Year of Release—Film: 1956
Year of Release—DVD: 2002
DVD Label: Sony
One of the best Showa-era Kaijû films, Rodan is my personal favorite of the horde of monsters unleashed by Japan’s Toho Studios in the 1950’s and ‘60’s; and with a competent plot, good acting, and better than usual effects, his screen debut beats all but the original GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS in terms of quality, without the preachy, heavy-handedness of the earlier film. The result is a thoroughly enjoyable movie, one that still carries a message, to be sure, but it doesn’t try to beat you over the head with it.
Mysterious happenings at a coal mine in Kyushu have the workers on edge, and fights are breaking out between the stressed miners. The mine is being driven deeper than ever before, and one evening the departing shift realizes that two men are missing. They soon find one of the men dead, floating in a flooded-out section of tunnel. However, when they turn him over, it’s obvious that the miner didn’t drown; his body has been horribly mutilated.
Though the authorities assume that the missing man, Goro, is responsible for the death of the miner, his friend (and the fiancé of Goro’s sister Kiyo…) Shigeru refuses to believe that. He’s soon proven right as a group of monstrous beetle-like creatures known as meganulons attack the mining town. The army soon arrives to battle the giant insects, only to discover there’s a far more deadly foe rising from the bowels of the earth, in the form of a pair of massive pteranodons called Rodans.
The first Kaijû film shot in color, Ishirô Honda’s second Kaijû epic managed to avoid the heavy editing that saw forty minutes excised from GOJIRA, to be replaced with footage featuring a pre-‘Perry Mason’ Raymond Burr for the American version. Instead, there was a brief prologue attached that served to connect the appearance of the monsters to Atomic testing.
The acting in these early Kaijû films was far superior to what would become the norm in the late ‘60’s—early ‘70’s, and the movies overall were much better. This one certainly is.
Like the disc for GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS, this is a bare-bones offering without even subtitles, though the film is closed-captioned. The print used for the transfer is clean and sharp enough, though it would be nice to see a thorough remastering done to the film. Not a spectacular DVD, but I guess you can chalk this one up to a case of “You get what you pay for…”, and for this, that’s not much.
As with the other discs in this Ultimate Godzilla set from Sony, there are none. Oh, they’ve put the audio menu here, that allows you to pick from Mono or Stereo tracks, as well as a promo clip for a Kaijû-themed Gamecube game. First, I don’t consider Sound to be a Special Feature, and second, neither is a commercial for something I don’t have, never will, and couldn’t use if I did. The Unimonster, ever three paces behind the cutting edge, still hasn’t upgraded from the PSOne, and is sorry he ever let go of his NES Console. (I’m really jonesing for some Super Mario Brothers…)
Though there isn’t anything on the disc other than the film to recommend it, in this case that’s enough… especially in light of it’s list price, which is around $8. If you buy the Box Set, it’s even cheaper.
As I said before, Rodan is my favorite Kaijû, beating out even the Great Grumpy One himself, albeit narrowly. I definitely have no qualms about giving his debut feature my highest recommendation. Don’t waste time… grab it now.