Godzilla Raids Again (1955)

Class: Staff
Author: Anthony Romero
Score: (1.5/5)
November 11th, 2003 [Review May Contain Spoilers]

After the immense success of Godzilla (1954), Tomoyuki Tanaka was told by executive producer Iwao Mori to "make another one." It was a short five months later that Godzilla Raids Again was rushed into theaters. Missing from the previous installment was Ishiro Honda, both as a writer and director, and Toho's best known composer: Akira Ifukube. Their replacements being Motoyoshi Oda, a man who was promoted in the early 1940's due to a shortage of directors caused by those drafted into the war, and Masaru Sato, only his seventh theatrical score at the time. As expected from the production values, Godzilla Raids Again is a fairly lackluster entry in what would end up being a very long running series. The story here is adequate, although the subsequent pacing is horrible, while most of the other elements of the film are below par.

The story is probably one of the film's more redeemable qualities, as it focuses on Shoichi Tsukioka and Koji Kobayashi, a pair of "fishing scouts" who make routine runs in their planes searching for schools of tuna to notify the company's fishing fleet of their locations. The two pilots are the first witness both the new Godzilla and Anguirus after Kobayashi has engine trouble and is forced to land on a, presumed to be, deserted island. The two pilots stumble upon the monsters, locked in combat, as both Godzilla and Anguirus tumble into the ocean as the two pilots rush back to inform authorities. Eventually, Godzilla makes his way to Osaka and the SDF attempts to lead it away using flares; the plan appears to be working until a group of escaped convicts crash a stolen vehicle into an oil refinery. The explosion not only attracts Godzilla to Osaka, but Anguirus as well, and the two giants battle once more. Their confrontation destroys much of Osaka, as Anguirus is killed during the face off. With his prey gone, Godzilla leaves the devastated city, and Osaka's residents begin to salvage what they can from the city while Kobayashi is relocated to a cannery in Hokkaido.

At his new job, Kobayashi receives a radio call from both Tsukioka and Hidemi Yamaji, a young girl who worked the radio at the cannery in Osaka and current love interest of Tsukioka, and the three decide to go to an inn together. By coincidence, at the inn Tsukioka is reunited with his old commander in the air force, Terazawa. The reunion is cut short though, with word of Godzilla attacking the Hokkaido fishing fleet. A search for the monster commences, as even Tsukioka joins in on the hunt, who spots Godzilla as he approaches Kawito Island. Kobayashi arrives to relieve Tsukioka and monitor Godzilla, as the nuclear menace ventures into a canyon on the island. Kobayashi attempts to distract the monster with his plane, which buys time for the Air Force to arrive on the scene with a squadron of jets. The jets unload their missiles at Godzilla, with no visible effect. Kobayashi, once again, tries to distract Godzilla by flying his plane low; unfortunately, Godzilla manages to score a direct hit with his radioactive breath and sends Kobayashi's plane into the canyon side, which causes an avalanche of snow to fall onto Godzilla. Tsukioka, after seeing the avalanche, informs the Air Force that firing upon the canyon side with missiles would bury Godzilla in snow. The Air Force flies back to base in order to restock, once there Tsukioka convinces them to let him tag along to avenge Kobayashi's death. Meanwhile, the SDF quickly sets up a line of oil drums which seals off the entrance to the canyon, before they are detonated creating a small wall of flames. Godzilla shies away from the fire, heading back into the canyon just as the jets arrive back on the scene. A long battle between the jets and Godzilla occurs, until the nuclear menace is buried in snow and his reign of terror temporarily halted.

Even though the screenplay is one of the film's better qualities, it still contains some questionable aspects. The most notable problem is the location of the climax, which is indisputably the Godzilla and Anguirus fight in Osaka. To place this in the middle is just baffling, as it gives the viewer very little motivation to keep watching, as the rest of the film fails to excite. Another problem, or more of a personal pet peeve, is Godzilla's reaction to a line of ignited oil drums. The fires wouldn't even be knee high to Godzilla, and to have him stopped by this after seeing Godzilla plow through a large blockade of power-lines in the previous installment seems ridiculous.

Character development here is rather poor, although far from the worst the Godzilla series would be exposed to. What makes the poor character development more fatal to this film, though, is the fact that, unlike later entries in the series, Godzilla Raids Again is a fairly character driven film. There is very little emphasis on the monsters for a good deal of the movie, leaving the human characters to carry a lot of the film. Sadly, they just aren't interesting enough to meet that task. We do learn that Tsukioka questions his own merit in combat, and that Kobayashi has a hidden love interest for Hidemi Yamaji (a character who is grossly underdeveloped). However, not only are they uninteresting, but they fail to invoke much emotion at all from the viewer. Take Kobayashi's death, which hardly sparks much reaction at all because the audience never really gains much of an attachment to the character.

As for the acting, it fails to impress pretty much across the board, which is pretty problematic here as the film devotes so much time to the characters. Even Minoru Chiaki, who plays Koboyashi, delivers a bland performance here, which is particularly disheartening given the talents he displayed in both Throne of Blood (1957) and The Hidden Fortress (1958) in years to come. In reality, it's very likely that director Motoyoshi Oda simply wasn't up to the task. Look no further than Yamane's presentation on the first Godzilla, which is mostly cut from the US version, for proof of poor directing. This scene, which runs totally quite without music, talking or sound effects, is a real test of endurance on the viewer's part as it feels like it stretches on forever.

On a brighter note, Eiji Tsuburaya returns from Godzilla (1954) to do the special effects for Godzilla Raids Again. Once again, his efforts are appreciated here as Tsuburaya fails to disappoint given the time period, and certainly given the time frame. The altered speed on the fight scene, which was partially unintentional, actually ends up being an interesting element and gives the battle a feral like quality to it. Given the technology at the time, it would be easy to say that Tsuburaya's effects are easily the film's best aspect.

In regards to the music, new comer Masaru Sato was signed on to do the score for this Godzilla sequel, and while Sato would do some impressive work later in his career, his work here certainly leaves a lot to be desired. His main title theme is rather upbeat here, and doesn't fit with the overall theme of the film much at all. A large body of Sato's themes from this film are readily forgettable, with the only real exception being the eerie theme that plays when Godzilla first appears in the waters near Osaka.

Overall, a very rushed and rather plain Godzilla sequel, which left a lot of room for improvements to the "formula" in the years to come.