For me, there is no better way to start the day than by watching a Toho kaiju movie. Now today’s movie was always one of my favorite Toho monster movies as a kid. Like many kids, I was a bit of a dinosaur nut and here was this movie about a giant Pteranodon attacking a city. Of course, being a Toho monster meant that Rodan would find it’s way into the Godzilla series, which gave me even more chances to see him. So let’s go ahead and watch Toho’s resident high flyer in action as I watch today’s movie, Rodan.
The plot: In the mining town of Kitamatsu, the miners are preparing for the morning shift in the mine when a fight breaks out between two workers, Goro and Yoshizo, but it is quickly broken up and the men head down into the shaft. A short time later, a call comes in to the headquarters that part of the mine has flooded and Shigeru Kawamura, one of the mine’s safety engineers, quickly heads to the mine to investigate. When Shigeru gets down to where the workers are, he learns that Goro and Yoshizo are missing so he leads a group down to try and find them as well as figure out where the water came from. The group eventually come across the body of Yoshizo and quickly take him back to the surface and take him to the doctor’s office, where the doctor says he was killed by a sharp object. Some of the men believe Goro killed Yoshizo, as he has not been seen since the flood, but Shigeru tells them not to jump to conclusions until the police have finished investigating. As they leave the doctor’s office, Shigeru sees his fiance Kiyo waiting for him and she asks if the rumors about Goro, her brother, are true but he tells her to have faith in Goro. Later, two workers and a police officer are standing at the water’s edge of the tunnel to see if Goro comes out when they hear a splash in the water. Heading into the water to investigate, they hear a strange noise followed by more splashing when suddenly, the worker in front starts screaming as he is dragged underwater. The police officer fires his pistol at their attacker but he too is dragged under and killed, while the second worker is killed while trying to to radio for help. After the bodies have been recovered, the doctors say that the men were killed by the same weapon that killed Yoshizo but they have no idea what could have done it. That night, Shigeru is trying to comfort Kiyo after Yoshizo’s wife yells at her for Yoshizo’s death when they are attacked by a giant insect. They quickly run and Shigeru calls for help and when the police get there, they see the creature and start firing at it but their bullets seem to have no effect as the insect charges at them. With more officers and people coming to help, they soon track the insect to the top of a hill but it manages to kill two police officers before making it’s way back to the mine. Heading into the mine, the police bring some machine guns to use on the insect but even the machine guns have no effect so they are forced to retreat back towards the surface. Shigeru releases the mine cart and crashes it into the insect, killing it, but as they are moving the debris from the crash, a second insect appears. The police begin firing at it but it has no effect when a cave in suddenly occurs, killing the insect and trapping Shigeru inside the mine. Dr. Kashiwagi examine the body of the insect and say it looks like a giant prehistoric dragonfly larvae called Meganulon. Suddenly, a tremor occurs and they learn an earthquake occurred somewhere between the mine and the nearby volcano, Mt. Aso. As the scientist go to examine the site of the earthquake, they see Shigeru stumbling around in the newly formed crater. Taking Shigeru back to the village, they find that he is in a state of shock, causing him to become mute and giving him temporary amnesia. As Kiyo cares for Shigeru, Kashiwagi and the other doctors try to work with him in regaining his memory but to no avail. Meanwhile, a JSDF plane reports to it’s base about an unknown object traveling through the air at supersonic speeds. The pilot is ordered to investigate but as he gets close, the object suddenly reverses course and destroys the plane with a supersonic attack. As the JSDF examines the wreckage and pilot’s remains, they learn of another plane being attacked by the object. As reports come in of the object flying over the area, from Beijing to Manila, the news reports feel like it is impossible for the object to be in different places so close apart and theorize that there are two of them. A Honeymooning couple heads to Mt. Aso to take some pictures when they are attacked by the flying object. As the police examine the items left behind, they develop the pictures from their camera and see a strange wing in one of the frames. Izeki, a newspaper reporter, takes the picture to Kashiwagi to look at, and he and his assistants say it resembles the wing of a Pteranodon. Meanwhile, Kiyo shows Shigeru some bird eggs that are starting to hatch and he regains his memory of what happened inside the cave. Speaking with Kashiwagi, Shigeru tells them that he saw a giant egg hatch and a giant baby Pteranodon was eating the Meganulon that were inside the chamber before flying off. Shigeru leads Kashigawi and some other men to the chamber where the egg was and they find a piece of the egg shell but are forced to run when another cave in occurs. After examining the shell fragment, Kashiwagi is able to estimate how large the egg was theorizes that nuclear testing possibly lead to the giant size and wakening of the creature, which they are calling Rodan. Heading towards Mt. Aso, the group see Rodan appear at the base of the volcano and the police chief sends one of his men to report what is going on but Rodan takes off and uses it’s sonic boom to destroy the jeep. the JSDF mobilizes some planes to attack Rodan but their weapons have no effect and it heads towards Fukuoka. Landing in the city, Rodan begins destroying the city and the JSDF mobilizes tanks and rocket launchers to combat the giant monster but to no avail. As Rodan uses it’s wings to generate powerful gusts of wind that destroy buildings and push the JSDF vehicles away, a second Rodan appears and begins flying over the city before both Rodans leave the city and head back to Mt. Aso. Using a helicopter to examine Mt. Aso and finding the Rodans’ nest, the JSDF plan on bombing the mountain and causing a cave-in that will trap the monsters inside the mountain. One of the geologists says that their plan will cause Mt. Aso to erupt and the commander says that will work to their advantage, believing the lava will kill the monsters. The JSDF evacuate the area, then begin firing at the volcano in an attempt to bury the monsters. The Rodan’s are able to escape but when the Mt. Aso proceeds to erupt, one of the Rodans is overcome by the fumes and ends up falling to the ground, where it is set on fire by the lava. As Shigeru, Kiyo, Kashiwagi, and the others watch, the second Rodan descends to the ground and lands near it’s dying mate, then catches on fire as well and the assembled people watch as both monsters are consumed by fire and die.
Rodan met with mostly praise from the critics, holding a 70% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, the critics seemed to enjoy the movie but did feel the plot was a bit tedious. This was the first Toho kaiju movie to be filmed in color, though Toho’s first color film was released earlier in the year. Like many other of Toho’s kaiju movies, Rodan found a large audience outside of Japan, especially in the US, though there were changes made just like the other kaiju movies that were shown in the US.
This was always my favorite non-Godzilla Showa era kaiju movie. The acting was pretty good, with a good mix of drama in the early going followed by the usual panic/antics that occur during a kaiju movie. The plot was decent, though it was a bit disappointing because Rodan didn’t really show up until almost 2/3 of the way through the movie, while the first 30 minutes was focused on the Meganulon. The Rodan suit was actually pretty incredible and it is a shame that this suit wasn’t used in the Godzilla series, where we wound up with a googly eyed monster in the later films. A fun movie to watch and enjoy, even if you are not a kaiju fan.
Rating: 4 out of 5