Directed By: Ishirô Honda
Starring: Kenji Sahara, Yumi Shirakawa, Akihiko Hirata
Tag line: "Thundering out of unknown skies--The super-sonic hell-creature no weapon could destroy!"
Trivia: This movie was inspired by an incident in Kentucky in 1948, when Captain Thomas F. Mantell, a pilot for the Kentucky Air National Guard, died in a crash while allegedly pursuing a UFO
Following the success of both the original Godzilla (aka Gojira) and its sequel, Godzilla Raids Again, Toho Studios decided to expand its Kaiju universe with Rodan, a 1956 film directed by Ishirô Honda in which an enormous pteranodon terrorizes Japan.
It all begins with the disappearance of two miners in the small community of Kitamatsu. A rescue party, led by the mine’s security chief Shigeru (Kenji Sahara), makes its way to the scene, where they find the mangled remains of one of the missing men. Soon, more people turn up dead, and it isn’t long before the authorities identify the killers: giant insect larvae, dating back millions of years. Joined by the local police force, Shigeru ventures deep into the mine to kill the humongous insects, only to be buried alive by a sudden earthquake. While investigating the cave-in the next day, the police find the injured Shigeru, who, aside from losing his memory, is none the worse for wear. It’s around this time that an unusual UFO appears in the sky, one powerful enough to outrun (and destroy) a high-speed military aircraft. After capturing a photo of the so-called UFO, experts notice it has a wing similar to that of an ancient pteranodon, a huge, bird-like reptile thought to have been extinct for millions of years. When Shigeru regains his memory, he recalls having seen the creature hatch from an egg underground. As authorities search the mines for additional eggs, the pteranodon, nicknamed “Rodan”, unleashes its fury on several Japanese cities. In an effort to save lives, the army fights back, at which point they make a startling discovery that might spell doom for all of Japan.
The first of the giant monster movies shot in color, Rodan starts things off with not one, but two mysteries: who or what is killing the miners in Kitamatsu; and what is the strange UFO that’s streaking through the sky? While we’re occasionally treated to an exciting scene or two (such as the initial discovery of the insect larvae), many of Rodan’s early sequences are on the talky side, with top-level meetings in which scientists compare findings and analyze data. Once the action kicks into gear, however, Rodan delivers the goods (after being chased by military aircrafts, Rodan attacks the city of Fukuoka, reducing it to rubble), and even tosses a few surprises into the mix to keep us on our toes.
Rodan would go on to appear in a number of films, including Ghidora the Three-Headed Monster and 1968’s Destroy All Monsters (a mash-up that featured nearly a dozen creatures), and though he’d never quite achieve the same notoriety as Godzilla, Rodan remains an integral part of Toho’s rich and colorful Kaiju history