Rodan (1954) starring Kenji Sahara, Yumi Shirakawa, Akihiko Hirata
In Rodan, in the Japanese mining village of Kitamatsu, miners are 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.
Rodan begins with two miners, Goro and Yoshizo, fighting with each other. And later, they both go missing. A search party is able to find and rescue Yoshizo. But he’s unconscious, and unable to tell what happened. In the meantime, rescue teams are looking for Goro … and they’re attacked by something in the mines.
Something in the mines
Since the men killed in the mines were Goro’s friends, he’s not a likely culprit. And then we see clearly for the first time the strange monsters from the mines. Something like a giant caterpillar/slug with pincers, that’s immune to hand gun fire.
The miners and guards bravely chase the creature away, and chase it into the mines. Where they discover that light machine gun fire does little more than annoy the creature. So, they try ramming it with the coal wagon. And it works! Until more of the creatures show up! Thankfully, a mine collapse causing the roof of the mine shaft to kill the creatures.
The hypothesis is that prehistoric eggs were at just the right temperature, etc. to hatch — releasing the monsters. The creatures are identified as Meganulon. But there’s strange seismic activity near the mine …. And a survivor of the mine collapse, Kawamura, is found, but with amnesia.
Something in the skies
Then, there’s an eruption on Mount Asu. And something‘s doing supersonic flight, with a pilot pursuing. But the mystery ship is 1.5 times faster than the pilot’s ship. Until it turns around and destroys him. And more planes are going missing …
Our unidentified flying object is going around the world and causing devastation, but can’t be identified because of it’s speed. And an unfortunate couple provide the first partial photo of it — posthumously. Is it a Pteranodon?
Now I remember
Back at the hospital, a nurse named Kiyu shows Kawamura a bird nest, with an egg hatching. And that triggers his memory from the mines. He remembers seeing Meganulon hatching. But then, a larger creature hatches, and begins eating the Meganulon as food. And growing larger …. So he leads the people back to the cavern where he saw them.
Soon, the military — along with their scientific advisors — meet Rodan in the flesh for the first time. And experience the devastating wind produced by his flight. Jets are scrambled in pursuit, and are helpless.
Rodan lands in a heavily populated area, causing massive damage. The military attacks with tanks, to no effect. And, to make matters worse, there are two Rodans to contend with.
Towards the end, the humans have a daring plan to stop the Rodans … which actually work. And when one of them is dying in a volcano, the other won’t abandon it’s mate. A sad, tragic ending.
- Rodan’s original Japanese name, Radon, is actually short for the Japanese word for Pteranodon (“Puteranodon”).
- First Japanese monster movie filmed in color.
- Even back in 1954, they were trying to push the “global warming” mantra.
- In his autobiography, George Takei says that this was his first professional acting job, and all dialogue voices were provided by himself, Keye Luke, “another man” (Paul Frees) and one woman.
Editorial review of Rodan courtesy of Amazon.com
Rodan is frequently compared to studio-mate Godzilla in many ways. I think that “Rodan” is at least as well made and in some ways superior to any of the Godzilla films. For starters it is in color, which was a bit rare for a film made in 1956; furthermore, the color is vibrant and well preserved in this modern print. The acting is better than most of the Toho films, as is the script. The biggest difference is the sets, with the “Rodan” sets far and away more realistic looking than the Godzilla counterparts.
The blending of real shots and miniatures is far above average for a film of this age as well. The ‘bridge’ set featured near the end of the film is probably the best miniature set in the history of Toho productions. Rodan is a message movie, and, of course, cautions us about the use of nuclear weapons. The use of these weapons causes first the release of some just plain wacky looking caterpillar monsters, followed by two Rodans. The Rodans terrorize Japan until eventually they are engulfed by a man made volcanic eruption, in one of the best endings in any of the films of this genre.