Godzilla Raids Again (1955 Japan) (Gigantis,the Fire Monster)

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Godzilla Raids Again (1955 Japan) (Gigantis,the Fire Monster)

Post  BoG on Wed Jul 21, 2010 1:31 pm

This was the first sequel to Gojira (1954) (aka Godzilla,King of the Monsters). There are two versions - the original Japanese version (1955) and then the American version titled Gigantis the Fire Monster, which was released in 1959. A lot of the changes in the Gigantis version can apparently be attributed to American producer Paul Schreibman, who, for example, changed Godzilla's name to Gigantis because he, uh, didn't want audiences... to confuse this monster... with Godzilla (which had been destroyed in the first film); the thing is, this WAS Godzilla, so Schreibman's logic was a bit flawed. As mentioned in the audio commentary for this film on the DVD, a good guess for Schreibman's motives is that he just liked to make changes, to justify his existence.
This sequel is b&w, like the first Godzilla film - after this, Godzilla would be in color. I'll get the things I do not like about the American version out of the way now: (1) the narration; there's a lot of it at the start and I got quite annoyed with it after about a minute; the narrator/voice actor seems to be addressing little children and spelling out stuff happening on screen which is obvious to a viewer - we DO NOT NEED this narration; unfortunately, it continues later in the film; (2) the dubbing - no surprise there; the voice actors almost seem to be trying to make a couple of the actors sound clownish; much of the dialog is changed to idiotic versions, the more infamous line involving "banana oil" (3) the intro - there's footage at the start which seems to prep us for a low budget film about rockets or something, which would be OK if that's the kind of film this was; there's also later footage educating us on Earth's millions-of-years history, geared towards 5-year olds. There's more, but that's enuff; as opined in the DVD audio commentary, much of this is just nonsensical.
The plot focuses on a couple of pilots and their girlfriends. The pilots end up on some island near the beginning and spot Godzilla fighting another monster, later called Anguirus. The giant monsters fall into the ocean and about 10 minutes of screen time later, Godzilla is already shuffling out of the water towards Osaka. Midway through, the plot suddenly shifts to a 'prison escape' film for a few minutes as a bunch of convicts break out of the truck transporting them; it's exciting, but I thought 'wha...?' There is a method to this plot turn but I still find it to be almost like a different movie for 6 or 7 minutes. Anyway, Anguirus also shows up and there's a fight - this was the first film to feature two giant monsters battling; the first in Japanese monster cinema, at least. I guess I don't need to explain who wins; let's just say I felt sorry for Anguirus later.
This 1st sequel was poorly-reviewed, I hear, and has a bad rep, but the Japanese version isn't too bad. Without the dopey narration, many scenes have the same chilling effect as those in the original Gojira (1954), calling to mind impending doom on a populace, with some haunting images and audio when the Japanese air force engages Godzilla. My understanding is that some of the fight scenes were accidentally filmed undercranked, resulting in a hyper-kinetic style, but it looked pretty good and was kept in. There's one scene when a subway gets flooded (following up on the convicts subplot) which is quite startling and well done - I didn't expect to see that. Godzilla would not return until several years later, in King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962). BoG's Score: 6 out of 10 (original version)
Some Strange Trivia: one of the main characters here is named Kobayashi (he's the character who usually sounds like a clown in the dubbed American version); in Star Trek II:The Wrath of Khan (1982), the Kobayashi Maru is a test exercise, a no-win situation. Uh-oh. Also, George Takei (Sulu on TOS and Star Trek II:The Wrath of Khan) was one of the voice actors for this one.
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