A few weeks after the release of Godzilla, a welcome home party was thrown for executive producer Iwao Mori. During the party, he told producer Tomoyuki Tanaka to produce a sequel due to the box office results. With Ishirō Honda directing Love Makeup at the time, Motoyoshi Oda was brought in to direct the film. The goal was to keep the momentum of the first film.
With improved suits and hand puppets for some of the scenes, the actual monsters — yes, monsters, this was the first appearance of Anguirus — look better than ever. Sadly, while this was the fourth highest grossing film of the year in Japan, it made less than what the first film did. Tanaka would later admit that the crew had little time to prepare and didn’t consider the film successful.
The same team that turned Gojira into Godzilla King of the Monsters! decided that instead of dubbing the film, they would use the footage to make an entirely new film called The Volcano Monsters.
Ib Melchior — who would later rescue Reptilicus — and Edwin Watson watched the Japanese footage and turned around a 129-page script complete with editing instructions on when to use the Japanese footage and when to use new footage that would be shot. At this point, Toho cared so little about Godzilla — and Anguirus — that they shipped the suit to Hollywood for new scenes.
Stranger still, Godzilla and Anguirus were to become just basic dinosaurs, with Godzilla become a woman and losing his atomic breath.
The American version was released in May of 1959 as Gigantis the Fire Monster on a double-bill with Teenagers From Outer Space. The producers changed Godzilla’s name* because everyone saw the creature die at the end of the last movie. In fact, they knew so little about the source material that they switched the creatures’ roars and claimed that the movie was called Angirus in Japan.
If you notice that some of the voices are familiar in the American dub, that’s because all of the voices were Keye Luke, Paul Frees and George Takei.
Of all the Godzilla movies, this one had rights that were held by Pacific Theaters president Bill Foreman and his attorney Harry B. Swerdlow, who were embarrassed to own it. That’s why it never aired along with the other Godzilla films and until Toho got the rights back at some point in the 80’s.
The Japanese explanation of it all is much simpler than making a whole new movie. A scientist just says, “It’s a new Godzilla from the same species.” Let’s move on and knock some buildings down. The new creature known as Anguirus? His race and Godzilla’s have been at war since the beginning of time.
That’s pretty much all we need to know. Just sit back, enjoy and realize that Godzilla movies would only get weirder from here.
*That’s one story. The other is that Warner Brothers couldn’t get permission to use the name Godzilla from Joseph E. Levine and had to change the name. That’s obviously untrue because pretty much everyone who brought this to America worked on the first one. Oh yeah — Toho also released a Japanese langauge version of this to play in theaters with a population that spoke the langauge in the United States.