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 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: