Godzilla Raids Again
While Hollywood is well known for cashing on a successful flick with a sequel the practice is not limited to the United States. Back in the fifties the Japanese import, Godzilla, was fairly successful and the producers wasted little time in pulling together a sequel. While this was to be the start of a five decade long franchise their concern at the time was making another film with the radioactive breathing monster. It has been noted that the second Godzilla flick, now known as ‘Godzilla Raids Again’, was pressed into release in only six months after production started. Using the tried and true sequel formula of more is better the production company figured if one monster was a success they couldn’t fail with two creatures fighting each other. You can tell things are going bad when even the title is uncertain. The literal translation of the original title was ‘Godzilla's Counter Attack’ but this film was also known by ‘Gigantis the Fire Monster’ and ‘Gojira Strikes Again’.
As the film begins we meet Shoichi Tsukioka (Hiroshi Koizumi) and Kôji Kobayashi (Minoru Chiaki). They work as pilots for a fishing and cannery company and were in their plane scoping out new tuna schools. The plane has trouble and the pair is forced to land in a volcano bed near Iwato Island. The two men are drawn to some noises and find two huge monsters fighting to the death. Just as Tsukioka recognizes one of the monsters as Godzilla the creatures fall off a cliff into the ocean. As soon as the men get back to home they report what they saw to the authorities in Osaka. They describe the second monster, sort of an overgrown and mutated hedgehog, to the scientists who declare the second creature is Anguirus. Both this creature and Godzilla lived during the same time period and where bitter rivals. Dr. Kyohei Yamane-hakase (Takashi Shimura) who was instrumental in the defeat of the first Godzilla is consulted and explains that this monster is different from the one that attacked Tokyo a year previously. The only weapon that could defeat Godzilla was the creation of Dr. Serizawa who has recently died taking the secret of the oxygen destroyer with him. Yamane has a plan to divert the new Godzilla by drawing him away with flares. Since Godzilla was disturbed by nuclear testing bright lights are now exactly his favorite he is draw away from his impending attack on Osaka.
Shortly after these events some prisoners are being moved by truck to a more secure location. The dangerous felons decide that this is the perfect time to make a break. The overcome a couple of officers guarding them, steal a gasoline truck and peal out. I guess they don’t have the same driver’s education over there and the criminals crash the truck into a building starting a huge blaze. Godzilla sees the fire and begins to move towards the source. Just as Godzilla reaches shore Anglilas shows up. They engage in a terrible battle destroying the cannery that Tsukioka and Kobayashi work for. Godzilla’s breath is too much for Anglilas and the spiky monster is killed. Godzilla runs off leaving Tsukioka and the military to look for him. The rest of the film is the usual bombs and aerial attacks not quite killing the monster but trapping him under tons of rocks. After all you have to leave room for another film.
While most of the Godzilla flicks have two different versions, one for the Japanese audiences, another for the Americans, this one the changes made are huge. First the name was in dispute. Warner Brothers, which marketed the film here in the States, could not obtain the rights to the ‘Godzilla’ name and renamed the star monster to ‘Gigantis’. There was apparently some hope that this would also make audiences think this was a brand new monster. In the American version the re-editing and dubbing transform the character of Kobayashi from just comic relief to someone near the buffoon level. The actor here, Minoru Chiaki, was in such great Japanese cinema as ‘Seven Samurai’ making these changes a complete disservice to an incredible actor. If you listen closely you will also notice that the dubbed version seems to lose track of the monsters’ names. The humans use the names almost interchangeably. Perhaps the fact that the sound effects team for the dubbed version alternate the monster’s growls instead of having each creature have a distinctive voice. Even the Japanese version has some problems. There were several changes made to the Godzilla costume worn by Haruo Nakajima. The general presentation is more menacing with more realistic eyes and a better fit to the costume but some of the modifications were horrible. Godzilla’s teeth stick out in a manner that would make it impossible to bite. While creature creation back then was not as concerned with realism as it is today the dental work here is laughable. If only Godzilla had a caring mother like Gogo perhaps he could have had some braces when he was a little lizard. Overall the film shows that the production was a rush to get something to the theaters. There was not enough time to really develop the stories. The human plot lines tend to drag serving only to hold the thin plot together between battles. Fortunately, the bright side here is the battles. They are epic, conveying the sense that two animals are dueling to the death.
I have to hand it to Sony with this release. Even though this is one of the lesser installments of the franchise they do a great job with the DVD. The general release is set for spring or 2007 but you can purchase it now on godzillaondvd.com. This release has both the Japanese and American versions. The Japanese cut runs 81:34 while the American version clocking in at 79:00. Both are presented in black and white 4:3 video. The audio shows some signs of age but this are a lot cleaner than other versions I’ve watched. Sony did well with the selection of extras. There is a commentary track by Steve Ryfle who wrote ‘Japan's Favorite Mon-Star: The Unauthorized Biography of Godzilla’. There is also a featurette concerned with the artistry required to act in a rubber lizard suit. This film along with the other recent releases makes for a perfect Godzilla marathon.