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In the Japanese mining village of Kitamatsu, miners ares starting to disappear deep inside shaft number 8. Some of the men sent to investigate are killed but one who has managed to escape brings back a tale of a giant insect. Soon, the giant prehistoric insects are attacking the village. Not long after, something traveling faster than the speed of sound is found flying in the sky. It is Rodan, a giant flying prehistoric reptile that has come to life. It spreads terror throughout Japan and is seemingly invincible to any weapon they may throw at it. Written by
The bruise Kenji Sahara has on his left cheek in the cave scene where he first sees Rodan hatch from the egg was real. As Sahara crawled backwards, he turned the wrong way and went face first into a rock. Despite the injury, he finished the scene. See more »
In one scene in the control tower at the Japanese AF Base, background footage of planes on the ground can be seen to pause, then run in reverse. See more »
In either version, "Rodan" is a tremendously stimulating monster movie classic
"Rodan" was one of the few Japanese monster movie classics that were not only heavily altered for its release into the United States, but was re-edited with respect and care for the original vision of its director Ishiro Honda. As a result, even though the Japanese and English versions are different, both are highly stimulating and tremendously enjoyable monster mashes and it's no surprise why "Rodan" was such a big hit in both countries. This is one of the most purely enjoyable, yet complex and captivating science-fiction films ever made and also boasts some surprisingly grand special effects sequences, a commendable music score, and fantastic directing by Ishiro Honda.
Rodan, a popular pterodactyl-like monster, had his debut in this 1956 film, although he does not even make an appearance until the movie is nearly over. The picture starts out with a local mining village being placed under attack by giant clawed insects crawling out of the caverns in which they harvest coal for a living. After the prehistoric arthropods brutally slaughter seven people, an investigation is conducted and a more horrifying truth is discovered. Something other than giant bugs may have resurfaced sometime after the testing of the H-bomb and at the same time, an object capable of flying at supersonic speed is spotted attacking aircraft all over the world.
It's the complexity of the story and the plot that I still find really captivating about "Rodan." If it weren't for the title, we would assume that Rodan is not even in the movie at all. We'd think it was about giant bugs. Sort of like a Japanese equivalent of "Them!" the great James Arness flick with giant ants. Rodan does not make a full-fledged appearance until the movie is nearly over and when he does show up, it's with tremendous awe and presence. The fact that Rodan is also created with some surprisingly grand special effects is another key element to his interesting qualities as a movie monster. Instead of plodding through miniature buildings like Godzilla, Rodan whips across the screen with dazzling speed and produces hurricane winds and shock waves to devastate his foes and victims. The audio track is pumped up with earsplitting shrieks as Rodan breaks the sound barrier and his trademark cry here is really a very disturbing and spine-tingling noise. Sequences such as Rodan attacking a plane (inspired by the infamous Thomas F. Mantell UFO incident) and fighting jets in a supersonic dogfight are truly exhilarating. Furthermore, we've got a cast of characters who are worth caring about. The great Japanese actor Kenji Sahara plays the titular role of Shigeru Kawamura, one of the miners who stumbles upon one horrifying event after another. And he has connections with the other characters, most notably with Yumi Shirakawa. Their relationship and chemistry is almost as fascinating as the monsters.
When the movie was distributed into the United States, like with the first Godzilla pictures, changes were made. Unlike however with that film, the changes here were more considerate and honorable. As long as you can forgive the hammy, sometimes irritating narration by Keye Luke, you can respect the distributors' decisions such as improving editing changes and addition or re-arrangement of musical cues. As an overall movie, the Japanese version feels more complete, more wholesome, and is a better picture. But its English counterpart is very nearly on par with its kinetic energy and confidence.
The cast is in terrific shape. Kenji Sahara is a truly talented actor and those who say otherwise (that no Japanese monster movie can have good acting) just look at his expression as he tries to overcome amnesia and try to say that again with a straight face. Yumi Shirakawa is also terrific as his love interest, Akhiko Hirata is once again convincing and commendable as the obligatory scientist wanting to learn the truth, and Akio Korobi not only has the physical appearance of a police chief, but plays one with presence.
"Rodan" is an unfortunately overlooked monster movie masterpiece. Most people who know it are only so because the Rodan character would later become affiliated with the Godzilla franchise. Now that the original Japanese version has been nicely given a DVD release in the U.S., I hope people can truly appreciate how great this genuinely spectacular science-fiction classic is. It is complex, well-written, drawn-out, and the ending of the picture is surprisingly moving.
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