A couple of weeks ago, I said that I was going to be dropping the Saturday Double Feature in order to make room for a new weekly spotlight that would probably take more time to write. Well, I’m still planning on introducing the new feature, and I’m hoping to at least have a preview of it up in the next day or so, but since I haven’t posted much over the past couple of weeks, and since this one was just sitting there and is such a fun bit of Japanese/American big monster movie trivia, I just couldn’t resist throwing it up today as a double feature.
So since it’s been a little bit since I’ve posted one of these, let’s start with a quick recap of the “rules”, shall we? The basic idea here is to take a movie that is out in theaters now, and pair it up with another movie from the 1980s or before. Sometimes the connection will be obvious, and sometimes it’ll be a little less so, but that’s part of the fun.
Okay, with all that out of the way, let’s get on with today’s pairing, which also provides an interesting answer to the question “when is a sequel not really a sequel, but really is a sequel”?
Yeah, I know. But just follow along here.
First off, let’s start with the trailer for the new Godzilla which hit theaters thus week. n it you’ll note that it references “1954” which, of course, is that year that the original Japanese Gojira came out, marking the new movie as, yes, a reboot of sorts, but also a sort-of sequel to the original.
Now upon thinking about the new film’s status as a sort-of sequel, I was reminded of when the first Japanese sequel to the original was brought to American theaters. Released in 1955 in Japan, Godzilla Raids Again (or as it is more literally translated, Godzilla’s Counterattack) was a direct sequel to the original, even bringing back some of the survivors of the original movie. It was also the first movie to feature Godzilla fighting another giant monster in the form of Anguirus.
However, for some reason, the American distributors of the film decided that rather than simply redubbing the Japanese sequel, they again wanted to Americanize it in the way that they had transformed Gojira into Godzilla, King of the Monsters (as the US version became known).
Actually, there were two attempts to bring the sequel to America, the first in the form of a version that was planned to be titled The Volcano Monsters, which would have excised all of the Japanese actors and kept only the giant monster fights from Godzilla Raids Again, surrounding them with a new script and American actors. The funding for this version fell through, however, and the American rights for the film were picked up by producers Paul Schreibman, Edmund Goldman and Newton P. Jacobs. They eventually decided to make somewhat less radical changes, although they still stuck to the idea of not promoting the movie as a Godzilla sequel, but rather renaming him Gigantis, and even at points changing his trademark roar.
Why go to such lengths to keep from recognizing it as a true sequel to the original? Actually that’s a good question, and if any of you out there who might be more well-versed in Godzilla lore than I am have the answer, I’d love to hear it.
Anyway, various other cuts and changes were made to the film, and finally, a movie entitled Gigantis, the Fire Monster was released to American theaters in 1959.
Yep, four years after it was released in Japanese theaters, Americans finally got to see this sequel that wasn’t a sequel even though it really was a sequel to the original.
And when it did finally hit America, here’s the trailer that accompanied it:
So there you go. The twisted tale of how the original Godzilla got its American sort of sequel. And though this was the last time that American distributors would try to disguise a Godzilla sequel as an actual separate monster film, it was definitely not the last time that they would make radical changes to the Japanese versions of these films before they were released over here.
Oh, and just in case you’re wondering, the next actual sequel to Godzilla, acknowledged as such both in Japan and America, would be 1962’s King Kong vs Godzilla, which was also the first film in which both of the titular monsters would appear in color.
So what do you think? Have you seen Gigantis, the Fire Monster? How about Godzilla Raids Again? And what other suggestions would you have for creating a double feature with the new Godzilla movie? Leave your thoughts in the comments, along with ideas of any other upcoming movies you’d like to see “double featured”. Consider it, if you will, your chance to challenge me to come up with an interesting pair.
Until next time, Happy Viewing!