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I really want to like the folks over at Classic Media simply for trying to give these films their due. Following up their mostly-fabulous special edition of Gojira, they're immediately dishing out the first sequel, Godzilla Raids Again. Ripping into my DVD mailer, I see that the packaging closely resembles that of the previous film, an appreciated touch. The case is book-style, held closed by a cardboard band that details the film enclosed. Even cooler is that they've kept the original Toho poster art for the cover. Now that I've been charmed by the packaging, is the film inside any good?

Godzilla Raids Again

Feature


I'll be brief with my plot synopsis, because you know as well as I that we're really just watching to see two guys in rubber suits reduce Japan to rubble. Two helicopter pilots wind up on a volcanic island where they find the monsters Godzilla and Anguirus in deadly combat. Once back on land, the scientist who helped destroy the previous giant green lizard (these apparently aren't the same creatures) is called in to help with this new grim situation. Godzilla against Anguirus and the victor against the military—who will be left and what will become of Osaka, Japan?

For what it is, Raids Again isn't a bad film. It's crystal-clear that the filmmakers are creating a formula with this picture that will be used for decades to follow; Godzilla and some other monster(s) duke it out, the military intervenes and the whole mess has a dramatic human story to be interspersed throughout the action. This particular episode works that formula pretty well. It's no Seven Samurai, but it does entertain on a silly popcorn-grade monster movie level. I enjoyed that Raids Again takes time to acknowledge the original film's events, something few future sequels would care to do. Fans of the original should delight at seeing the return of Dr. Kyohei Yamane-hakase (Takashi Shimura), I know I did.

Since we're not going to these films for the humans, the special effects become very important. I applaud Raids Again for it's ambitiousness, but several scenes fall flat on their face. Still using man-in-suit techniques, the filmmakers frequently under-crank the camera, resulting in the footage being in fast-motion. It's easy to see what they were aiming for when they did this. They wanted their massive beasts to have a ferocious speed in battle (which is understandable), but problematic in how they achieve it.

Godzilla Raids Again
To make Godzilla and Anguirus appear as large as they're supposed to be, the camera needs to be over-cranked to slow things down, not under-cranked. The filmmakers of the original had this figured out pretty well. By reversing the procedure here, certain fight scenes look like they're from a Keystone Cops short rather than a Toho monster film. Not all of the effects are bad, however. The miniature work is commendable for the time period as are the matte/superimposition shots. If a film can be judged on effects alone, Raids Again comes out pretty well. Mix in the story of both humans and monsters and the film is a success.

Also included on the disc is the English version, which I found to be an excruciating experience. You may find yourself interested because of George Takei's (of Star Trek fame) involvement in dubbing, but approach this version with caution... or at least the commentary track on (see below). Just as with the original Gojira, this English version completely mangles the story and dialogue into a barely recognizable product. Unlike the originals English version however, this one lacks the same kind of watch-ability. A major issue I have with the English version is its many continuity errors in referencing the monsters. Characters who should be ‘in the know’ frequently mis-identify Godzilla and Anguirus, which gets confusing. If you're going to get this title and think life to be precious - skip this version. Life is too valuable to be spent watching this tripe. You've been warned.

Video


Godzilla Raids Again is preserved in its native fullscreen aspect ratio. The quality? Ugh. That pretty much sums up my feelings on it. Even for a motion picture this old, the transfer isn't even remotely passable. Scratches and dirt trouble many scenes, some more than others. At times, the flicker of the film is distracting, as if not enough cells were passing in front of the lens to keep up the projection. I've found this characteristic of older films (especially ‘silents’), but none so recent as 1955. When held next to the transfer of its predecessor, Raids Again is easily the better looking image, but that's not saying much.

Godzilla Raids Again
Worst of all, a little over an hour into the film, the picture has an interlacing glitch lasting several minutes. Luck would have it that this takes place not during a talkie scene between humans, but an aerial assault on the giant lizard himself. Dirty, ugly and downright distracting, Classic Media needs to do something about the horrendous quality of their discs. A major disappointment.

Audio


The film is equipped with its original Mono soundtrack. Neither impressive nor disappointing, it's a reasonably good sounding track. Not a fault of the disc by any means, but notice during the under-cranked sequences how disjointed the audio feels to the video. It's painfully obvious that these scenes have no live audio whatsoever.

Extras
’If you'll notice... this movie almost never shuts up.’ - Steve Ryfle

The English version of the film comes with the option of commentary by Godzilla guru Steve Ryfle. Simply put, this is one of the most entertaining commentaries I've heard in a long while. Packed to the brim with stories about the production, Ryfle comments on and critiques this lesser version of Godzilla Raids Again, at times feeling like an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. He also calls on a few guests to chime in with comments, but Ryfle is the star of the commentary. A marvellous supplement.

Another hardcore Godzilla fan, Ed Godziszewski, provides a fourteen minute featurette entitled 'The Art of Suit Acting', which shines the spotlight of several decades of Toho stuntmen who've donned torturous rubber suits for their films. Godziszewski lacks the hilarious charm of Ryfle but easily makes up for it in knowledge of Godzilla. There's many great photographs and stories to be seen/heard here. Lastly, an image gallery is included with seven movie poster images.

Godzilla Raids Again

Overall


I think Classic Media has their heart in the right place for these releases. They produce worthwhile supplements, dazzlingly good-looking menus/packaging and even price them very reasonably. What they cannot do as we've sadly found out, is make a decent video transfer. It's a crying shame too, because as I said when I began this review, I really want to like them. Perhaps next time they'll get it right. This is the first time Godzilla Raids Again has been released in the DVD format and problems aside, true fans will not want to miss it.


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