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Review - Godzilla Raids Again/ Mothra vs. Godzilla (DVD-2007)
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Godzilla Raids Again/ Mothra vs. Godzilla - DVD

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Godzilla Raids Again/ Mothra Vs. Godzilla (DVD-2007)

Classic Media

Reviewed by Dennis Kwiatkowski

 

The successful recent release on DVD of Gojira, the masterful original Japanese version of Godzilla, has now led to the release of special editions of two more films in the Godzilla series: The 1955 Godzilla Raids Again and the 1964 film, Mothra vs. Godzilla.

 

Godzilla Raids Again is the rarely seen first sequel to the original Godzilla film.  It is the only Godzilla sequel to have been shot in black and white.  Godzilla Raids Again was rushed into production to capitalize on Godzilla’s success (in the same way that the 1933 Son of Kong was rushed through production to capitalize on the success King Kong which had been released earlier that year).  Godzilla’s Raids was released in Japan in 1955, just a year after the first Godzilla.  The film didn’t arrive in the United States until 1959—and then, in a decidedly confusing re-edited English-dubbed version entitled Gigantis: The Fire Monster.   

 

The DVD of Godzilla Raids Again contains both the Japanese version of the film and the American release.  The eminently sensible Japanese version finds two young pilots stranded on an island where they encounter a battle between two giant monsters: Angurus, a spiny sort of giant porcupine/opossum and Godzilla.  But Godzilla died on the ocean floor—decimated by the Oxygen Destroyer, in the original Godzilla film.  So the experts conclude this must be another surviving member of his species—and they refer to the giant beast as Godzilla throughout the film.  He looks slightly different—his teeth point outward and his dorsal fins fail to glow when he emits his fire ray.  But it is clearly Godzilla (and his appearance tends to change somewhat from film to film anyway).

 

I mention this because, for some reason, the American version insists on calling him Gigantis—and that film version keeps changing the name of Angurus, as well.  No matter, the audience gets to see the two immense monsters wreak lots of havoc and damage on Japanese cities before their battle is finally resolved.  Godzilla’s director, Ishiro Honda, and Godzilla’s composer, Akira Ifukube, did not return for Godzilla Raids Again, and the film is lesser because of that fact.  Godzilla’s movements are a bit two fast—not lumbering like in the original film.  And Angurus looks like something out of the UltraMan TV series.  Still, the film has a decent number of striking moments and it is such a rarity that it is worth checking out.  A wonderful featurette The Art of Suit Acting, which chronicles the actors who donned the Godzilla suit for the various films, is a terrific extra feature as is the superlative commentary track by Godzilla authorities Steve Ryfle and friends.

 

More noteworthy is the release on DVD of Mothra vs. Godzilla, which many consider to be the best of the Godzilla sequels.  The story concerns a gigantic egg which washes ashore.  It turns out it belongs to the giant caterpillar/butterfly Mothra, who wants it back.  Greedy promoters, in the meantime have turned the egg into an amusement park attraction.  To make matters worse, a reawakened Godzilla tramples across Japan and is headed straight for the egg. 

 

The Mothra vs. Godzilla DVD contains, again, both the Japanese and American release versions.  The Japanese version is in its original Toho-Scope (a widescreen Cinemasope process) while the American version (called, for some reason, Godzilla vs. The Thing, is in the standard flat print ratio of the 1960s.  Mothra vs. Godzilla also features those two tiny mystical twin fairies who appear in several Godzilla films and in the original Mothra film, and who are always singing songs to Mothra.  For her part, Mothra, as a giant moth or butterfly, is quite a formidable foe and a worthy adversary for Godzilla.  The film was directed by Ishiro Honda, who directed both the original Godzilla and Mothra films.  Music is by the great Godzilla composer, Akira Ifukube, and the contributions of the two men raise the status of this film.  There is real poignancy to Mothra’s presence in the film and film’s theme of the misuse of nuclear energy could not be clearer.  An outstanding film commentary by Godzilla experts Ed Godziszewski and Steve Ryfle and a informative featurette tribute to composer Akira Ifukube add even greater value to the set.

 

Both of these new handsomely packaged DVD sets are from Classic Media with prints of the films directly from the Toho vaults.  For quality, the edge goes to Mothra vs. Godzilla, but either set is bound to please and add to the enduring legend of Godzilla.

 

2007 Dennis Kwiatkowski/Celluloid Dreams

 

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