Workers at a Japanese mine are decimated by a race of giant insects- until the insects are consumed in turn by much larger and deadlier winged reptiles. When an earthquake frees a mated pair of the flying monsters, they ravage the cities of Japan, toppling buildings with only the winds they leave in their wake. Military might is useless against the Rodans. But, just when all seems lost, the monsters are reclaimed by the same forces of nature that unleashed them.
Rodan is widely regarded as the best of the many and admittedly motley monster films produced by Toho Studios from the 1950s through the 1970s. A DVD release containing the longer, original Japanese theatrical version is a valuable addition to American media. Rodan is a strikingly serious film, and on fair consideration quite well-produced, comparing favorably to American science fiction films of the same era (Earth Vs the Flying Saucers and The Black Scorpion are especially fitting for the purpose) and far excelling the notorious low-budget offerings to come from Toho in the following decades. It is especially effective and explicit in presenting the underlying mythology of Japan, in which gods, spirits and monsters serve to personify the very real terrors of the natural environment. In this author's judgment, with Japan's current crisis, it is all the more appropriate for westerners to return to old films like Rodan, and better appreciate what American editing and marketing readily reduced to bad jokes as an expression of recurring calamities that are and always have been part of the nation's experience.
David N. Brown