Great Monster Varan
International Title
Music By: Akira Ifukube
Record Label: Toshiba EMI
Running Time: 73:32 Discs: 1
Release: November 1996 CD Number: TYCY-5500
Anthony Romero
Released under Toshiba's "Futureland" label, maestro Akira Ifukube's score for the 1958 movie Varan is generally regarded as one of his finer achievements. There are likely reasons why this soundtrack stands out from others by the composer, chief among them being its unusual creation. Regardless of its origins, though, the music on this disc makes for a fine stand alone experience that fans of the composer shouldn't miss.

Now, as many know, Varan started production as a made for TV movie for the US market with AB-PT. It was produced, filmed and scored with this venue in mind. However, the US backing eventually fell through and Toho reworked the movie for a theatrical release in Japan. This included reshoots and also gave Ifukube the rare opportunity to rescore the production. The ending result was something a little more refined than what was the norm from the composer for the Showa era. As can be seen by the cue numbers, many of these themes were redone for the film (designated by "M") although a few holdovers from the TV score were utilized. What's somewhat amazing about this score is that the number of takes for some of these tracks, such as five done for the main title. Why so much care was placed into the score is perhaps a bit of a mystery, even taking into account the shift from a TV movie, but the soundtrack certainly benefited.

The disc contains many standout themes, probably none more so than the slightly tribal "Main Title", a cue which would later be adapted as Rodan's theme for Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964). The "Ending", especially with the vocal work at the end, is also a great piece from the composer. Ifukube also manages to fit in some nice rousing music as well, such as the "Depth Charge Assault Begins".

Sadly, one of the weaknesses of this soundtrack is that the composer adapted many of these themes for later productions, arguably with better results. Beyond the previously mentioned "Main Title", one can also see themes such as "Mystery of the 20th Century", adapted for Dogora (1964) and Space Amoeba (1970), and the stellar "Varan vs. the Patrol Boat Uranami - B", adapted for Frankenstein vs. Baragon (1965), utilized elsewhere and benefiting from larger orchestras too. Still, repetition is no stranger to Ifukube's work, and one must still tip their hat to the original efforts, which Varan is accredited with.

Music aside, it's worth noting how great this particular release is. Beyond the main score for the movie, Toshiba also included a selection of themes from the TV cut. Many of these are close to the theatrical score, but a few are quite different and make for interesting listens. Following these are even more outtakes, and then finally some sound effects. All in all, this rounds out the CD to a very full run time of over 70 minutes.

Overall, this is a strong soundtrack that holds up surprisingly well for being scored back in the 1950's. Anyone who considers themselves a Ifukube fan should probably look into checking out the CD at some point.

As an interesting side note, this particular CD was actually released as a sampler, likely along with the other CDs in the line distributed in November of 1996, to help Toshiba promote their "Toho Monster Film Anthology" series. Very rare today, these sample CDs can be noted by the "Sample Not For Sale" text that is printed on the disc itself and a sticker placed on the back cover, as seen in both images which were provided by the copy in Robert Storch's collection. Otherwise, these promo CDs are the same as their retail counterparts.
Rating: Star Rating
  1. Main Title (M1-T5)
  2. Mystery of the 20th Century (M2-T3)
  3. Iwatani Village (M3)
  4. The Anger of Varadagi (M4-T2)
  5. Varadagi, God of the Mountains (M5)
  6. Varan's Tyranny I (M6)
  7. Lake Bombardment (M7)
  8. Varan's Tyranny II (TV7)
  9. Varan Flies (TV8)
  10. Fishing Boat Accident (M11-T3)
  11. Varan vs. the Bomber Neptune (M12)
  12. Varan vs. the Patrol Boat Uranami - A (M13)
  13. Varan vs. the Patrol Boat Uranami - B (M14)
  14. Depth Charge Assault Begins (M15)
  15. Special Vehicle Corps Mobilizes (M16)
  16. Varan Lands at Haneda (TV13)
  17. Special Gunpowder (M18-T2)
  18. Varan Lives (TV15-T2)
  19. Ending (M20-T2)

    TV Version
  20. Main Title (TV1)
  21. Rockets and Monsters (TV2-T6)
  22. The Self Defense Forces goes to Iwatani Village (TV3-T4)
  23. The Lake of Varan (TV4)
  24. Varan's Tyranny (TV5-T2)
  25. The Self Defense Forces Retreats (TV6-T2)
  26. Tokyo Evacuation (TV11-T2)
  27. Counter Attack Ordered Against Varan (TV12)
  28. Special Gunpowder Transported (TV14-T3)
  29. Ending (TV16)

    Alternate Takes
  30. Main Title (M1-T1)
  31. Main Title (M1-T3)
  32. Main Title (M1-T4)
  33. Mystery of the 20th Century (M2-T2)
  34. The Anger of Varadagi (M4-T1)
  35. Fishing Boat Accident (M11-T2)
  36. Special Gunpowder (M18-T1)
  37. Ending (M20-T1)
  38. Rockets and Monsters (TV2-T5)
  39. The Self Defense Forces goes to Iwatani Village (TV3-T2)
  40. Tokyo Evacuation (TV11-T21)
  41. Special Gunpowder Transported (TV14-T2)

    Sound Effects
  42. Varan's Roar
  43. Appearance in the Water
  44. Varan's Footsteps