Thursday, August 4, 2011

Godzillapalooza #2: Godzilla Raids Again (1955)

Godzilla Raids Again (1955)
Monster Profile:


Anguirus in "Destroy All Monsters"
-HEIGHT: 197 feet (328 feet long)
-MASS: 33,000 tons
-SPECIAL POWERS: No supernatural powers to speak of. Spiked back and tail as well as horns give him tremendous defense and attack possibilities. Probably has one of the best fighting spirits of any monster. Anguirus totally has a chip on his shoulder.
-BACKGROUND: Anguirus does not really have a concrete background in the Godzilla series. He is assumed to be some giant mutated version of an Ankylosaurus that somehow survived extinction. Whether he is revived after this movie or he is simply not the only one of his kind is uncertain, but regardless, Anguirus and Godzilla eventually put aside their differences and Anguirus becomes Godzilla's most stalwart ally later in the series.

The plot centers around two scout pilots for a large fishing company, Tsukioka and Kobayashi. During a routine flight, they are forced to land on an island due to engine malfunctions. While on the island they see two giant monsters beating the crap out of each other before they fall into the sea. These monsters are, of course, Godzilla and Anguirus. Godzilla is the second of his kind, as Dr. Yamane recalls the attack on Tokyo at one point in the film. For the sake of continuity, it's worth assuming that Anguirus is not alone in the world either, because after this one is soundly defeated by Godzilla later in this movie, another Anguirus, later in the series, kind of becomes the Big Guy's best friend and strongest ally. Why the discrepancy between the two Anguiruses? We'll just assume that Godzilla either hooked up with the first Anguirus' sister or beat him in Mario Kart and he's been pissed off ever since. So anyway, the two monsters are eventually lured to Osaka by bright lights, that apparently make them very upset. In Osaka, the two monsters duke it out and, while Anguirus is a worthy foe, Godzilla totally annihilates him (literally, Anguirus dies). Thus the "versus" component to the film is lost at about the halfway point. The people of Japan are glad Anguirus is gone, but of course they decide they still need to deal with Godzilla. Long story short, the air force and our two scout pilot heroes trap Godzilla on a frozen island. Before Godzilla turns his plane into a bottle rocket, Kobayashi gives everyone the idea of burying Godzilla in an avalanche. So they do and it works. Godzilla then stays incased in the ice until we see him again in the next movie.

While this is by no means the worst installment in the Godzilla series, it's one of the most frustrating to watch, particularly the U.S. version which is heavily edited and changes just about everything but the core story. The U.S. version opens in propaganda-esque fashion, blabbering on about nuclear weapons and outer space; stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with the movie. Multiple other details are altered, including the character of Kobayashi who in the Japanese version is very much a tragic hero and martyr, but is portrayed as a bumbling moron in the U.S. re-edit. It's also irritating that throughout the movie a narrator, assumed to be Tsukioka, provides excessive narration, and I mean EXCESSIVE! It doesn't really add anything to the movie (unlike the narration in the first one) and it often over-explains things that are not particularly crucial to be explained. Perhaps worst of all, is the fact that throughout the entirety of the movie, Godzilla is referred to as Gigantis. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?! Why was it necessary to change the King of the Monsters' name?? The title even says GODZILLA Raids Again, so what's with the Gigantis crap? UGH!! There are countless more differences that I won't bother to get into. That being said, I actually find the Japanese version better, but I still have many hang-ups. It bothers the hell out of me that Godzilla's trademark roar is virtually unused in the film. You hear it perhaps three times at most, but the rest of the time Godzilla, excuse me, "Gigantis", only lets out the whiny roar that later in the series becomes synonymous with Anguirus. I mean, it works for Anguirus, but coming out of Godzilla it just pisses me off.

The tone of Godzilla Raids Again compared to Godzilla from the year before is strikingly different. The serious message is gone and Raids Again has the feel of a very typical B-movie. Director, Ishiro Honda, and Composer, Akira Ifukube, are missing from this film and it is very much evident. The score is awful and the direction is lacking. Special effects also took a major step back, in my eyes, between the first movie and Godzilla Raids Again. The Anguirus suit looks pretty good, but the Godzilla suit in many shots just looks awkward and weird, particularly the head. I've focused on the negatives far too much though, there are many good things that can be said as well about this film. First of all, it is certainly worth noting that a movie featuring two monsters fighting had never been done before and this represents the first in what would become a long, tradition-filled line of Godzilla movies pitting him in battle against one or more other monsters. The monster battle itself, though poorly filmed, is still entertaining, and mostly takes place around Osaka castle. Destroying this pagoda structure would also become a tradition in early Godzilla movies. The setting of Osaka is also very different and a welcome change of scenery from your basic Godzilla flick. Overall, I'd say it's an ok movie. If you're a big Godzilla fan, like me, than you definitely need to see it, but if not, don't feel too bad about skipping.

Best Part:
In all honestly, the best part of this movie, in my opinion, is the headline fight between Godzilla and Anguirus in the middle of Osaka. It's climactic and there's some nice destruction that takes place, including of course that good ole pagoda that we'll be seeing a lot of for the next few movies. The Godzilla suit also looks best throughout this scene. There aren't very many goofy looking shots of the head and the action is nice. Plus Godzilla draws his opponent's blood in this scene, which is a very rare occurance and adds to the drama and severity of the beatdown. Another good scene is when Godzilla is buried in ice at the end, but for me, the big monster battle takes the cake.

My Ranking: #24

Up next, the mother of all monster battles.... "King Kong vs. Godzilla"

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