Rodan (1956)

The first of the Toho “Dai Kaiju” series in colour and some of Eiji Tsuburaya’s best special effects. Although shorn to a miserly 69 minutes of the original Japanese footage (plus nearly 4 minutes of actual H-Bomb test footage stuck to the beginning by the American distributors, The King Brothers) it is a fabulously made picture.

Coal miners discover gigantic insects, known as Meganurons in the original version, which attack the local village. As if that were not bad enough a monstrous flying reptile soon hatches from an egg which has also been unearthed. Rodan’s appearance is a “good news/bad news” thing because he eats the giant insects, but he also causes more damage than they ever could have!

The King Brothers, who would also give us GORGO a few years later, saved money by simply repeating certain scenes and “flopping” the image on the screen so it would look (slightly) different. Rodan and its mate appear out of the same crater in the American version. In the original version the second Rodan appears with no explanation as the first one is destroying the city of Sasebo. The narration probably saved time and allowed them to use less of the Japanese footage but having seen the original version I prefer the visual aspects of it (the end sequence is just as poignant and memorable without any dialogue).

Lovers of dubbed movies will recognise the voices of Paul Frees and Marvin Miller doing almost every voice in the picture! Keye Luke, a former Number One Son in Charlie Chan movies, provides the voice of the hero and a teenaged George Takei (later Mr. Sulu on “Star Trek”) can be heard also. Look carefully during the destruction of the city and you will notice one building, a camera company, is called “The Tsuburaya Company”!

In todays genres where every movie is over-laden with CGI people should pause long enough to watch this movie and see what could be done with miniatures, imagination, and heart. Eiji Tsuburaya really loved the genre and gave his best to every assignment but THIS will always be one of his best.

Oh and about the monsters name. It was originally RADON but a British toy company had a doll on the market with that name so when the movie went abroad they simply switched the vowels in the monster’s name and Radon became Rodan.