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Don’t Open That Door! #24: 'Gojira no Gyakushu' aka 'Godzilla Raids Again' (1955)

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Thursday, Dec 6, 2012
Welcome to our weekly field guide to 1950s horror and sci-fi movies and the creatures that inhabit them. This week: Osaka takes it on the chin in Gojira no Gyakushu aka Godzilla Raids Again
cover art

Godzilla Raids Again

Director: Motoyoshi Oda
Cast: Takashi Shamura, Minoru Chiaki, Hiroshi Koizumi

(US theatrical: 21 May 1959; Japan release date: 24 Apr 1955)

Alternative titles: Sushi and the Banshees; The REALLY Giant Gila Monster
 
POSITIVES:


Hey, Godzilla’s back!


Plenty of monster action, starting about 10 minutes in.


Epic scenes of battle and carnage.


There’s no little kid.


NEGATIVES:


Big G’s Snaggletooth overbite is distracting, and inadvertently comical.


Monumentally dull interlude wedged between two satisfyingly devastating and visually appealing monster appearances.
  
SYNOPSIS: Small plane pilot Kobayashi (he’s not really that small, har har) crash-lands on a remote island and is soon rescued by fellow pilot Tsukioka. It’s a good thing too, because the two flyboys aren’t there very long before they spot Godzilla duking it out with a super hedgehog-looking thing with tusks. The men manage to escape to safety—for now. meanwhile, back in Osaka, perpetually-distraught looking Dr Yamane and his colleagues identify the hedgehog beastie as a reincarnated ankylosaurus—which, as any ten-year-old dinosaur buff could tell you, is patently not the case. Dr Yamane looks, if possible, even more worried at this new development—maybe he’s wondering what his academic colleagues will do when they see his misidentification of the creature—and appears to be fixating on what the heck could go wrong next.




What the heck goes wrong next takes up the bulk of the movie and is easily summarized in list form. 1. Romantic subplot. 2. Musical interlude. 3. Godzilla sighting. 4. Gang of criminals escaping in transport truck and engaging in the slowest high-speed chase ever recorded on film, culminating in an inexplicable crash and huge explosion that—here’s the bad part—results in an enormous fireball that attracts Godzilla to the city. 5. Mayhem ensues. 6. Anguirus—the alleged ankylosaurus—appears. 7. Godzilla and Anguirus face off. 8. Brotherhood goes out the window. 9. Osaka gets crushed. 10. Subway station gets flooded, drowning more criminals. 11. Anguirus dies in Godzilla’s snaggletoothed jaws.


Well now! Things can’t get much worse than that, can they? I mean, anything short of a meandering 15-minute interlude of “character development” would be pretty much acceptable. And what’s the chance of 15 pointless minutes of character development cluttering up a movie called Godzilla Raids Again? Oh… dear. It’s enough to make you wish the monster would show up, again, just for a few more rounds of raiding, again. Which, as it turns out, is more or less what happens.



Best line of subtitling in the movie: “Damn it!” (Repeat as needed during moments of high drama throughout the film.)


What gets raided, again: A lighthouse; a gaggle of crooks; a couple cops; an oil truck; an Air Force jet; countless warehouses and electrical pylons; a petroleum tank; more buildings, some of them impressively large (we’re talking landmarks here); a trio of criminals; a temple or several; many planes and pilots; a romance or two.


Moral of the story: Violence never solved anything. Except for those times when it did.


Party game: Host a “Monster’s Ball” in which everyone arrives dressed as either a.) their favorite Toho monster (Godzilla, Rodan, etc), or b.) their favorite classic horror icon (Dracula, the werewolf, the mummy, etc), or c.) their favorite dinosaur. Stand around trying trying to communicate only in “monster language.” Award prizes for Best Costume, Most Creative Costume, Sexiest Costume, and Person Who Took This Assignment the Most Seriously.


Did you notice? During the epic battles between Godzilla and Anguirus, the camera often focuses close-up on one or the other—while stuff in the background just bursts into flames for no apparent reason. I first noticed this around 38:05, while Gojira is breathing on Anguirus and a church (?) collapses in the background. Moments later (38:10), the camera fixes on Anguirus as everything far behind him more or less explodes.


Also known as: This movie enjoyed many many alternative titles when released throughout the English-speaking world, including: Counterattack of the Monsters, Fire Monster, Gigantis, Gigantis the Fire Monster, Godzilla’s Counter Attack, Gojira Strikes Again, Gojira’s Counterattack, The Return of Godzilla, and The Volcano Monster.


Somehow their careers survived: Hiroshi Koizumi (Tsukioka) debuted in 1952’s Rakki-san, known in English as Mr. Lucky; he would reappear in 1984’s awful version of Godzilla. Minoru Chiaki (Kobayashi) had appeared in Kurosawa’s masterpieces Roshamon (1950) and Seven Samurai (1954), alongside Takashi Shimura (Dr Yamane), whose long career included the original Gojira (1954), Mosura aka Mothra (1961), Ghidora, the Three-Headed Monster (1964), and much else besides.




                           
BOTTOM LINE: A worthy enough sequel—slow in spots, but gripping overall.


NEXT WEEK: The Tingler (1959)


Rating:

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