Director: Ishiro Honda
Writers: Takeo Murata and Takeshi Kimura
Cast: Kenji Sahara, Yumi Shirakawa, Akio Kobori, Akihiko Hirata, Fuyuki Murakami, Yasuko Nakata, Tatsunosuke Yamada, Yoshibumi Tajima, Kiyomi Mizunoya, Fumihito Matsuo, Kanta Kisaragi, Akio Kusama, Tateo Kawasaki, Kiyoshi Takagi, Hideo Mihara, Ken Imaizumi, Ichiro Nakaya, Seiji Onaka, Jiro Suzukawa, Rinnsaku Ogata, Keiji Sakakida, Jiro Kumagai, Ichiro Chiba, Junichiro Mukai, Mitsuo Tsuda, Tomeko Umano, Tsurue Ichimanji, Toshiko Nakano, Saeko Kuroiwa, Shouichi Hirose, Keiichiro Katsumoto, Saburo Kadowaki, Mitsuo Matsumoto, Koji Uno, Tadashi Okabe, Yutaka Oka, Kazuo Hikata, Akira Yamada, Shigemi Sunagawa, Bontaro Taira, Masaaki Tachibana, Junnosuke Suda, Shin Yoshida, Yasuhiro Shigenobu, Yasuhisa Tsutsumi, Hideo Kaijou, Takashi Narita, Koji Suzuki, Haruya Sakamoto, Yasuo Onishi, Kamayuki Tsubono, Masao Sengoku, Kazuo Fukuda, Hideo Shibuya, Haruo Suzuki, Masao Ibarada, Kouji Iwamoto, Kenji Echigo, Minoru Ono, Masayoshi Kawabe, Katsumi Tezuka, Haruo Nakajima, and Tokio Okawa
Composer: Akira Ifukube
Release Date: 12/26/1956
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
In the village of Kitamatsu, Japan, several miners are killed by giant, prehistoric dragonfly larvae known as Meganulon. Shortly thereafter, two pteranodons—one male and one female—escape from the same cavern, posing a grave threat to the city of Fukuoka.
Toho’s first kaiju film produced in color, Rodan should be viewed by monster movie enthusiasts. Exceptionally commendable is the serious tone employed by director Ishiro Honda, which works to build and maintain suspense even in the goofiest of circumstances.
Though unconvincing by modern-day standards, the creature effects of Eiji Tsuburaya are made compelling by the reactions of Shigeru (Kenji Sahara), Kiyo (Yumi Shirakawa), and various mine workers featured early in the film. For example, the Meganulon make a frightening introduction by suddenly entering the home of Shigeru and Kiyo, both of whom respond in a terrified manner—an aspect that should allow viewers to perceive a giant, puppet-like monster as a credible threat. A similar effect is generated during the otherwise laughable egg-hatching scene, wherein Shigeru falls into a catatonic state upon witnessing a baby Rodan emerge from a fractured shell.
Even when complemented by solid performances and the haunting music of Akira Ifukube, the monster action in Rodan may, on occasion, prompt snickering from audiences with little or no appreciation for Japanese cinema. (The bad dubbing in the Americanized version can, in all fairness, make Rodan difficult to take seriously at times.)
(Spoilers beyond this point)
A commentary on the dangers of nuclear testing is present in the Americanized film, with monsters from a prehistoric era awakening as a result of the destruction caused by man. Despite lacking the pathos of Gojira, both versions of Rodan should be praised for offering a poignant exploration of humanity’s disregard for nature, as well as the potential consequences thereof. (The symbolism contained in Rodan’s finale is especially worth noting. Specifically, one pteranodon sacrifices itself to join the other in death, indicating a capacity for love, loyalty, and compassion for other creatures—qualities that many of the human characters fail to possess.)
Marred by special effects of the man-in-a-rubber-suit variety, Rodan will likely be regarded as comedic material by most people. Fans of the daikaiju genre, on the other hand, will no doubt enjoy this production.
Overall Quality: 7/10
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