Godzilla Raids Again (1955) / Sci Fi-Action
aka Godzilla's Counterattack
aka Gigantis the Fire Monster
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG-13 for violence and scenes of destruction
Running Time: 78 min. (Japanese cut runs 82 min.)
Cast: Hiroshi Koizumi, Setsuko Wakayama, Minoru Chiaki, Takashi Shimura, Masao Shimizu, Haruo Nakajima
Director: Motoyoshi Oda
Screenplay: Shigeaki Hidaka, Takeo Murata
Review published May 23, 2014
Toho studios in Japan would release this quickie follow-up to their smash 1954 hit, Godzilla, with this sequel that reduces the social commentary regarding nuclear weapons but heightens the genre elements like more comedy, more romance, and more action. The result is a middling effort that will likely sate die-hard Godzilla fans, but most will still find it a mediocre effort all around. Though largely forgettable, Godzilla Raids Again is most notable for being the first of the films to put Godzilla into the position of fighting another gargantuan monster (the first appearance of the porcupine-like dinosaur, Anguirus) as part of his battles, which would become the norm for the rest of the future features.
As with the original, the American release greatly differs from the original Japanese release. The most notable difference in the American version is that the antagonist is called "Gigantis" and not Godzilla, in an effort to market the film as as if it had a different character (and sidestep having to explain why Godzilla is still alive after the first film's events), released in 1959 to American theaters as Gigantis the Fire Monster. The dubbed American version also adds more narration, stock footage, alters the dialogue, rescores the music (cobbled from other films), and gives its main human character a cartoonish faux-Japanese accent. It is almost universally considered inferior to the Japanese-language release, so watch the subbed version if there is an option.
The main human characters are Japanese pilots named Tsukioka (Koizumi) and Kobayashi (Chiaki) who work for a Osakan fishing company flying over the vast oceans around the area looking for large schools of fish. Kobayashi is forced to land his troubled plane on a seemingly deserted island, and when Tsukioka comes to save him, they quickly discover that the island is inhabited by at least two massive monsters who battle each other into the ocean. They take their battle to the heart of Osaka, where they end up causing untold damage and seemingly can't be stopped.
Though not without its enjoyable aspects, especially in its lighthearted tone, director Motoyoshi Oda seems to be out to make an entertaining film more so than he is out to make a good one. Oda seems far more interested in comedy and romance in this film, and his approach to Godzilla is far less on awe and horror, and more like checking the box of audience expectations from their kaiju flicks. Some might find that the film's fatal flaw is resolving the Godzilla/Anguirus battle in the middle of the film rather in the climax.
Godzilla Raids again is hokey and not at all a worthy follow-up to the original film, but it is in keeping with most of the rest of the series that would follow, so if you're a fan of Godzilla in general, perhaps it won't seem as disappointing. It's a bit on the dull side, with even the epic monster battles lacking suspense or excitement, and the miniature effects, while sometimes clever, are not often convincing. In terms of Godzilla flicks, it's more filler than thriller, so it's only recommended for completist fanboys.
-- Followed by King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)
©2014 Vince Leo