(aka Gigantis the Fire Monster,
Godzilla’s Counter Attack)
Somehow, it comes as no surprise to me that Toho managed to get this film into the theaters six months after the original Godzilla. It is without question the least of all the Godzilla films.
Not the worst. No Godzilla film has ever been as bad as Godzilla Versus Hedorah and it is unlikely that any Godzilla film ever will.
Although I will admit I just found myself thinking about Godzilla: The Planet Eater.
By “least,” I mean something a little different. This is the Godzilla film where a wind-up toy stands in for the Big G. This is the Godzilla film where he sinks a ship that belongs to the shipping company the heroes work for…and all we see is an employee walking in and telling the boss. This the Godzilla film where he and another giant monster square off against each other and Godzilla kills it in a single fight!
A short one, at that!
And, strangest of all, it lacks Akira Ifukube’s iconic Godzilla March, which appeared in nearly all of the other Godzilla films. In fact, it has very little music, period.
Let’s face it, Godzilla Raids Again is positively threadbare. File it under “cheap and quick.”
Which is quite a small category when it comes to Godzilla…The old Filmation “Godzilla Power Hour?” That new puppet series (seriously) which Toho just debuted on their Youtube Channel?
A very small category.
It is also about the hardest Godzilla film to find in the United States. It was years before it appeared here (in 1959), and then it ran under the name “Gigantis the Fire Monster.” For years, I’ve heard that this was because it had a different distributor here in the US, and that they didn’t have rights to the Godzilla name, but apparently the producer, Paul Schreibman, has said that it was because he wanted to convince audiences that it was a movie about a new monster.
Well, that was a mistake.
But, to be fair, it would be another three years before Godzilla’ third appearance in King Kong vs. Godzilla revitalized the series and sparked the long line of sequels that followed.
Godzilla Raids Again is fairly straightforward: while rescuing a downed pilot, our hero sees a Godzilla and a new monster, a big spiny thing called “Anguirus,” fighting. They then roll into the sea and vanish.
Note that that is “a” Godzilla, as the original died in Tokyo Bay six months earlier, dissolved by the Oxygen Destroyer.
Unfortunately the Godzilla heads straight for Osaka. The Self Defense Force tries to lure it away, but a gang of escaped convicts messes up that plan. Instead, the Godzilla and Anguirus end up fighting in the middle of a refinery, and the Big G kills his rival.
That wind-up toy shows up in the final confrontation, which (after one of our heroes does what one of the heroes of the first film did), ends up with Godzilla apparently dead.
Once again, this was a film which failed to hold my Nephews’ (aged Eight and Ten) interest. I can’t say I’m terribly surprised by this as there is a lot of talk in this film. A lot of talk. Far more talk than there is Kaiju Eiga action.
It also shocked them a little bit that it was in Black and White.
I’m also rather amused by an early sequence where we are shown what is supposedly the surviving footage of the first Godzilla attacking Tokyo: while we expect it to be borrowed from the first film, it is very hard to believe that this lengthy sequence is shown without sound!
As I’ve noted before, the second film is always a challenge: not only do the filmmakers lack the enthusiasm and inspiration that drive a first film, but they are also stuck with the problem of how they can possibly extend the story from the first film.
And this is even harder when your “star” is already dead.
I’ll confess I’m mildly amused at how quickly they hit on the idea of having Godzilla fight another giant monster. I am far less surprised, however, that this is not as dark a film as the original, or that it lacks the original’s underlying themes of nuclear war and the devastation it causes. There is a quick reference to how nuclear radiation “created” our two monsters, but the ghosts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are entirely missing from this film. Instead the emphasis is on the monsters and the efforts to stop them, the serious elements are gone and the target audience is clearly far younger.
Apparently, this was something the studio insisted on: the idea that Science Fiction could comment on the real world and real life events seems to have come as a shock to the studio and to the critics of the day. It certainly wasn’t part of the SF films which were then being made by the Japanese film industry.
For that matter, the notion that SF is strictly for the kids hardly sounds unfamiliar. That attitude is still with us and as strong as ever.
Even here in the United States.
Oh, well. This is lesser Godzilla, no matter how you try to excuse it.
But it does have its moments, even if the ones involving giant rubbery monsters are far scarcer than they should be. If you are a true blue Godzilla-phile, then you need to find this one. Otherwise you might just wait until it shows up on its own.
Which might be sooner than you think, now that the Criterion Collection is going to release it on DVD and Blu Ray as part of their Showa era set.