Despite mixed reactions due to some of its’ content, Gojira was a proven success in 1954. In 1955, Toho opted to stick with the black and white format for a sequel, titled Godzilla Raids Again (or a more accurate translation, Godzilla’s Counterattack). It was a direct sequel to the events in Gojira and was rushed into production to capitalize on the big guy’s popularity. It would establish the scenario of Godzilla vs. the big creature of the flick, a formula that would become standard after this release.
The movie begins with two pilots being forced to land on island, where they become witness to a battle between a creature resembling Godzilla and another beast, which we would come to know as Anguirus. After both creatures crash into the ocean, the pilots return with their tale. It is recognized that the original Godzilla died at the end of the first movie, establishing that this creature is essentially another member of the same family. Going forward through the end of the original series in 1975, this is the Godzilla we see and, eventually, cheer for. It’s also stated that Anguirus was brought back to life by a nuclear explosion, continuing on the theme of the evils of nuclear power that Gojira presented, albeit much less grim this go around. Dr. Kyohei Yamane (again played by Takashi Shimura) returns to explain that there is no way to destroy Godzilla. The secret of the oxygen weapon died with its creator Dr. Serizawa. He suggests using flares to scare away Godzilla, which initially works when he arrives on shore in Osaka. A fire lures Godzilla back to shore and this time, Anguirus arrives as well. The first super battle begins with Godzilla using his atomic fire breath to destroy Anguirus. Picking up on the story of the two pilots in the beginning, jets and aerial battles play a big part in eventually defeating Godzilla, burying him in an icy avalanche.
Ticket sales were initially high for Godzilla Raids Again despite mixed reviews by critics and fans alike. It sat on the United States distribution shelf until 1957, when Warner Brothers decided to re-cut the film, using only the battle sequences. Their scale would be reduced to that of regular dinosaurs and all scenes of Godzilla breathing fire were to be cut. New suits were made and sent to the US for new sequences for the movie, which was to have been titled The Volcano Monsters. However, after the production company went out of business, the plans were scrapped until 1958, when new producers bought the rights and planned to simply dub the original print. Rather than market the movie as a Godzilla sequel, they decided to rename it Gigantis, The Fire Monster, releasing it in 1959. Godzilla’s roar was changed, footage of dinosaurs was inserted, sub-plots removed and music score replaced. Not surprisingly, fans and critics blasted these decisions. Sadly, this was the only version shown on television and released on home video until 2006, at which time the original was finally available for American audiences.
The series was shelved for seven years before being revived in 1962. During that time, Toho brought two new creatures to the big screen, both of whom would eventually be featured in future Godzilla flicks. Rodan, essentially a giant pterodactyl-like creature, was released in 1956 and became a huge hit both in Japan and in the states. Mothra (1961) was also a big hit, which some believe may have played a part in trying out Godzilla again the following year in King Kong vs. Godzilla.
On a fun note, George Takei, who would go on to play Mr. Sulu on the classic TV series Star Trek, provides the voice for the character of Tsukioka. George Takei would have a career dubbing voices for Japanese films, including Rodan.
Personally, I enjoyed the movie, especially in its’ original form. I also love the glorious black and white presentation. It’s not as dark as Gojira but lacked the comedic elements that occasionally bring some of the other Godzilla movies down. The movie is easily found on DVD. Check out the original Gigantis trailer while you wait for your copy to arrive in the mail.
Next time, I’ll check out both the US and original Japanese versions of King Kong vs. Godzilla from 1962.