In a Japanese mining operation situated in a mountainous region, there has been an ongoing conflict between two of the miners, so much so that they frequently attempt to beat each other up. After they are separated for the umpteenth time, the men go down into the mountain to commence work, but soon the chief engineer, Shigeru Kawamura (Kenji Sahara), gets a call from beneath the surface that there has been a flood. A rescue is staged, but the two brawlers are missing - until one of them washes up dead, a huge gash in his head. However, the doctor believes no man could have inflicted such damage... so what is down there?
Rodan, or confusingly Radon if you were Japanese, was Toho's first giant monster movie in colour, a follow up to the huge worldwide success of Godzilla. This time, the big green guy was not brought back and a new creature was debuted, a gigantic prehistoric bird, although if you're hoping for some pteranodon action straight from the word go, you will be let down for he doesn't appear until the film is around halfway over. Instead, in a pleasingly spooky plotline there are some other monsters in the shape of big bugs which were responsible for the death of the miners.
They don't stop there, and Shigeru calls the military when he cottons on to what is happening to combat what turn out to be substantially large larvae scurrying about underground and attacking anyone who crosses their paths. And of course if they have been awoken by the mining, then who knows what else could have been stirred, not helped by the earthquake that occurs shortly afterwards. Many see the destructiveness of Rodan, as with Godzilla, as a metaphor for the atomic bomb attacks of World War II, but there's something more environmental about this big bird's dastardly deeds.
Born from an earthquake, causing hurricanes and tidal waves, knocking jet fighters out of the sky, Rodan is a force of nature and no mistake, but perhaps less a force of mankind's errant ways. Poor old Shigeru goes missing, and although he was set up as the hero in the first half, he ends up found in a daze after a close encounter with the subterranean beasties, and spends the rest of the film either with a large bandage on his head, or staring blankly into space, leaving the true heroics up to the military who hit back with all their firepower.
This results in some pretty repetitive - even for a Japanese giant monster movie - action, with multiple shots of tanks and rocket launchers causing big explosions in their efforts to vanquish the foes. Yes, foes, for there are actually two giant prehistoric flying beasts to contend with, and to underline that nature angle they just want to raise their young in peace. That would spell disaster, or yet more disaster, for humanity judging by the way they lay waste to a nearby city with their supersonic speed and flapping wings creating high winds, knocking over buildings in the process, so the film ends with a weirdly affecting note of pathos as we know they have to be beaten, but we can't be too content with the way it happens. Music by Akira Ifukube.