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Godzilla Raids Again (1955)
Not Rated

Starring: Hiroshi Koizumi, Setsuko Wakayama, and Minoru Chiaki

Rating:
**1/2
out of
*****

Following the massive success of 1954's Gojira, the first Godzilla film, Toho Studios ordered another film quickly be made. Godzilla Raids Again, the first of what would eventually be a series of many Godzilla movies, was rushed into production. Made and released only six months after the original film, the movie exhibits many problems that are more than likely the result of the hurried schedule.

Koji Kobayashi (Minoru Chiaki), a spotter pilot for a large fishing fleet, encounters engine trouble and is forced to land his seaplane near a remote island in the Pacific. His best friend and fellow pilot, Shoichi Tsukioka (Hiroshi Koizumi), lands nearby and, before the two pilots can leave the island, they spot two large prehistoric monsters fighting to the death. Narrowly escaping being crushed under their feet, the two pilots watch as the two creatures tumble into the sea.

Upon returning to Japan, the pilots report what they've seen to the local authorities. Based on the descriptions the pilots give, a scientist determines one of the creatures to be Godzilla, who had recently terrorized Tokyo. The other is Anguirus, an armor-plated dinosaur, known for his quick speed and ferocity.

Based on what they've learned from the first Godzilla attack, they know they can't defeat the creatures with conventional weapons. So, the authorities quickly assemble a plan to keep the creatures from attacking Osaka, eliminating the need to confront them directly. The plan seems to work until an unforeseen incident causes the monsters to resume their battle on land.

Being that this was the first Godzilla sequel, it seems apparent that the filmmakers had no vision as to what the series would eventually become over time. The plot seems to be more of a retread of the first film with an extra monster added to give Godzilla a new reason to attack Japan. Unfortunately, the inclusion of Anguirus does more to hurt than help as he's dispatched halfway through the movie leaving the film's dramatic tension -- or what little there is -- hanging out to dry.

The special effects work that was so carefully crafted in the first film is fairly shoddy here. Although a few scenes are impressive, the majority of the scenes featuring Godzilla and Anguirus are poorly done. Due to a technical error, the combat scenes between the two monsters are shot in high-speed. It's a strange juxtaposition for Godzilla, who lumbers slowly when he walks, but fights like a amphetamine-crazed wrestler.

Also sorely missed is the somber tone of Gojira. Godzilla Raids Again, which was directed by Motoyoshi Oda, has a more matter-of-fact approach to the idea of giant monsters attacking Japan than Ishiro Honda exhibited in the original movie. The script does try to insert some tragic elements but they're rather ineffective.

If it sounds like I'm being a little too hard on what is, essentially, a B-movie, it's because Gojira was a monster movie but it also provided a warning about nuclear weapons and the destruction they can unleash upon the world. With its concentration on being a monster movie -- and a relatively silly one at that -- Godzilla Raids Again is the first awkward step that the Godzilla series takes away from being horrific and toward what would eventually become children's entertainment. As such, it's disappointing.

If you're a Godzilla fan, Godzilla Raids Again is worth seeing for its historical value and as a curiosity. It's not a great movie on any level, but it does make for interesting viewing. If you're not a Godzilla fan, I probably don't have to tell you to skip this one.

Godzilla Raids Again, which was largely unavailable on video in the U.S., was just re-released by Classic Media on DVD. The DVD includes the original Japanese version (reviewed here) as well as the U.S. version, which is sometimes referred to as Gigantis, The Fire Monster, the title it was given for U.S. audiences.

Trivia: Special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya wanted the fight scenes filmed in slow motion, but a camera technician accidentally undercranked the camera instead of overcranking it, resulting in the action appearing faster than reality. Tsuburaya liked the effect, and decided to use it in the film. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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