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An Exercise in Poor Taste - Rodan
Posted by Edward Robins on Oct 25, 2002, 03:08

Wow, first let me apologize, since going to college I believe I’ve only written a couple columns. You know when Jay Spree and Matt D get in more columns a month than you it’s time to get your ass in gear. Seriously.

Before we get to the review, I’d like to do some “big pimping” (it ain’t easy you know) and then relate some great DVD-related news (never fear Jay, I won’t make a joke at your expense AND steal your column, I don’t remember you covering this). Now then, in the new release department, Full Moon’s latest double-feature of Jigsaw and Totem has hit rental outlets and Tempe Video. Jigsaw, directed by Don Adams and Harry James Picardi, is about a mannequin decorated with various weapons that comes to kill its creators after they burn it. The film has received positive reviews when screened at several film festivals, and I believe this will be the best Full Moon film in a while, and hopefully one that will be successful enough to give the company some solid financial backing for a change. I’ve seen the trailer and am heavily anticipating this one (if my local Hollywood Video has it on DVD I’ll post a review).

Speaking of trailers (and pimpage), another new DVD release that I’d buy if I had the cash (which I’m assuming someone out there does) is Trash Cinema’s Cumming Soon. Back in the day, pornography was an art; it wasn’t just some cheap fix for 74|\/|3 |\|3R|)5 |/\|#0 TYP3 71K3 T#15 |\| (4|\|’T 63T 741|) or opportunity for promiscuous women who like to suck dick (forgive the coarse language) but can’t hold a real job. Back in the day, porn had a purpose, and was even shown in real theatres! Being in a real theater, there were real trailers, and this is where Cumming Soon comes in. The disc has 31 trailers from ‘70s porn classics and more info on that sucker can be found here at Trash Cinema.

Now that the pimping’s out of the way, time for the great DVD-related news. As some of you may know (and all of you SHOULD know), the classic German silent science fiction film Metropolis was recently given a theatrical re-release by Kino. This re-release was of a restored version that’s the most complete version of the film to date. Unfortunately, I missed it, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. Luckily, I e-mailed Kino and they said that a DVD release was planned in February 2003! I told you it was great news!

Anyway, I should probably start my review now. One of the first DVDs I bought was Simitar’s double-sided (one for full-frame, one for widescreen) version of Godzilla, King of the Monsters! As bonus features, one side had new trailers for all the other Godzilla films, and the other had a “documentary” consisting of narration over a compilation of ‘50s sci-fi trailers. Of those, one of the typically sensational taglines that stayed with me was:

“Supersonic jets cannot catch him! Rockets cannot stop him! Armored tanks are helpless before him! Even guided missiles are powerless! See Rodan destroy a modern city!”

Unfortunately for me, Rodan was out of print on VHS and not available on DVD. Cut to a couple years later, I’m checking out the local mall for the first time, and obviously I stop by the local mall’s Suncoast (since it’s an unspoken rule that every mall in America has to have a Suncoast). When perusing the horror/sci-fi section, what do I see but a new DVD release of the one and only Rodan! Given that I’d always wanted to see the film and the price was right ($15), I decided to pick it up, and now, a month later, I finally bring you…

Rodan (1956)
Classic Media / Sony Music Entertainment

Film (complete with minor plot spoilers!)
The film begins with a few minutes of stock atomic bomb footage and narration by the film’s main character Shigeru. Apparently atomic testing is bad, and will only cause trouble. The last thing Shigeru’s town needs is more trouble; there is already a growing number of miners disappearing and dying horrible deaths. The blame for these deaths falls on Shigeru’s friend Goro, which causes Goro’s sister (and Shigeru’s fiancé) Kyo quite a bit of distress. However, since this is a monster movie and not an art-house film examining human relationships in the face of tragedy, after several men try to discover the cause of the deaths (of course only to add to the body count), the killer is discovered to be…
Grrr! Rawr! I'm a scary killer bug thing! Aww... c'mon! Stop laughing!

Wait a minute… did I buy the right film? Well, a monster’s a monster, and the city guards still get the unintentionally funny call: “Guards, help! There’s a monster here!” Shigeru and a team of officers and miners go down into the mines to stop the creature at the source, only to be trapped by an earthquake and rock-slide. Another earthquake and series of killings brings another team of scientists to a Shigeru who’s barely alive but suffering from amnesia; meanwhile, sightings around the globe of a UFO faster than any jet that flies overhead and dives into the ocean are starting to crop up. When Shigeru’s amnesia is cured, he reveals the horrifying truth – that the UFO and monster responsible for the new deaths is Rodan, a giant prehistoric pterodactyl. Even worse, once the military ARRIVES ON THE SCENE~! they find there’s not one, but TWO giant prehistoric pterodactyls on the loose! The devious dino duo fly off towards the city, and if I have to tell you what happens next, you’re beyond help…
I wonder if the Japanese have monster insurance?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say Rodan was easily the best (from a traditional and technical standpoint) kaiju (giant monster) film of the ‘50s, if not all time. The first, and most important (at least when considering the genre) are the special effects and realism. Because of Rodan’s huge wing-span, much of its destruction is caused inadvertently by sonic booms; with the exception of a few silly-looking plane destructions the models used for these sequences are incredibly well done; as roofs fly off of buildings and jeeps tumble into wreckage, the special effects cause gasps of wonder rather than the usual giggles. Unlike most other kaiju films, these sequences still impress, almost 50 years later (in fact, one sequence with a soldier holding onto a tree for dear life was re-used in many later Godzilla films). According to the IMDb, this was the first kaiju film shot in color, and it looks magnificent, particularly during the classic aftermath shot with flashing neon lights and a city in shambles.

Unlike other kaiju films, Rodan also features some exceptional dubbing. One of the main reasons I dislike the original Godzilla, King of the Monsters! so much is because many of the Japanese characters have awful dubbed voices that make them sound more like ethnic stereotypes than actual characters (one scientist can’t even pronounce “phenomenon”). That’s not a problem with Rodan; the voice dubbing is kept serious, and brings a lot of credibility to the film, as the characters look and sound like real people instead of hilarious flubbing Asians who can’t move their mouth right.

Although it has no “message” like the original Godzilla (the atomic bomb footage and voice-over intro show the film-makers perhaps originally intended for there to be an anti-nuclear message, but it never relates directly to the plot), Rodan’s plot doesn’t disappoint either. Although the Rodans don’t show up until near the midpoint of the film (as per the usual), the film never drags, as the Meganuron (big bug) provides effective monster filler and the human relations, though still bare, are established as strong enough to survive the entire film (all the way through to the strangely romantic ending monologue).
Toho proves their dedication and budget by NOT reusing the same model for both Rodans. Classy!

Rodan is exceptional, particularly in comparison to other films in its genre. Yet the film gets no love. Though definitely a better film and arguably a better character than Godzilla (at least the original), Rodan is largely ignored; he’s only appeared in four films, and is probably the least known of the “big names” to a casual fan. It’s really a shame.

Body Count (because every good movie has at least one death in it)
Too many humans to count… I mean we’re talking an entire city here! As for the rest, two Meganurons and two Rodans

Wrestling Moves/References (because in the end, this IS a wrestling site!)
The closest thing would be Rodan coming down and landing on a building a la Spike Dudley doing that thing where he jumps off the top rope and lands standing with both feet on an opponent.
"Splish splash, I'm taking a bath, all on a Saturday night..."

ONE Redeeming Scene
Although the Meganuron first appearing is a funny “shock”, I’m going to have to go with the obvious – seeing as how I went on and on about how great the special effects and models utilized in the city destruction are (which they definitely were), if you had to judge the movie on one sequence, judge it on that, because that’s what most people go to see kaiju for anyway.

For being such a legendary, yet ignored performer, is it any wonder Rodan got screwed? The full-frame transfer I don’t mind (because that’s how all these films are released anyway), but the image quality is total garbage. As you can see in the screenshots, the print is washed out, the colors are faded, and there are many film specks. The sound doesn’t fare much better; the only difference between the Dolby Digital 5.1 and the Mono is that the 5.1 is louder because it comes from all speakers instead of just one. Other than that there are no major qualms with the sound, but the image quality is really unacceptable for such a great film.

Special Features
Once again, Rodan got screwed. I could vent for a paragraph, but check out the picture for yourself. It’s worth a thousand words anyway, right?
Yep, nothing. Not even the trailer that originally interested me in the film.

Great film, TERRIBLE disc. Unfortunately, all of the new Sony/Classic Media Godzilla discs are like this. I’m guessing they were just thrown together more for the Gamecube promo than anything else, which is a bit strange but a true shame. Rodan deserves so much better than this. Damn you Sony, damn your black hearts!
"Hello, Weekly World News? I've got your cover photo..."

Until next time!
Edward Robins list – You thinking of buying something I own? I’ll review it on request!
Missed a column? Now you can catch up! wishlist – Since you’re going to waste your money, why not waste it on me?

PS: Can you believe it’s been so long I almost forgot to pimp my Amazon wishlist? I’m officially a starving college student now, so… I must have helped somebody at some point who has some extra cash, right? Right? Wrong. Damn. Does anyone know how to get the hook up for review copies then?

PPS: My apologies if the spacing is messed up, with Article Manager if you don't hit Enter a million more times than necessary the text of the paragraphs will all be compressed into one long wrap around the images and it looks even worse. I'm getting used to this, I've never put in screen-shots before.


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