Gigantis, the Fire Monster
We start out the second March of Godzilla with the second Godzilla movie, Godzilla Raids Again! Or Gigantis, the Fire Monster, as it is known in the US. What a mess the American version of this film is. A complete an utter destruction of cinema. The Japanese version suffering from some of the faults of films of the time, but the American distributors just completely butcher the entire film. Most noticeably, Godzilla is not called Godzilla, but instead Gigantis. Now, he is technically not the original Godzilla, they make reference to the fact Godzilla Number One was disintegrated in Tokyo Bay. This new Godzilla is his brother, Marvin Godzilla, and he is actually the Godzilla that the next several movies in the series follow, as they are loosely connected. But in America, they just called him “Gigantis” because of reasons mentioned later. Joining Godzilla is the first fellow daikaiju, a creature named Anguirus. He’s loosely based on Ankylosaurs, and has a shell armored with many spikes all over his back. Crawling on four legs, Anguirus was stylistically different from Godzilla and made a good contrast for a first foe. Later monsters would get beam weapons, wings, multiple forms, but Anguirus fights with just one thing: guts!
There are some familiar faces in this film as well. Most notably, main character Shoichi Tsukioka is played by Hiroshi Koizumi, who has been previously seen here in Godzilla vs. Mothra and Ghidrah, playing Dr. Miura. I’ve met Hiroshi Koizumi, which I also mention each time he pops up in a Godzilla movie. Another big name is Takashi Shimura, playing Dr. Yemane, who he also played in the original Godzilla. He is probably best known for Seven Samurai or other Kurosawa films. Another Kurosawa veteran is Minoru Chiaki, who was another of the Seven Samurai, and here plays fellow pilot Kobayashi. All Godzilla movies need a girl, and actress Setsuko Wakayama makes her only Godzilla series appearance as Hidemi Yamaji. Directing this time is Motoyoshi Oda, who is also making his only appearance in G-history.
Both the US and Japanese versions will get reviewed simultaneously here. This is made possible because the US version is not chopped out of order, but follows the same pathway. They both deviate from the set path, as the US distributors added and removed footage, sometimes seemingly at random. The most obvious aspect aside from the Gigantis name is that the US version has narration. Lots of narration. The entire film is narrated. Every second someone is not speaking, the narrator has to talk. The Japanese version has no narrator, so is full of long moments of no dialogue, and little to no sound as the score only drops in randomly. We will note that the US version was produced by Paul Schreibman, who has expressed regrets for ruining the movie so badly. He claims responsibility for renaming Godzilla, as it was his desire to make Americans think they were getting a new monster. Other problems we will experience along the way, including the education film that makes me think Paul Schreibman must be insane.