A flying battleship?! Born from a volcanic crater, the crimson monster bird Rodan tramples the Earth (空飛ぶ戦艦か！火口より生れ地球を蹂躪する紅蓮の怪鳥ラドン)
— Japanese tagline
Monster of monsters! Big as a skyscraper! When he moves, the whole earth quivers and quakes and an abyss of horror opens up! See these prehistoric beasts emerge from the bowels of the Earth after 200 million years to devastate mankind! Supersonic jets cannot catch him! Rockets cannot stop him! Armored tanks are helpless before him! Even guided missiles are powerless! See Rodan destroy a modern city, leveling it to the Earth with a killing airstream of his mighty wings! Nothing can stop him! Nothing escapes this monstrous beast of evil!
— Trailer for the 1957 U.S. release
Rodan (空の大怪獸 ラドン is a Sora no Daikaijū Radon, lit. Giant Monster of the Sky Rodan)1956 tokusatsu kaiju film produced by Toho. The film was released to Japanese theaters on December 26, 1956, and to American theaters on August 6, 1957.
The first film to feature Toho's famous kaiju Rodan, the film begins with a series of savage murders taking place in the coal mines beneath Kitamatsu, Kyushu. The authorities soon learn the murders are the work of giant prehistoric dragonfly nymphs called Meganulon. A mission to exterminate the creatures causes engineer Shigeru Kawamura to become trapped in a huge underground cavern, where he witnesses the titanic pterosaur Rodan hatch from its egg and feed on the Meganulon surrounding it. When Rodan begins a supersonic campaign of destruction around the Far East, the JSDF scrambles to find countermeasures against the beast. But the situation becomes even more dire when a second Rodan appears and joins its mate in an assault on Fukuoka.
Goro and Yoshizo, two miners in the village of Kitamatsu, Kyushu, come to blows, then fail to return after a mine shaft floods. Mine engineer Shigeru Kawamura leads a group to look for them, only to find Yoshizo's body floating in the water. A doctor determines he was murdered by a knife to the head. As some of the miners comfort Yoshizo's wailing wife, the others speculate that Goro killed him. Shigeru warns them not to speak of this until the police investigation begins. Outside, Shigeru meets with his fiance Kiyo, who is also Goro's sister. He comforts her, telling her that he is sure of Goro's innocence. Inside the mine, two miners and a policeman stand guard at the edge of the water, knowing if Goro tries to escape, he will surely come that way as it is the only exit. Suddenly, they hear a splash in the flooded mine, and venture into the water. As they wade deeper into the shaft, they get more and more nervous. All of a sudden, one of the miners begins to scream and then disappears under the water. As the men are tied together, it is not too long before the policeman is pulled under by something beneath the surface. The last miner quickly unties himself and flees. However, before he can escape, he is cornered and attacked as well. Soon after, his body, along with the bodies of the policeman and another miner, are brought up and examined. The doctor concludes that their cause of death was the same as Goro's.
Later that night, the wife of one of the murdered men runs to Kiyo's house and screams threats at her through the door. Shigeru soon arrives and comforts her, telling her that the miners that were killed were Goro's friends, so he had no reason to kill them. As the two sit together, a gigantic insect bursts into the house, and both Kiyo and Shigeru flee. The police enter the home, but the giant insect forces them to flee. When they regroup, they chase the creature to the top of a hill and open fire. The monster launches itself down the hillside and grabs two officers, clutching them in its pincers as it flees. It soon drops them and escapes back into the mine. When the police and Shigeru reach the injured officers, they discover that their wounds match those of the murdered policemen and Yoshizo. They have found the killer.
Soon after, Shigeru and a group of officers head back into the mine to confront the insect monster and attempt to locate Goro, dead or alive. As they enter the deepest part of the mine shaft, they find his corpse, but as they approach it, the giant insect emerges and pursues them back up the mine shaft. Shigeru pushes mine carts towards the creature, which crush and kill it on impact. He and the others then venture back into the shaft and remove Goro's body. They discover a large hole in the wall that opens up into a large cave. They realize that this is the hole through which the water and the giant insect emerged. As they peek through, they are noticed by not just one, but several more giant insects. However, before the monsters can attack, the ground begins to shake, and the mine begins to cave in. Another insect is killed as Shigeru is trapped in the cave, while the police flee.
The next day, the police investigate the recent happenings. Dr. Kyuichiro Kashiwagi, a paleontologist, explains that the giant insect is a Meganulon, a type of dragonfly larva that lived on the Earth millions of years ago. As he speaks, an earthquake rocks the town: the prelude, some fear, to nearby Mt. Aso's eruption. The police assess the damage at the base of the volcano and discover Shigeru wandering aimlessly. Suffering from amnesia, he is unable to even recognize Kiyo.
Elsewhere in Kyushu, a JSDF fighter jet pilot reports a UFO breaking the sound barrier. He is ordered to give chase, only for the UFO to suddenly swing towards him, destroying his plane in the slipstream. The same object is sighted over China, the Philippines, and Okinawa, and rumors of a secret military weapon begin to circulate. Back in Japan, a pair of newlyweds vanish near Mt. Aso, followed by herds of cattle. Once the film in their camera is developed, it appears to reveal an enormous wingtip. Kashiwagi's colleagues note its similarity to the extinct winged reptile Pteranodon, but he notes the creature was too small to perform such deadly deeds.
In the hospital, Kiyo presents Shigeru with eggs laid by her birds. One begins to hatch, and he suddenly remembers everything. Following the cave-in, he regained consciousness to find himself in a chamber surrounded by hundreds of Meganulon, along with an even more colossal egg. It quickly hatched into a creature very much like a Pteranodon, who fed on the Meganulon. As he recovers from his horrifying memories, Kiyo weeps with joy.
Shigeru leads a group to recover a fragment of the monster’s eggshell before a rock slide forces them to flee back to the surface. Dr. Kashiwagi determines that the sample is 200 million years old. He calls a meeting with members of the town, along with members of the JSDF, to announce that the UFO sighted around the globe is a massive pterosaur he has named Rodan. He remains baffled at how reports of Rodan are pouring in from multiple locations at the same time. He theorizes that nuclear bomb testing, which loosened the Earth and opened cavities to long buried crevices and caves, might be the reason the creature has hatched now.
Rodan bursts out of the ground near Mt. Aso and takes to the skies. A squadron of fighter jets pursue him over the city of Sasebo, and eventually succeed in forcing him into Harioseto Strait. The flying reptile soon emerges and destroys the Saikai Bridge, but his flight speed has been cut by half. Rodan flies over the buildings of Fukuoka, and the sonic wave created in its wake literally tear the structures apart. The flying monster lands in the city and continues to devastate it with gale-force winds. The JSDF dispatches tanks and rocket cars, but their assault has no effect. A second Rodan arrives and adds to the destruction, explaining how the monster could have been spotted in two places at the same time. They leave the city in flames, then fly away to ravage nearby Yahata, killing thousands more.
The JSDF tracks the Rodans back to their nest at the base of Mt. Aso, and makes plans to shell the volcano and trigger an eruption that will trap the monsters under the lava and rock. However, Kitamatsu will be completely destroyed in the process, and the town is forced to evacuate. Just moments before the strike is to begin, Shigeru looks out the window to see Kiyo climbing up the hill. He runs out to meet her, and she tells him that she has come to be with him. Rather than evacuate, she has risked her life to face the danger with the man she loves. The two watch from a distance as the military begins its attack with tanks and Honest John rockets. Soon the volcano begins to spew smoke and lava into the sky. One of the Rodans emerges, but is overcome by the fumes. As the second Rodan arrives on the scene, the first loses altitude and finally falls into the stream of lava flowing down the side of the volcano. The ancient reptile begins to scream in pain as it burns alive in the lava. Suddenly, the second Rodan descends and lands with the first in the lava, and it too begins to burn. Rather than live on alone, the creature will die with its companion. Kiyo buries her head in Shigeru's shoulder as the erupting volcano consumes the two monsters.
- Main article: Rodan (film)/Credits#Japanese.
Staff role on the left, staff member's name on the right.
- Directed by Ishiro Honda
- Written by Takeshi Kimura, Takeo Murata
- Based on a story by Ken Kuronuma
- Executive producer Tomoyuki Tanaka
- Music by Akira Ifukube
- Cinematography by Isamu Ashida
- Edited by Koichi Iwashita
- Production design by Tatsuo Kita
- 1st assistant director Jun Fukuda
- Director of special effects Eiji Tsuburaya
Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.
- Kenji Sahara as Shigeru Kawamura, mine engineer
- Yumi Shirakawa as Kiyo
- Akihiko Hirata as Dr. Kyuichiro Kashiwagi, paleontologist
- Akio Kobori as Nishimura, police inspector
- Yoshibumi Tajima as Izeki, journalist
- Minosuke Yamada as Osaki, mine director
- Ren Imaizumi as Sunagawa, seismologist
- Fuyuki Murakami as Professor Minami, physicist
- Koji Uno as Journalist
- Akio Kusama as Suda, chief engineer
- Fumindo Matsuo as Hayama
- Mitsuo Matsumoto as Professor Isokawa
- Kiyoshi Takagi as Minakami
- Rinsaku Ogata as Goro
- Jiro Suzukawa as Yoshizo
- Katao Kawasaki as Tsunesan
- Kanta Kisaragi as Suteyan
- Ichiro Nakatani as Senkichi
- Keiji Sakakida as Tahei
- Hideo Mihara as Air Self-Defense Force commander
- Yoshio Katsube as Self-Defense Force signaler
- Mitsuo Tsuda as Takeuchi
- Ichiro Chiba as Chief constable
- Jiro Kumagai as Tashiro
- Saeko Kuroiwa as Nurse
- Yasuko Nakada as Female honeymooner
- Seiji Onaka as Nakagawa, male honeymooner
- Kiyomi Ichinoya as Otami
- Shoichi Hirose as Fighter pilot / Meganulon
- Haruo Nakajima as Rodan / Meganulon
- Katsumi Tezuka as Hotel manager / Rodan / Meganulon
- Tokio Okawa as Meganulon
Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.
- Keye Luke as Shigeru Kawamura / policeman
- George Takei as Dr. Kyuichiro Kashiwagi / male honeymooner
- Paul Frees as Nishimura / Osaki / Dr. Tanaka / Air Force officer / Kitahara, pilot / newsreader
- James Yagi as Professor Minami / hotel manager / farmer
Weapons, vehicles, and races
The original story for Rodan was penned by novelist Ken Kuronuma. He was inspired by the death of Captain Thomas F. Mantell of the Kentucky Air National Guard, who blacked out and crashed his P-51 Mustang while pursuing a UFO in 1948. Takeo Murata and Kaoru Mabuchi, the latter making his genre debut under the pen name Takeshi Kimura, wrote the script, adding the Meganulon and the Rodans' Fukuoka rampage. Their first draft called for a single Rodan, who would be injured by American planes above Okinawa and killed at Mt. Aso by a dynamiting team led by Shigeru. Initially, the monsters were based on the winged dinosaur Archaeopteryx, but the final design was closer to Pteranodon.
Rodan was Toho's first tokusatsu kaiju film filmed in color, though Toho's first color tokusatsu film, The Legend of the White Serpent, was released earlier in 1956. Kenji Sahara played mine engineer Shigeru Kawamura in his first major role. He took his character's amnesia seriously: he studied the condition's causes, practiced making his eyes go out of focus, and at one point worked himself into such a state that he "kicked a table, suffered bumps and bruises, and ripped his pants[.]" Director Ishiro Honda took an immediate liking to the actor, and would cast him in his films over and over again.
Haruo Nakajima played Rodan, his first kaiju role after Godzilla, with Katsumi Tezuka as a backup. The cables lifting up Nakajima during the scene where one Rodan bursts out of Harioseto Strait gave out during a take, when he was 20 feet off the ground. Fortunately, the suit's wings and the water broke his fall. A slew of scale flying models and a puppet of Rodan's upper half helped bring the pair to life. Nakajima and Tezuka were also among the actors who inhabited the massive six-legged Meganulon suit, along with Shoichi Hirose and Tokio Okawa.
- Main article: Rodan (film)/Gallery.
- Main article: Rodan (Soundtrack).
- Giant Monster of the Sky Rodan (Literal Japanese title)
- Mach Monster Rodan (マッハ怪獣ラドン Mahha Kaijū Radon, Japanese 8mm title)
- Rodan! The Flying Monster! (United States, poster only)
- Rodan: Bird of Death (Rodan: Ptak Smierci; Poland)
- Rodan!... The Space Monster (Rodan!... O Monstro do Espaço; Brazil)
- Flying Monster Vulture (飛天怪鷲 Fēitiān Guàijiù; Taiwan)
- Bloodthirsty Hawk (Taiwanese English title)
- The Sons of the Volcano (Los Hijos del Volcán; Spain; Els Fills del Volcà; Spain (Catalonia))
- Invasion 2034 (French video title)
- Japan - December 26, 1956 [view poster]
- United States - August 6, 1957 [view poster]
- Italy - August 6, 1958; 1968 [view poster]; 1968
- Sweden - May 19, 1958
- Spain - 30 June 1958
- West Germany - September 26, 1958 [view poster]
- Australia - 1958
- United Kingdom - 1958
- France - April 1, 1959
- Norway - July 30, 1959
- Argentina - 1959
- Colombia - 1959
- Belgium - 1959
- Denmark - November 9, 1960
- Mexico - December 13, 1962
- Poland - 1967
- Thailand - 1975 (re-release)
Released by the Distributors Corporation of America after taking over distribution from RKO Radio Pictures (who were still granted European distribution), Rodan was successful in its first theatrical run in the United States. It was the first Japanese movie to receive a successful general release on the West Coast. It was given the biggest TV advertising campaign given to a film at the time on New York's NBC flagship station WRCA-TV. 10-, 20- and 60-second commercials were shown on the station for a week before the film's opening. It grossed an estimated $450,000 to $500,000 during its opening weekend at 79 theaters in the New York City metropolitan area. Multiple distributors, including RKO, announced that Rodan performed better than any of their previous science-fiction films. The English dub was recorded at a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios soundstage over the course of three days. Four men and one woman voiced all the parts, including George Takei, better known as Lt. Hikaru Sulu in the original Star Trek series, and prolific Chinese-American actor Keye Luke. It was Takei's first professional acting role. In his 1994 autobiography To the Stars, he describes the dubbing process in detail:
"We were each assigned eight or nine different characters to do. With oversized earphones that made us look like science fiction characters ourselves, we stared up at a gigantic screen on a wall across which passed silent images: the prehistoric monstrosity, Rodan, soundlessly swooping down on panicked crowds, fleeing noiselessly; close-ups of bug-eyed faces in mute, open-mouthed terror; shots of sober-faced officials gravely moving their wordless lips. We listened for three clicks in our earphones, which were coordinated with a flickery line that danced across the screen. The third click sounded just as the flickery line reached the right side of the screen, and that was our cue to speak the line—when the lips started moving or the chest heaved for the gasp. The sounds we uttered had to match the movement on the screen precisely, or else the lips would continue moving silently or our dialogue would persist over a closed-mouth face."
The English version overseen by the King Brothers is a complete overhaul with innumerable editorial and creative differences. It runs 10 minutes shorter than its Japanese counterpart. The story is now presented as an account told from the perspective of its protagonist, Shigeru, much in the same vein as the role of the character Steve Martin in the earlier Americanized Toho film, Godzilla, King of the Monsters!. Additions include unused Toho special effects footage and a prologue made up of American nuclear test footage to link the monsters' emergence with the Atomic Age more transparently. U.S. newspaper ads for the film highlighted the presence of American-made Sabre jets and Honest John rockets.
In 2002, Classic Media released the American version of Rodan to DVD for the first time. Six years later, they released the original Japanese version of the film to DVD, along with the American edit, packaged with The War of the Gargantuas and the documentary Bringing Godzilla Down to Size.
Classic Media DVD (2002)
- Region: 1
- Discs: 1
- Audio: English (5.1 Surround and 2.0 Mono)
- Special features: Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee trailer
- Notes: Out of print.
Classic Media DVD (2008)
- Region: 1
- Discs: 2
- Audio: Japanese (2.0 Mono), English (2.0 Mono)
- Special features: Bringing Godzilla Down to Size documentary (69 minutes)
- Notes: Packaged with The War of the Gargantuas. Out of print.
- Rodan was theatrically released in Japan on a double bill with Nemuri Kyoshiro Burai Hikae.
- The giant insects featured in this film, the Meganulons, would later go on to appear in the 2000 film Godzilla vs. Megaguirus.
- In this film, Rodan is able to emit a concentrated jet of air from its mouth as a weapon, an ability that has not been seen since. The inclusion of this seemingly tangential ability was most likely meant to answer the popularity of Godzilla's radioactive heat ray.
- In the original Japanese version of the film, Rodan is called "Radon," a truncation of "Pteranodon." While it is commonly believed that the name was changed to "Rodan" for the international release due to a translation error, in reality it was deliberately changed to avoid confusion with the chemical element radon. The English name Rodan was eventually trademarked by Toho, making it the character's official English name, although he is still referred to as "Radon" in the English dub for the film Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II.
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