Wednesday, March 14, 2007

GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN

Originally announced for last November, Classic Media has finally released their first follow-ups to last year’s near-definitive DVD presentation of the original Godzilla film, GOJIRA.

GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN (GOJIRA NO GYAKUSHĂ›, 1955) is not only the first Godzilla sequel from Japan’s Toho Studios, but it, much more so than its predecessor, firmly establishes the formula and feel of the long-running and popular kaiju eiga ("monster movie") series.

Tsukioka, a spotter for a Japanese fishing fleet, is forced to land his plane on a small, uninhabited island. When his fellow pilot, Kobayashi, shows up to rescue him, they witness two giant monsters engaged in mortal combat nearby. Before long, the Japanese authorities realize that a monster closely resembling the first Godzilla (which was definitively killed in the first film) is on the rampage, along with a new creature they call Angurius. Eventually, the two monsters make landfall in Osaka where they resume fighting, and the military once again finds itself helpless before the destructive might of the prehistoric titans.

Directed by Motoyoshi Oda as a quickie follow-up to the surprisingly popular and profitable original, GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN is nonetheless a nifty little monster movie in its own right, and a decent sequel. The tone is somewhat less Apocalyptic than GOJIRA, released just one year before, although not quite as light as later entries would become. It’s also the first in the series to pit the Big G against another monster – in this case Angurius (a/k/a Angillas), a mutated ankylosaur. The human characters – mostly employees of a large fishing collective – are normal, working-class civilians instead of the military professionals and educated scientists of the first film (and most American giant monster flicks of the era), a trend that would continue in subsequent features.

Classic Media’s DVD is another excellent presentation, featuring both the original Japanese version of the film, and the U.S. English-dubbed and edited version (originally released as GIGANTIS THE FIRE MONSTER, although this print does not bear that title, at Toho’s insistence). The two versions look very good for their age – although both sport some age-related specks, scratches and other minor damage – and are presented in their original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratios. The U.S. version includes a commentary track by Godzilla expert Steve Ryfle, and there’s an informative featurette on "Suit Acting," along with a slide show of rare stills and advertising art.

For Godzilla and kaiju fans, this disc is essential. Casual viewers might find it a bit slow and technically primitive, but as far as I’m concerned, they should check it out anyway.

BUY: Godzilla Raids Again