GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN seems like an important movie to me because I think it’s the first GODZILLA sequel. GOJIRA was made in response to the popularity of KING KONG and THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS, but it was a very somber and elegiac disaster movie intentionally using its monster attacks to mirror the bombing of Hiroshima (as well as an incident less known in the U.S. in which a Japanese fishing vessel was radiated by U.S. atomic bomb tests). Its hero was a scientist who sacrifices himself to stop Godzilla without letting his bomb technology to be replicated, and it climaxes with a choir of 200 women singing sadly over long shots of the ruins of Tokyo.
The sequel came out only six months later and is the only other GODZILLA movie in black and white, but it’s the first one where Godzilla fights another monster, so it’s the first to resemble the specific type of fun we’re generally thinking of when we say we liked GODZILLA movies or kaiju movies.
Here’s one way it’s similar to FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2: it’s not the same killer as in part 1. The first Godzilla was definitively killed by the oxygen destroyer, and when what appears to be the same creature is spotted, Dr. Kyohei Yamane (Takashi Shimura, returning from the first film) is sure it’s not a resurrection, but another monster of the same species. Everybody still call him Godzilla like it’s his name, though.
Another way it’s like a FRIDAY THE 13TH sequel is that there’s a little footage from the first one. Dr. Yamane projects it on a screen so the others will understand Godzilla’s “frenzied, radioactivity-fueled rampage.” And a way it’s like A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PART 3 is that they give Godzilla the nickname “the bastard spawn of the hydrogen bomb.”
The story centers on these two pilots, Shoichi (Hiroshi Koizumi, MOTHRA, GODZILLA 1985) and Koji (Minoru Chiaki, STRAY DOG, SEVEN SAMURAI) who work as scouts for a canning company in Osaka. I like that they’re war veterans now working humble jobs for private business who get a chance to be heroic. I don’t know if it was meant as their chance to redeem themselves for the war or to get their groove back, but we don’t have to think about that too much. Goofy Koji is stranded on an island, handsome Shoichi goes to rescue him, and as they’re standing there holy shit, they see a Godzilla and a huge spiky four-legged dinosaur get in a fight. Godzilla does a great wrestling type move where he gets the guy in a headlock and drags him into the water.
Once they’re back in civilization the scientists have them pick out the other dinosaur from a dinosaur book, and confirm that it’s an ankylosaurus for some reason specifically named Anguirus, and that it’s a species that’s “extremely violent” and “extremely aggressive and hostile towards other species” and also that it existed at the same time as Godzilla’s species. In other words these two go waaaaaay back, and there’s no love lost between them. Godzilla sees him and is like “I remember you, asshole. You think I forgot?”
As is generally the case in these movies, the experts make some pretty big leaps without much data that turn out to be correct. They decide that this is another Godzilla resurrected by hydrogen bomb tests, and bright light reminds him of the bomb and causes him to attack. Therefore, they can use flares to lure him away from attacking cities.
Still, he attacks Osaka. There’s a cool scene taking place in a large night club with a live band that suddenly has to evacuate when there’s an announcement about Godzilla. The whole city turns their lights off – like people on Halloween who don’t want to get trick-or-treaters. There’s another scene I liked with two large groups having big get-togethers in an inn during an attack. Director Motoyoshi Oda (THE INVISIBLE AVENGER) and returning writers Takeo Murata and Shigeru Kayama plus Shigeaki Hidaka (WORLD WAR III BREAKS OUT) do a good job of adding a little humanity with business and love suplots without getting in the way of the monster shit we really came for. And I like how the head offices for the cannery are a location at the beginning and then we see the workers trying to clean it up after it’s been burned up in a Godzilla attack.
One thing that’s novel is that the fighting between Godzilla and Anguiris is very fast, often even sped up. Usually they slow it down helped make the monsters seem bigger. I like the animalistic dog fight kind of quality of them just wailing on each other here. It also kind of seems more like a sloppy rolling-around-on-the-ground type of fight between humans than your usual kaiju battles.
There is another heroic death – poor Koji crashes his plane, giving the others the idea to fire on the mountains, causing a series of avalanches that bury Godzilla in ice. So I guess the producers had the foresight to leave it so they can take Godzilla #2 out of the freezer and defrost him instead of making up a Godzilla #3 when they need him next time. But this movie only did okay (#10 at the Japanese box office that year) so next time didn’t come for seven years.
As soon as GOJIRA was a hit, producer Tomoyuki Tanaka wanted a sequel so urgently that he wouldn’t wait for Ishiro Honda, who was busy making a romantic drama called LOVE MAKEUP. They also got a new composer in Masaru Sato, only the third movie in a career that would go on to include THRONE OF BLOOD, THE HIDDEN FORTRESS, YOJIMBO, SANJURO, HIGH AND LOW, THE SWORD OF DOOM, GOYOKIN and STRAY DOG, but only two of the subsequent GODZILLA films (SON OF GODZILLA in ’67 and GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA in ’74). They did retain the services of FX genius Eiji Tsuburaya, which blows my mind to think about because how the fuck did they make all those miniature buildings fast enough to film and release a movie in less than 6 months? They also brought back Haruo Nakajima, the samurai movie stuntman who played Godzilla, thankfully giving him a new suit designed to fit him better and allow more movement. (The same thing that happens every time a Batman gets a sequel.)
Over here in the states we didn’t figure out right away that Godzilla was gonna be a thing. When the producers who had released GOJIRA as GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS! got the rights they initially wanted to take the Americanizing a step further – not adding Raymond Burr into the Japanese film, but instead building an American movie called THE VOLCANO MONSTERS around the FX footage. Screenwriters Ib Melchior (THE ANGRY RED PLANET, ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS) and Edwin Watson went through the movie and wrote a script with detailed notes about where to incorporate the footage. Toho even sent them the Godzilla and Angirus suits to film new scenes with.
But the financing fell through and instead they released it in 1959, dubbed, rescored with music from other movies, with added stock footage and retitled GIGANTIS THE FIRE MONSTER. Keye Luke, Paul Frees and George Takei were in the voice cast. This version was overseen by Hugo Grimaldi, director of THE HUMAN DUPLICATORS and MUTINY IN OUTER SPACE, who would later produce U.S. versions of HERCULES CONQUERS ATLANTIS and the Bruce Li movie EXIT THE DRAGON, ENTER THE TIGER.
(I don’t know why I’m so fascinated by which exploitation directors are behind the weird bastardized versions of foreign films, but I am. See also my reviews of GODZILLA 1985, WARRIORS OF THE WIND and SHOGUN ASSASSIN.)
Anyway, my final point is that the attack in this movie is this particular Godzilla’s first raid, and the rest of the fighting takes place on his own island, so at no point does Godzilla raid again. Also, did you know that RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and THE RAID are both based on GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN, pretty much scene for scene, shot for shot, frame for frame. In case any of you are into trivia. [citation desperately needed]