Godzilla Raids again was the first sequel to the 1954 masterpiece Godzilla. Coming out six months after the original it’s not a huge shock that this film is a rushed, but not a completely disappointing follow up. Unfortunately Ishiro Honda couldn’t return to direct, Motoyoshi Oda tries his best but the experience ends up missing something in the process. Aside from the amazing returning talent of Eiji Tsuburaya on special effects the films is uneven and unfocused. I love giant monster movies, and movies like this one were my first exposure to Japanese film so the nostalgia level is high for me. I remember seeing this one on a Godzilla marathon and it blew my six year old mind. Upon rewatch I have to admit there are some flaws and it doesn’t match the first one and since Marcello has already reviewed Godzilla I thought I might hit the rest. I should also mention this is a review of the Japanese film (duh) but there exists an American cut that is drastically different and not worth your time.
The film opens on a pair of fishing scouters: Tsukioka (Hiroshi Koizumi) and Kobayashi (Minoru Chiaki) tracking tuna for their fishing company. After some engine trouble Kobayashi ends up crashing his plane on a remote island and Tsukioka has to attempt a rescue. Soon the two of them soon witnesses a second Godzilla doing battle with a new monster: Anguirus, a spiked dinosaur. Tsukioka and Kobayashi return to Osaka but the military authorities are not sure how to proceed if the two battling monsters come to the mainland. They even show “security footage” which is just footage from the first film to review how powerful Godzilla can be, or maybe to make us wish we watching that one.
Dr. Yamane (Takashi Shimura), who witnessed the attack of the first Godzilla in Tokyo, recommends that the residents of the city dim their lights and use flares to distract them if they come close. Soon Godzilla heads to Osaka Bay with Anguirus quick on his heels. The city dims its lights and the military prepares for the worst, it seems to work, until a group of convicts break out of a prison van and crash into an oil refinery. A massive explosion catches Godzilla’s attention and causes it, along with Anguirus, to come ashore. The two monsters then fight again again, destroying downtown Osaka in the process. This fight is by far the best part in of the film. Godzilla and Anguirus fight like wild animals biting and using atomic breath as they go back and forth the military is blasting away at the two. It’s pretty epic and it’s extremely well shot, I think it’s interesting that there is no musical score during the fight; it really underscores the destruction in a way that focuses on the human loss. As this is before the advent of CG the miniatures work is really impressive.
As impressive as the Special effects are the rest of the film underscores how much of a cash in this was for the Toho. After the epic fight we get treated to a shoehorned love triangle between Kobayashi and Tsukioka and the daughter of their boss for the next thirty minutes. The film really dies after the second fight; I don’t think they really knew where to go after that because the characters are just not interesting enough to carry the film. The love story subplot is not handled great and feels like it would be more suited to another movie altogether. The final sequence, featuring Godzilla being trapped in his icy tomb is effectively shot and bittersweet. The special effects are worth seeing alone but this film doesn’t match the originals very well. The themes of war and the price of war are here as well as Japanese families really did dim their lights at night to avoid bombs in WWII. The evacuation of Osaka is also pretty poignant in that regard. It is the first film to feature Anguirus and the first film in the series to feature a battle between two giant monsters. This would become a long standing awesome tradition in future Godzilla films.Overall the movie’s highlight is about halfway through leading to an uneven but enjoyable experience.