape scratchy grainy library footage from the 1920s into your movie. Lazy editing, both from the original Japanese production team and the American re-editors, quite annoying.
Japanese back-up bands were kind lame back then.
Oh wait, my bad, not a false alarm after all! Godzilla seems to have left his iPhone back in his apartment and so has had to turn around and swim back into Osaka Bay, which is going to seriously make him late for his dinner date with the Mothra twins. The Japanese military in Osaka reloads their guns as soldiers in pansy white helmets run around two-fisting binoculars and radios. Godzilla comes ashore, wading through the waist-deep surf as the city dims its lights to avoid his destructive eye. Godzilla's roar here is not the trademark Godzilla roar for some inexplicable reason, but instead he bellows out a noise quite similar to a dozen vocal housecats fighting each other with power saws inside an empty 55-gallon oil drum, with predictably painful results.
"Rnnngggaarrrggg!!! Sorry, hairball."
The Air Force swoops in to drop flares out to sea, as Doctor Yamane has suggested that the beasts are attracted to light. The tension is sky high, monsters are on the loose, cities are in peril, beautiful women clutch plaintively to handsome men as they stare out at the oncoming beast. Will the flares work? Will Osaka be saved from Godzilla? Is Tokyo secretly jealous of all the attention Osaka is getting? Pam, take us to the chorus!
Sho and his special lady friend don't seem that concerned so why should we?
The flares actually do work, Nate. Godzilla is following them out to sea when a series of unfortunate events occur. The authorities have ordered everyone to evacuate, and among those leaving Osaka is a van full of convicts. There's an armed guard inside the van, but for some reason the convicts aren't shackled in any way, so they manage to overpower the guard and escape from the van. Three of them steal a gasoline tank truck and are pursued by the police. In the resulting flight, they crash the truck into what looks like an oil refinery and start a huge fire.
Maybe they were just wrongfully accused, framed by The Man, why can't they be the heroes?
Well, with this fire raging on shore, enticing Godzilla with flares is like using a few doughnuts to tempt someone away from a lavish buffet. Naturally Godzilla turns and heads back to shore and wanders around the buffet table, trying to choose the most tempting morsels. In the process he causes a lot of damage to the city of Osaka, although to me it looks as though he's not doing it on purpose, it's just an unfortunate side effect of a 60,000 ton creature trying to make his way through a world that wasn't made for him (sniffle).
Not to mention the pesky humans keep shooting at him.
As though this wasn't bad enough, more bad news for Osaka is on its way. This would be Anguirus, who now shows up, probably also lured by the prospect of a lavish free meal. Godzilla seems unwilling to share, although there appears to be plenty of fire to go around, and what Godzilla hasn't already destroyed is now pulverized by two gigantic monsters duking it out. Godzilla gets the best of Anguirus and kills him, but there's very little left standing in Osaka by the time he's finished. Once Anguirus is dead and the fires have burned out, Godzilla concludes the party is over and goes back out to sea to points unknown.
Ouch, Godzilla really needs to see an orthodontist.
One of the casualties in Osaka is the cannery where Sho and Koji work. However, the owner, who is the father of Sho's girlfriend Hitemi, is undaunted and vows to rebuild. In fact, the dust has barely settled when the employees go to work, cleaning up. The scenes of Godzilla-ravaged Osaka look very much like it's been bombed, and this was probably a not-so-subtle reminder of what the Americans did only about ten years before this movie was made. In the meantime, the cannery fortunately has a branch office on Hokkaido, which so far is untouched by Godzilla. Sho and Koji are dispatched there to keep on searching for tuna, and Hitemi follows shortly, to man the radio there.
Love this old-school apartment-sized Sanyo console TV, I'd love to have one (though updated so I could watch cable and play Mario Kart).
Keep in mind that nobody knows where Godzilla went after he left Osaka, and we now get some more spinning newspapers that tell us the United States is concerned that he's heading our way. I may be giving away a plot point here, but probably it'll come as a surprise to nobody to hear that in fact Godzilla is still hanging around Japan. Since Sho is one of the co-heroes (and the better-looking of the two), he's the one who is sent out in his airplane to look for tuna and gets to spot Godzilla swimming. I won't ask how a 60,000-ton fire-breathing monster manages to swim. The camera wisely didn't get too close to Godzilla, so we can't see exactly how he does it.
Our heroes look good in leather.
Calm down, America, Godzilla doesn't want you.
Sho, of course, dutifully follows Godzilla to see where he's going. He seems to be not the least bit worried that Godzilla will spew flame and incinerate his plane, which has to fly fairly low to keep Godzilla in sight. Maybe Sho's extremely brave, or maybe he just doesn't know that this is something Godzilla likes to do. Godzilla ends up on a small ice-covered island, which seems like a strange choice for something that eats fire. Surely he'd find fire of some kind on Hokkaido? Maybe he put on a lot of weight after making a pig of himself at Osaka and wants to avoid temptation. Sho conscientiously tracks Godzilla as he walks across the island, so he can direct the Air Force bombers just where to find him. Back at the cannery, Koji loyally jumps into his airplane and goes out to meet Sho. Once Koji arrives, Sho turns back for home.
"Crap! Why did OnStar send me here? I said 'Directions to the nearest ramen bar' not 'Directions to the nearest chunk of frozen rock'!"
Rather oddly, before Koji leaves the base on Hokkaido to meet the dread Godzilla, he feels the need to ask Hitemi what sort of presents girls like. (It's handbags and gold rings, if you were wondering.) He doesn't say which girl he'd like to give a present to, but after he leaves, Hitemi opens the notebook he left behind and finds a photograph of herself in it. This is the first we hear of any interest Koji has in Hitemi, and I have to add that for somebody who seemed so crazy about Sho earlier, Hitemi seems awfully pleased to find that Koji is carrying around her photograph. I'd ascribe this loose end to the hack-and-slash editing job done to make the American version of the movie, and in fact I found out from another review of this movie that in the original version, Koji had been in love with Hitemi for some time. Incidentally, whoever dubbed Koji's voice decided to make him sound like Yogi Bear, which gives the impression Koji's a bumbling idiot. I'm curious to see how he came across in the Japanese version.
Hitemi is pretty cute, even if she's the unwitting pointy end of a doomed love triangle.
Koji gets to the island all right, and as Sho goes home, Koji spots Godzilla wandering around on barren ground, among steep ice-covered rocks set so close together Godzilla can barely make his way through them. (And this terrain attracts him...why? Did he have to take an urgent potty break and this was the only piece of dry land close by?) The Air Force isn't far behind, which is lucky, since there's not a lot Koji could do to Godzilla with his small airplane. The jets try dropping some bombs, but the rocks prevent them from hitting Godzilla. Then Koji channels that old kamikaze spirit and attempts to crash his airplane into Godzilla, who is still just wandering aimlessly around as though he didn't even notice the bombs.
Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star, if you must know.
Sho rides along with Captain Ruggedly B. Handsome of the Japanese Air Force.
Unfortunately the Yogi Bear voice seems to have been indicative, since poor Koji misses Godzilla (who is moving quite slowly, not running or taking cover or anything) and crashes into the side of a cliff, destroying both himself and his airplane. I don't want to criticize the dead, but it seems to me that if Godzilla can withstand artillery shells, a small plane probably won't do much to him, either. And now, with a tear in my eye for Koji's brave if unavailing sacrifice, I turn the review back over to Nate, since the air attack on Godzilla desperately needs Nate's experienced eye to critique it.
Sho is quite upset about Koji's death, though when he later learns that Koji was macking on his girlfriend behind his back, he'll be considerably less upset.
Thanks, Pam, I'll finish this one out for us. Well, if the Americans were so worked up about Godzilla as to spin their newspaper fronts so dramatically, you'd think they'd chip in some help here. In the 1950s we had half our military might in and around Japan, surely we could pulverize that island Godzilla is loitering on with a gajillionzillion jet bombers and shell it to gravel with dozens of battleships. Since it was clearly shown in the fight in Osaka that Godzilla's skin can indeed be penetrated, Anguirus's bite and claws drew blood, then it's just a matter of the amount of explosives needed to put the monster down for the count. Of course, they could just nuke him from orbit, it's the only way to be sure...
This is a Mark 4 atomic bomb, it packs a considerably stronger bite than Anguirus's teeth, I'd say.
But you say that America wouldn't nuke it's ally (well, wouldn't nuke it again), but it's not the Americans and their nuclear arsenal the Japanese have to worry about, it's the Rooksies. Vladivoskok is just a hop and a skip away from where Godzilla has been sighted, after all, and you could hardly blame the Rooskies if they were worried that one tasty port city is just as good as any in Godzilla's eyes. Uncle Joe had an itchy trigger finger and one could see him preemptively nuking the holy hell out of Godzilla, regardless of where he was at the time, just to keep the beast from wandering around Siberia stomping on cows and roaring a lot. Of course, you just know that somewhere in the Pentagon someone was furiously power-pointing a plan to lure Godzilla east into Russia to teach them Godless Commies a lesson.
This mustache does not fool around with giant lizards. It nukes them.
Anyway, so the Japanese throw everything they have at Godz...wait, no, they just send a half dozen or so jets armed with dinky little rockets? Ok, I guess they didn't really like Osaka that much after all. But they do have a plan, they're going to blast away at the mountainside above Godzilla, hoping for an avalanche to bury him. Godzilla makes this plan workable by helpfully standing in one spot for a couple of hours while the planes are armed and fueled and sent off (quite nice of him).
North American F-86 Sabers, by the way, not that you care.
"Anytime, people, I can't stand around here all day, I got to get home to watch Glee"
Because you have to have your film's hero in on the climax, Sho calls in a favor with the squadron's commander and gets to fly along in a jet of his own. It's never really said (at least in the butchered American version I'm watching) but I assume that Sho used to be in the Air Force before leaving for some reason to go fly around looking for fish. At least I hope that's the case, because otherwise it's pretty stupid to have him suddenly become Top Gun Sho with no experience in jet-engined aircraft. Hey, isn't this Randy Quaid's character arc from Independence Day?
So the jets roar and in and unleash their rockets and bombs on the mountainside, causing the ice to cascade down on to Godzilla (who is still just standing there politely). The beast does make an effort to fight back with his heat-o-flame-o-breath, bringing down three of the attacking jets, but in the end he's doomed to be encased in millions of tons of ice and snow. Lament not for poor chilly Godzilla, though, as he'll soon thaw out and be back in a few years for 1962's King Kong versus Godzilla.
"Seriously!?! Fine, I'll just take a nap until the next sequel."
Sho returns as a hero, Hitemi figures she might as well stick with him since Koji is dead, and Japan rejoices in their great national victory. And...cue credits.
So, not too bad a movie, nothing really new to see but nothing that really made you not want to keep watching either. As a follow up to the vastly superior Gojira of the year before, this one is a bit of a let-down, but it served its purpose well and brought Godzilla back into popular Japanese culture at a critical time for Toho Studios. Pam, what did you think of Godzilla Raids Again? Anything strike you as particularly good or bad?
Well, Nate, that voiceover was the thing that seemed worst about this movie. Particularly at the end, it felt the need to pound in its message with a massive hammer. Whoever added it seemed to think the viewers wouldn't know what to think about the movie if they weren't told, and maybe he was right. The movie was cut up pretty badly for the American version, as the sequence with Koji and Hitemi showed, but I don't think the people who made this movie originally put much effort in it to begin with. It's just a generic forgettable monster movie. I can see why it fell into obscurity. However, compared to some of the mind-numbingly awful stuff MMT has reviewed (did anybody watch The Eye Creatures, for instance?) it doesn't look too bad. It's watchable, and at least it doesn't have a Kenny.