I like to watch Rodan every few moths or so. Either version will suffice, although admittedly, I have dozed off during the Japanese version. As well-made as it is, I've always felt that it has a rushed quality to it. Ifukube's score is very sporadic, much like Masaru Sato's for Godzilla Raids Again, and there are some pretty glaring imperfections in the effects work. I mean, the flying Rodan prop is literally dangling from a wire in one shot. How it got into the finished film, I'll never know. Perhaps Tsuburaya didn't have enough effects shots in the can. Like I said, the original film feels like it was extremely rushed. Be that as it may, I still feel that it's a well-rounded story. The script is basic monster movie stuff, with texture, and Ishiro Honda's careful hand guides well enough. I tend to consider Sora no Daikaiju Radon an imperfect masterpiece. You have to remember that the genre was still in its infancy at the time. When you take that under consideration, it's actually one of the better fantasy films that Toho has made.
The U.S. version is alot of fun. It was the first non-Godzilla, Toho monster flick I had ever seen, so it holds quite a bit of sentimental value for me. Unlike many Americanizations, the distributors didn't try to re-write the movie for state-side movie-goers. They just beefed it up a bit. The narration here, while nothing to rave about, is a hell of a lot better than Gigantis, and it actually fills out the more sleepily-contructed sequences. And even though the final death sequence is moving on its own, Shigeru's "eulogy" for the dying Rodans was lovingly-written. Stock footage, stock music, the dubbing, etc. It all works well enough. This is one of the best U.S. versions of any Toho film, and one of my very favorites.
Rodan is a classic, in either version. There is no denying that. The monster itself is one of Toho's finest creations (my favorite, second only to Godzilla) and it serves as an indelible inspiration for all of the 'kaiju eiga' that came in its wake. Those aerial dog-fights, like the city destruction in Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, and the monsters waging war amid Osaka City in Gigantis The Fire Monster, were done first, here, and in miniature form no less. And given the time period, I'd say that Tsuburaya got it right the first time, because alot of those effects sequences are astounding for what they are, and the time in which they were staged. We can debate the merits of either version all day, but the simple truth is that Rodan is one of the best films that Tanaka, Honda, Tsuburaya, Ifukube, etc. ever made, even if by default. It's that important to the genre.
"EVERYONE FORGET YOUR TROUBLES! ENJOY YOURSELVES!THERE'S NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT!" - Gigantis The Fire Monster
"It was HUGE...It was...IT WAS LIKE A MONSTER!!! Suddenly the rocks rose...ALIVE!" - Godzilla 1985