What do you do when you’ve made an extremely successful movie but killed off the title character? This was the problem facing producer Tomoyuki Tanaka and director Motoyoshi Oda when they were tasked with making the follow up to the 1955 monster hit Gojira. This was certainly not the first time filmmakers had run into this particular dilemma, 1933’s King Kong concluded with giant ape dead at the end of that picture but that didn’t stop the studio from releasing Son of Kong that very same year. Yet in the case of Godzilla Raids Again instead of going with Son of Godzilla, though that title would later pop up in 1967, they would just have another Godzilla show up, and because that might not have been enough for fans they threw in a second giant monster as a sort of bonus.
In classic quickie sequel fashion Godzilla Raids Again was rushed into production mere months after Gojira was released into theatres, and with a considerably lesser budget. This would of course result in there being less location filming, less monster destruction and lesser emotional impact than the original film offered. This probably explains why they thought if they tossed in a secondary monster people may not have noticed that they were being a bit cheated, and instead of the dramatic love triangle that made up one of the key elements of Gojira this sequel would have a “friend triangle” that consisted of a couple in love and their comic relief sidekick friend. Godzilla Raids Again even tried to give this third member of the triangle a tragic death as if the noble self-sacrifice of Professor Serizawa in Gojira could somehow be equated to a second banana getting killed by Godzilla this time out.
The movie opens with two pilots named Shoichi Tsukioka (Hiroshi Koizumi) and Kôji Kobayashi (Minoru Chiaki), who work for a tuna cannery company in Osaka as spotters for the fishing fleet, and when Kobayashi’s plane develops engine trouble he is forced to land near Iwato Island, an uninhabited strip of rocks formed by volcanic eruptions. When Tsukioka learns of his partner and friend’s situation he immediately races towards Iwato Island. Now he’d learned of his friend’s trouble from the company’s radio operator who also happens to be his love interest Hidemi Yamaji (Setsuko Wakayama) who is also the daughter of the fishing company’s owner, and she’s the third component of this film “Friend Triangle.” The time spent with the soap opera issues of the burgeoning love affair between Shoichi and Hidemi, and what the damage was done by Godzilla would do to the cannery business, is the film’s weakest element. We just don’t care.
Godzilla Raids Again is not only the first sequel in the Godzilla franchise but it’s also the film that introduced kaiju (giant monster) fights. When Tsukioka lands his seaplane to assist Kobayashi the two men are shocked to find that they currently share this desolate piece of rock with two prehistoric behemoths that seem hell-bent on destroying each other. Our courageous duo madly scrambles to evade the rocks knocked loose during this titanic battle and are only spared when the two beasts plunge off the side of the island and into the ocean. Tsukioka recognizes one of the monsters as Godzilla and once back on the mainland he and Kobayashi report their discovery to the authorities. A group of scientist are able to confirm that the second monster is Anguirus (or Angilas as its spelled in the film) an ankylosaurus that is described in a provided dinosaur textbook to be “one of the few creatures that had a thorough hatred for war-like predators” which seems like a strange character trait for the animal but at least it explains why he wants to fight Godzilla.
There is only one other returning character from the original film, aside from Godzilla that is, and that would be Professor Yamane (Takashi Shimura) who experienced Godzilla’s attack the previous year and he confirms that this Godzilla is a second member of the same species and that it and Anguirus were probably brought back to life by the same hydrogen bomb tests that awoke the original Godzilla. Yamane is then asked to outline any Godzilla countermeasures that he may have come up with but instead, he responds, “Well, I would tell you about Godzilla countermeasures, but I regret we have no effective strategy for it. There are no policies that will stop Godzilla. I have no methods to tell you at this time.” Well thanks for coming out Professor, you’ve been a big help. He then shows them footage of the original Godzilla attacks in the hopes that viewing this would somehow help them come up with a viable plan. This is of course absurd as watching Godzilla set fire to Tokyo is certainly not going to cause some epiphany to the people in this room, all who had probably witnessed the destruction themselves as it was only just last year that it happened. After this little “Show & Tell” Yamane brings up what would happen if Godzilla were to come ashore again.
As Oxygen Destroyer, the weapon designed by Professor Serizawa that basically dissolved Godzilla in the first movie, was a “one of kind” device and the secrets of its making died with the inventor, so things do look bad, but the group actually come up with a decent plan, not one to kill Godzilla but to at least save their cities. Yamane comes up with the rather clever idea of having the populace institute a blackout when Godzilla appears and then the Airforce would launch bright flares to attract Godzilla back out to sea and away from the shore. It was a great plan and almost worked, the flares did distract Godzilla and they did lure him back out to sea but then a case of “Oh what the fuck?” a group of convicts just so happen to escape a prison transfer, steal an oil truck, and during the police chase they drive the truck into an oil refinery which of course explodes. Seeing this massive conflagration Godzilla ignores the middling flares and makes his way back to shore. And if that’s not bad enough Anguirus shows up as well and the two get in a knockdown drag-out fight that levels much of the city, including the tuna cannery our “heroes” work for.
Note: To make men in monster suits look as if they are massive creatures these scenes are filmed in slow motion, but a camera technician accidentally undercranked the camera instead of over cranking it, resulting in the action appearing faster than reality. Effects director Tsuburaya liked the herky-jerky effect and left it in.
What is really strange is that at the 45-minute mark Godzilla sinks his teeth in Anguirus’s throat and rips it out, blood gushes from the wound as Godzilla rolls the dying monster over the edge of a retaining wall, and then Godzilla uses his atomic breath to incinerate Anguirus. How his atomic fire achieved this is a bit of a mystery as earlier it seemed to have no effect on the ankylosaurus. Maybe being dead weakens your defences. Regardless of the inconsistency of monster attacks, the movie is just barely half over and Godzilla’s primary antagonist is dead. Who is going to stop Godzilla now? Sadly it’s left to our rather bland heroes who manage to track Godzilla to an isolated snow-packed island, don’t ask me why an atomic fueled dinosaur decided to seek out arctic climes to hang out at, and they call in the Japanese Defense Force to engage the monster.
It’s when Kobayashi makes another pass at Godzilla, in his totally unarmed seaplane, and is blasted out of the sky by the monster (he apparently didn’t get the memo on the whole atomic breath thing), but it is this brave if rather stupid act that is the clue to how Godzilla could be defeated, for when Kobayashi’s plane crashed it sent an avalanche of snow and ice down upon monster. This gives Tsukioka the idea of having the Defense Force planes retreat and rearm with rockets and then return to bury Godzilla in an icy tomb. It’s a good plan, and it does work, but the breaking up of the attack, the going back to get the rockets and the time spent working out the new plan completely destroys the pacing of what should have been a rocking finale.
Note: There is an especially strange tactic where the Defense Force sends in ships to place barrels of oil to great a flame barrier to prevent Godzilla from escaping back into the sea. How burning oil is to deter a creature that was awoken by an H-Bomb, and who seems immune to all manner of artillery fire and has been seen wading through cities he himself sets aflame, is simply beyond me.
Regardless of the plausibility of a creature that can breathe atomic fire being buried and trapped in snow and ice – I guess maybe he was knocked unconscious and couldn’t use his breath attack – but that is exactly what happens, and the day is saved. Godzilla Raids Again isn’t a bad movie it’s just quite tonally different from the original, no allegory for nuclear holocaust here just your run-of-the-mill monster fight, the love story doesn’t have that tragic element found in Gojira and the cast is overall bland and rather uninteresting. It did introduce to the franchise the idea of Godzilla encountering and fighting other giant monsters but in this outing, it really didn’t add much to the proceedings. It’s not a bad movie but it’s not a very good sequel.
Note: Like the original Gojira this film was adapted for American audiences but for some stranger reason producers Paul Schreibman and Edmund Goldman decided to hide the fact that this was a Godzilla sequel and called the film Gigantis the Fire Monster. Their reasoning was they didn’t want to confuse American audiences but who of course were very confused when characters in the movie kept calling Godzilla by the stupid name Gigantis.
Godzilla Raids Again (1955)
Though a pale comparison to the original Godzilla Raids Again does offer some nice creature destruction and with its 81 minute running time it doesn’t wear out its welcome.