Friday, November 19, 2010

Old-School Forgotten Sequels: Godzilla Raids Again (American Version)

Godzilla is one busy beast!  He's been the creature behind 29 films in fifty-odd years.  Mind you, there hasn't been a new film since 2004, so take that into account too!  There's a bit of an odd gap in his film history though.  After the original film, there was a lot of attention for the creature internationally.  This led to a 1957 film called Godzilla Raids Again.  That film was not what America wanted, however, and they decided to just use the effects footage for a film called The Volcano Monsters.  To that end, Toho even sent the original suit over to the United States to expedite the shooting of new scenes.  Forgiving people, those Japanese.  Unfortunately, we managed to lose the suits and the producers eventually cobbled together a film called Gigantis: The Fire Monster.  A few years later, the Japanese made a color film called King Kong vs. Godzilla and the rest was history.  How many people remember the middle child in this movie family though? Let's give this film a little more of a spotlight courtesy of Netflix Instant Viewing.  Get out your dinosaur stock footage for my review of...
The film begins with a bit of narration by a pilot.  It awkwardly turns into him actually talking on a radio, only to go back into narration again.  Pick one!  Basically, he has to go to an uncharted island and find his missing buddy.  He does this and discovers him on a beach.  As they go to leave, some rear projection footage of monsters fight appears over them!  It's Gojira fighting a dinosaur-armadillo monster known as Anguirus.  In spite of his place in film history- as the first monster that Godzilla ever fought- the guy is barely remembered.  Even in his second biggest role- Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack- he doesn't get title billing!  The creatures fight for a bit before our heroes make their escape by plane.  Back on the mainlands, they are greeted by some scientists who give them some background on 'Big G.'  They explain that many dinosaurs once roamed the Earth before being mutated by radiation.  The most famous- and dangerous- of these is Gojira.  Of course, he was killed in that last film, but I guess he got better.  I should also note two things.  First, the dinosaur footage is stock footage of another film, which was also used in Gojira.  Second, how do they have that footage?
After a bit more exposition and some background on our characters, we finally get to the big attraction.  Oddly, this fight is kind of wonky-looking.  Just to note: I'm stuck watching the US version which, despite being labeled Godzilla Raids Again, refers to Godzilla as 'Gigantis' the whole time.  I say this to let you know that anyone with the original version may have a better-looking scene.  The action is decent here, as both monsters fight tooth and nail.  However, the action is sped up just a bit slower than a Dolemite fight scene.  This makes the scene look kind of goofy.  Yes, I don't consider a scene where a giant, irradiated dinosaur fights a giant, irradiated dinosaur-armadillo to be inherently-goofy.  The fight goes all over the city before the plot focuses back on the talking heads.  Sadly, it's not the '80s band.  Bring back the monsters!
After some more plot with the humans and some partying, the revelry has to end.  Our heroes discover that a fishing boat was destroyed at sea, meaning that Gojira/Gigantis and his rival are back.  This time, they take the fight across the water and onto a snowy island.  The army and air force attack again, proving that they never learn their lesson.  If you've never seen a Godzilla movie, let me key you in on a secret: they never do!  They have better luck this time, however, as one of them figures out that they can just shoot the mountains until the snow falls.  Enough missiles and bullets fly until the pair are buried in a giant avalanche.  Well, that's the end of them...until the next 27 films.  The End.
This movie is...pretty good.  The plot is simple: giant monsters show up and have to be stopped.  Unlike Gojira, the film does not really delve into any plots about nuclear power or Cold War build-up.  This one is a pretty straight-forward affair.  To make it last, the producers chose to put in a number of human-related sub-plots.  Do they work?  To a certain degree.  They don't ever really feel like filler too much, but they don't necessarily fit too well either.  Does it matter if this man gives in to his passions and has an affair?  Maybe to him, but his home and lady(ies) could just as easily be stomped on by the giant monsters.  I get why these human plots always find a way in- see the love story from Godzilla X Mechagodzilla- but they can be taken or left without much worry.  The problem this movie has is mostly historical.  It's not the movie that may or not have started the kaiju movement- depending on if you doubt the veracity of the King Kong Appears in Edo film or not- nor is it the famous clash between a U.S. monster and a Japanese one.  Is it a bad movie?  No.  It's just destined to be overlooked for not adding a whole lot to the mythos.  Even so, it is the first film where Godzilla fights another monster.  Check this film out if you've seen all the rest, but missed this one.
Next up, I bring a special non-gimmicked review for Saturday.  This film is so weird that I just couldn't put off reviewing it any longer- let there be blood!  Stay tuned...

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