Rodan (1956) - Ishiro Honda

GOOD GIANT MONSTER MOVIE 69/100

Director: Ishirô Honda
Writers: David Duncan or Takeshi Kimura
Stars: Kenji Sahara, Yumi Shirakawa and Akihiko Hirata
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese - Mandarin - Tagalog
Release Date: December 26th, 1956
Also Known As: Sora no Daikaijû Radon
Production Co.: Toho Pictures and Universal
Trivia: The cable supporting Rodan over Sasebo Bridge snapped, causing the stuntman in the suit to fall 25 feet into the water. The incident is left in the movie as the scene where Rodan dives into the water near the bridge and submerges. The cables were reattached for the scene where Rodan lifts off out of the water, but they almost broke again because the suit became waterlogged and doubled in weight.

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In 1956, Toho Pictures had brought us another giant monster movie, Rodan. Directed by Ishiro Honda, the director of Godzilla. This feature would have heavy political overtones that rely on giant monsters to convey them across to the audience. Godzilla is also referenced in both the dialogue in this picture, and in the soundtrack. I am looking at both the English version on Blu-ray, and the original Japanese version on FilmStruck.

Japanese miners dig too greedily and too deep, resulting in the uncovering of giant insects that attack the people living nearby. The government sends in the military, but things go south. A giant flying creature erupts from the mountainside that can fly at supersonic speeds. It wreaks havoc in the air as it destroys anything that flies near it. It has giant wings that can produce a devastating sonic wave. A feat that the Rodan creature puts on display by destroying the city of Fukuoka. Then another Rodan creature is discovered! There are two giant monsters! To make matters even worse, the nearby volcano, Mt. Aso begins to erupt! It’s a lot of travesties for one movie.

Rodan was inspired by real-life accounts of unidentified flying objects. The writer, Ken Kuronuma had said that there was a direct influence in the script from news about the Mantell UFO incident in 1948. An occurrence in which a United States Air Force pilot had crashed an F15 and died while chasing an “unidentified flying object.” It was a publicized accident that gained a lot of international attention. That accounts for why the Rodan creature can fly at supersonic speeds and is referred to on many occasions as a U.F.O. There is even a scene with a Japanese Air Force pilot dying in a chase with the creature. The creature design was based on that of a pterodactyl.

This was the first Japanese kaiju film to be released in color by Toho Pictures. But I preferred to watch it in black and white. The dark shadows in the jungle scenes works really well. It also covers up some cheapness that's more visible. It’s not to say that the effects were in any way bad, but they did look a bit poor. Being shot in higher-quality makes the miniature scenes more obvious. That being said, the Rodan creature looks pretty sweet. Not Godzilla sweet, but this giant flying turkey monster could have carried a series of movies on its own. Since Godzilla was in the middle of his hiatus, not to return to the big screen until 1962’s King Kong vs. Godzilla.

Rodan was a good movie, but not something that I would come back and watch a dozen times. I appreciate the film and what Director Honda was going for. It comes across clear and sets up a world of monsters for Godzilla to do battle with. I was entertained by the movie on a lot of different levels, but I never thought that it appeared scary. It was very family friendly, and it tells a complete tale. You don’t really need to know any other kaiju movie before watching this one. Rodan is about as menacing as any of Rita Repulsa’s creatures from The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. It’s clear that their biggest opponent was not having the technology to pull off a believable kaiju film. All of that still doesn’t make this a terrible movie. Like I had said above, I found it to be a good entry to the kaiju realm. Interesting note; George Takei had provided English voiceovers for this film and the earlier Godzilla entry, Godzilla Raids Again.