Review:
Godzilla Raids Again (1955)

Class: Staff
Author: J.L. Carrozza
Score: (2.5/5)
Published:
June 19th, 2009 [Review May Contain Spoilers]

Godzilla Raids Again was the rushed-into-production sequel to the iconic Godzilla (1954), released a mere six months afterward. While Eiji Tsuburaya and his unit worked well under this pressure, the film smacks of being quickly conceived merely for profit. It is largely the Son of Kong to the original Godzilla's King Kong, the quickie sequel made swiftly after the original to make a few bucks (or in this case yen) while the property was still hot. However, while Son of Kong is a fun, quickie adventure picture, Godzilla Raids Again falls even shorter of its predecessor. Beloved director Ishiro Honda was unavailable and thus his replacement, Motoyoshi Oda, delivers a film that, largely aside from Tsuburaya's impressive FX sequences, is unfocused in its narrative, pedestrian in its direction and all around disinteresting and uneven.

Two fishing scouters: Tsukioka (Hiroshi Koizumi) and Kobayashi (Minoru Chiaki) are trailing some tuna at sea when Kobayashi experiences engine trouble and has to make a crash landing on a nearby island. Tsukioka lands his plane to rescue Kobayashi and the two of them soon witnesses something truly shocking: a second Godzilla doing battle with a new monster: Anguirus, a spiked dinosaur. Tsukioka and Kobayashi return to their home city of Osaka and the city government is at a loss as to what to do if the monsters should come to Osaka. Dr. Yamane (Takashi Shimura), who witnessed the attack of the first Godzilla in Tokyo, recommends that the residents of the city dim their lights since Godzilla seems to be enraged by bright light. Soon Godzilla indeed heads to Osaka Bay. The city dims its lights and it appears to be effective, but a group of convicts en route to prison break out of the prison van and crash a hijacked car into an oil refinery, starting a blaze that catches Godzilla's attention and causes it, along with Anguirus, to come ashore. The two monsters then spar once more, thrashing downtown Osaka in the process.

Godzilla Raids Again is a highly mixed bag of a movie that lets one down as much as it delivers. Admittedly, the film does have some fine attributes. The monochrome cinematography by Seichi Endo is gorgeous and the film's look is every bit as effective as that of the first Godzilla. Its images are once again moody and atmospheric and perhaps invoke the morose, stark newsreels of the Second World War even more so than its predecessor. Godzilla and Anguirus' nighttime attack on Osaka, this time with the city completely pitch black, is particularly effective. This sequence has a particularly war footage-like aesthetic, perhaps intentionally so since Japanese civilians during the later years of World War II would often dim their lights to avoid being targeted by Allied bombers. Tsuburaya's effects work is at the top of its form here, equal to if not topping his work on the original. The scenes are well staged (with the Osaka scene being, as said before, downright hauntingly beautiful), the miniatures look nice, the environments are effective and the monsters look convincing. An assistant to Tsuburaya accidentally filmed the monster combat footage in fast motion rather than slow motion like standard monster footage, so the monsters battle each with lighting ferocity like two enraged animals. Allegedly Tsuburaya liked the effect and decided to leave it in, though he may have left it in more due to necessity under the hectic shooting schedule. While perhaps disconcerting when one is used to the more lumbering monster suit melees that would come later, it is an interesting and oddly effective FX blunder.

However, as fine as the FX half of the movie is, the rest of the film falls far short. Motoyoshi Oda's direction is very pedestrian with a lack of focus that makes Jun Fukuda look like Akira Kurosawa. The first half of the film following up to Godzilla and Anguirus' attack, with the exception of an absolutely mind numbingly boring sequence with Dr. Yamane, is more than decent. However, the atrociously paced script by Oda and Shigeaki Hidaka makes the bizarre decision to put Godzilla and Anguirus' attack in the second act instead of the third act, making the rest of the film feel like a boring, needless extension of an already “spent” plotline. The characters that the plot overly revolves around are too uninteresting to be attributed the level of importance that they are given. There's some brief interest in a “love triangle” plot with Tsukioka, Kobayashi and Hidemi (Setsuko Wakayama), their boss' daughter, but it is not handled well enough and feels like it would be more at home at any number of Japanese studio melodramas than a kaiju film. The final sequence, featuring Godzilla's submersion in his icy tomb for which he would spend the next seven years, is effectively shot but drags on too long.

The actors are competent, many of them, such as Hiroshi Koizumi, Minoru Chiaki and Yoshio Tsuchiya, are top-notch Toho actors who frequently worked with Honda and Kurosawa, but the cast act like they're kind of bored with not enough investment in the flimsy ciphers of characters they are portraying. The music by the talented composer Masaru Sato is a mixed bag, some of the music, like the main theme, is a little too upbeat for the movie's own good but the eerie, minimalist piece played during Godzilla and Anguirus' Osaka shakedown is quite effective. This would not be Sato's last foray into the Godzilla series, he would later score several of Fukuda's entrees including the lively, breezy scores for the equally lively Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966) and Son of Godzilla (1967) with which he would create music of far more consistent quality.

When the film hit America in 1959 on a double bill with the B-classic Teenagers from Outer Space, it went through some odd alterations. The film was originally to undergo a full-scale Americanization called The Volcano Monsters and even involved Toho shipping the Godzilla and Anguirus suits to America, but somehow the plans fell through and a more straightforward approach was taken ala the earlier release of Rodan (1956). Like Rodan (1956), narration was added by a someday famous Keye Luke and the film had much of Sato's score replaced with generic library music and a fair amount of stock footage thrown in the film for a bunch of weird reasons. Far weirder, however, is the original US title, Gigantis, the Fire Monster. For some odd reason, copyright or not, Warner Brothers, the distributor, wanted to distance themselves from Godzilla in the promotion and the film's title and dub script refers to Godzilla as Gigantis even though the monster onscreen couldn't be anything else but Godzilla. This is even more confusing since most video versions have a badly computer generated title card of Toho's international title, Godzilla Raids Again, against the credits yet the creature is still called Gigantis in dubbing. The opening of the film, like with the US Rodan (1956), is a strange montage of atomic test footage that has little bearing on the rest of the film to remind us of “the price of progress”. The sequence where Yamane presents the Godzilla footage is juiced up with some stock footage from various B-grade and below older films including One Million B.C. (aka the low budget genre film stock footage goldmine) and Unknown Island with a theory of the creation of Godzilla/Gigantis that is the most outlandish piece of pseudo-scientific gibberish I've ever heard in any 50s sci-fi film, an almost impressive achievement.

Overall, Godzilla Raids Again, while containing moments of considerable interest and worth seeing for most fans of the series for Tsuburaya's stunning FX work, is an extremely uneven effort and shows it's rushed, blindly capitalistic origins badly. Toho would do much better for their next few genre efforts in which Ishiro Honda would return: the moody and poetic Half Human (1955) and the impressive Rodan (1956).