Varan the Unbelievable’s Unbelievable US Edit

Note how Anglicized the women are in this poster. Don’t recall seeing them in this film…

Having just watched the 1958 kaiju film Varan the Unbelievable, and then listening straight away to the gang at the KaijuCast  podcast discuss this film at length brought me face-to-face with my pet peeve about this genre: US editions that rewrite the film from whole cloth.

In this case, it was clear that the Japanese edition of this film was a completely different film than what I had just watched. I had no idea what Kyle and the rest of the KaijuCast were referring to most of the episode. Viewing the US version, I was even robbed of the Ifukube soundtrack–which I hear is quite good.

The consensus is that the Japanese version was a pretty solid little monster film, but not among director Ishiro Honda’s best, given that originally it was meant as a joint US-Japanese TV movie. The US company involved, ABC Television, pulled out suddenly, and Toho simply phoned it in. At some point the footage was recut into a version for use in the US market using–where did I read this?–only 15 minutes of the original stock shot in 1958. (Probably monster footage, I imagine).

The monster effects in this film are not too shabby for 1958.

The US version came out in 1962–actually it premiered in the US on the 21st anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. How awkward does it seem to have a kaiju film premiering on that particular date on the calendar? Especially one where the main American character is a condescending US Navy commander running weird environmental experiments in Japan that summon a monster. Well, maybe not so weird in hindsight.

If the Japanese version is subpar, than the US cut is barely even a coherent story, which I’m not sure I can summarize further. Japan. Monster. Mad. Tokyo. Destruction. You may have seen this formula a time or a million.

But don’t take my word for it, give it a whirl:

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