Friday, April 17, 2015

Japanese Science Fiction and Horror (1956 to 1965): My Fond Memories

I was born on October 16, 1946 in to a United States filled with Fear of the Soviet Union. The children born in the Soviet Union feared the United States. Why, because we were told too on radio, television, in the newspapers and at the movies. These years would become known as the "Cold War" and if that "War" had just stayed "Cold" nobody really would have had any concerns, but everyone in the two countries feared the "Cold War" would turn into a "Hot War" or more to the point a "Nuclear War". .

What added to the fear was that nobody really knew what an Atomic Bomb could do. At school I took part in drills that were designed to protect me from Atomic attack, if such a weapon was dropped upon Los Angeles. By simply getting under my desk and covering my body in a ball like position called "Drop and Cover". We actually believed, because our teachers told us, that if an Atomic bomb dropped on the city we would survive by simply getting under our wooden school desks. It was a time when no citizen doubted the wisdom of our Government and our leaders. How times have changed.

Who would have thought that as the United States had already dropped two of these weapons upon the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We wouldn't already know what really was going to happen to American's. The average person in the country and for sure in the Soviet Union didn't know the "Truth".

The only "Truth" in reality was that even the Scientists and Military personnel behind those first two Atomic Bombs called "The Manhattan Project" still didn't really know the truths about Atomic Energy and the long term consequences of their actions. However, the Japanese did, or at least had experienced one phase and were going through another.

Science Fiction films came out filled with speculation and maybe a little overdose of fantasy and imagination. You had "THEM!" with those lovely mutated giant ants running in the sewers I actually played in. Not a comforting thought to an seven year old when the movie came out. Films such as the excellent "World Without End" showed me a future United States after the atomic war with a still dying human race without hope

Fantastic speculation about the effects of exposure to radiation were in motion pictures such as "The Amazing Colossal Man" and its opposite "The Incredible Shrinking Man". Our imagination ran wild even to the idea of attacks by Alien Space Creatures such as "The Beast with a Million Eyes" who could control our minds. |The original "Invaders from Mars" and "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" two different approaches to the idea of mindless American's under Communist control.  So it was natural that Lloyd became a sponge for those movies and I enjoyed those from Hammer Pictures  and Toho Studios the most,

Toho Studios initially made a serious science fiction movie directed by Ishiro Honda with special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya and music by Akira Ifutube. This motion picture would be released on November 3, 1954. The film still is a powerful allegory of those two first Atomic weapons and their resulting death and destruction, but nobody outside of Japan and Asia knew it existed unless they happened to see the film in an Asian theater possibly in a large cities China Town district..

I was nine in April of 1956 when I saw "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" at the La Reina theater in Sherman Oaks, California. At the time my peers and myself thought this "New" movie had been made in the United States, but set in Japan. Most American's thought so also,

This was also my first experience with a "Westernization" of a Toho motion picture. A means of making a Foreign film with Foreign thoughts acceptable to 1950's/1960's America.

The original Toho Studios film based upon an idea by producer Tomoyuki Tanaka had been deliberately re-edited to eliminate the anti-American sentiment from the dropping of those Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,because even ten years after the end of World War Two there still existed strong anti-Japanese sentiment in this country,

The motion picture I saw that Saturday morning had become as close as possible to a typical Giant Monster on the loose story such as 1953's "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms" and lost most of its resemblance to what Toho released two years earlier. The gimmick used was to have actor Raymond Burr playing International Correspondent Steve Martin report his reactions to "Godzilla's" attack on Tokyo. Thereby, bypassing the actual allegorical tale.

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Image result for images of godzilla king of the monstersImage result for images of godzilla king of the monsters

The following images pertain to that original Japanese language film "Gojira" which I finally saw in November of 1959 at the Nuart Theater in Santa Monica, California.

The movie had been a direct response to the "Lucky Dragon #5" incident in March of 1954, It was a personal idea of Toho Studio Executive Tomoyuki Tanaka to change the subject matter into a allegorical science fiction form to be able to get his anti-Nuclear, anti-American message across without people just turning away from a straight retelling of the events. When 23 crew members of that fishing boat had been exposed to the radiation cloud from America's "Castle-Bravo" Atomic Test on Bikini Atoll and most of their deaths as a result.

The American producers of "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" knew the film could not be shown as filmed. Although they all wanted to leave it that way. So to them the only alternative was the 1956 revision leaving in some of the feeling of "Gojira" without making its statement.

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Haruo Nakajima the first man to wear the "Gojira/Godzilla" suit

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Eiji Tsuburaya and Ishiro Honda

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Moving three years forward to May 21, 1959 another film was released by Warner Brothers called "Gigantis, the Fire Monster". The look of Gigantis made viewers such as myself think of Godzilla. The 1956 movie was now playing on television and was back in people's minds.

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The question most of the film's viewers were asking was is the motion picture a sequel not to the 1954 "Gojira", but "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" made in 1956? Letters were sent from across the country to film critics and to "Famous Monsters of Filmland" Magazine. I wrote at the time to "Famous Monsters" posing that question.

The answer came back that this film was a sequel, but not to "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" as we all thought, but some 1954 Japanese movie named "Gojira" nobody had heard about. As a result in a multiple page story in "Famous Monsters of Filmland" the actual 1954 motion picture and its original version sequel were "Discovered" officially outside of Japan and Asia. I saw the original Japanese sequel "Gojira no Gyakushu (Godzilla's Counterattack aka: Godzilla Raids Again)" when I saw "Gojira" at the Nuart,

The above is a brief look at the back story of the three films, but if you want a more detailed description of the events please read: "In Our Own Image Like Gojira Morphing Into Godzilla" another article you will find on my blog:

August 1957 found Lloyd at the Culver Theater in Culver City to watch another Ishiro Honda directed film that would be the first of two films by Toho Studios which hooked me completely on their Science Fiction and Kaiju films. Remember at this time I still had no idea that "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" had not been made in the United States. Besides it starred Raymond Burr right before I started seeing him on television every week as "Perry Mason",

However, this next motion picture was my first with obvious dubbing as most of it was the original film as shot. So I learned my lesson that when I saw the name "Toho" I would find lips and voices not necessary equaling each other even if the voice was George Takei eight years before "Star Trek".

 In the United States what turned out to be another edited film was titled simply "Rodan" Although some posters referred to the film as "Rodan, the Flying Monster". From the opening scene to the sad closing I was caught in the story. The Western version had the mandatory, as I would find out as time went by, opening shot of an Atomic Bomb going off. We were constantly being reminded that at anytime the Soviet Union could drop such a weapon upon us.

As with most of the Toho films I would be watching. The actual motion picture actually came out at least one year earlier in Japan as had "Sora no Daikaiju Radon (Radon, the Giant Monster of the Sky)".
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What is interesting is the controversy over these posters. Note even in the Japanese one Radon/Rodan has a longer neck than the Kaiju designed by Eiji Tsuburaya. It appears that rather than using a member of the Pterodactyl family as a model. The artists used a member of the Azhdarachidae family for the neck and head to give their drawing more power.

While shooting the scene of Radon flying over the bridge in the Sakai Village. The pulley holding up stuntman Naruo Nakajima wearing the heavy Rodan suit broke and he fell into the water below which luckily broke the fall. Of note there are approximately 15 changes to the American version of the film from the original Toho version. One of course is the adding of the opening Atomic Bomb going off. The other changes included, as would also happen in "King Kong vs Godzilla", the removal of Akira Ifukube's score.

The more recent release of the complete Japanese version of the motion picture by Classic Media includes the mentioning of "Global Warming" in a subtitled conversation. A very strange addition as I don't remember the issue coming up in either 1956, or 1957. In fact I remember in Los Angeles County there were still a lot of people with home incinerators to burn up their own trash instead of having it picked up. Which translated to ash going into the sky and our lungs. I'm sure the issue was also not prevalent in Japan either.

On element in both film versions was that Radon was able to send out a stream of concentrated gas from his mouth to destroy buildings and military vehicles. It was thought at the time to be similar to the atomic breath used by Gojra, but was dropped after this first appearance of the Kaiju. Personally I believe that was a major mistake to the character's future appearances. I love Rodan, but all he has left is the ability to literally flap his wings and fly over things very fast. In the first movie back in 1956/57 it was mentioned that the two Radon's flew at Super Sonic Speed, or above. His speed is never mentioned after this initial appearance.

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For my birthday in 1958 I stood in line at the Ritz Theater to see four horror films on one bill. Not unusual for this particular theater which changed its program every Wednesday and Sunday. Admission was still 75 cents then and I would go Saturday and Sunday to see the maximum movies, if no major film was showing. In this case the main feature was Steve McQueen in "The Blob" and the two teen monsters "I Was a Teenage Werewolf" with Michael Landon and "I Was a Teenage Frankenstein" with Gary Conway. Don't ask me why, but I seem to have a photographic memory when it comes to having seen movies, or at least my wife and daughter think so. Oh, but the film that is of interest to us was called "Half Human" and starred John Carradine.

Abominable Snowmen films were still the rage near the end of the 1950's. The previous year Hammer Films released "The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas" starring Peter Cushing and Forest Tucker. The movie I saw was terrible and obviously a very badly re-edit of a film I didn't know the title of. It would take me another two years before I found out the actual film had been Ishiro Honda's  1955 Jujin Yuki Otoko (Monster Snowman). I would find myself returning to the Nuart Theater for another Japanese double bill. One of the films was from Daiei Studios with special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya that was made in 1949. The other was Honda's great horror film with strong character development "Mountain Snowman".

The film is considered lost, because of Toho Studio's compliance with a request from the Japanese Government to destroy all prints. The Government caved into pressure over the implied depiction of inbreeding in some isolated villages in Japan that was believed to reflect upon the "Ainu people".

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Toho, Honda and the others involved on the film denied ever having such an intention, or that the film implied inbreeding. However, watching it as I had I can see were the idea came from and probably it was a good idea to pull the motion picture from Japanese and Asian audiences.

However, if the film was lost how did the Nuart get a copy? Probably the same source my DVD of the film came from. As the theater ran a 16 mm print with timing numbers at the top of the  frames. Exactly like the same copy I bought off of E-Bay a year ago. My uneducated guess is that the original copy was the one sent to the American producers of "Half Human" along with the body of the young Snowman they used in the American scenes.

When the American producers edited the 1954 "Gojira" there was a political purpose and they turned out a very good film. When the editing was done to "Radan" at least it was minimal, but I for one wished they had kept the motion picture intact as one of the scenes removed explains the relationship of suspected killer Goro to his sister and future brother-in-law. It would have also been nice had they kept Akira Ikfutube's score.

However, for "Half Human" i prefer to say the film was not edited, but butchered. The original Toho production had a running time of 94 minutes. The film "Half Human" has a running time of only 63 minutes, or 21 minutes shorter over all. As with the Raymond Burr sequences in the 1956 "Godzilla, King of the Monsters", if you deduct the scenes with American actors John Carradine, Russel Thorson, Robert Karnes and Morris Ankrum from the 63 minute running time for "Half Human" What, if anything is left of Honda's original vision? In fact what few scenes from "Mountain Snowman" that are used to tell the story are narrated completely by Carradine for the American audience to avoid the cost of dubbing.

The original motion picture contains what I believe is one of the best suitmation costumes designed by Eiji Tsuburaya.

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Behind the scenes shots below

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Let me tell you a little about that other film I saw at the Nuart and have never found again. It wasn't from Toho, but Daiei with effects by Tsuburaya.

Probably the most famous film version of H.G. Wells' 1897 novel "The Invisible Man" was made in 1933 starring Claude Rains and directed by James Whale for Universal Pictures. In 1949 that novel formed the basis for the first Japanese Science Fiction film.

The motion picture's actual title was "Toumei ningen arawaru (The Invisible Man Appears aka: The Transparent Man Appears)". Here are some scenes from the film as shown on the website: "Black Sun" and a link to that site:

It is interesting to compare Tsuburaya's scenes from the Daiei film with John P. Fulton's from the Universal picture. The inspiration is very obvious and many people believe the Japanese motion picture was basically a copy of that Universal Production..

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The month of May 1959 saw two films released in the United States two weeks apart. The first was the second film that really locked me into Toho and was the first Space Alien Invasion film from Japan I had seen. The motion pictures title was Chikyu Boeigun (Earth Defense Force) and would be released in the United States as "The Mysterians on May 15, 1959.

By this time the motion picture was two years old having come out in Japan on December 28, 1957, but I didn't know that at the time. This was just one great science fiction Alien invasion film with the adult idea of the Space Men wanting to mate with Earth Women. A topic that had the film been made in the United States might not have gotten by the Hayes Office even in 1959.

My father took me to the Pickwood Theater in West Los Angeles to see the double bill containing "The Mysterians". The bottom half feature wasn't bad either and starred Marshall Thompson in "The First Man Into Space aka: The Satellite of Blood", When Thompson's brother returns from space his blood has been effected by some form of meteor dust. He is no longer completely human and changing in to something else. Shades of "The Quatermass Experiment", but done very well on a low budget. 

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I remember "Famous Monsters of Filmland" nicknamed the tragic brother "The Amazing Bubble Gum Man".

However, to "Earth Defense Force".

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Twelve year old Lloyd loved this movie and especially the original MOGUERA. I knew it was a man in a suit and you could really tell as it was too loose on him, but the look of it with all the outside gears just stuck with me ever since. I think it is one of the best Toho none Kaiju creations and they must have also, because M.O.G.U.E.R.A. was brought back in 1994's "Godzilla vs Space Godzilla". The original Japanese film said it has been designed based upon captured alien plans. Hinting back to "Earth Defense Force". In that film the name stood for Mobile Operation Godzilla Universal Expert Robot Aero-type. I have to wonder how long it took somebody at Toho to come up with that acronym.

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The New York Times did not appreciate the work of Ishiro Honda and Eiji Tsuburaya's though. As their review of "The Mysterians" said the motion picture was:

an ear-splitting Japanese-made fantasy, photographed in runny color and dubbed English,"
This Metro release is crammed with routine footage of death rays and scrambling civilians, not one of whom can act. Tomoyuki Tanaka produced the mess and Inoshiro Honda directed it. Peter Riethof and Carlos Montalban are responsible for the 'English version,' and may it spread no further linguistically.

Those "routine footage of death rays and scrambling civilians" would spawn two sequels:

 Uchu Daisenso (The Great Space War aka: Battle in Outer Space) released December 26, 1959 in Japan and July 8,1960 in the United States. Along with Yosei Gorasu (Calamity Star Gorath aka: Gorath) released March 21, 1962 in Japan and May 15, 1964 in the United States making up what is known as "Toho's Space Trilogy" and featuring the Special Effects of Eiji Tsuburaya. Of course I saw both sequels. Even if as in the case of "Gorath" it was in the mid-Atlantic on board the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Shangri-La CVA-38 while serving in the Navy during Vietnam.

Sorry New York Times critic, but I still think "The Mysterians" is a fun film with a lot of imagination and so do others.

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One last thought on how this movie warped my mind  as did the John Agar 1958 science fiction film "The Brain from Planet Arous". Both are used in relationship to my blog. One in the title and the other in the web address.

How about a murder mystery, a beautiful girl and several molecular men? This was the basic plot idea for what was released in the United States on May 28, 1959 as "The H-Man".

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The actual title was Bijo to Exitainingen (Beauty and Liquid Men). I have also seen the original motion picture translated as "The Beauty and the Liquid People". Either way the original Japanese version is far better than the English language cut and 12 minutes longer.

Just to show how times have changed. When the film came out my mother had no problem with me taking my bicycle and riding 17 miles from my home in Van Nuys to the Reseda Theater. Today a parent worries about their children on the front lawn left a lone for a few minutes.

Back to the movie.

One immediately sees a similarity to that Steve McQueen movie I saw "The Blob". As we have blob like creatures absorbing other people, but in this case seemingly turning them into other "H-Men", My friends and I actually thought Toho stole the idea, but then through "Famous Monsters", our bible, we discovered the movie had been made before "The Blob".

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However, the motion picture is another clever reworking of "The Lucky Dragon #5" incident and a warning about nuclear testing from Tomoyuki Tanaka and Toho Studios. The film opened with a fishing boat finding a derelict ship that went through a radiation cloud from an American nuclear test turning the crew into the "Molecular" men of the poster for the American release.

A critic for the New York Herald at the time of the film's release had this to say about this weird, to me, but fun ride:

A good-natured poke at atom-bomb tests... The picture is plainly making a case against the use of nuclear bombs. At the same time, there is a great deal of lively entertainment in the story involving police, dope smugglers, scientists and some very pretty Japanese girls
Apparently the New York Herald understood Honda and Tsuburaya better than the New York Times.

Many members of the Godzilla Facebook Page I co-founded about three years ago "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" only know Toho Studios for Kaiju, Horror and Science Fiction films. I was about to discover some of their other works.

This is a link to my page:

The Fine Arts Theater was having a Akira Kurosawa festival and I went there to see two "Jidaigeki (Period)" films in late 1960.

The first was the classic Schichinin no Samurai (The Seven Samurai) from April 26, 1954. I was interested in this film as I had just seen "The Magnificent Seven" which was based upon it Kurosawa's film would even be reworked by Roger Corman in 1980 into his science fiction film "Battle Beyond the Stars", but neither motion picture can equal the original and that story of seven men forming to protect a village from bandits in glorious black and white.

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The second film Kumonosu-jo (Spider Web Castle aka: Throne of Blood) from 1957, which moved William Shakespeare's Macbeth to Feudal Japan and contained a great performance by Toshiro Mifune. The moody special effects were by Eiji Tsuburaya and if you are a Shakespeare fan, or just love a Samurai movie and have not seen this film you are missing an excellent and interesting treatment of the Bard. Another Kurosawa film  from 1985 that I would recommend to those who favor the Shakespeare's is "Ran" his version of King Lear.

In November of 1961 a movie made by Toho was released in the United States with the provocative title of "I Bombed Pearl Harbor" and immediately caught my attention. This turned out to be a shorten version of the Japanese language motion picture Hawai Middouei daikaikusen Taiheiyo no arashi (Hawaii-Midway: Battle of the Sea and Sky: Storm Over the Pacific Ocean aka: Storm Over the Pacific).

I read a review of "I Bombed Pearl Harbor" in the Los Angeles Times and discovered that besides that film playing in multiple release in the Los Angeles area. The original Japanese language film was playing at the newly opened Toho LaBrea Theater.

The Toho La Brea was originally just the LaBrea Theater. It was located at the corner of LaBrea and Wilshire Boulevards ten blocks from my Grandparents and Parents duplex. When I lived on Mansfied Street in 1950 through 1953. I had gone there on many a Saturday morning for the Kids Programs with those terrific Chapter Serials. One I now have was "Zombies of the Stratosphere" with an unknown Leonard Nimoy as a Martian invader.

So I checked my bus routes from Santa Monica where I spent weekends with my father and went to see the complete subtitled film.

To me this is the best example of Eiji Tsuburaya's miniature work. Perhaps, because I was partial to World War Two movies and this one was the first I had seen from the Japanese perspective. The writers used the character of Bombardier Lt. Koji Kitami to tell the story and when Hugo Grimaldi re-edited the motion picture and removed 20 minutes of its running time. The title "I Bombed Pearl Harbor" was chosen to give the non-Asian audiences a stronger focus on Lt. Kitami and caused that provocative reaction with them I experienced at the time.

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Image result for images of movie I bombed pearl harborImage result for images of movie I bombed pearl harbor

Here is the link to the original Japanese language trailer and you will be able to see some great examples of Tsuburaya's work.

This scene was taken from the movie and used by Walter Mirisch in his 1976 motion picture "Midway". Along with other miniature work from "Storm Over the Pacific".

Now to a little gem of a horror movie made not by either of the major studios.

Actually this is an American/Japanese co-production shot and released in Japan in 1959. "Famous Monsters of Filmland" ran a very large article at the time about it. The film was to have been called "The Split" and the title was used in the U.K., but not in the United States. Where it did not even play until March 28, 1962.

Portraying the misguided evil scientist was Toho regular Tetsu Nakamura. Who is also in the next Toho film I will mention and previously was seen by me in "The Mysterians", "The H-Man" and "Storm Over the Pacifc". What is interesting is this regular in Japanese language films was born in Canada.

Nakamura's scientist experiments on American reporter Larry Sanford played by Peter Dyneley who becomes the American film's title "The Manster". From an injection in his neck he is unaware of his body starts to split into two distinct beings. His own and an ape like creature. Why the film sat on the shelves for so long in the United States I have no clue, but this review by Matthew Foster on his "Foster on Review" is worth reading:
The Manster is a dark, erotic film with some memorable moments. It is jam-packed with despair and corruption. With a few extra dollars, a bit of recasting, and a changed ending, it could be a great monster movie. Luckily, this is a film where the good stays with you and the mistakes are easily forgotten.
I agree fully with his thoughts as the film is flawed, but there is something about it that has stayed with me all these years.

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If you inclined to watch it here is a link to YouTube:

Released July 30, 1961 in Japan, but finally arriving in the United States on May 10, 1962 Toho brought to life a character that would gain International recognition and to some people equal status with "Gojira". In the United States her name was "Mothra", but in Japan she was "Mosura".

For those of my readers who have seen the Columbia Pictures re-edit of "Mosura". You will find the original American poster's tag line very strange sounding.

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By the time Mothra reached the United States in this English language version I was going to any motion picture the name "Toho" was on. I saw the film at the Van Nuys Theater in a packed house. I wasn't the only Japanese Science Fiction fan by 1962. Although I admit some of my friends thought this movie silly.

 "Mothra" vs "Mosura" is a good example once more of an American studio changing part of the motion pictures basic premise to appease American concerns. In this case both the Catholic Church and some Fundamentalist Southern Christian groups.

Have you ever wondered what the significance to those symbols that bring Mothra to the Airfield in both the original film and 2003's "Tokyo: S.O.S."?  Most of the approximately 12 minutes of screen time removed from the original "Mosura" explains there significance. In fact there is a scene where we see several of those symbols with Japanese subtitles and in the Japanese language version with American subtitles under the Japanese. The subtitles explain what each says and you have a strong biblical tie in and some since to Christianity. The viewer realizes that the Shojibin are not "Fairies", but Priestesses to the Goddess Mosura. So when Clark Nelson kidnaps them in the original Toho "Mosura" film there is more to it than it seems in Columbia's "Mothra". Of course the audience, including myself, that watched the film in 1962 did not know any of this, or did we see that that exact symbol used to bring Mothra to the airport looked like the cross on top of a church in the New Kirk City scene in which Nelson is shot and two priests appear.

Another interesting "add" to the Columbia English language cut of the film happens when Nelson and his gang, Tetsu Nakamura is one of his henchmen, are riding into New Kirk City. Suddenly for maybe two seconds is a shot on the Los Angeles Freeway system at the 101 and Harbor interchange. I guess this was to fool the audience into believing we were watching an American movie.

As a result of their appearance in the film. Emi and Yumi known as the singing duo "The Peanuts" and played the original Shojibin twins appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. I wonder if Sullivan had any idea who they really were and why they became so popular? That answer illustrates the power of this movie though even in the United States and Canada.

Here is their appearance on his program:

Here's a tribute clip to the theme song for Mothra, if you listen carefully you will realize that they are actually singing the name "Mosura" and not "Mothra" as dubbed.

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Then there was:
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Not to be confused with:

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If I was mad over what was done to Ishiro Honda's 1955 "Mountain Snowman". What was done to his 1958 "Giant Monster Varan" was worse, BUT I didn't know what Crown International actually did at the time.

My friends and I knew that the Japanese scenes with Varan did not match with the newer black and white American scenes with actors Myron Healey and Tsuruko Kobaytashi. They were more noticeable than the one's with Raymond Burr in "Godzilla, King of the Monsters"however. The Japanese scenes in "Half Human" didn't match either, but they were suppose to be John Carradine telling a story and you really didn't think in this way.

The first real back story on the movie I remember was of course in "Famous Monsters of Filmland". The article mentioned the original Japanese version, or should we say versions. As Toho re-edited it for Japanese television making a slightly different cut. The DVD of the Japanese version Daikaiju Baran has both cuts and the story is a little strange about a rare species of butterfly only found in Siberia showing up in a remote Japanese village. While the American version is about a Navy Officer and his wife conducting denationalization tests in a lake. In both versions Baran is awakened.

Truth be known we didn't care at the time about the American dub not being the actual movie. We were watching a Japanese monster that we could equate with "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" and that's how we looked at the film and as we didn't know what the original film was like. The fact that the Crown International release was 16 minutes shorter would have meant nothing to us.

One thing I do remember was some American reviewers trying to figure out what the creature was and using a comparison to, no laughing please, a flying squirrel. Which was strange as it turned out that all the scenes of Varan flying were removed from the film. I also don't think Crown International planned their re-vision of Varan to be released on the date it was, but that day was December 7, 1962.

This may seem a weird request, but if you really want to understand the Showa Period as reflected in the United States. When these Japanese films were restructured, a better work than re-edit in this case, to become acceptable and fit America's views on many issues at the time especially religious and political Watching at least the long version of Toho's Daikaiju Baran and the Crown International recreated Varan, the Unbelievable is a necessity as this is the extreme. The next film I saw was not the extreme, but really fit the pattern in America as you will read.

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One Saturday in June of 1963 I went to the same movie twice in the same day. Actually that doesn't sound like much, but I saw the English language cut of the film during the day at the Majestic Theater in Santa Monica and watched the original Japanese version at night at the Toho LaBrea.

The film was "Kingu Kongu Tai Gojira (King Kong vs Godzilla). I had read a review in the Los Angeles Times which mentioned both versions and that the original Japanese film was at the LaBrea. So I made my plans and carried them out. The reviewer also mentioned some of the major differences between the two cuts.

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The reviewer made the point that the original Toho motion picture was designed as a parody of Japanese Commercialism. During the late 1950's into the early 1960's Japanese traditional business practices where taking on a more American model and objections were being raised over these changes. One of the parodies the reviewer mentioned had to do with some of the battle sequences between the two title characters. Even Sumo Wrestling was not sacred to Toho in this motion picture. As these scenes were being set up as a Sumo Match. Playing off those sequences was a Toho PR man's dream as the two opponents the Japanese Sumo Champion Gojira and his opponent the American challenger King Kong appeared, in full costumes, on a local Sports Program promoting their fight. All of this happened before the film was originally released in Japan in August 1962.

The article also mentioned that both films had the same ending, but with one slight difference. When the end credits are rolling you hear Godzilla's roar in the Toho cut, but not in the Universal Studios release. Otherwise the film's end with no sight of Godzilla and Kong swimming off. The reason for this ambiguous ending, that still has members of my Godzilla Fan Page discussing who "actually won" the fight today, was because of a planned immediate sequel. A sequel that  would be postponed and then never made, because of unexpected events effecting Toho Studios.

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At the time of the Universal motion pictures release there were articles about these events in the Los Angeles Times and on television on local media including a Japanese station with subtitles. I watched that Japanese program after it was mentioned it would include a behind the scenes look at the making of the film. Some of my friends also watched.

The reason for all this media attention was the lawsuit brought against American producer John Beck by Willis O'Brien the great Stop Motion animator who made the original 1933 "King Kong". "Obie" as we was known to his friends had written the script Toho based their 1962 release upon. The details can be found in my other article "In Our Own Image Like Gojira Morphing Into Godzilla" on this blog, or on line if you search for: "King Kong vs Frankenstein", "King Kong vs Prometheus", or "Godzilla vs King Kong". It is also mentioned in Ray Harryhausen;s book "A Century of Stop Motion Animation".

Basically Willis O'Brien had an idea for a new King Kong movie with a larger and more fierce character. Here are his original sketches that he presented to American producer John Beck.

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Beck had screenwriter George Worthington Yates rewrite the script into what became known as "King Kong vs Prometheus". O'Brien's original idea was to make the film in Stop Motion Animation, but Beck found the process to expensive. At this time Toho announced it was looking for a vehicle to bring back Gojira and Beck saw his opportunity. He sold the script to the Japanese company for the non-Asian rights to distribute their motion picture and the film "King Kong vs Godzilla" was born.

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However, O'Brien claimed Beck had no right to do this and sued. Unfortunately, he passed away never even seeing the Toho film, but his Estate took over the lawsuit, Joining that suit was one from the Estate of Merian C. Cooper and the unsettled suits caused Toho to postpone any planned sequel. A sequel which to date has never been made.

John Beck had another more immediate problem when he received his copy of the finished Japanese film. His plans were for a straight dub into English. The problem he now faced was of course all that parody. Beck had been thinking Toho would turn the script into a straight fight film similar to "Godzilla's Counterattack" which had been easily re-edited and dubbed into "Gigantis, the Fire Monster". So he never inquired as to what Toho was going to do with the O'Brien/Yates script.

John Beck immediately cut out large sections of the movie and rearranged others. One scene he could not remove is when the two representatives of the pharmaceutical company arrive on Faro Island. You have remaining in the Universal Studio's release most of the comedy sequence that emphasized a "Two Transistor" radio, a major advancement at the time, and cigarettes. Even promoting smoking as a good thing. Another edit was to the opening sequence where the dialogue and scenes tied this film directly to the ending of "Godzilla Raids Again".

Next Beck added footage from "The Mysterians" to his version of the motion picture. Look closely at the "Communications Satellite" the Narrator/International reporter uses. You clearly see the Mysterian flying saucers entering and leaving. Beck also thought the earthquake sequence was too quick and added out takes from the one in "The Mysterians" to lengthen it.

Having watched both motion pictures on the same day allowed me to really appreciate how well done the Toho film was in obtaining their goals about doing a parody of the changes to Japanese Business as compared to what  Beck's film became with his added silly Paleontologist and that children's dinosaur book. A book I had years before that was still very popular in 1963 with its multicolored green and brown shaded dinosaurs.

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One last word about the publicity in this country about the motion picture. Until you actually saw the movie it promoted the idea that Godzilla was "Green" that had started with  the posters for 1956's "Godzilla, King of the Monsters". Even the lobby cards for ":King Kong vs Godzilla"  made for the motion picture had a heavily tinted "Green" Godzilla. He does have shades of green mixed with gray's in the suit, but there is no way he is the 1950's stereotypical "Green Sea Serpent".

Image result for images of king kong vs godzillaImage result for images of king kong vs godzillaGodzilla, King of the Monsters!

I finished 1963 with a great old fashion Toho Samurai feature released October 3, 1963 in the United States. The film was Chushingua: Hana no Maki , Yuki no Maki (Chushingua: 47 Samurai). The first film made about the story of the 47 Ronin was in 1941 and was shown in two parts, part one ran 112 minutes and the second part ran 111 minutes. The film was not shown in the United States until 1979 when I went to my favorite Motion Picture Art House the Nuart in Santa Monica and saw it. The second film version and the first in color came out in 1958 and was simply called "Chushingua", but released in the United States as "The Loyal 47 Ronin". I have yet to see it, but it is available on Google Play if you are interested.

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The story goes back to 1701 when the Shogan forced Asano Takumi-no-kami Naganori to commit seppuku (ritual suicide) over a dispute with another Kira KĊzuke-no-suke Yoshinaka. Kira went unpunished over the incident.  About 1703 Asano's 47 Samuari attacked Kira and his Samuraii and killed him. They then laid his head on the grave of their master Asano.Image result for images of the 1962 film 47 roninImage result for images of the 1962 film 47 ronin

The motion picture was excellent and any of the versions are worth seeing except the 2013 film created for its star Keanu Reeves, Which among many inaccuracies also created a half-English, half-Japanese Ronin to explain the star's involvement. 

You really had to be there when American International Pictures released on September 17, 1964 a movie they titled "Godzilla vs the Thing". To begin with the original 1963 Japanese film was "Mosura tai Gojira (Mothra vs Godzilla)", but here's the story about that title change as explained in the media at the time. AIP had never seen the movie until after the publicity campaign was started and had no idea that Mothra was in it. In fact nobody involved knew there had been a previous very successful film about the character.

Before I tell you about my experiences with this film. Here's how New York Times film critic Eugene Archer explains "Things" more, or less:

Well, there are three things, not counting the movie. One has wings and looks like a big bee. The other two are hatched from the first Thing's egg, after quite a bit of worshipful kootch dancing from a pair of foot-tall native goddesses.
Pertaining to that campaign before seeing the movie. Here are a couple of the pages from AIP's Press Book to look at:

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To really understand the confusion all this was generating until the movie was actually viewed. One has to understand how American International Pictures normally worked. According to Roger Corman the head of AIP James H. Nicholson would hold a meeting and determine a great name for a motion picture. Next he would tell his art department to get to work on the posters and assign somebody else to writing the script. So neither department was coordinating what they were producing with the other. Resulting in some great posters and advertising that had nothing to do with the script. Meanwhile Nicholson would be booking showings across the country based solely upon the title as a director, such as Corman, was making a film the Nicholson had no idea what it would look like.

In to this type of successful low budget operation James H. Nicholson decided to get into the fast growing Japanese film business and obtained the rights to a recently released in Japan and Asia motion picture he had never seen. As I mentioned by the time he did see the film the campaign was in full swing in newspapers, television and radio over American International's next release "Godzilla vs the Thing".
So like many of my friends we started discussing what "The Thing" was in this picture. Of course the use of the name brought back memories of the Howard Hawks motion picture "The Thing from Another World" and in Los Angeles, as in other cities across the country, local television stations jumped at showing that film. Some before the AIP release and others during it. Also "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" started showing up on local TV once more.

Then some interesting posters started being seen at theaters that would be showing the film.
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 First take a look at this Godzilla. On the poster he is a leaner and a more vicious creature than he would be in the movie, or in the entire Showa Era. Next you have that "Censored" sign telling  you "The Thing" is behind it. What appears are tentacles which of course Mothra never had, but if you notice it appears the Golden Gate Bridge is on the poster. Had the artist just watched "It Came from Beneath the Sea" before making their drawing?

So apparently we had the normal American International Pictures operation at work.

After all this build up I went back to the Majestic in Santa Monica to see "Godzilla vs the Thing" and before I purchased my ticket the truth was revealed by the lobby cards on display.

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When the lights went down and the film began you heard kids yelling for Mothra. It was truly funny and if you see this version you know it. Especially when referring to Godzilla's opponent when instead of saying "Mosura", as on the Japanese track, or even the English word "Mothra". was dubbed. You hear the characters speaking "The Thing". Future VHS and DVD releases would have this title removed and the film was either "Mothra vs Godzilla", or "Godzilla vs Mothra", but the sound track with the dubbed "The Thing" remains.

Happily I saw the original Japanese version at the Toho LaBrea, but as we all know today hardly any of the film was cut by AIP. So the only change for me was reading the real subtitles for the film and instead of "The Thing", or "Mothra" they read "Mosura". Which pleased me as I see many other subtitled films use "Mothra".

One last laugh in that AIP dub was when Emi and Yumi sing we hear the correct word "Mosura" in the song.It would have completed the picture if "The Thing" had been dubbed in instead.
In February of 1965 I graduated from High School and by August I would be in the Navy heading for combat photography school, but there was still the month of March.

Back on August 11, 1963 Toho released a film that would like many of the Godzilla franchise go straight to American television, but not until 1965. At this time American International Pictures was starting to package edited and non-edited movies for American television. 

The motion picture was "Matango" and after seeing it even in Japan  people stopped eating mushrooms for awhile, because you didn't know if that shoom might be your neighbor. The late night television release, because of the very strong horror elements was renamed by AIP "Attack of the Mushroom People". 

An assorted group of low life's find themselves stranded on an island and eventually the only food available are the mushrooms which turn humans into a fungus being. AIP for the American TV version other than changing the title kept the film pretty much as shot. Even using the Toho International English dubbed track and thereby saving the studio money. This film may not sound very frightening, but it is not for the squeamish. 
However, if you don't believe me watch "Attack of the Mushroom People"  yourself:
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