Today’s Random Tokusatsu: Rodan (1956)

Today’s selection: Rodan (1956, dir. Ishiro Honda)

Subgenre: Kaiju

Available from: Classic Media

Rodan was Ishiro Honda’s third monster movie, after Godzilla and Half Human, and the third giant monster movie that Toho produced. It was the first kaiju film in color, and one of the finest “serious” monster movies of Toho’s golden age (as usual, it’s Honda directing, Tsuburaya on effects, Ifukube on music for the Toho sci-fi triumverate, though screenwriter Takeshi Kimura is a superstar in his own right), an allegorical tale of monster-versus-military rather than the later movies’ monster-versus-other-monster format. The plot revolves around the Meganulons, giant prehistoric insects (later used in Godzilla x Megaguirus) that awaken to terrorize a small mining town. Since the statute of limitations on spoilers for this particular movie is already up, I’ll go ahead and say that there’s another monster revealed midway through: the titular giant pteranodon Rodan.

Rodan is, of Toho’s “big 5” iconic monsters, the least celebrated, but was sort of a big deal during the Showa era. There are two Rodans in this movie, one of which reappears in Ghidorah the Three Headed Monster and so on (but it seems his mate was never seen again, tragic). Premiering in a standalone film, I’m against calling Rodan a “Godzilla monster”, but he’s been relegated to playing support roles ever since. As a movie Rodan doesn’t get enough love (e.g. no audio commentary on the DVD), but it deserves a lot of respect for its ambitious effects and setting the path for the kaiju boom that otherwise might have fallen off after Godzilla and its sequel.

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