What follows are the recollections of a fan of Gojira, or if you wish Godzilla turned 70 years of age. Once I had learned there was a Gojira. I always preferred that name over the other. These recollections are in the order of how the events took place in creating the Franchise as I experienced them in my youth, Whichever name you prefer Gojira/Godzilla the stage needs to be set up so that my reader can understand how things first came about in the United States.
The Second World War ended officially on Sunday September 2, 1945. When Japan formally accepted the principle of "Unconditional Surrender". In hindsight it was a Sunday that Japan got us into the War in the first place. Remarkable timing, or planning on some forgotten person's part?
One would think that by April 27, 1956 almost a full 11 years later. Everything would be back to normal between the United States and Japan. However, one can not control a person's feelings on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.
American prisoners of war under the Japanese Empire had experienced death, torture, malnutrition and other ill treatment that still played on the minds of some American's. On the flip side President Truman's decision to speedily end the War with Japan by dropping two Atomic Bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki remained in the minds of the average Japanese. Additionally, by 1956, the world was learning the aftereffects of fallout and radiation on the human body.
During the Second World War the United States interned 110,000 loyal Japanese American families in camps such as Manzanar. We didn't call them "Concentration Camps", but "Relocation Camps". I will not debate the semantics here. This action did not help the feelings of those Japanese American's toward the United States and in many cases after the War. It should also be pointed out that 33,000 Japanese American men volunteered and served honorably within the United States Army in Europe contrasting greatly to their family's treatment at home.
To be fair "I Bombed Pearl Harbor" was a re-edit of Toho Studio's historical motion picture "Hawai Middpuei daikaikusen: Taiheiyo no arashi (Hawaii-Midway, Battle of Sea and Sky: Storm in the Pacific Ocean)" better known by the shorter title "Storm Over the Pacific". The motion picture told the story of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway Island from the point of view of a Japanese aviator. This excellent motion picture was originally released at 118 minutes in length in Japan on April 26, 1960. It was shorten by 20 minutes by Hugo Grimaldi Productions for American release concentrating more on the attacks on Pearl Harbor and Midway rather than the airman involved in the original.
The stage is now set for what would occur on Friday April 27, 1956.
GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS
For about two weeks, as I watched our 20 inch black and white television set, there had been a trailer about an upcoming movie called "Godzilla, King of the Monsters".
The red area of this poster reads:
Spawned in the ocean's depth---It stalks the earth! Belching fire that blasts mighty cities into oblivion! A gory Goliath that lives to kill---kills to live! Diabolical Demon of Destruction---Mightiest Monster of them all-GODZILLA!The poster also told the audience that Godzilla in this black and white movie was Green in color like all sea monsters of the period were supposed to be. Below are the posters for 1953's "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms" and 1955's "The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues" backing up the assumption of a sea monster's color.
So on a Saturday morning Lloyd and some members of his Cub Scout Troop went to the La Reina theater in a suburb of Los Angles, located in the San Fernando Valley, called Van Nuys to see the picture.
Of course we enjoyed it and had no reason to believe this was not another American made motion picture released in the Los Angeles area by Joseph E. Levine's "Embassy Pictures". Although it starred Raymond Burr we really had no idea who he was at the time. It would be the following year that Burr would first become television's "Perry Mason" and his long career would finally jump start to stardom.
We walked out of the theater talking about "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" and then it disappeared from our minds.
I know my readers, today, are thinking wait a minute this is a classic picture in the Godzilla Franchise. What does he mean by "disappeared from out minds"?
At the time of its release most films had only a one week engagement, because of the amount of product available. A picture like this might move to some second, or third run theaters afterwards, if at all. "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" had already been an exception to the rule having been booked by Joseph E. Levine into "A" list movie houses in the Los Angeles area. Normally 1950's Science Fiction and Horror movies were considered "B" pictures or worse. They would play mostly at Drive-in's with their one car price, or smaller theaters especially in a major market such as Los Angeles.
To give my reader an idea of the product the picture was up against in 1956. Science Fiction that year gave movie goers the first film adaption of George Orwell's "1984". Then you had: "The Beast of Hollow Mountain", "The Black Sleep", the final installment in Universal Studio's "Creature from the Black Lagoon" trilogy "The Creature Walks Among Us". Along with "Earth vs the Flying Saucers", "Fire Maidens from Outer Space", "Forbidden Planet", "The Gamma People", "Indestructible Man", "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", "It Conquered the World", "The Man Who Turned to Stone", "The Mole People", "World Without End" and "X the Unknown". There were only three Horror pictures released in 1956: "Man Beast", "The She Creature" and the excellent, but still overlooked "The Werewolf" from producer Sam Katzman.
Remember that those two categories, Science Fiction and Horror, did not include major studio releases for 1956. Such as the roadshow engagements of Cecil B. DeMille's "The Ten Commandments" and Michael Todd's star studded version of Jules Verne's "Around the World in 80 Days". Which created the term "Cameo Appearance" as famous actors seemed to pop in and out of scenes sometimes without saying a line of dialogue. Not roadshow, but also over three hours in length were Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean in George Stevens' production of Edna Ferber's "Giant" and Henry Fonda, Audrey Hepburn and Mel Ferrer headlining an International cast in the King Vidor epic of Tolstoy's "War and Peace", John Wayne starred in "The Searchers", Marilyn Monroe starred in "Bus Stop" and Elvis Presley's first movie "Love Me Tender" came out. This list is small, but gives my reader the answer why a low budgeted Science Fiction/monster movie even released in "A" theaters could just disappear from a viewer's mind. For your information the actual total number of American made and released motion pictures for 1956 was 218.
Then in late 1958 "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" appeared for the first time on syndicated television. There was a syndicated motion picture program "The Million Dollar Movie" which was on KHJ-TV Channel 9 at 7:30 PM in the Los Angeles area. The program ran the same movie nightly Monday through Friday. So I was able to watch "Godzilla" five times in one week as were other fans and those just discovering this motion picture.
GIGANTIS, THE FIRE MONSTER
For about a week and a half I had been watching movie trailers for a double feature "Gigantis the Fire Monster" and "Teenagers from Outer Space". The two pictures were to start screening in the Los Angeles area on May 27, 1959. The first Saturday they played found me at the Reseda Theater, in Reseda, California watching that double bill.
The movie had peaked my interest from the look of one of the monsters. What we saw on the motion picture screen was the story of two creatures somehow related to a Volcano's lava, or at least the script seemed to indicate that. Also it was obviously a film made in Japan with English dubbed voices and perhaps added footage relating to the Atomic Bomb. Both dubbing a Japanese feature and adding the Atomic Bomb into the story line wasn't new to me. Two years earlier in 1957 I saw a dubbed Japanese film Rodan. Where it was way too obvious that the English language distributor had added a prologue about the bomb. The bomb, or radioactive material in American Science Fiction movies of the 1950's were blamed for everything from an "Amazing Colossal Man" to an "Incredible Shrinking Man" and associate giant ants, wasps, locusts, tarantula's and other spiders.
The point here is not the story line of the film, but that the main monster called Gigantis seemed to resemble Godzilla from the 1956 motion picture that had recently run on television.
THE TWINS "GODZILLA" AND "GIGANTIS"
After seeing "Gigantis, the Fire Monster" several movie critics and reviewers were asked the question is this film a sequel to "Godzilla, King of the Monsters". They didn't have the time to answer the question. So we looked to a new magazine.
Below is first a still of "Godzilla" in 1956 and then "Gigantis" in 1959. So my readers unfamiliar, if there are any, with the two movies can see the obvious facial relationship.
At the time "Gigantis the Fire Monster" came out there was now one major source for Science Fiction and Horror Movie fans. It was a publication whose first issue was only from the previous year in February 1958. This magazine was Forrest J. Ackerman's and James Warren's "Famous Monsters of Filmland". So along with others with the same thoughts. I wrote to the magazine's "Letters to the Editor" column for an answer to the question bugging us. My letter and some others appeared in an issue prior to the one first answering the question.
The short answer to the question was they were related.
The second film was a direct sequel to the first, but there was more to the answer than that. In late 1959 I would go to a Santa Monica Art House Theater., the Nuart, and watch the original 1954 and 1955 Toho Studio's motion pictures in the Japanese language, but with added English subtitles. One thing I learned was contrary to the poster for "Godzilla, King of the Monsters", Godzilla did not breathe fire as we all thought three years earlier. It was his own breath turned radioactive and the fire I had seen on screen was a result of other inflammatory products exploding.
THE STORY BEHIND THE MAKING OF "GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS"
The first of those two original motion pictures made by Toho Studio's under producer Tomoyuki Tanaka was entitled "Gojira". It was released in Japan on November 3, 1954. Toho was making motion pictures for Japanese and Asian audiences only. Their films were not planned for Worldwide distribution. Foreign distributors would occasionally take one of Toho's film's and bring them to English language Art House Theaters, like the Nuart, for limited release with subtitles. I would see many that way. Made earlier in 1954 one such motion picture Akira Kurosawa "Seven Samurai" would become a major example of this practice. Some of Toho's product would find its way into Asian American theaters as filmed, but would normally remain unknown to the major American viewing audiences. So it was with "Gojira" in 1955.
At an Asian Theater in downtown Los Angeles Edmund Goldman saw "Gojira" in Japanese with English subtitles. Goldman thought the picture should be distributed throughout the United States in non-Asian theaters. He negotiated with Toho Studio's for the International Rights to the film and paid $25,000 in 1955 dollars. Adjusted for inflation to 2016 dollars, at the time of this writing, Edmund Goldman paid $221,465 dollars to release "Gojira" Worldwide except in Japan and Asia.
Edmund Goldman realized he could not distribute the film by himself and eventually sold the rights to "Jewell Productions". The amount of the sale I could not locate. I presume he made a small profit and was unaware of the real potential of his purchase. Harold Ross aka: Henry Ross aka: Harry Ross aka: Harry Rybnick, all names used in the movie business, and Richard Kay owned "Jewell Productions" and they were aware of the movie's potential, but faced a major Political Problem as mentioned above under my heading "Stage Setting". The motion picture was definitely anti-American in tone.
The story of the discovery of a living Jurassic Age dinosaur is formed around the character of Emiko Yamani. She is the daughter of noted Paleontologist Dr. Kyohei Yamani and is one half of a childhood arranged marriage to the distinguished scientist Dr. Daisuke Serizawa. However, she has fallen in love with Hideto Ogata a sea captain for the Nankai Salvage Company.
On the surface that scenario still fits many of the Science Fiction monster movies of the time and afterwards. However, "Gojira" is not the Brontosaurus from Willis O'Brien's 1925 "The Lost World" running amok in the streets of London, or even the Rhedosaurus of Ray Harryhausen's "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms" doing the same to New York City.
This dinosaur was exposed specially to the American "Castle-Bravo" H-Bomb test of 1954. The references are very clear in Takeo Murata and director Ishiro Honda's screenplay based upon the original story concept by Shigeru Kayama. A good example of this is when Dr. Yamani makes the direct point that the dinosaur known by the Odo Islanders as "Gojira" was exposed to an H-Bomb Test. The actual H-Bomb test that the character of Dr. Yamani is referring too happened on March 1, 1954 on Bikini Atoll. Just eight months before the picture was released.
Further the screenplay recreates by inference the fate of the tuna boat "The Lucky Dragon #5". The crew was exposed to radiation from the Castle-Bravo H-Bomb test and suffered "Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS). That event occurred on the same day as the detonation of the H-Bomb on Bikini Atoll and was still in the minds of the people of Japan.
As with the Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to "END" World War 2 quickly. The title creature of Toho Studio's motion picture is the allegorical Atomic Bomb's dropped by the American's on August 6th and 9th 1945.
To further hone in on the reason behind the pictures anti-American tone. Those two Atomic Bombs killed in Hiroshima approximately 20,000 Japanese soldiers, but also approximately 60,000 civilians In Nagasaki the death total were 150 soldiers killed and approximately 40,000 civilians. Additionally 20 Dutch, British and United States military personnel held prisoner were killed.
There was no way "Jewell Productions" could release "Gojira" either dubbed into English, or with subtitles in 1956 America without causing international repercussions.
Enter "Godzilla, King of the Monsters".
What Richard Kay and at the time Harold Ross knew was that they didn't have the funds needed to change "Gojira" into an acceptable American release. So the two went searching for additional assistance and found Terry Turner, Edward B. Barison and Joseph E. Levine. The five now became the new version's producers. "The 1998 Godzilla Compendium" only list three of these five men as producers. While other publications and articles have listed other combinations of the five.
There have been questions as to why different prints of "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" have different distributor names on them. The answer is simple and unique. There were five producers and each had to make back their investment and get a profit. What resulted was that the United States and non-Asian countries were divided into sections. Each of the producers or partners had sole right to distribute the film within a given area and profit by it. As a result you will find prints saying "Jewell Productions", "The Godzilla Releasing Corporation", "A Trans World Release" and as I saw in Los Angeles "Embassy Pictures" on the motion picture.
Of note and relating to that decision. I have a pristine copy of the "Trans World" theatrical release. Other than their logo at the opening of the film and the words "The End" at it's conclusion. There are no screen credits seen on film including acknowledging Raymond Burr was even in the picture.
Notice on the above poster under the heading "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" that the movie is also the "Trans World" release. That poster only mentions the two directors Terry Morse and Ishiro Honda. There is no producer, or acting credit given. Below is a 1956 newspaper ad also from "Trans World" which includes Raymond Burr's name. The newspaper ad also keeps the idea that "Godzilla's" skin color is Green alive.
All the posters I have seen are read "Trans World" except for the foreign releases. From what I understand these were all used by each of the distributors to save money.
The budget for the re-edit was $650,000 and we know that Joseph E. Levine bought into the production for $100,000 and his knowledge as a Public Relations man for the major studios. For the record Toho's budget in 1954 for "Gojira" equated to $175,000 United States dollars.
This team of producers made a decision to heavily edit the original Japanese release, because of its content. The new version would be in a documentary style format narrated as much as possible by the new lead character International Correspondent Steve Martin played by Burr.
According to an interview with Raymond Burr by Bob Costas. All of his sequences for "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" were shot in quote:
Eight 24 hour periods
The interview has some wrong information from Costas as he says there were two endings to "King Kong vs Godzilla" for example. He does reference seeing "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" also on "The Million Dollar Theater" "nine times in a row" when he was 7 in 1959. The movie did return to the airwaves after "Gigantis the Fire Monster" had stirred up its controversy. For those interested here is the link to the less than two minute Costa-Burr interview on YouTube:
Those sequences with Raymond Burr were shot by director Terry Morse. Morse also doubled as the film editor combining his footage with the original footage by Ishiro Honda. As a result the anti-American "Gojira", became that typical monster on the loose American picture of the 1950's and early 1960's.
In fact my friends and I had always thought the movie was American made and never picked up on the few scenes that had been dubbed. Although as I watched the film later the obvious "doubles" filmed from the back for cast members became more obvious to me.
Joseph E. Levine's publicity department skills had come into play over the title of the film. The four other producers wanted to keep the title as "Godzilla" to mimic the name "Gojira". It was Levine thinking about all the other monster movies out there that is credited with coming up with the tag line: "King of the Monsters".
The running time for "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" is 81 minutes which includes all of Raymond Burr's new footage and what was used from the footage shot by Ishiro Honda. What is interesting is that the original running time for "Gojira" was 98 minutes and if you just compare final running times to each other. The American re-edit is 17 minutes shorter than the Japanese original without deducting the total time in the new footage with Burr. In short to make the 1954 "Gojira" ACCEPTABLE to 1956 American audiences almost two-thirds of the original production was cut out.
On May 29, 1957 "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" played in Japan. The Japanese had seen the American re-edit of "Gojira" a little more than two years before most American's even knew there was a motion picture of that name.
THE STORY BEHIND THE MAKING OF "GIGANTIS THE FIRE MONSTER"
The following narrative is based upon my own experience and what I read about the making of "Gigantis the Fire Monster" in 1959 . Over the years I have read four different versions of how this movie came about. Wikipedia has changed it's story twice to my knowledge.
In October 1957 the television distribution arm of Columbia Pictures known as "Screen Gems" showed the first movie in a syndicated series called "Shock Theater". "Screen Gems" had made a deal with Universal Studio's to televise a large block of their pre-1948 Horror movies. The first to be seen was 1931's "Frankenstein" with Boris Karloff directed by James Whale. In my local Los Angeles market "Shock Theater" was on at 10 PM, because of what was considered, at the time, the horrific nature of these pictures for younger audiences. That time did not stop 11 year old Lloyd and others from watching. The popularity of "Shock Theater" led to the formation of a small group of investors who wanted to create competition for the series.
The idea this group had was to purchase, cheap, mainly Foreign Monster films, edited them down for television running times, dub them and make a profit. In the early 1960's American International Pictures would actually do this with both some Sword and Sandal Italian movies and Daiei Studio's "Gamera" series.
According to what I read in 1959. These investors approached Toho Studio's for product. The motion picture they purchased was called "Gojira no gyakushu (Counterattack of Godzilla)". However, when the motion picture arrived for some unknown reason Toho Studio's had renamed the movie "Godzilla Raids Again". The idea for this television series fell through and the investors started looking for a way to recoup their money. In this story the investors were Harry Rybrick and Richard Kay of the old "Jewell Productions", Edward Goldman who had discovered the original 1954 "Gojira", Edward B. Barison and Paul Schriebman.
Another version of the story repeated often was that Harry Rybrick and Edward B Barison wanted to dub "Counterattack of Godzilla" into English with some modification of the story. They were to work with a production company called AB-PT Pictures Corp to co-finance the film, but as with the above story the deal fell through. In this instance because AB-PT closed in late 1957. Depending on who tells this version it is either just those two men involved, or all five investors I named above plus either a Harry B. Swerdlon, or Newton P. Jacobs.
What is fact is that on the prints of "Gigantis the Fire Monster". Only Paul Schreibman's name appears as producer and Edmond Goldman's as assistant producer respectfully. No other of the above name's I have mentioned except for Terry Morse as director appear anywhere else on the film's print.
What also remains as fact mentioned in both stories is that. the investors asked Toho Studios for the use of the original Gojira and Angurius costumes. The costumes were received, but eventually disappeared. No one connected to either version of the initial project claimed to know where, or how this happened
Luck was actually on the side of these investors, because at the time Warner Brothers studio wanted to get into the "Teen" Horror/Science Fiction market. That had blossomed over the last two years with titles such as "I Was A Teenage Werewolf", "The Blob" and "Space Children". Warner Brothers was planning two pictures to be released together. One would have the perfect title for the craze "Teenagers from Outer Space" and the other was based upon an Ib Melchior script "The Volcano Monsters". Melchior would be known for "The Angry Red Planet" and "Reptilicus".
A decorated Army Veteran Melchior had been technical adviser on the early Science Fiction television program "Tom Corbett Space Cadet" among other programs as a writer. His script about two prehistoric monsters was proving too expensive for the cost cutting "B" unit at Warner Brothers. So when word got around of the problem facing the investors over "Godzilla Raids Again". The studio stepped into the void.and told Ib Melchior to make his script fit what was showing on the screen of this Japanese motion picture
Besides adding the infamous line "Banana Oil" to fit the lip movement of one of the main actors. Ib Melchior added an opening about an atomic bomb and a sequence on the creation of both monsters out of apparently a Volcano per his original script. The motion picture used Department of Defense films and other low budget dinosaur movie footage to help create these two sequences. While removing other footage from the original Toho production.
Here is a link to my blog article on the extraordinary life of Ib Melchior for those who might be interested.
Another bit of confusion comes with the roars of both creatures. At one point they are even exchanged with each other. The musical score by Masaru Sato was almost completely removed and replaced by sections of the scores from "Kronos", "Project Moonbase" and the 1957 version of James Fenimore Cooper's "The Deerslayer". This practice was very common at the time and not illegal. How many Science Fiction films have part of Henry Mancini's theme from "The Creature from the Black Lagoon" in them?
One of the other notable changes to the original Japanese plot involved actor Minoru Chiaki's tragic character of Koji Kobayashi. Ib Melchior turned Kobayashi into the new versions comic relief. The entire subplot of Kobayashi looking for a wife through a matchmaker is also dropped. While his climatic death scene just does not work anymore from the lack of motivation removed from the original film.
The story of 1955's "Gojira no gyakushu" was rather simple as compared to "Gojira" the previous year. It focused on two seaplane pilots for a Tuna Fishing Company who spot the fish for the boats. The movie opens with one of the two pilots, the above mentioned Kobayashi, having engine trouble and landing in the water beside an island. His friend Shoichi Tsukioka leaves the fishing fleet to locate him. Shoichi spots the other pilot and lands after radioing the location for later plane pick up. As the two are happily reuniting the silence of the island is suddenly broken by the sound of battle between two giant monsters. One looks somewhat like the creature that attacked Tokyo five months earlier. The other is unknown to the two men.
The film then follows the two as the new Gojira and a creature which will be called Anguirus battle each other moving closer towards Osaka. The Japanese Defense Force sends a squadron, that Tsukioka once belonged too, which becomes involved as the creatures start destroying mainland Japan.
Dr.Yamani reenters the story having been called by the Osaka civil and military authorities. Yamani tells them flatly there is no way this Gojira can be killed without the Oxygen Destroyer and that died with Dr. Serizawa.
While back at the Tuna Company we meet Shoichi's girlfriend. Who happens also to be the bosses daughter. The viewer learns that Koji has had problems finding a girlfriend of his own and has reverted to the Japanese tradition of using a matchmaker. The film's characters are not as finely drawn as in the previous one. One reason, which also plagued the 1933 "Son of Kong", was the first motion picture was so unexpectedly successful that the second was rushed into production.
Gojira kills Angurius and the movie ends without destroying the victor. The JDF finds the monster trapped in a ravine on the island we first saw. The plan is to bury it in ice and lower Gojira's body temperature to force hibernation. The plan is working, but not enough ice has been dropped and it appears this Gojira is escaping. It is at this point that Kobayashi in his seaplane sacrifices himself by crashing into the ice cliff's face. The cliff finally breaks apart and comes down on the beast burying it.
Another major change to the American version had all references to 1954's "Gojira" removed when Dr. Yamani meets with the Osaka authorities in "Gigantis the Fire Monster". The previous motion picture and it's events never existed.. The sequence now has Dr. Yamani telling the story of the two monster's creation from the Volcanic Prehistoric past of Ib Melchior's "The Volcano Monsters".
Later on when the American cut was returned to Toho's control. The studio would remove the title "Gigantis the Fire Monster" and replaced it with "Godzilla Raids Again". I remember at the time finding VHS Tapes under both names causing confusion. Fans were thinking they were buying the original Japanese film and would find the American instead.
KING KONG VS GODZILLA
On June 3, 1963 a Toho production opened in the United States that had been widely anticipated and publicized "King Kong vs Godzilla". The following Saturday I was at The Majestic Theater in Santa Monica to see it, I enjoyed this motion picture with it's strange looking King Kong and the added fact that it was also the first Godzilla movie in color.
The following day I saw something entirely different with the same title, but not in English but Japanese.
When I was five there was a movie theater near our home my parents would drop me off at for Saturday Morning Children's Programs. Back then a kid my age could see two family films, five to six cartoons and an episode of the latest Chapter Serial for 25 cents. There was also a drawing for prizes. The theater was the "La Brea" and had been at the location since 1926. In 1962 it was now owned by Toho Studios and called "The Toho La Brea".
What was showing that Sunday was the original Japanese language feature "Kingu Kongu Tai Gojira" with English subtitles. I had read about it in The Los Angels Times newspaper. Both versions have Godzilla breaking out of the iceberg at the area that the submarine went down.
Toho's original release contains a direct tie to the 1955 film's ending. The seven year gap is explained as Godzilla being in hibernation from the end of "Gojira no gyakushu".
The English language version just has the two helicopter pilots seeing the iceberg split open and Godzilla revealed. I always wondered how the one pilot knew to call him Godzilla? As they were searching for the missing submarine and producer John Beck's story made the English language version a stand alone motion picture. So Godzilla should have been an unknown creature..
One thing that was almost the same though was both endings. I saw King Kong swimming back to Faro Island and no sight of Godzilla. In short there was no ending in which King Kong is the victor, or an ending in which Godzilla wins. However, as the final credits roll in the Toho original the audience does hear Godzilla's roar telling the viewer he is alive and will return.
THE STORY BEHIND THE MAKING OF "KING KONG VS GODZILLA"
As you will find this is a convoluted story.
One obvious fact here is that "Counterattack of Godzilla" came out in 1955 and there was a gap in the Franchise, which really didn't exist yet, of seven years until "King Kong vs Godzilla". Here's a look at what went on with Toho Studio's during that "Gap"?
Although I have had members of my Facebook page named for the 1956 film "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" tell me Toho today says otherwise. The following paragraph was actually reported both in The Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Hearld Examiner newspapers and in a special on a local Japanese language television station I watched from time to time.
Back in 1955 although "The Counterattack of Godzilla" did good box office and on the face of it should have deserved a third film. Toho Studio's experienced a controversy over "Jujin Yuki Otoko (Mountain Snowman)" directed by "Gojira's" Ishiro Honda. This picture was about a group of students and their teacher encountering a Japanese Yeti protected and worshiped by a group of mountain villagers. An unforeseen problem arose when some Japanese took part of the story to actually imply that in remote Japanese villages inbreeding of their populations routinely was happening. The claim reached the courts and a ruling was handed down against the stuidio. As a result Toho studios had to destroy all copies of the motion picture and they decided to temporarily suspend "Kaiju (Giant Monster)" motion pictures except for any in preproduction.
This is a look at the motion picture output of Toho Studio's from 1956 through 1961 leading up to "King Kong vs Godzilla".
1955 would end with 17 other non-Kaiju productions from the studio being made. Out of 20 motion pictures in 1956 there was one "Kaiju" story that had been in preproduction the year before. It's title was "Sora no Daikaiju Radon (Radon, the Giant Monster of the Sky)". 1957 would see the film released, as I mentioned above, and dubbed into English as "Rodan, the Flying Monster". Back at Toho Studios in 1957 one film out of 26 produced was a Science Fiction thriller. The picture was "Chikyu Boeigun (Earth Defense Force)". Which wouldn't reach the United States until 1959 as "The Mysterians". There were no "Kaiju" films that year either.
1958 recorded 19 motion pictures having been made by Toho Studios. Only two applied to this article. One was an interesting picture that was a hybrid of a Detective Thriller and Science Fiction. The film's title was Bijo to Ekitainingen (Beauty and the Liquid Men)". When it reached the United States in 1959 the title had been changed to "The H-Men". The other film was the first "Kaiju" motion picture in two years. It would be released to Japanese theaters and then re-edited by Toho for a special television presentation later on. The movie was "Daikaiju Baran (Giant Monster Varan)". In a terrible editing job by Crown International Pictures for American release. The motion picture arrived in the United States in 1962 running only 70 minutes as "Varan the Unbelievable". There was very little footage remaining from Ishiro Honda's original which had run 87 minutes in length.
1959's film production showed 22 motion pictures of which one was a Science Fiction entry. The title was "Uchu Daisenso (Great War in Space)" and would arrive in the United States the following year as "Battle in Outer Space". 19 more Toho features came out in 1960 with two interesting entries in Science Fiction. The first was "Denso Ningen (The Secret of the Telegian)". Which would be broadcast not in it's original color, but as a black and white print on United States television in 1975. The second picture was "Gasu Ningen dai Ichi-go (Gas Human Being Number One)". Known in the United States in 1964 as "The Human Vapor"
The 25 motion pictures from Toho Studio's in 1961 included one that would play an important part later in the beginning of the "Godzilla Franchise". This picture like "Gojira" in 1954 had a one word title "Mosura". In 1962 Columbia pictures would release an 11 minute shorter version in the United States as "Mothra". Not only was the feature shortened, but it also had it's dialogue altered not for political reasons, but religious. There was one other Science Fiction entry that year "Sekai Daisenso (Great World War)". This picture about atomic war caused by two groups obviously representing the United States and Russia was released in the United States as 1964's "The Last War" and has amazingly been cut from a running time of 110 minutes to 79.
"The Gap" has been filled and I come to "King Kong vs Godzilla", in theory, but I said the story was convoluted. The conversation now becomes WHY did Toho make that movie and that brings me back to "Gigantis the Fire Monster" released Worldwide by Warner Brothers Studios.
Gigantis was causing the same reaction on international release as it did in the United States. Viewers who were familiar with either "Gojira", or "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" were asking the question of relationship to the previous picture. This news eventually made it back to Toho Studios and Tomoyuki Tanaka. This caused a discussion on bringing back the character, because of the Worldwide interest being generated.
The decision to make a new film was made, but at the time the idea was to use a popular character both in Japan and Asia as Gojira's next opponent Mosura. Hearing about Toho's plans American producer John Beck arrived at the studio's gate with an idea. Why not adopt his screenplay "Kong Kong vs Prometheus" into the Kaiju's comes back feature?
What John Beck did not tell Tomoyuki Tanaka was that he had technically stolen the script. The original treatment was entitled "King Kong vs Frankenstein" written by Academy Award winning Stop Motion Animator Willis O"Brien, O'Brien was one of the creators of the 1933 original "King Kong" with the late Merian C. Cooper. Here is a link to my blog article on the life of the real "Carl Denham" Merian C. Cooper and if Hollywood had made that life into a movie. You would have thought it entirely fiction.
Willis O'Brien's script moved the action from Skull Island to Africa. There Dr. Frankenstein is assembling his own gorilla out of other Apes parts. King Kong has now become the protector of the African animal kingdom and will eventually fight the Frankenstein Giant Gorilla. Like in Mary Shelly's original novel "Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus" this giant creature is brought to life by lightening which is also a source of energy to it. A theme Toho used in its screenplay.
O'Brien apparently forgot how he was tricked by producer Irwin Allen over 1960's "The Lost World". He was led to believe that his work would be to design and animate stop motion dinosaurs, as in the 1925 "The Lost World", for the producer, but the smooth talking Allen only wanted O'Brien's name on his film for publicity. Now Willis O'Brien fell for another smooth talking producer in John Beck, not the actor of the same name, who had an office on the Universal Studio lot. Beck's last produced motion picture was a 1957 western starring John Derek called "Fury at Sundown". That motion picture was after a seven year gap between producing pictures. John Beck had produced the James Stewart classic "Harvey" in 1950 and just stopped at the time. Beck's total career features were 9 and that number would include Debbie Reynolds in "The Singing Nun". His first film after "King Kong vs Godzilla" and another gap of five years, before it was made.
Returning to the original screenplay. Willis O'Brien had made one significant change to the character of King Kong. The gorilla was now giant in size and the animator had provided John Beck with sketches of what he wanted to bring to the screen. Note the size relationship in these actual drawings by O'Brien to a person. This was not the 25 foot tall "Eighth Wonder of the World" from 1933.
Once more Willis O'Brien believed he would animate the feature per his initial conversations with John Beck. Beck studied the concept and realized it would be too expensive and time consuming to make the picture in stop motion animation. Unknown to O'Brien his screenplay was being worked upon by screenplay writer George Worthington Yates on orders from the producer. Yates was an excellent choice for a rewrite as among his screenplays were 1954's "THEM!, 1955's "It Came from Beneath the Sea", 1956's "Earth vs the Flying Saucer" and 1957's "The Amazing Colossal Man".
At this point in a trade paper John Beck saw a small piece that Toho Studio was planning to bring Godzilla back. He now took the renamed "King Kong vs Prometheus" to Toho. His salesmanship worked and the idea of using Mosura dropped for the better known King Kong. John Beck's part of the deal was the non-Japan/Asian marketing rights to the finished motion picture.
Willis O'Brien learned of what was happening behind his back and countered with a lawsuit in the U.S. Courts. The charge was that John Beck had stolen his script and had no right to the character of King Kong. O'Brien was joined in the lawsuit by the Estate of Merian C. Cooper. A similar lawsuit was filed in Japan. These were the firts of the lawsuits over who owned the character of King Kong.
Meanwhile the lawsuits did not stop production of the first motion picture based upon the now O'Brien/Yates screenplay.
Before the lawsuit would be settled Willis O'Brien would pass away on November 8, 1962. He never saw the original Japanese version of the film he was fighting against. "King Kong vs Godzilla" was released in Japan on August 11, 1962. As I said the English language version of the feature opened in the United States on June 3, 1963.
What producer John Beck hadn't figured upon was the story line Toho came up with. Godzilla's comeback picture was a comic parody on the current Business Practices in Japan at the time. Japan was experiencing a transition from the traditional Japanese Business Model to the American Business Model., There had been many challenges for both the Japanese business man and consumer as a result.
Shinichi Sekizawa's screenplay poked fun at what was taking place. The fight scenes were set up as if the two protagonists were Sumo Wrestlers. A problem Beck was faced with and still shows in some scenes of his re-edit. One bit of publicity had both Godzilla and his American challenger for the World Title, King Kong, appear on a popular Sumo Sports Channel. How they were interviewed I have no idea.
John Beck's initial plan was to do a straight dubbing of the motion picture into English, but then he saw it. Extensive cutting began especially as it had to do with the head of the Pharmaceutical Company, He was being portrayed as the "New" style Japanese business leader, but with very broad comedic strokes. There is a promotional party hosted by the Pharmaceutical head which hit strongly on the changes in business models and was entirely cut out of the Beck re-edit.
Ever wonder about the cigarette's and transistor radio sequence in the English dub? That sequence suddenly puts broad comedy without any apparent real purpose in the John Beck re-edit. However, the same sequence fits perfectly as a parody of the cigarette industry and the Japanese love of them in the original film. Beck had wanted a giant monster vs monster picture as the script for "King Kong vs Prometheus" and Willis O'Brien's original "King Kong vs Frankenstein" had been, but now he was facing this parody with Sumo Wrestling monsters. Beck was forced to leave the comic cigarette sequence in his cut, or there would have been to large a jump from the two representatives of the Pharmaceutical company arriving on Faro Island and the start of their hunt for King Kong. Just as he was stuck with the scene of tossing the fake iguana off the cliff.
To explain Godzilla and King Kong to American audiences. The new revised screenplay gave the viewer two characters. One was the Paleontologist who used the same dinosaur book I had when I was about six years old for scientific reference. To interview the Paleontologist was an American International News Reporter who used the International Communication Satellite (ICS) to speak to another English speaking scientist in Japan. These three characters were the audiences narrators and directors of the events taking place in John Beck's attempt to alter the original parody.
The two screenplay writers hired to re-write the Toho motion picture were Paul Mason and Bruce Howard. You could say that Mason and Howard where now the fourth and fifth writers on the picture. As the first screenplay was by Willis O'Brien, rewritten by George Worthington Yates and again rewritten by Shinichi Sekizawa for Toho Studios. The script had come complete circle back to the United States.
For the "ICS" John Beck took footage of the mother craft from "Earth Defense Force" aka "The Mysterians". Look closely and you will see the Mysterian's flying saucers coming and going from that mother ship. Beck also didn't think the ending was powerful enough and as Godzilla and King Kong are fighting at the film's climax. He inserted an earlier scene of a village being destroyed by an Earthquake also from "The Mysterians".
John Beck did the unthinkable for a true fan of the Showa Era Kaiju films from Toho Studios. He erased Akira Ifukube's score and replaced it completely. I mentioned how many motion pictures seemed to have Henry Mancini's theme scored for "The Creature from the Black Lagoon". It was now part of the English language version of "King Kong vs Godzilla's" score. As were outtakes from "Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman", "The Monster that Challenged the World" and "Man Made Monster", Westerns "Untamed Frontier" and "Bend in the River" can be found contributing as well as a movie about Genghis Khan called "The Golden Horde" and they weren't all. There is no screen credit listed for the person who had to put all this together. John Beck changed Ifukube's score for the stated purpose of giving the soundtrack a Western rather than Eastern flavor. Again attempting to somehow convince his audience that this was actually an American made motion picture that was connected to events happening in Japan by the International Communications Satellite only.
A similar technique would be repeated 23 years later for "Godzilla 1985". When Raymond Burr narrated from a television screen what was happening in Japan to the General and his aide in what was supposed to be the Pentagon War Room.
As to the ending of the John Beck's version of "King Kong vs Godzilla" compared to Ishiro Honda's original. Except for adding that village being destroyed by the earthquake nothing is different. As I said I saw Beck's picture on Saturday and Honda's on Sunday. Oh wait! After we see King Kong swimming back to Faro Island and the film goes to black. We hear over the ending credits of Honda's movie the roar of Godzilla telling the audience he still lives So that roar is the only real difference as far as the ending goes.
GODZILLA VS THE THING
Most motion pictures at the time opened on a Wednesday, but this one opened on Thursday, September 17, 1964 in the United States. The following Saturday saw me once more at The Majestic Theater in Santa Monica to see a motion picture I knew Godzilla was in, but even the television trailers left out what "THE THING" was and looked like.
Look at this poster for The American International Pictures English language release of the movie.
If you can't read the wording under "CENSORED" it says:
behind this panel is "THE THING"
The Producers ot this Motion Picture take this precaution to spare those who cannot take its full horror---for those who can---see the film from the beginning!The same type of advertising was appearing in my local Los Angeles area newspapers. Looking at the poster it would seem that the monster behind the "Censored" panel was some type of plant creature close to the Venus Fly Trap, or a Showa Era version of the Hesei Era Biollante.
THE STORY BEHIND THE MAKING OF "GODZILLA VS THE THING"
My reader has to first understand how American International Pictures worked when it came to movie names and advertising. James H. Nicholson one of the co-owners of the studio was known to call together a director, screenplay writer, a member of the Art Department and if needed the great creature maker Paul Blaisdell, Then they kicked around ideas for a title of a movie and would come up with say "The Day the World Ended", or "Invasion of the Saucer Men". At which time Nicholson would tell the screenwriter to write a script about the title. The member of the Art Department to make a poster for that title and the director to get with the writer as to how many people would have speaking lines and cast the film. James H. Nicholson would then go out and book the movie which had not even been made. Rodger Corman and Paul Blaisdell tell stories about the Art Department creating a poster that looked nothing like what the screenplay writer had put on paper. Paul Blaisdell would at least get with the writer for an idea of what the monster was to be in say "It Conquered the World".
"Godzilla vs The Thing" worked on the same principle.
However, in this case AIP contracted with Toho for their latest Godzilla movie which had only been released in April 1964. The agreement was to have Toho International dub the movie into English and most importantly the studio was to ad a scene of American warships launching Frontier missiles at Godzilla. That sequence was only seen outside of Japan and Asia in the United States English dub.
According to two articles at the time of the feature's American release. James H. Nicholson had stated the original Toho picture had never been seen by anyone at AIP, but the title of the movie just didn't seem exciting enough to promote in the United States. So the studio came up with "Godzilla vs The Thing". He then had the Art Department create an appropriate poster for that title of the yet unseen motion picture and American International Pictures began their publicity campaign while awaiting Toho's final product.
I remember some of the newspaper articles that came out saying how they thought James H. Nicholson made a mistake not keeping the original title "Mosura tai Gojira (Mothra Against Godzilla)", because of the popularity of the Toho motion picture "Mothra" released by Columbia Pictures in the United States. Nicholson was once more quoted as saying those at American International Pictures had never seen "Mothra" and thought promoting a picture with a giant moth wouldn't sell.
When you watch "Godzilla vs The Thing", The viewer will notice that any mention of Mothra was replaced with the words The Thing. However, if you listen closely every so often there is a slip and Godzilla's opponent was called Mothra. My theory is that the soundtrack came from Toho International's English dub of the picture. At the request of American International Pictures the studio dded the American warships and re-dubbed in the words The Thing over every mention of Mothra, but some scenes slipped by. For the record Toho International made English language dubs of Toho's original cuts of some films for distribution in Asia for those English language speaking audiences living in the area.
The plot has the return of the singing sister duo "The Peanuts",twins Emi and Yumi Iro, as the Shobijin (Little Beauties aka Small Beauties) of Infant Island. Also known from the English cut of "Mothra" as "The Twin Fairies". Emi and Yumi appeared in the United States on both "The Ed Sullivan Show" and "The Danny Kaye Show".
The basic plot of the picture starts with a storm and Mothra's egg being washed out of its resting place on Infant Island toward Japan. Cut to an industrialist draining the water from an area he was building upon before the storm hit. It is at this vary spot that the egg had washed ashore and people have gathered including two reporters from a Tokyo newspaper and a scientist sent to investigate the egg. There is a minor confrontation over the ownership of the egg which alarms the reporters and the scientist. because the industrialist wants to build an incubator around the giant egg and sell admission tickets.
At the hotel that the newspaper reporters are staying. The twin Shojibin appear and explain that the egg contains Mothra. The three return to the site with the Shojibin and as they confront the industrialist. about the egg. Farther out on the drained sea bottom movement begins and out comes Godzilla.
The rest of the story involves a plot by the industrialist and his business partner to kidnap the Shojibin. A plot device right out of the original motion picture "Mothra". Godzilla goes on a destructive rampage and is being fought by the Japanese military and in the American cut the United States Navy. Mothra hatches from the egg, fights Godzilla and saves the Shobijin. A partial reworking of the story line from "Mothra", but adding the other Kaiju.
"Mothra vs Godzilla" aka "Mothra Against Godzilla" aka "Godzilla vs The Thing" was the highest grossing Showa Era picture for Toho Studios. I know most of my readers would have voted for "King Kong vs Godzilla", but truth be known. It was the Asian market and the Worldwide popularity of Mothra that gave this film it's status.
The screenplay by Willis O'Brien/George Worthington Yates was used two more times by Toho Studios once the Japanese courts settled the lawsuit/ It became the basis for "Furankenshutain Tai Chitei Kaiju Baragon (Frankenstein vs Subterranean Monster Baragon)" aka: "Frankenstein Conquerors the World" and "Kingu Kongu no Gyakushu (King Kong's Counterattack)" aka: "King Kong Escapes".
"Mosura tai Gojira (Mothra Against Godzilla)" was not planned for the fourth film. The ambiguous ending to "Kingu Kongu Tai Gojira" was on purpose. The original plan, according to what I read when "Godzilla vs The Thing" was released, was to have made a sequel to the meeting between King Kong and Godzilla, but the lawsuit got in the way and the safer option was taken.
For the 30th Anniversary of the motion picture "Gojira" Tomoyuki Tanaka planned to update "Kingu Kongu Tai Gojira", but the Japanese Court ruling permitting Toho Studio's to use their King Kong had just expired and instead Toho made a new version of the 1954 original for 1984 release.
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