Minor changes, slight edits, hacked, butchered… left alone. Toho films in America have run the gamut, from being released untouched with English subtitles, to almost full rewrites. This article looks to focus on the Toho movies altered in America and relate the changes made to the films by Western distributors when brought over to the US.
Gigantis the Fire Monster
When creating the US version for the second Godzilla film, Godzilla Raids Again (1955), Warner Bros. chose not to use the Godzilla name. Believing an original film would sell better than a sequel, Warner Bros. re-branded the film as Gigantis, the Fire Monster. This meant passing off Godzilla as a new monster: “Gigantis”.
Along with the renaming of the starring monster, Warner Bros. made several changes to their Japanese acquisition. Several such instances are detailed below:
- At the inn in Hokkaido, the staff of the Kyo Canning Company is partying on the second floor, while Hidemi, Tsukioka and his “old friends” are enjoying themselves at their own party on the first floor. At the Kyo party, Koji Kobayashi (Minoru Chiaki, better known for his work in Akira Kurosawa films) is drinking with Mr. Yamaji and Mr. Shibeki. Hearing how Tsukioka and his friends are enjoying themselves, Kobayashi excuses himself, and joins Tsukioka at the downstairs party. An entire subplot, which had Kobayashi looking for his future wife through a matchmaker, was all but removed. All that remains of this subplot is the final conclusion where Hidemi discovers a picture of a young woman in Kobayashi’s wallet.
- Awaiting the arrival of the military, Kobayashi flies his observation plane over snow-covered Shinko Island, keeping a careful watch on Godzilla’s movements. Noticing that Godzilla is moving towards the ocean, Kobayashi curses “You bastard!” and files over Godzilla, diverting the monster’s attention from the shore.
- Watching the futile effects of their bomb attack on Godzilla, Tsukioka shouts in frustration to Chief Pilot Tajima (Yoshio Tsuchiya) “Aw, come on!” Tajima orders into his radio: “Throw some rocket bombs at him!” Tajima continues: “Our first wave of bombs have immobilized him for now. Return to base to restock so we can finish Godzilla!”
- Godzilla’s roar was altered to sound more like Anguirus.
- Masaru Sato‘s music score was mostly replaced with stock music from films like Kronos and Project Moonbase.
The film’s opening was completely altered. Toho’s famous logo, the opening sequence playing against a cloud bank and backed by Sato’s main theme were completely scrapped. Replacing this is a prologue consisting of newsreel footage of nuclear bomb tests and missile launches, combined with a few shots of poor American SPFX stock footage. Accompanying the prologue is an ominous narration warning about the dangers of nuclear tests to the Earth. “This then, is the story of the price of progress to a little nation of people,” concludes the narrator. This sequence was in obvious imitation of DCA’s prologue for Rodan (1956) that came out two years before.
- The film’s “new” title and opening credits are played against destruction footage (sans monsters) taken from the movie itself.
- After the credit sequence, newsreel footage was inserted, showing Japanese farmers at work. Finally, the actual movie begins, with a shot of the shadow of an observation plane on the sea.
Dimetrodon from Unknown Island
For the conference scene, an entirely new sequence was added where Professor Yamane (Takashi Shimura, reprising his role from Godzilla) talks about the history of the world. This includes the cooling and warming of the planet, and the birth of fire monsters and other dinosaur creatures from ancient history. The sequence is aided by stock footage from educational films and earlier U.S. films such as Unknown Island and One Million BC, which were used for the dinosaurs featured before the scenes from the first Godzilla movie.
- Newsreel footage was used liberally throughout the film. Clips of crowd scenes, scenes of Japanese commerce, military maneuvers, submarine footage and shots of mass prayer were all inserted in to the original film.
American war propaganda footage was also thrown into the film. One shot, purporting to show Japan’s military mobilization against “Gigantis,” is an animated graph of the Imperial Japanese government’s plans for conquest; the Imperial “sun ray” flag is clearly visible.
- Shots of Japanese newspapers reporting the onslaught of Godzilla were snipped and replaced with newspapers in English covering the movements of “Gigantis.”
- In a possible attempt to hold the interest of American audiences, the later part of the film features newspapers with headlines reporting that “Gigantis May Strike U.S.” and “America Offers Help”.
New ending title card
The finale of the film was also changed. In the Japanese version, pilot Shoichi Tsukioka (Hiroshi Koizumi) tearfully thanks the fallen Koji Kobayashi (Minoru Chiaki), then the scene cuts to a matte painting of icy Shinko Island were the Japanese military have entombed Godzilla then fades to black with the Japanese character for “Owari” (“The End”). In the American version, the matte painting is removed, and the finale is drawn out by use of an overhead shot of the island, actually a shot of Iwato Island from earlier in the movie, then newsreel war footage of mass prayer, then a shot of Tsukioka and Hidemi Yamaji (Setsuko Wakayama) standing on a rooftop (again, taken from a scene earlier in the movie). This concludes with a seaside sunset and the closing credits in English, all set to sentimental music.
- The conference scene was trimmed slightly. A few lines from Professor Tadokoro (Masao Shimizo) were clipped, and a shot of Professor Yamane nodding in agreement was repeated within seconds. Some of Professor Yamane’s lines, concerning the hopelessness of fighting Godzilla, were removed. To bridge the gap, a freeze-framed shot of the police chief (Takeo Oikawa) was used against a voice-over of Professor Yamane explaining his theories.
- Scenes at the Defense HQ of the military tracking Godzilla and Anguirus were trimmed.
- The countryside scene of the evacuation of Osaka was also condensed.
- After Godzilla and Anguirus have demolished Osaka, Kyo Canning Company president Koehi Yamaji (Yukio Kasama) and his VP Mr. Shibeki (Sonosuke Sawamura) visit the charred remains of their factory. As Hidemi and her girl friend, the radio operator (Mayuri Mokushi), shift through the rubble for the company’s records, they are joined by Tsukioka and Kobayashi. Some incidental banter about between Kobayashi, Tsukioka and Hidemi about the latter two’s upcoming wedding was snipped from this scene.
- The final attack on Godzilla was trimmed slightly. This includes a deleted shot of Godzilla swatting a jet out of the sky.
Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster
Titled Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966) for international export by Toho, the 1966 Godzilla film went to US television sometime in 1968, the title being changed to the much more marketable Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster. For years, it was erroneously reported in American fan circles that this film was released by American-International TV. However, it has been firmly established that the releasing company was in fact Walter Reade-Sterling, who had released Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster in 1965. Nevertheless, Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster has the dubious distinction of being the first Godzilla film that did not receive a stateside theatrical release, but instead went straight to television.
The movie is left nearly intact in terms of edits. The dubbing is quite good. Hal Linden, later to become famous as TV’s Barney Miller in the 1970’s, dubbed Akira Takarada‘s role, adding much to the character of the safe-cracker who’s really not such a bad guy once we get to know him. Peter Fernandez, famous for dubbing Speed Racer in the animated series of the same name, voiced Ruta.
- The start of the movie with Ryoto’s mother is shortened and starts with the narration “two months later”.
- Red Bamboo Captain Ryuui’s name was changed to Yamoto.
- A go-go style music number from High and Low (1963) used for the Fighter Jet scene is removed; there is no music during this scene in the US version.
|New ending title card|
- The title “Godzilla versus the Sea Monster” is flashed onto the screen (Oddly, the word “versus” is spelt out, something that had not been done before or since in a Godzilla film.) Only a few cords of Sato’s opening theme survived.
- Right after the new title card, a scene is played of the Yalen during a storm with Ebirah attacking the ship. This scene appears 14 minutes into the Japanese version and is looped here. The sequence is meant to be a stand in, showing what happened to Yata’s boat that kicks off his disappearance. However, a major goof in the Americanization is that the name Yalen can be clearly seen on the side of the ship and the Yalen is seen peacefully docked some three minutes later in the American version as it’s not the boat involved in the earlier accident that ended up stranding Yata on Infant Island.
- At the end of the movie, a new “The End” title card was created on a black screen.
Toho logo and opening credits, which include some very nice photography of the sun setting in the Pacific, helping to set the mood for the film.
- A scene where Ryoto goes to the Maritime Safety office desperately trying to enlist help to find his brother Yata, presumed dead in a shipwreck in the South seas. The officers decline to help.
- Follow up scene that has Ryoto at a newspaper office, with a reporter wanting to get rid of Ryoto after having second thoughts about his story. However, a different reporter thinks the story might be interesting and goes to meet the young man, only to find him gone… having ripped down and taken a poster in the lobby for a Go-go dance contest that has a boat as its grand prize.
Known as Godzilla 1985 in America, The Return of Godzilla (1984) graced US screens by New World Cinema via a complete rewrite of the original film. With new scenes staring Raymond Burr, reprising his role as Steve Martin from the 1956 US version of Godzilla (1954), this version of the film is regarded by many fans to be one of the more altered Godzilla movies.
- Goro’s fight with the giant sea louse, Shockirus, is trimmed down. The US cut shows even less of the monster.
- Shockirus has a different cry in the US version.
- Hiroshi Okumura’s first name is changed to Kenny.
- The scene where Naoko learns her brother is alive is longer in the Japanese version, with the US version cutting away after they meet. In the Japanese version, right after the reunion, Goro snaps pictures of them, which angers Naoko because she realizes he only helped her in order to get the scoop.
- Godzilla’s attack on the nuclear power plant has added a cry from the geese and rearranged the music.
- When Godzilla first appears at the nuclear power plant, he is spotted by a guard played by actor Koji Ishizaka. In the American version, dialogue is added with the guard saying “No, no…” before screaming and being cut off to imply that Godzilla trampled him.
- The meeting with the ambassadors originally takes places after Godzilla’s attack on the nuclear power plant. In the American version, this scene takes place before and the attack and the intent of the meeting is never explained in the new context.
- The meeting between the Japanese prime minister and the Russian and American ambassadors is more brief. In particular, much of the American ambassador’s footage is removed, such as him agreeing with the Russian ambassador.
- The scene in which the vagabond helps himself to the food in a deserted restaurant, due to Godzilla’s arrival in Tokyo, was edited. In this scene, the distant sound of Godzilla’s footsteps was added to the US version.
- The most controversial change is the scene where the Russian freighter officer Colonel Kashirin attempts to stop the launch of a nuclear weapon. New World edited the scene, and added a brief shot of Kashirin pressing the launch button, so that now Kashirin deliberately launches the nuclear weapon. In the original version, Kashirin was actually risking his life to try and stop the nuclear weapon from launching, before being electrocuted to death by a surge.
- In the Japanese version, Dr. Hayashida’s test of his device goes smoothly, successfully halting Godzilla until the Hyper Laser Cannons begin firing at the monster which inadvertently puts their lives in danger. In the US cut, the device causes Godzilla to go berserk and rush toward the building, with the Hyper Laser Cannons saving their lives instead.
- Scenes of a crowd fleeing Godzilla that appeared later in the Japanese print, after Godzilla’s resurrection, were moved to an earlier point in the movie before the Super-X was launched.
- The Super-X fight was re-arranged: in the Japanese version, Godzilla fires his atomic ray at the Super-X after being hit with cadmium missiles, not before.
- Both of the Japanese songs, “Good-bye Sweetheart Godzilla” by Yasuko Sawaguchi and “Godzilla Theme of Love” by the Star Sisters, are removed.
Steve Martin’s Dragon Idol
Part of Christopher Young’s score from Def-Con 4 is added in several scenes (including Godzilla’s attack on the Soviet submarine, the scene where the SDF armored division arrives in Tokyo Bay, and Okumura’s near-death experience during the helicopter extraction in Tokyo). Click here for a full rundown.
- After Godzilla first roars and the Yahata Maru crew falls down, a scene is inserted with Steve Martin uncovering his eyes in a dark room while at his desk. The scene then pans over to a small dragon idol/sculpture in the room. The sculpture, and its significance, is never brought up again.
The military coming for Steve Martin’s assistance
Following Godzilla’s attack on the nuclear power plant, a scene is added where a military officer goes to Steve Martin’s house to ask him to go to the pentagon to assist them. During the visit, the officer meets Steve’s grandson who is busy playing with some toys before he calls out to his grandfather.
- A sequence is added where General Goodhoe asks Steve Martin about how they were able to kill Godzilla in 1956.
- A lot of commentary is added, cutting back to the US base, to give the US actors a feeling of involvement during Godzilla’s raid in Tokyo.
- After the Russian missile is launched, the Japanese government calls the US military for assistance with shooting it down. In the Japanese cut, the call is implied and their request fulfilled. In the US cut, the call is shown utilizing the US actors that were brought in, making this one of the few sequences that links up directly with the original events in the film.
The final scene with Steve Martin’s narration
After Godzilla falls into Mount Mihara, a closing narration that is spoken by Steve Martin is heard:
”Nature has a way sometimes of reminding man of just how small he is. She occasionally throws up the terrible offspring of our pride and carelessness to remind us of how puny we really are in the face of a tornado, an earthquake or a Godzilla. The reckless ambitions of man are often dwarfed by their dangerous consequences. For now, Godzilla, that strangely innocent and tragic monster, has gone to earth. Whether he returns or not or is never again seen by human eyes, the things he has taught us remain”.
- All shots which employed a life-size replica of Godzilla’s foot (mostly seen near the end).
- A shot of an American nuclear missile satellite in space (probably done in order to make America appear less aggressive).
- Hayashada and Naoko making a wave generator.
- Professor Hayashida showing Okumura photographs of Godzilla’s 1954 attack and later discussing the mutant sea louse with an aide at the police hospital.
- Goro calling his editor from an island.
- After the meeting with the ambassadors, a scene is removed in which the prime minister explains to his aides how he was able to reach a consensus with both sides.
- A brief shot of the prime minister walking away from the conference table once the talks are concluded.
- Several brief cues that play when the prime minister comes on screen.
- A shot showing Godzilla reflected in the windows of the Yurakucho Mullion Building during the scene in which he attacks the Bullet Train.
- After the nuclear missile is launched, a brief scene is shown with a Soviet official calling Japan to deliver the bad news. This scene was removed from the American cut.
- Footage of police keeping back a crowd of people trying to gather around Godzilla after he is knocked out by the Super-X.
Originally published on August 27th, 2012.