VIDEO ARCHIVES NOTES: This movie was discussed on the May 9, 2023 episode of the Video Archives podcast and can be found on their site here.

The greatest birthday of my life was when I turned seven in 1979. Sure, I had a roller skating party, but getting a Rodan Shogun Warriors figure that had a wingspan longer than my height was literally my greatest dream come true.

Ken Kuronuma, who wrote the original story for this film, based it on Captain Thomas F. Mantell, a pilot for the Kentucky Air National Guard, who died in a crash while allegedly pursuing a UFO.

This was the most popular of Toho’s movies in the United States for some time. It had a major ad campaign and boasted actors like Keye Luke, George Takei and Paul Frees. Maybe American audiences liked giant birds better than lizards. Or maybe it was because it was shot in color.

Giant bugs known as meganuron have been killing miners in a small town while unidentified flying objects continually attack. It turns out that there are two pteranodons that have been awakened by nuclear bomb tests. The flaps of their wings unleash sonic waves that take out entire cities, but they can’t survive being burned in a volcano.

Once I see this movie as an adult, the end, where they try to escape that fiery doom, makes me tear up. I hate that humanity causes these creatures to be reborn and then spends the entire movie trying to destroy them.

Rodan would, of course, be back. As for seven-year-old me, Rodan destroyed many a city and fought many a robot. I was the kind of kid that would delight in telling you that Rodan’s original Japanese name Radon is derived from Puteranodon, the Japanese word for Pteranodon. There was a soap with that name in the U.S., so the name was changed.

Director Ishiro Honda should be recognized in the same class as so many great filmmakers, but he may never be, as he mainly worked in genre cinema. He worked on nearly every Godzilla movie, as well as The MysteriansMatangoFrankenstein vs. BaragonThe War of the GargantuasKing Kong Escapes and shot second unit on Ran.

Child me was not incorrect. Rodan is the kind of movie that you can watch again and again.

One thought on “VIDEO ARCHIVES WEEK: Rodan (1956)

  1. Rodan has the creepiest opening fifteen minutes of any Ishiro Honda movie. It’s so good it could’ve been its own movie. Like My Bloody Valentine but with a surprise reveal that the killer who’s been tearing apart isolated miners is actually a growing horde of prehistoric wasp grubs. Suddenly the townspeople have to stop pointing fingers at each other and work together to stop the wasp grubs before they emerge from their pupa encasings and spread across the globe, injecting their radioactive wasp eggs to every living man, woman and child.

    Also, for my money, Rodan’s introduction in Godzilla King of the Monsters was the best scene of the entire Monsterverse.


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