SON OF KAIJU DAY MARATHON: Godzilla King of the Monsters! (1956)

“We weren’t interested in politics, believe me. We only wanted to make a movie we could sell. At that time, the American public wouldn’t have gone for a movie with an all-Japanese cast. That’s why we did what we did. We didn’t really change the story. We just gave it an American point of view.” – Richard Kay

Godzilla came to America as a result of several business deals. The first was between Edmund Goldman and Toho. For $25,000, Goldman bought the rights to create a movie “narrated, dubbed in English and completed in accordance with the revisions, additions, and deletions,” with final approval by Toho.

He would sell his interest in the movie to Harold Ross and Richard Kay of Jewell Enterprises — who had the idea to dub the movie and hire Raymond Burr — and then Joseph E. Levine, the man who would bring Hercules and Sophia Loren to America — came on board to make the movie a blockbuster.

Director Terry Morse was paid $10,000 for re-writing and directing any scenes that would be made for the remixed version of Godzilla, the same fee that Burr would get for a day’s work (and lending his box office clout to the film).

This was a movie made uner duress, mostly due to the budget. The new footage was filmed in just three days, with Burr working a 24-hour straight day — living up to his day of work, I guess — to shoot all of his scenes.

The rough edges — references to atomic bombs, nuclear tests and radioactive contamination — were cut. This was a movie about a giant monster now, not a nation using said big monster to deal with grief, fear and loss national identity.

Speaking of beating up actors, James Hong — Lo Pan! — and Sammee Tong (Bachelor Father) were locked in a room for five hours and recorded every single Japanese voice in this movie. They never saw the footage, only sitting with Morse at a table with a microphone.

For what it’s worth, original director Ishirō Honda found the changes pretty funny, saying  that he was “trying to imitate American monster movies” in the first place.

Burr plays Steve Martin, an American reporter injured in the wake of Godzilla’s attacks on Japan. For all the bad things you can say about editing this movie, his narration makes some scenes even stronger: “This is Tokyo. Once a city of six million people. What has happened here was caused by a force which up until a few days ago was entirely beyond the scope of Man’s imagination. Tokyo, a smoldering memorial to the unknown, an unknown which at this very moment still prevails and could at any time lash out with its terrible destruction anywhere else in the world. There were once many people here who could’ve told of what they saw… now there are only a few. My name is Steve Martin. I’m a foreign correspondent for United World News. I was headed for an assignment in Cairo, when I stopped off in Tokyo for a social call, but it turned out to be a visit to the living hell of another world.”

It’s pretty astounding that this movie basically samples the entire original movie and inserts Burr into so many scenes, using newly lensed scenes with Asian-American actors and editing tricks to make it seem as if he was always there.

Until 2004, this was the version of the movie that was seen worldwide. In Italy, however, Luigi Cozzi made a remix of the remix called Cozilla. Needing more footage to pad its running time, he added in real footage of chaotic death from newsreals to put the dark edge back into the film or give it an “up-to-date and more violent look” in his own words. Whatever the intention, the original art was cut up and made to be something more palatable to American audiences at one point and now was made to fit the need for Italian audiences to always see something shocking.

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