Friday, March 20, 2015

#1,677. Godzilla Raids Again (1955)

Directed By: Motoyoshi Oda

Starring: Hiroshi Koizumi, Setsuko Wakayama, Minoru Chiaki

Tag line: "Roasting Anything In Its Path!"

Trivia: The Godzilla prop used in the shot when the planes fly over him in the ice mountains was actually a wind-up toy

A direct sequel to 1954’s Gojira, Godzilla Raids Again ups the ante a bit, giving Godzilla a nemesis to fight and, in so doing, introducing a sense of fun that later films in the series would capitalize on.

While on a deserted island where one of them crash-landed, pilots Shoichi Tsukioka (Hiroshi Koizumi) and Kôji Kobayashi (Minoru Chiaki) witness something amazing: a battle between a new Godzilla and an Anguiras, a carnivorous dinosaur awakened from its deep-sea slumber by the same atomic blast that brought Godzilla to the surface. After a brief meeting with Yamane (Takashi Shimura), who faced off against Godzilla in Tokyo some time ago, it’s determined that the creatures are on their way to the island of Osaka, and since they cannot be killed (the oxygen destroyer that felled the first Godzilla is no more), the best bet is to try and minimize the damage they’ll do. When the battle is over, a victorious Godzilla heads back to sea, but despite the efforts of the military, Osaka is decimated, and the factory Tsukioka and Kobayashi work for, which is owned by the father of Hidemi Yamaji (Setsuko Wakayama), Tsukioka’s girlfriend, lays in ruin. Some months later, Godzilla re-appears near the village of Hokkaido, giving Tsukioka and Kobayashi, as well as the air force, another chance to defeat the monster. But here's the problem: seeing as he can’t be killed, how exactly do you stop Godzilla?

The highlight of Godzilla Raids Again is the fight between the big guy and the Anguiras, a giant beast with spikes on its back that, for the most part, walks around on all fours. This heavyweight bout takes up a fair portion of the movie’s mid-section, and the miniatures designed for this sequence, most of which are destroyed during the melee, are pretty damned convincing. One in particular, a model of the famed Osaka Castle (originally built in 1583), is amazingly detailed, and you can’t help but feel a little sad when the mighty structure comes tumbling down. Along with the battle between the monsters, this sequence also features a daring escape, with several convicts stealing a gasoline truck after knocking out their guards (the prisoners make their getaway while being transported to another facility). As it turns out, though, their bid for freedom came at the wrong time, and the two behemoths rolling around on the ground proved impossible to avoid.

The film isn’t all fun and games; a brief scene where Hidemi is watching Osaka burn from a distance, knowing full well that her father and boyfriend are still there, packs an emotional punch, and the finale, though somewhat upbeat, also has its share of tragedy. Its handful of dramatic moments aside, Godzilla Raids Again marked a definite shift in tone for the series, moving away from the darkness so prevalent in the original and putting the focus squarely on the spectacle, thus pushing the anti-nuke message of the first film (which isn’t gone entirely) into the background.

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