Ask Monster Cool Daddy
Dear Cool Daddy: I recall seeing a Japanese monster movie late one Friday or Saturday night called “Gigantis the Fire Monster.” If I’m remembering right, it looked a lot like Godzilla. Was it him or just a cheap knockoff? …from Son of Mothra, Infant Island
Dear Son of: In an odd kind of way, it was both! Here’s the monstrous skinny…
Gojira came out in Japan in 1954…a dark, brooding horror flick, unlike anything seen before, anywhere…and needless to say, a smashing success. 2 years later, it was released in the US as Godzilla, King of the Monsters. It had been extensively edited, chopped and channelled, with new narration scenes featuring Raymond Burr, as American reporter Steve Martin (!!) But despite the seeming hack-job, the American version turned out to be a pretty good monster movie in its own right…in fact, dubbed back into Japanese, it was released in Japan in 1957. Both are now together on a DVD set if you’re interested.
But back to 1954, and Toho Studio rushes out a sequel…translated from the Japanese title Gojira no Gyakushū, it has traditionally been referred to as Godzilla’s Counterattack, which I guess is super-literal…since the apparent sense of it is Godzilla’s Revenge, or The Return of Godzilla. But the original creature had died in the first movie, so this new one was said to be “a Godzilla,” and they introduced a rival monster, sparing partner Anguirus (as it’s commonly spelled today.) This film was not directed, as had been the first one, by series regular Ishiro Honda, who was unavailable, and thus lacks much of the punch of the original. But then, with the exception of Godfather Part 2, don’t they all. Still, in glorious black and white, it was a far cry from the garish kiddie-fare Big G would descend to in the 60s and 70s…which is to say, it was still a serious adult horror picture.
Plans to re-edit it for American audiences as The Volcano Monsters fell thru when the stateside studio when belly up. Just as well…they had planned to eliminate everything except the monster scenes, re-film an entirely new wrap-around story, and stage it to look like Godzilla and Anguiras were “merely” dinosaur-sized, as opposed to their true, albeit impossibly tall, stature. Toho was so anxious for a US release that they actually created new costumes for G and A (above) and shipped them to Hollywood, where they were subsequently “lost,” one of the great all-time mysteries of Godzilladom. But several years later, another group secured the American rights, and this time, with less editing, but odd insertions from other old horror and monster flicks, it came out as Gigantis the Fire Monster in 1959.
So you see, it really was Godzilla. We used to hear that “they didn’t think they had the rights to the Godzilla name”…these days, the story is that the producers really did want to make it appear to be a different monster…they even replaced Godzilla’s signature roar! So yeah, it was in that sense a knockoff as well. It’s available today on DVD titled Godzilla Raids Again…kind of a lame title IMHO, but one chosen by Toho for international re-release, so there ya go…
Dear Cool Daddy: Didn’t one of the Godzilla movies have a villain called Dr. Who? That wasn’t the British time traveller, was it? …from Zardoz Jr. in Zanesville
Dear Zardoz Jr.: No, it wasn’t…in fact, it might not have even been “Dr. Who” at all, as I will attempt to explain. The picture you’re talking about was Toho’s Japanese monsterfest King Kong Escapes from 1967. The British Doctor debuted in 1963, and that sci-fi serial is still going strong, currently with it’s 11th title character…he periodically “regenerates,” you see.
Now King Kong Escapes is sometimes thought to be a sequel to 1962’s King Kong vs. Godzilla, which essentially re-launched the Big G franchise, but this is not true. It was instead based on a cartoon show, a joint American-Japanese effort called King Kong, sometimes today referred to as The King Kong Show. It was shown on TV in both countries beginning in 1966…perhaps you recall the theme song: “…ten times as big as a man!”…and should not be confused with Hanna-Barbara’s King Kong Jr. & The Impossibles. Because this one was 10 times as shoddy…without even the anime charm of an Astro Boy, Kimba, or Speed Racer…done by the Rankin-Bass outfit, best known perhaps for those stupid Jackson Five and Osmond Brothers cartoon shows of the early 70s. Nice music tho, right?
Anyway, the villain on the cartoon show was indeed called “Dr. Who”…which was fine, since the real Doctor didn’t arrive on American TV until 1972. And he, along with the robot Mecha-Kong, were carried over into King Kong Escapes, altho as you can see below, they looked nothing alike. But for what it’s worth, the movie credits apparently list him as “Dr. Hu”…and you’ll even seen him sometimes called “Dr. Fu,” since in Japanese, the F and H sounds are blended into something halfway in-between. They tell me if you exhale, as if you’re blowing out a candle, and add “-oo” that approximates it. Now wipe off your screen.
Mecha-shameless plugs versus Gigantorus, the 3-Headed Octopus…
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