11.29.2008

Rodan : 4 of 5

Although Classic Media seems to have released all the Godzilla films they can get the rights to, they are continuing their fantastic kaiju DVD series with the excellent double-feature of Rodan and War of the Gargantuas (which I'll review separately)! The original 1956 Rodan (which interestingly is actually Radon in Japanese) is a fantastic film with just the kind of pacing that I enjoy. The first half of the movie is almost like a murder mystery in a small mining town, and the first monster to make an appearance isn't even Rodan, but rather some giant insects that have been killing miners! Once the huge pteranodon does show up, the introduction is made though quick attacks and blurry photos - I love how they can delay the first full-on shots of Rodan until about 55 minutes into the movie! Director Ishiro Hondo really knows how to pull off suspense and build tension, as well as a nice romance between characters Kiyo and Shigeru, in a way that goes far beyond the usual kaiju film. I was impressed and surprised with Rodan when I watched the US version back in 2006, but it's even better in the original Japanese, and it looks great on this DVD (although the added detail means a few more visible strings!). The miniature effects are pretty incredible, especially the destruction of Fukuoka (all those shingles blowing off!), and those scenes end up getting reused in countless other Toho movies. I was really looking forward to a great commentary track, but unfortunately Classic Media didn't do one this time. Instead there is a nice hour-long documentary on Japanese special effects with tons of rare on-the-set photos and insightful interviews. The documentary is wonderful, but I really missed the commentary track! But even without that bonus feature, there no question that all kaiju fans should get this DVD!