Varan the Unbelievable (US Version)

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Pkmatrix
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Varan the Unbelievable (US Version)

Postby Pkmatrix » Sun Sep 01, 2013 7:57 am

So, who's actually seen this movie?

For those who might not know: when Giant Monster Varan was re-released in the United States, it was given the most extensive Americanization of any Toho film. Crown International, the US distributor, chopped out basically everything except the monster footage and shot an entirely new monster movie involving the US military accidentally raising Varan after conducting a desalinization experiment on his lake. For decades, this was the only version of the movie available in America - this was what was shown on TV and what was released on VHS. When Media Blasters secured the rights to the movie, they chose to ignore the bastardized American version and instead released the original Japanese cut with English subtitles (plus a reconstruction of the originally-planned TV miniseries version).

The trade-off, though, is that the American cut is now practically lost (well, at least difficult to find).

While the American version may be more familiar to older fans, I think there are many of us now who have ONLY been exposed to the Japanese cut. Those who've seen it, can you share your thoughts on it and any plot details? I've been interested in seeing this for a long time and am growing concerned that I'll never be able to unless I buy a used VHS and a VCR.

EDIT: I should point out that I do see a DVD available from some company called "Synergy" on Amazon, but even though it has the US poster I can't tell if its the Japanese cut or American cut...

EDIT 2: Wow! To my surprise, according to recent reviews of the DVD it IS the American version! I had thought this version was practically lost, but apparently I was wrong! Buying it now.

Regardless: those who HAVE seen this version, what are your thoughts? How do you think it compares to the original version?

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Re: Varan the Unbelievable (US Version)

Postby H-Man » Sun Sep 01, 2013 8:21 am

I used to own the US version on VHS. It was pretty lousy. Varan's roar and the superior Ifukube score have been cut out. The main characters are now a couple of journalists named Paul and Shidori and have no bearing on the plot. There's a brief scene where Myron Healy and his Japanese wife are trapped in a cave by Varan. There's a short bit of conflict with Healy fighting the natives of Kunashirashima because they don't want him to anger their god Obake via the experiments. It's really boring.

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Re: Varan the Unbelievable (US Version)

Postby Pkmatrix » Sun Sep 01, 2013 8:27 am

Yep, that sounds very much like what I've heard before.

I think what drives my fascination is that, out of all of Toho's non-Godzilla daikaiju films, Giant Monster Varan is my least favorite by a HUGE margin. I love the monster and the FX sequences are cool, but otherwise the movie is so slow and boring in comparison to Godzilla, Rodan, or anything else Toho put out in that same period. I find it difficult to believe I could dislike the American cut even more. ;)

I'm also curious how warranted it's reputation is. I haven't seen the movie, but I have seen a shift in the fandom's tastes in the last few years so I'm curious whether or not the fandom's opinion would change if we revisited it now.

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Re: Varan the Unbelievable (US Version)

Postby H-Man » Sun Sep 01, 2013 8:39 am

I've seen a few apologetic reviews of the American cut, but it's really only for completists. There's a scene early on where you here a single flute playing the action theme from Ghidrah, but it's brief. I watched it before I saw the Japanese version and the original version looked like Rodan in comparison.

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Re: Varan the Unbelievable (US Version)

Postby ArchdukeCaligula » Mon Sep 02, 2013 7:04 am

H-Man wrote:I used to own the US version on VHS. It was pretty lousy. Varan's roar and the superior Ifukube score have been cut out. The main characters are now a couple of journalists named Paul and Shidori and have no bearing on the plot. There's a brief scene where Myron Healy and his Japanese wife are trapped in a cave by Varan. There's a short bit of conflict with Healy fighting the natives of Kunashirashima because they don't want him to anger their god Obake via the experiments. It's really boring.

I hate it when Ikufube's scores are cut, it usually sort of ruins the film. Also, what did Varan's roar sound like in this film
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Re: Varan the Unbelievable (US Version)

Postby o.supreme » Mon Sep 02, 2013 8:16 am

I've had it on VHS since 1992 (see TK VHS boxart for one of my submissions). It isn't great, but I'm glad I have it. Btw...the Synergy DVD is a bootleg. Just FYI for those that try to avoid such things. I just archived my VHS to an AVI file in case I ever have the desire to watch it.
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Re: Varan the Unbelievable (US Version)

Postby H-Man » Mon Sep 02, 2013 8:18 am

ArchdukeCaligula wrote:
H-Man wrote:I used to own the US version on VHS. It was pretty lousy. Varan's roar and the superior Ifukube score have been cut out. The main characters are now a couple of journalists named Paul and Shidori and have no bearing on the plot. There's a brief scene where Myron Healy and his Japanese wife are trapped in a cave by Varan. There's a short bit of conflict with Healy fighting the natives of Kunashirashima because they don't want him to anger their god Obake via the experiments. It's really boring.

I hate it when Ikufube's scores are cut, it usually sort of ruins the film. Also, what did Varan's roar sound like in this film


He's practically silent throughout the film's running time, although there are a few moments when I *thought* I heard a nondescript chirping sound.

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Re: Varan the Unbelievable (US Version)

Postby Julia Bristow » Tue Sep 03, 2013 5:20 am

For me the Americanized cut of Varan is simply an interesting example of Americanizing a Toho film to any degree (be it minor alterations or in the cases of King Kong vs Godzilla, Godzilla Raids Again & Half Human major alterations) while its not as good as the Japanese version this is a pretty interesting version in its own right.
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Re: Varan the Unbelievable (US Version)

Postby H-Man » Tue Sep 03, 2013 11:12 am

I'm dying so much for a Varan fix that I might buy the Portuguese dub over here...which I'll assume is from the Americanized version. <_<

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Re: Varan the Unbelievable (US Version)

Postby Pkmatrix » Wed Sep 11, 2013 4:47 am

I finally sat and watched this one yesterday morning!

It was...interesting? It is a completely different movie and shares basically no relation to the Japanese film beyond the monster footage and a few other bits used to fill in the blanks. Honestly, I don't think this movie deserves such a bad reputation. It really isn't any worse than any other low-grade late '50s monster movie.

The main plot revolves around a US Army captain and his Japanese wife, who are overseeing the final stages of a joint American-Japanese anti-saline experiment in a saltwater lake on some small remote island (Kunashirashima). The two aren't all that interesting, but get the job done.

The first act is interesting in that invokes the US military's treatment of native islanders prior to the nuclear tests in the South Pacific: pick a spot, uproot and kick out the natives (for "their own protection"), then proceed to render the area uninhabitable (in this case, the anti-saline test which clearly turns the lake - repeatedly described as essential to the day-to-day lives of the locals - completely toxic and kills everything in it). It presents it as a controversial issue and plays with it, but in the end doesn't really push it. A better written and better acted movie might've been able to do something really interesting with the idea, especially since all they end up doing is deciding not to move the villagers...but still go forward with the test and destroy the lake.

The action kicks in when they conduct the test, awakening "the Obake" (Varan), who then proceeds to trash the village, menace our heroes a little, battle some warships, and finally attack Onieda, the island's modern city. I'd talk about the plot, except there really isn't much from this point forward: the US filmmakers decided it would be easier just to have their three main actors running around in a jeep completely isolated from the main action fiddling with a radio for the climax.

If I have any issue with Varan the Unbelievable, it's that it doesn't go FAR ENOUGH. The wrote an entirely new movie with a whole new cast, had a fairly interesting first act, and cared enough to composite the American actors into a several shots with Varan (the cave scene)...but couldn't be bothered to have their hero remain the hero for the second half? They SHOULD have had the Captain travel to Onieda and be involved with (or even in COMMAND) of the military response to Varan. It probably wouldn't have been hard to reedit the scene with the truck to make it seem like he was the one who drove it!

Ultimately, this isn't a better movie than the original Varan, but I have a hard time thinking of it as all that much worse. Both were pretty boring, in the end. :p

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Re: Varan the Unbelievable (US Version)

Postby H-Man » Wed Sep 11, 2013 5:44 am

Never underestimate the effect of removing an Ifukube soundtrack and Godzilla-esque roar from a movie...that's ultimately what made the difference to me. I'm sure I'd like it more than the Japanese version if they had kept those two aspects, since this movie gives a reasonably good explanation for Varan's appearance, as opposed to the original version.

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Re: Varan the Unbelievable (US Version)

Postby Pkmatrix » Wed Sep 11, 2013 9:49 am

H-Man wrote:Never underestimate the effect of removing an Ifukube soundtrack and Godzilla-esque roar from a movie...that's ultimately what made the difference to me. I'm sure I'd like it more than the Japanese version if they had kept those two aspects, since this movie gives a reasonably good explanation for Varan's appearance, as opposed to the original version.


I know this is heresy, but...I didn't mind that they cut the original soundtrack and roar. I didn't miss it. :oops:

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Re: Varan the Unbelievable (US Version)

Postby H-Man » Wed Sep 11, 2013 9:51 am

Pkmatrix wrote:
H-Man wrote:Never underestimate the effect of removing an Ifukube soundtrack and Godzilla-esque roar from a movie...that's ultimately what made the difference to me. I'm sure I'd like it more than the Japanese version if they had kept those two aspects, since this movie gives a reasonably good explanation for Varan's appearance, as opposed to the original version.


I know this is heresy, but...I didn't mind that they cut the original soundtrack and roar. I didn't miss it. :oops:


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Re: Varan the Unbelievable (US Version)

Postby Pkmatrix » Thu Sep 12, 2013 8:34 am

H-Man wrote:
Pkmatrix wrote:
H-Man wrote:Never underestimate the effect of removing an Ifukube soundtrack and Godzilla-esque roar from a movie...that's ultimately what made the difference to me. I'm sure I'd like it more than the Japanese version if they had kept those two aspects, since this movie gives a reasonably good explanation for Varan's appearance, as opposed to the original version.


I know this is heresy, but...I didn't mind that they cut the original soundtrack and roar. I didn't miss it. :oops:


Pistols at dawn, sir!


:freak:

*Runs away!*

Seriously, though, as much as I enjoy Ifukube I never found Varan's score all that memorable. :oops:

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Re: Varan the Unbelievable (US Version)

Postby akanes_kiryu » Thu Sep 12, 2013 12:19 pm

I really wish I still had my DVD of Varan. I've never had the chance to watch all of the Japanese cut and the VHS rip I have of the US cut is abysmal in film quality *and* picture quality.
I've listened to snippets of Ifukube's Varan score and like it quite a lot.
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Re: Varan the Unbelievable (US Version)

Postby akanes_kiryu » Fri Sep 13, 2013 9:47 am

Varan Bon Ziller wrote:You're not missing much.

I'm a Toho completionist with mild to severe OCD. To me, I'm missing a lot. ;)
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Re: Varan the Unbelievable (US Version)

Postby Dust_pan » Fri Sep 13, 2013 9:58 am

The original Japanese film is at least slightly better than the American film, right? I didn't exactly hate the American film, but it was still pretty damn dull.
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Re: Varan the Unbelievable (US Version)

Postby akanes_kiryu » Fri Sep 13, 2013 10:20 am

^It'd be slightly better for me at least, just for seeing the original version.

Ugh. I actually found a $15 new copy on Barnes and Noble's website, but I'm too broke right now. *freakin' sigh*
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Re: Varan the Unbelievable (US Version)

Postby akanes_kiryu » Fri Sep 13, 2013 11:52 am

Varan Bon Ziller wrote:I'd send you my copy if I wasn't too lazy (to bother with the shipping process). Shows you how much I care about it...On second thought...The commentary is interesting...And the special features are always worth the watch...Nope never-mind.

Haha, and you here you are telling me I'm not missing much. I may have found a *different* copy for even cheaper, possibly, but being that it's under the title Daikaiju Baran, I'm expecting I'll have to add my own subtitles.
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Re: Varan the Unbelievable (US Version)

Postby akanes_kiryu » Fri Sep 13, 2013 12:12 pm

True... And I used to have all of the Media Blaster's Toho DVDs. Stupid youth and not being able to balance funds. :(
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