GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN

(aka GIGANTIS THE FIRE MONSTER)

(1955)
(Japanese Title: Gojira no gyakushû)
With Hiroshi Koizumi, Setsuko Wakayama, Minoru Chiaki, (and Haruo Nakajima as Gojira,.or Godzilla, or Gigantis, whatever...)
Directed by Ishiro Honda
Black and White
Reviewed by JB

This review is of the dubbed American version of the film, and the original Japanese version.

"Hi there... sorry about all the fire..."     Following on the heels of 1954's GOJIRA and its American bastardization GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS, Toho Studios released Gojira no gyakushû, a fun but pointless quickie sequel in which another Godzilla is discovered on a remote island and then, for no particular reason, this new Godzilla attacks the city of Osaka. In 1959, Warner Brothers got a hold of the Japanese Godzilla sequel, edited it,  dubbed it and turned it into GIGANTIS THE FIRE MONSTER, which is now known as GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN.  Confused?  So am I!  Like Capitol Records and the early Beatles albums, American movie companies could not stop fiddling about with Godzilla films. While they naturally needed to be dubbed, American companies also chopped out some original scenes, added new footage, changed storylines and even changed the names of monsters.  So Godzilla became Gigantis in America, and for years, very few people realized that the original GODZILLA film had an immediate sequel, until it was rereleased a few years ago on DVD with its original title restored.

    Unfortunately, whatever you want to call it, there's not a whole lot to this film.  The effects are hit and miss, and the monsters often move way too fast for a pair who are so large they should have been crushed by gravity long ago.  But - and here's what makes the film worthwhile for any Japanese monster fan - there's lots of action. A good portion of the middle of this film features The Big G battling the equally large and destructive Anguirus, with Osaka as their wrestling ring.  Sometimes the action is spectacular, sometimes it's done at such a frenzied pace the two monsters look like Chubby and Joe Cobb in a boxing ring, but at least it is action.

    Later, Godzilla makes it back to another remote island but is pestered and harassed there by the military, who hold a grudge for what he just did to Osaka.  Do they kill the big guy?  They certainly try, but as it turns out, no matter how many times they think they have gotten rid of Mr. Zilla, he winds up returning.  It should be noted, however, that this Godzilla is brand new, as the original Big Guy did die at the end of the first film.  The Godzilla we have come to know and love through such epics as KING KONG VS. GODZILLA, SON OF GODZILLA and THE TERROR OR MECHAGODZILLA, to name three random films, is actually "Godzilla #2".

Join us for a night of fireworks and destruction at Godzillathon 2010!    Of course, it wouldn't be a Godzilla movie without scientists spouting nonsense at a conference table, so once Scientist in Unconvincing Old Guy Makeup finishes reading from The Big Book of Dinosaurs That Could Never Possibly Exist Except in Japanese Monster Movies, he throws the floor to none other than Dr. Yamane from the original GOJIRA, once again played by top-notch character actor Takashi Shimura, who then proceeds to show film highlights of the original GOJIRA to show how serious the situation is, because apparently everybody's forgotten about how Tokyo was destroyed the previous year by a similar creature and  need a short Godzilla compilation video to help them remember and stay motivated.  The best part of this scene is when Post-Dubbed Scientist Who Is Not Takashi Shimura is reading straight from his book and utters the passage about how a certain creature can breathe fire and destroy the world with the same calm inflection most people would read "And they lived happily ever after". The worst part about this scene is that Takashi Shimura had just finished what should have been two career-defining roles in Akira Kurosawa's IKIRU and SEVEN SAMURAI, and yet here he was playing "The Scientist Who Spouts Misinformation Again" in a cheap monster sequel destined to wind up playing on a twin bill in the U.S. with TEENAGERS FROM OUTER SPACE.

    As I expected, the original Japanese version of the film was a much better experience, although, in truth, the movie is still no classic.  It still lacks the emotional and historical subtext that made the original film so effective. However, it is easier to care about the human characters without the constant redundant narration and inappropriate dubbing.  Several plot points are cleared up, including one important one.  In the English-dubbed version, a fishing pilot keeps attacking Gojira on his own with his little weaponless plane, with tragic results. No reason is given why he would do this, so he looks like an impulsive idiot.  It is made clear in the original verson that he was actually trying to help the Japanese Air Force by intentionally distracting Godzilla with his flybys, thus keeping the Big Guy from wandering out to sea, where he would be harder to destroy.  2½ - JB

A GOOD CAST IS WORTH REPEATING

Actor Hiroshi Koizumi, who plays one of the two fishing pilots, would become a familiar face in the series, starring in several of the Mothra films and returning to the series during its reboots, in 1984 and again in 2003.
Character actor Minoru Chiaki, the other fishing pilot, was one of director Akira Kurosawa's favorite players, appearing in many of "The Emperor's" classic films including RASHOMON, SEVEN SAMURAI and THE HIDDEN FORTRESS.  GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN was his only Giant Monster film.

Sonosuke Sawamura, who plays a local executive whose fishing business has been ruined by Godzilla, will be remembered by fans of the "Zatoichi The Blind Swordsman" series of films starring Shintaro Katsu.  In several films, he played a yakuza boss destined to be cut to pieces by Zatoichi before the ending credits.
  

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