If you grew up watching the 1950s Japanese giant monster movies on TV, the 1955 Godzilla Raids Again was a film you knew as Gigantis the Fire Monster that, according to TV Guide, was given a date of 1959 — which was how and when the film had played in U.S. theaters. It was a confusing situation because it was quite clearly a Godzilla movie — albeit one that I’m afraid we — as children — gave rather a harder time than it deserved. For starters, we didn’t realize that it deserved some credit simply for being the last of the films that could be reasonably called “serious.” It may be that I’m more ready to forgive the…well, quaint special effects these days, but they don’t look as cheesy as I remember them. (OK, the toy tanks are still laughable.) The biggest failing effects-wise, though, is Gigantis or Godzilla (or whoever the big fellow is) since the film makes it clear this isn’t the same monster as in the previous film, but another of the same species. While this boy is configured pretty much the same way, he’s also kind of dopey-looking and handled more economically (at no point does his dorsal fin light up). The problem is this monster is in dire need of an orthodontist — these are the buckest buck teeth you’ve ever beheld (even if you’ve seen Cass Daley).
Overlooking this, however, the film presents us with the origin of Godzilla getting into a battle with another monster — an irritable ankylosaurus of immense (radiation, you know) size called Anguirius. For good or ill, it’s the basic concept that kept these movies going for years. While the film lacks both the assured touch and thematic concerns that Ishiro Honda would have brought to the proceedings, director Motoyoshi Oda delivers a reasonably handsome work. And he also seems to have worked well with the actors, who help provide solid performances that allow us to actually care about the characters. There’s still nothing that’s ever equaled the original, but for a quick knock-off sequel, this isn’t bad.
The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen Godzilla Raids Again Thursday, May 23 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge of The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.