Directed by Motoyoshi Oda
Distributed by Classic Media
It was about ten years ago. I was lying in my bed flicking through the channels when I saw it. Godzilla was on TV in glorious black and white. The original Godzilla ranks as one of my all-time favorite films. Any opportunity I get to watch it I take without even a second thought. Yet, something was very strange about what I was seeing. After a few minutes the realization set in that this wasn’t the original Godzilla. Why is Godzilla’s roar all wrong? Better yet, why are they referring to him as Gigantus?! After a bit of research I was informed that what I was watching was the very first sequel to the original Godzilla entitled Godzilla Raids Again. It was like striking gold! I never even knew this flick existed, but what was up with the changes to the character? Finally, after a decade of guessing, I got my answer in the form of a name: Paul Schreibman.
Paul Schreibman was the producer who scored the rights to this latest monster mash from Toho. Not satisfied with the film as is, he decided to tinker with just about everything that he could. Godzilla’s name was changed to Gigantus, his roar completely substituted for that of the monster Anguirus (whom he fights in this film), tons of stock footage was inserted, a library score was tacked on, and even the title of the film was changed from Godzilla Raids Again to Gigantus The Fire Monster. Why? Apparently Mr. Schreibman didn’t want anyone to know that this was the follow-up to the original Godzilla. I am in awe of the stupidity behind this decision, but hey, that’s Hollywood!
So where did this definitive information come from? For those who missed it, the original Godzilla finally came home in a package containing both the original Japanese version and the American version starring Raymond Burr courtesy of the fine folks over at Classic Media. I’m happy to say they’re at it again, this time delivering to fans both versions of this long-lost classic for the first time ever on DVD.
The American and Japanese versions of Godzilla Raids Again are very different films. The Japanese version finds the people of Osaka dealing with the return of Godzilla to their shores and how it impacts their lives, while the American one is your usual giant monster silliness. To say that all of the drama was lost in translation is an understatement. In fact, the entire script was rewritten for the Stateside release. It doesn’t get much stranger than this. Yet, for all its stock footage (and WOW there is a ton of it), the American version is sort of endearing if only for the campy cheese that litters the screen as a result of the reworking. Not to mention the Ed Wood quality mistakes. For instance, there are two monsters in this movie, Gigantus (Godzilla) and Anguirus. Apparently the writers and dubbers couldn’t keep track of who was who. At times Godzilla is referred to as both Gigantus and Anguirus, as is Anguirus. To compound the confusion, each monster has the same roar. While this may be confusing, believe you me, trying to keep track of things can make for one hell of a drinking game.
As for supplemental materials, there really isn’t much, but what is here is quite good. Once you get past the standard poster slide show, you’ll find an engaging look at the men in rubber suits called The Art of Suit Acting. This near ten-minute featurette focuses mainly on the guy who spent a good part of two decades playing Godzilla, Haruo Nakajima. Although the runtime is fairly short, it houses a lot of facts and fun while showcasing some truly rare behind-the-scenes stills.
Next up is the best commentary I’ve heard in quite some time. Godzilla enthusiast Steve Ryfle spends the entire movie spouting off film facts and having a blast. His love for the material shines as bright as Big G’s dorsal fins right before ignition. His enthusiasm is nothing short of contagious. Bottom line, if Classic Media intends to re-release all of the Godzilla movies, they need to get this guy to sit and record a commentary for every one of them.
So which version of Godzilla Raids Again is the best? Well, that’s entirely up to you. One thing is for certain — having both versions of the film is a godsend. So what’re you waiting for? Bust out the shot glasses, pop the popcorn, and settle in for some rarely seen Kaiju madness! Ah, the finer things in life!
Poster slide show
Art of Suit Acting featurette
3 1/2 out of 5
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