I intended from the beginning to post reviews of what I've watched. Originally this was supposed to be a couple of short reviews a week at a time, but I kept putting it off. Now I've watched too many to review all in one post, so I'll just be going one at a time, in the order I watched them (roughly). Without further ado:
Godzilla Raids Again
This is the first of the many sequels to Godzilla, and the first appearance of Godzilla's "pal" Anguirus. The DVD actually had both the American and (subbed) Japanese versions, and I watched both. It's interesting seeing how much damage re-editing can do.
The story follows two seaplane pilots working for a tuna canning business, Tsukioka and Kobayashi. While out scouting for schools of tuna, Kobayashi's plane gets mechanical troubles and he's forced to put down. Tsukioka goes out to rescue him, and finds him on a small island. As they're getting ready to leave, they hear strange roaring, and find Godzilla brawling with a spiny-backed, quadripedal giant monster. After some fighting, both monsters fall off of a cliff into the ocean, and the two pilots quickly get the hell out of Dodge. Back in Osaka, they contact the authorities. Some scientists have the two search through a bunch of dinosaur drawings for one that looks like the other one they saw, and identify the one they pick out as "an anklyosaurus, or anguirus" (it's apparently a synonym?). Somehow they determine that Godzilla is headed towards Osaka, and show a film reel of what happened last time (in other words, some footage from the first movie with the sound removed). They all despair that this time they don't have a weapon capable of killing Godzilla* short of nuclear weapons, which they don't want to use for obvious reasons.
Since Godzilla is apparently attracted by lights (which is why the previous one attacked Tokyo), the plan is to lure him away from Osaka by turning off all of the lights and dropping flares from planes. Just in case, they also send in a bunch of tanks (why is not clear, since they know tanks can't do any serious damage). When Godzilla does show up, the plan goes into effect and seems to be working. Unfortunately, at the same time some prisoners being transported stage an escape. Some of them carjack a truck, and the police commandeer Tsukioka's car, leading to a car chase that results in the criminals crashing the truck into a tank of gasoline at the docks, creating a huge fireball that attracts Godzilla's attention and foils the whole plan. Then Anguirus shows up and the two monsters brawl, demolishing large swaths of the city (and Osaka Castle!), until Godzilla bites Anguirus's neck and kills him then sets the corpse on fire with his atomic breath. Having won his fight and smashed nearly everything in sight, Godzilla wanders back into the ocean.
Since the cannery is destroyed, the two pilots get transferred up to the canning company's Hokkaido division as the company attempts to rebuild. Life returns to normal, more or less, and some of Tsukioka's old college friends, now air force pilots, show at a company party. But during the party, they receive word that Godzilla has destroyed one of the fishing boats. A search for Godzilla begins, and eventually Tsukioka spots him clambering up onto a small ice-covered island. The military mobilizes, and Tsukioka convinces one of his old buddies to let him fly with them. The air force attempts to blow Godzilla up using a bunch of barrels of gasoline, but this doesn't do much. Godzilla heads towards the ocean again, but Kobayashi, realizing that if he leaves they'll be back to square one, dives to distract him. Godzilla is successfully distracted, but hits Kobayashi's plane with his atomic breath and causes him to crash into a mountain. Tsukioka is devastated, but the avalanche caused by Kobayashi's sacrifice gives him the idea to use missiles to bury Godzilla under ice. This idea, with the loss of several other planes, works. The film closes with Tsukioka saying "We did it, Kobayashi."
The original Japanese version is not bad. Not spectacular, but decent, and entertaining in its own right. Of course, that's assuming that you can suspend disbelief for the rubber-suited monsters (it helps that, like in the original Godzilla, the Godzilla costume does not sport the cartoonish googly eyes it would in later, more child-oriented installments). The most awkward thing about it is the fact that the big showdown between Godzilla and Anguirus takes place in the second reel, rather than at the climax, leaving the movie a bit top-heavy in terms of action pacing. Toho Studios regular Takashi Shimura, perhaps best known for playing the leader of the Seven Samurai, reprises his role from the original Godzilla, but does little other than look dour and provide an infodump.
The American version's title card is replaced by a new still one with the title "Godzilla Raids Again" clearly added digitally, because the original American title was "Gigantis: the Fire Monster". Otherwise it's unchanged from the theatrical version, and Godzilla is referred to as Gigantis throughout. The American edition takes some serious liberties, beyond just the dubbing: the operating principles seemed to be (1) "We've got a bunch of stock footage, and it'd be a shame to let it go to waste" and (2) "We know American movie audiences are morons, so we need to explain everything in voice-over, and especially need to remind them at every opportunity that this is set in Japan or they'll probably forget". Also, since Kobayashi is a bit chubby and gets teased a few times, the U.S. producers apparently decided that he was the Big Dumb Comedy Relief, and dubbed him with an over-the-top doofus voice. The results made me glad I was watching it with my dad (who hadn't seen the Japanese version) so we could trade off riffing on it MST3K style (making fun of movies is way more fun with an audience).
The U.S. version starts with some stock footage of nuclear bomb tests and a generic voice-over about the destructive potential of nuclear power, before starting the movie proper. Tsukioka (dubbed by George Takei!) gets the voice-over for the rest of the movie. For the most part the voice-over just describes what's going on onscreen, like the redundant captions in Silver Age comics (in a panel showing a villain levitating a table to block some of Green Arrow's shots, "But the villain levitates a table, blocking Green Arrow's every shot!"), such as scouting for fish. The military's clip show from the original Godzilla gets particularly mangled, as by the magic of stock footage it's turned into a primer on the history of the dinosaurs, starting with the Big Bang and the creation of the Earth (I wonder how the army got footage of that!), then using a really hilarious clip from the Z-movie Unknown Island of a bunch of guys in "dinosaur" costumes wandering around in circles dumbly in the middle of the desert, before finally catching up and showing some Godzilla clips. My favorite edit, though, somes before the attack on Osaka. In the original, there is a scene change to a nightclub where Tsukioka is dancing with his fiancee when they hear that Godzilla has appeared, but in the U.S. version they add a voiceover "Everyone enjoyed their favorite entertainment", and cut from the nightclub to some stock footage of a bunch of women playing the samisen (wtf?!) before cutting back. The completely pointless, BY THE WAY THIS IS JAPAN GUYS DON'T FORGET stupidity of this edit just cracks me up. A subplot about Kobayashi looking for a wife is almost completely eliminated, a victim of replacing some plot-heavy lines with commentary on the scale of the destruction, and by the way we're in Japan.
Watched, to review: King Kong vs. Godzilla, Varan the Unbelievable, Godzilla vs. Desotoroyah, Rodan, Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster, Mothra, Frankenstein vs. Baragon, Godzilla vs. Hedorah
Rented, not yet watched: Terror of Mechagodzilla
*Spoilers if you haven't watched the original (which is actually a pretty good movie, I recommend it):