Rodan (released as Sora no Daikaijū Radon (空の大怪獣 ラドン, "Giant Monster of the Sky, Radon") is a 1956 Japanese kaiju film directed by Ishirō Honda and produced by Toho Studios and Tomoyuki Tanaka. The film, which stars Kenji Sahara and Yumi Shirakawa, was Toho's first kaiju film to be shot in color, and is one of several giant monster films that found an audience outside Japan. In the United States, it was released in 1957 as Rodan! The Flying Monster!, before receiving a 1959 re-release on a double bill with Gigantis the Fire Monster.
Theatrical re-release poster
|Directed by||Ishirō Honda|
|Produced by||Tomoyuki Tanaka|
|Written by||Ken Kuronuma (original story)|
|Music by||Akira Ifukube|
|Edited by||Kôichi Iwashita|
Robert S. Eisen
In the small mining village of Kitamatsu, on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, two miners have gone missing. The two men, Goro and Yoshi, had brawled earlier that day, and after they entered the mine to start their shift, the shaft had flooded. Shigeru Kawamura, a tunneling and safety engineer at the mine, heads below to investigate and discovers Yoshi's lacerated corpse.
Above ground, a doctor examines Yoshi, and discovers the cause of death to be a series of deep gashes caused by an abnormally sharp object. Some of the miners and their families begin to discuss the possibility of the involvement of Goro in the death.
Two local miners and a policeman are later attacked and slain by an unseen assailant in the flooded shaft. Their bodies are recovered and examined, and the doctor announces that they were also killed by a sharp object. That night, Shigeru and his fiancée Kiyo are attacked by a creature resembling a gigantic insect larva at Kiyo's home.
The police start hunting the creature, and it kills two officers before escaping into the mine. The police and Shigeru notice that the officers' wounds match the wounds of the murdered. Shigeru, accompanied by police and soldiers, heads into the mine, where they discover the butchered body of Goro and are chased by the insect monster. Shigeru crushes the creature with runaway mine carts, but after another insect monster appears, the tunnel caves in, trapping Shigeru in the mine.
The next day, Dr. Kashiwagi identifies the giant insect as a Meganulon, an ancient species of dragonfly larvae. An earthquake suddenly strikes the area, and rumors begin to circulate that Mt. Aso, the volcano that eclipses Kitamatsu, might be on the verge of an eruption. When the police head to the volcano to investigate the damage caused by the earthquake, they discover the only road to the mines has collapsed. But to their surprise they also find an amnesic Shigeru wandering around the epicenter.
Several miles away, in Kyushu, an air base receives an alert from a jet fighter. The pilot reports an unidentified flying object performing impossible maneuvers at supersonic speeds. Per orders he pursues the object but it swings around and at supersonic speed overflies the jet, destroying it and killing the pilot. After recovering remains of the jet and the pilot's helmet the base gets word that a British airliner has been shot down by an aerial object resembling the supersonic UFO.
Soon after more incidents are reported, from China, Okinawa, and the Philippines of aerial objects causing major destruction and the probability is established that two such objects - still foggily surmised as aircraft, visible only via contrails at ultra high altitude - are engaged in such predations.
Amid constant news reports of these mysterious attacks, a newly married couple disappears around Mt. Aso, along with several cattle. When the authorities develop the film from the newlyweds' camera, they discover a photograph of what appears to be a gigantic wing. They match the photo with a drawing of a prehistoric Pteranodon and surmise the UFO is indeed a living being, but they want testimony from Shigeru before they can accurately account for these attacks.
Meanwhile, Shigeru's treatment is progressing slowly. One day, in Shigeru's hospital room, Kiyo shows him the eggs that her pet birds have lain. As one of the eggs hatches, Shigeru recalls that he woke up deep within the mine after the cave-in, and found himself surrounded by hordes of Meganulon. In the middle of the cave was a gigantic egg, from which Shigeru watched a massive bird creature emerge. The shock of this memory cures his amnesia.
After descending into the cave with police and scientists, Shigeru finds a fragment of the colossal egg. Dr. Kashiwagi examines the fragment in his lab and calls a meeting with townspeople and members of the Japanese Self-Defence Force. He tells the men that the object seen flying at supersonic speeds is a pterosaur he has dubbed Rodan. Kashiwagi theorizes that nuclear bomb testing may have been the cause of Rodan's awakening.
Rodan emerges from the ground near Mt. Aso, takes flight, and heads for Kyushu, with squadron of the JASDF hot on its tail. After one of its wings is injured, Rodan flies to Fukuoka, where the sonic waves and windstorms from its wings lay waste to the city. Suddenly, the JSDF reports that a second Rodan has been spotted heading towards the city. After leveling the city and leaving the remaining buildings in flames, the two Rodans fly to Mt. Aso. The JSDF formulate a plan to have the military fire at the base of Mt. Aso, burying the Rodans alive. Shigeru retreats with Kiyo to safety, and the military begins its attack, triggering a volcanic eruption. Mt. Aso spews smoke and lava into the sky, and the fumes overtake the Rodans, causing them to perish on the molten slopes of the volcano.
- Kenji Sahara as Shigeru Kawamura, Mining Engineer
- Yumi Shirakawa as Kiyo, Goro's Sister
- Akihiko Hirata as Kyoichiro Kashiwagi, Doctor of Paleontology
- Akio Kobori as Nishimura, Police Detective
- Yasuko Nakata as Honeymooning Wife
- Minosuke Yamada as Oseki, Mining Chief
- Yoshifumi Tajima as Izeki, reporter of Seibu Nippou
- Kiyoharu Onaka as Honeymooning Husband, Sunagawa's friend
- Haruo Nakajima as Radon ("Rodan" in English-language version)
- Yasuhisa Tsutsumi as Imamura, F-86F Pilot
- Ichirô Chiba as Chief of Police
- Mike Daneen as U.S. Army Teletype Operator, Okinawa
- Tazue Ichimanji as Haru, Kiyo's neighbor
- Saburo Iketani as Radio News Anchor
- Saburô Kadowaki as Lab Technician, Seismic Research Institute
- Tateo Kawasaki as Tsune, Miner
- Kanta Kisaragi as Wasteman
Veteran writer Ken Kuronuma, who wrote the original story for this film, was inspired by an incident in Kentucky in 1948, when Captain Thomas F. Mantell, a pilot for the Kentucky Air National Guard, died in a crash while allegedly pursuing a UFO.
While shooting the scene in which Rodan flies over the Saikai Bridge (connecting Saikai City and Sasebo City in Kyushu), the pulley from which Haruo Nakajima was suspended broke. He fell from a height of twenty-five feet, but the wings and the water, which was about one and a half feet deep, absorbed much of the impact.
George Takei, better known as Lt. Hikaru Sulu in the original Star Trek series, was one of the American voice actors employed for dubbing Rodan. The only other Kaiju film for which he performed similar voice work was Godzilla Raids Again (1955). The main narration provided by the character Shigeru was by actor Keye Luke, with additional voices provided by veteran actor Paul Frees. Voice over dubbing was done at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studio in Culver City, CA. Each of the 4 voice over actors dubbed 8 or 9 different voices for the film.
Many promotional stills and posters for the film depicted a Rodan that looked radically different from the one in the actual film. Rather than the appearance of a slightly larger, more upright version of the traditional pterosaur, this version bore more of a resemblance to the bird-like Azhdarchidae family. This film marks the only time in which Rodan is seen to emit a strange burst of concentrated gas from its mouth as a form of weapon. The inclusion of this tangential ability was likely meant to duplicate Godzilla's similar atomic breath.
The King Brothers Productions 1957 theatrical release of Rodan was quite successful in its first run in the United States. It was the first Japanese film to receive general release on the West Coast that made a strong showing at the box-office. It later received the largest TV advertising campaign given to a film up to that date on New York's NBC flagship station WRCA-TV, where a series of promotional commercials, running 10 to 60 seconds, were shown for a week before the film's appearance. Television promotion included a contest to copy Rodan's outline using a piece of paper held over the screen while the outline was shown on the screen for a brief time each day.
- Released: September 9, 2008
- Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
- Language(s): Japanese (2.0 Mono), English (2.0 Mono)
- Subtitles: English
- Extras: Bringing Godzilla Down to Size (69 Minutes)
- Notes: Contains both Rodan and The War of the Gargantuas (2-disc set)
Rodan grossed an estimated $450,000 to $500,000 during its opening weekend at 79 theaters in the New York City metropolitan area. Several theatrical circuits, including RKO, announced that the film broke the box office records for a science-fiction film.
Changes to the U.S. version
- Some of Akira Ifukube's music was replaced with stock music.
- A prologue showing footage of American nuclear tests was added.
- Extensive narration by Shigeru was added throughout the film.
- The fight between Goro and another miner is shortened.
- A brief shot showing mine cars traveling up a mine shaft was taken out.
- A scene of miners names being called was cut short.
- The scene leading up to when Meganulon kills a cop and two miners is shortened.
- The scene where the Meganulon attacks the village is cut short. A brief shot showing a Meganulon walking through people's backyards was taken out for the American version. When Shigeru and the soldiers walk up the incline, it shows the setting through Shigeru's eyes. He looks up the incline, and then the camera moves to the left showing the mountain, and then sees the Meganulon. A shot of Meganulon escaping afterwards is also cut.
- The scene where Professor Kashiwagi analyzes a photo of the yet-unnamed monster's wing was cut short. Kashiwagi matches the wing in the photo to that of a picture of a Pteranodon, which he truncates to "Radon" to name the monster.
- The name "Radon" was anagrammed into "Rodan" for the English audience, so as not to confuse the fictitious monster with the actual atomic element radon.
- A brief scene showing doctors walking Shigeru into the hospital after he is recovered was taken out.
- The scene where the honeymooners are eaten is much shorter, with about 30 seconds of footage removed, including a shot of Rodan's shadow passing overhead.
- The American version makes the second Rodan appear more throughout the movie. In the original Japanese version, the second Rodan does not show up until late during the attack on Fukuoka. In the scene where Shigeru and the others see Rodan up close for the first time, the second one emerges immediately thereafter, with Shigeru saying, "It has a mate!" It is this second Rodan that then causes the Jeep to crash.
- A scene of fighter jets taking off was added.
- The scene where a helicopter investigates the Rodans' lair was re-arranged. In the Japanese version, the scene appears after the assault on Fukuoka by the Rodans and just before they are killed by the volcanic eruption caused by the JSDF. In the US version, the scene is shown shortly before Rodan first emerges from Mount Aso.
- The King Brothers changed the name of the city destroyed by Rodan from Fukuoka to Sasebo because the U.S.A. had a lot of diplomatic facilities there, though one of the places Rodan flies over before Fukuoka is attacked is called Sasebo station in the Japanese version.
- The scene of Rodan emerging from his volcanic lair was altered in the American version to make it look as if he was provoked to emerge by the air force. In the original version, he emerged without any sort of provocation.
- Ragone, August. Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters, Chronicle Books, 2007 & 2014, p 50.
- Takei, George. To The Stars. The Autobiography of George Takei. New York, New York: Pocket Books. p. 135.
- Galbraith IV 2008, p. 332.
- Staff (May 30, 1958). "Toho's Science-Fiction Team Completes Another Thriller; Tint Entitled 'The H-Man'". Far East Film News. Tokyo, Japan: Rengo Film News Co., Ltd.: 15. OCLC 6166385.
- Staff (April 4, 1958). "Rodan". Far East Film News. Tokyo, Japan: Rengo Film News Co., Ltd.: 4. OCLC 6166385.
- Staff (March 28, 1958). "Toho's 'Rodan' Hits Jackpot in New York". Far East Film News. Tokyo, Japan: Rengo Film News Co., Ltd.: 15. OCLC 6166385.
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