GODZILLA KING OF THE MONSTERS, 1956
An American reporter follows up on the massive destruction of a beast discovered in Tokyo bay and the attempts of the Japanese government to stop it.
CLICK HERE and watch 2009 MOVIES FOR FREE!
As the accolades and praise of Gojira began circulating around the globe, of course it became obvious to import the film to America. It would be an instant-hit, what with the amazing special effects, serious tone, and dramatic horror that would thrill audiences at the national scale.
Of course, that whole "Japanese dialogue" thing might be a problem. While most people, especially nowadays, may scoff at the idea of "Americanizing" the import to appeal to the citizens in the USA, there's a realistic aspect here that needs to be considered. It's only been about ten years after the end of World War II, and while the anti-Japanese sentiment is dying down, it's by no means gone. In addition, with the Cold War developing at a rapid pace, there's a tremendous of tension in the air, concerning foreign relations, nuclear power, and, of course, subtle propaganda, to control the depictions of Americans government's intervention in foreign affairs. (And that blasted Hayes code, too.)
So, Jewell Enterprises, Inc., the studio that owned the American theatrical rights to Gojira, decided to reshoot a number of extra scenes with actor Raymond Burr, and to re-cut the original movie to seamlessly fuse the American actor into the Japanese version. With experienced editor Terry O. Morse at the helm of this project, careful consideration of matching the tone, lighting, shots, angles, and so on was utilized to ensure a fluid transition, making sure that everything seemed as if it was made at the same time.
It wasn't. In fact, Raymond Burr's scenes were all shot within a 24 hour period, which, depending on how you look at it, is either really impressive or really sloppy. Still, the shots inserted into the original are indeed very well done, and if you haven't seen the 1954 version, you might not even realize that the scenes were completely made in two different times and places. The edits are THAT good.
The voice-over work would clue you in, though. Not to sound too callous, but the strong, distinct American voices dubbed poorly and out of sync over the Japanese actors is clearly apparent, even in 1950s terms. The "back of the head" shots of look-alike actors around Burr work better than you expect them to, but with that much work put into it, you'd think that they could, at the very least, utilize voices with Japanese accents, which wouldn't make that element so awkward.
But as I mentioned earlier, re-cut and re-edited shots are smoothly interwoven into Gorjira, and Burr delivers a curious, passionate, heavy delivery in his scenes, especially with his eyes and expressions, which is amazing for an actor who is essentially glancing at nothing. Morse is clearly adapt at his skillset, creating a genuine piece that's suited for audiences at that time, in fact removing most of the specific references to the deterrence of nuclear proliferation (including Dr. Yamane's speech against such weapons at the end). While the origin of Godzilla is kept-- a creature born from dangerous nuclear testing-- the impact of which is played down, while simultaneously playing up the "monster destroying Japan" angle. No room for in-depth meta-commentary here.
So, which one is better? The original Gojira is clean and direct, scary and real, with a timeless message that still resonates today. Godzilla, King of the Monsters is less forthright, but still manages to be impressive with it's editing and quality-shot extra scenes, at a technical level. Gojira wins this battle, but at the very least, the American cut deserves a watch as, perhaps, an early example of the lengths a studio would go to reformat a film for a specific, cultural audience.