Godzilla Raids Again aka Gigantis the Fire Monster and Godzilla's Counterattack
Our rating: two LAVA® motion lamps.
Buddy, it's a Godzilla movie. What
do you think is going to happen?
Though the original Godzilla was obviously a triumph, Godzilla Raids Again is a misstep, especially from the perspective of kaiju fans today. Perhaps because Ishiro Honda had other commitments producer Tomiyura Tanaka gave the task of making the first Godzilla sequel to another director, Motoyoshi Oda. The resulting film introduced the popular Godzilla vs. Another Monster formula that would serve the series so well. Unfortunately, nearly everything about the film feels rushed except for the dramatic pacing, which suffers from the opposite problem.
Set a few months after Godzillas initial rampage in Tokyo, the action follows Tsukioka and Kobiyashi, two pilots who fly for a small Japanese fishing fleet, spotting schools of fish from the air. On one such flight, Kobiyashis plane develops engine trouble and the pilot is forced to make an emergency landing on a remote island. Tsukioka follows to rescue him, but the airmen are soon horrified to learn that they share the island with two battling giant monsters. One looks like Godzilla, who attacked Tokyo only a few months before, and the other is a four-legged behemoth with a spiky shell on its back.
"Can I get two million orders of the
tuna roll? Thanks."
Needless to say our two heroes beat feet as quickly as possible, but not before seeing the two monsters plunge into the ocean. Upon their return to Japan, Tsukioka and Kobayashi report their multiple monster sighting to the authorities.
What happens next is really quite admirable. The authorities, including Dr. Yamane (Takashi Shimura) from the original movie, convene to discuss the monsters. But even though all they know is that two monsters are in the water off a remote island, the scientists immediately assume that Godzilla will make his way to Japan. They never consider the possibility that Godzilla and the other monster, now named Angilas, could have just gone back to their own island. No, theyre giant monsters so they must be heading for Tokyo. It may not seem reasonable at first, but this kind of kaiju-related fatalism would serve the inhabitants of Japanese monster pictures well for the next fifty years.
Naturally, Japan is on the big Gs travel itinerary. Soon the beast is spotted near the coast of Osaka and the military tries their newest bright idea to save Japan. And it is bright literally. During the last attack, it was noted that Godzilla is attracted to lights, so the great minds of the military develop a plan to drop light bombs (though to us they look like regular old flares) behind Godzilla as he approaches Osaka. The lights will then lure him away from the city. This almost works, until . . .
"Monster Angilas?" What does the
author have against ankylosaurs?
In a scene that would make Jerry Brucheimer proud, a band of criminals who are being transported through blacked-out Osaka escape their prison bus and steal a fuel truck. A furious chase ensues, and the fuel truck ends up barrelling into a fuel refinery, which explodes in a spectacular plume of light. This of course attracts Godzilla back to Osaka, and the Japanese generals beat senseless the genius who suggested using light bombs against a giant dinosaur.
No sooner has Godzilla reached shore than Angilas follows. The two monsters wrestle while a terrorized populace flees. (A rather amusingly American nightclub sequence erupts in chaos when the public address system asks the patrons to "calmly" proceed to the nearest shelter.) The military throws up its collective hands in frustration. They couldnt deal with one giant monster last year the chances that they can fend off two angry, city-trampling leviathans are pretty small.
Angilas began to think maybe
he should have avoided
the brown acid.
One thing obvious almost immediately is that Eiji Tsuburaya took a very different approach to filming the giant monsters this time around. Rather than shooting the creatures in slow motion to make them look large and ponderous, most of the monster footage is actually sped up! This was supposed to make the two combatants seem fierce and animalistic, but most of the time it looks like a Benny Hill sketch got mixed up with a Godzilla film. The few slow motion shots included in the picture, like one of Godzilla and Angilas circling each other, and another of Angilas toppling into the ocean, are by far the most effective. The rest of the monster footage looks like two guys in monster suits tripping over someones model train set.
After a fierce and protracted battle that destroys the famous Osaka castle, Godzilla rather viciously rips Angilas throat out. The victorious titan then leaves Osaka by sea, and the story returns to following Tsukioka and Kobiyashi. A few of these scenes involve Tsukiokas imminent wedding, which was delayed by the monster attack. Godzilla is nearly forgotten until he sinks a ship, at which point the strange dramatic interlude ends and the monster movie kicks back in. Tsukioka and Kobiyashi join the search for the monster, eventually catching up to him on an ice-covered island. Godzilla uses his breath to destroy Kobiyashis plane, but watching his friend plummet to his fiery death into a mountain gives Tsukioka an idea. He instructs the military to cause an avalanche on the mountains around Godzilla, and the big G ends up on ice for the next eight years.
It's time to get Godzilla
to the orthodontist.
Where the original Godzilla included human drama that directly affected the monsters, Godzilla Raids Again devotes a lot of time to Japan's two unluckiest pilots, Tsukiokas fiancée, her father, and the fishing fleet they all work for. Somewhere along the line someone decided that devoting twenty minutes to the reconstruction of the fishing fleet and Kobiyashi's brotherly devotion to Tsukioka would increase the human interest in the story, but the results fail miserably. Its tough to imagine any viewer who wouldnt be waiting for the next monster scene to start so they didnt have to listen to these people talk about tuna and wedding gifts anymore. Apparently Japanese audiences stayed away in droves, because this movie ended the Godzilla series for nearly a decade. Toho continued to make monster movies, but Godzilla was not considered a character bankable enough to headline a movie by himself.
That thinking must have occurred in America as well, because Godzilla Raids Again was not released in the U.S. until 1959, and even then under the title Gigantis, the Fire Monster. The rather bizarre dubbing made the English language version nearly incomprehensible and made no references to Godzilla, King of the Monsters.