Varan the Unbelievable (1962)

Article #1294 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-29-2004
Posting Date: 2-26-2005
Directed by Jerry A. Baerwitz and Ishiro Honda
Featuring Myron Healey, Tsuruko Kobayashi, Clifford Kawada

In experimenting with a method of purifying salt water, the military unwittingly revives and angers a giant monster.

Poor Varan! When it was time for him to make his trip from Japan to the U.S., the powers that be decided that his flying scenes (the only thing that really separates him from Godzilla) don’t make the grade, so they’re lopped from the American release. To compensate for this, they shoot a lot of footage of Myron Healey and friends to fill out the running time. Now I don’t think adding footage to movies like this to make them more accessible to Americans is necessarily a good idea, but at least GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS did it respectfully, and KING KONG VS. GODZILLA at least made the footage in question a little fun, and both of them managed to still tell a coherent story. This one is a mess, however; not only does the new footage seem totally uninterested in fleshing out the monster footage, it gets caught up in its own dull subplot about Myron Healey trying to deal with his wife’s concern about his reputation. Furthermore, it’s edited with a cuisinart, and when it was released on home video, not only did they not bother to find a decent print, but they recorded it at EP speed. The resultant mishmash of a movie is a dull bore, with the odd scene here and there that makes you wonder what the original was like. Varan himself never really became a hit; except for a token appearance in DESTROY ALL MONSTERS (the costume was in such poor shape that they could only use it for a few seconds), he would never appear in another movie (unless he appears in GODZILLA: FINAL WARS). As it is, this is the worst example of the Americanization of a kaiju I’ve ever seen, though GODZILLA 1985 certainly gives it a run for its money.

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