Godzilla Raids Again (Gojira no gyakushû)

Japan (1955) Dir. Motoyoshi Oda

You thought Godzilla was killed at the end of the first film didn’t you? Surely you should know by now that once a film studio smells a potential franchise characters only die when the box office starts to dry up. Thus, one year after his debut, Toho brought Godzilla back for this lesser known and confusing sequel thanks to Hollywood…

Two pilots working for an Osaka tuna cannery, Koji Kobayashi (Minoru Chiaki) and Shoichi Tsukioka (Hiroshi Koizumi) are forced to land on a remote island during a search for fish when Kobayashi’s plan malfunctions. When Tsukioka arrives to rescue his partner they spot two giant monsters on a cliff top above embroiled in a fight, ending when both fall into the sea.

Returning to Osaka the pilots claim one of the creatures was Godzilla and the other is recognised as an Ankylosaurus named Anguirus by Dr. Yamane (Takashi Shimura), the archaeologist who discovered the first Godzilla. Yamane also concludes this new Godzilla was probably awakened from the same atom bomb test as the first and fears it will head to Japan once again, which it does, except this time Angurius is not far behind.

Okay so it isn’t the same Godzilla from the 1954 original but seeing as this film wasn’t called Godzilla 2: Revenge Of Godzilla’s Brother, the title Godzilla Raids Again does lead us to believe the King Of Monsters did survive being disintegrated in Tokyo Bay. At least Shigeru Kayama’s story had the foresight to use Godzilla as a generic term for these atomic beasts to circumvent this niggling lapse in logic which was subsequently forgotten once the franchise caught on.  

Made just a few months after the original film, the absence of any returning faces from before, save for a brief appearance by Dr. Yaname, and indeed director Ishiro Honda, along with the rushed script with its basic storyline makes come across as a flimsy cash-in sequel and not really canon. However, it does introduce one thing to the series – the fighting monsters!

Godzilla Raids Again can boast the accolade of being the first Kaiju film in which the monsters fight against each other rather than one beastie demolishing Tokyo. The scrap between Godzilla and Anguirus was shortish and not the film’s actual climax but it set the tone for many a punch up Godzilla would have in the future with invading creatures trying to weasel in on his territory.

Anguirus differs from Godzilla not just from being a prehistoric monster (also reanimated by the atomic blast according to Dr. Yamane) but also by being a quadruped, making it easier to distinguish between the two during the fight – although as it occurred at night and this is black and white, this becomes a slight problem during close-ups.

It is a testament to actors Haruo Nakajima (Godzilla) and Katsumi Tezuka (Anguirus), that they can convincingly scrap like two unsophisticated monsters, relaying the hatred of the deep rooted feud between them (no really, Yamane said so) through their actions and body language. Some of the grappling is a bit comedic in places but the end is typically brutal for untamed monsters, not to mention their complete disregard for the sacred surroundings of Osaka Castle which is summarily destroyed without a care.

But this isn’t the end of it as Godzilla is still considered a threat and the plucky Japanese want rid of him, so when winter comes and he resurfaces, they bravely chase him to a remote frozen island and hit back. For some reason, the King Of Monsters just stands there and takes it all, not even fighting back. And why didn’t he use his atomic breath to melt all the ice around him?

One thing this films lacks that made the first one such a powerful work thematically is the social commentary about nuclear testing and atomic weapons. As the original was made in response to Hiroshima and the rise of nuclear bombs, it had a cold, sobering urgency about it with Godzilla himself being an allegorical symbol for atomic destruction. Without this, Raids Again is as basic as it gets in terms of the audience’s emotional investment.

Yet it is not afraid to get dark when it needs to, and – slight spoiler – one of the main cast members doesn’t survive, having just plucked up the courage to chat up the woman of his dreams. For native audience, the destruction of Osaka and its revered landmarks during the monster fight would assuredly evoke some anger and upset but given how quickly Tokyo was rebuilt, I’m sure everything was back to normal by breakfast!

Shot on a budget presumably smaller than the first film, the strings are still visible on the planes and repeated footage is also obvious but this might be a casualty of the haste of its production and isn’t as embarrassing it might have been. Godzilla himself looks a little different, with a goofy underbite and slight oval shaped head, but remains an imposing and nasty looking creature all the same.

Like the first film, changes were made to this one for US audiences. Originally, there was to be a new story called The Volcano Monsters and Toho sent over the monster suits to film the new scenes. But the US producers decide to dub Raids Again instead (which is hideous) with an altered script and crucially, another more disastrous change.

As Godzilla had been killed, producer Paul Schreibman decided to rename this sequel Gigantis The Fire Monster so US audiences would believe it was a brand new monster instead of Godzilla’s inexplicable return. Unfortunately, Schreibman underestimated two things: a) cinema goers had eyes, easily recognising the Gigantis-Godzilla resemblance and b) they weren’t stupid. At least Schreibman regretted this epic blunder!

The original Godzilla film was never going to topped straight away but Godzilla Rides Again offers plenty of earnest fun for a quick cheeky cash in, setting the template for future entries in the series.