Michael Reviews Godzilla Raids Again (1955)

1955’s “Godzilla Raids Again” (yes – each word is capitalized, for some reason) was the start of two major traditions that would define nearly every Godzilla film to follow it. The first, of course, is the introduction of a second Kaiju. The reason we go to see Godzilla films now is to watch him take on some other superpowered beast in an epic fight for the ages. The second tradition introduced here, unfortunately, is uninteresting human characters. No one in this film had any real arc, and none of them gave me a reason to really care for them – and the acting wasn’t the problem.

The film opens with two pilots – Tsukioka and Kobayashi – hunting for fish for a tuna company when Kobayashi’s plane engine starts to malfunction, and he has to crash land on a small island. Tsukioka finds Kobayashi in a cave waiting for help with a minor wrist injury. As they are about to leave the cave, they witness a brief battle between two giant kaiju – the instantly recognizable Godzilla, and a new unrecognizable four-legged monster that left both men puzzled. After both monsters retreat to the ocean, Tsukioka and Kobayashi leave the small island, returning to Osaka to report their findings to the authorities. Next, we cut to a scene portraying the local government working with a few scientists to identify the new creature based on Tsukioka and Kobayashi’s testimony. They identify the new creature as an “Ankylosaurus”, also known as “Anguirus” – a dinosaur that lived during the same time period as the original Godzilla creatures. This is my favorite scene in the film because the way they build up Anguirus to be a major threat left me on the edge of my seat.  Anguirus is described as being anywhere from 150-200 feet, “exclusively carnivorous and extremely violent, and extremely nimble for its massive size”.  It is explained that Anguirus’s brain is distributed across his thorax and abdomen, which is what makes him remarkably agile. That last bit was a little nonsensical – but you know, suspension of disbelief and all that. Here we also learn that both Godzilla and Anguirus were forced out of their natural habitat due to hydrogen bomb testing, though it is not mentioned if it was the same bomb test from the first film, or if it was in fact a second test.

This film revealed a weakness that Godzilla has. After reviewing footage from the Godzilla attack in Tokyo (the events of the first film), the government noticed that Godzilla is sensitive to light. They believe this is because it reminds him of the hydrogen bomb test that forced him to resurface. The next time we see Godzilla appear, they use this knowledge to lure Godzilla back into the sea using flares, and it works tremendously well. Unfortunately, while this was happening, there was a prison break out, and a couple of the inmates stole a gasoline truck and accidentally crashed it. Consequently, this starts a large fire, thus luring Godzilla back onto the shores of Osaka. This time, however, the very aggressive Anguirus follows him to pick a fight…a very underwhelming fight. After hyping up Anguirus to be a formidable opponent for the king of the monsters, he was easily defeated after duking it out for a few minutes, with the usual destruction of the city that we Godzilla fans love to see.  Anguirus goes down as he is bitten in the neck by Godzilla, and leaves us with a sad whimper before Godzilla burns his remains using his atomic breath (which I will admit was the highlight of this whole fight). Godzilla then just walks back into the ocean, without a care in the world.  The biggest problem with this fight is it looks as if you are fast-forwarding the whole thing. It was really jarring and took me out of the film completely. After doing some research, I learned this was because one of the crew members was cranking the camera at the incorrect speed (this was made back when you had to hand-crank the camera). Some say director Motoyoshi Oda decided not to fix this mistake because he liked the look of it – but I was unable to find any real documentation of this claim.

Upset over the destruction of the city, The military begins to search for Godzilla in order to put an end to all of the chaos. Tsukioka spots him on a small icy island and notifies the military, who quickly arrive at the scene.  Kobayashi, at this point, is a member of the Air Force, and he helps with the attack on the monster. However, he is killed when Godzilla blasts his plane with atomic breath, causing him to crash into a mountain. This could have been an emotional scene, had the film taken the time to develop his character – but instead, it fell flat. The film ends with the other pilots intentionally causing an avalanche by shooting at the mountains, and Godzilla is buried in snow. His fate is left unclear.

This film is quite controversial among Godzilla fans, with some calling it an underrated masterpiece while others call it a trainwreck of a film. I find myself agreeing with the 60% rotten tomatoes score and the  5.8/10 IMDB rating…when it’s good. it’s very good -and when it’s bad, it’s very bad. This is why I am giving this film the “A Decent Watch” rating. If you are a Godzilla fan, you will likely enjoy this film…otherwise, it is likely that it will not work for you. 

Next week, I am taking a break from the mainline Godzilla series to watch 1956’s “Rodan”, which is canon to the Showa-era continuity – but does not feature Godzilla. I was not initially going to review any of these spin-off films, but I will make an exception for Rodan (and most likely Mothra) when we hit that point in the timeline. “Rodan”, like “Godzilla Raids Again”, is available to stream on HBO Max, so feel free to watch along!

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