12.18.2014

Unseen Tohoverse: 1954-1959 FEATURING BRIDE OF GODZILLA SYNOPSIS!!!

DISCLAIMER: This introduction was written before my post about Harbinger Down. I, clearly, no longer have much of an intention on writing anything about the screenplay I'm working on because, well, I'd rather just write the actual screenplay. Things that are capable of keeping my mind occupied aren't that good at it anymore, and my attention to things wanes and waxes with unbelievable fickleness now, so I started this post a while ago, with the intention of finishing it later when I "got around to it." So by the time this goes up, just keep in mind this will have been an archived draft for a while.

One thing I wanted to try to do was write a screenplay for Godzilla X Biollante. The outline is mostly done, really, there are just a few fuzzy points. There's literally no one better qualified for the task than me, I figured, and put simply, no one else is ever going to do this. At least not until modern civilization crumbles, and if anything's left of humanity then they'll inherit Godzilla free of any special corporate or big brother interests, and are free to tell whatever stories they want without some sort of dream-squashing regulatory comity filtering out which ideas matter and which ones should be suppressed. But, you know, that's the world you people have chosen to live in. You wanted it, you LIKE having your thoughts policed, so here you go, now you can have it. You're welcome.

Anwyas, I realized after reading the second issue of Godzilla: Cataclysm that it might not even be strictly necessary. Cataclysm, a post-apocalyptic tale, is basically a gigantic metaphor for what is happening in the real world. Godzilla, and everything else, is gone. Hollywood destroyed the world they lived in, and now most of the world just sort of shambles around in a drug-filled stupor (it's called Opal, and that's a NIN reference) and the very idea of Godzilla has in itself become a legend. The real Godzilla hasn't been seen for 10 years (20 in the comic), and in it's place there are superstitions, people flocking to blind faiths revolving around what their interpretations of memories are. In the second issue, amidst the inhabitants of a small human settlement in the ruins of Tokyo squabbling about whether to reinstate "the lottery," Godzilla, Biollante, and Mothra all duke it out in the post-apocalyptic landscape. Biollante is seemingly killed, (at least that one budding stalk is) and one of the humans notes that, while Biollante was some sort of monstrosity, it was possibly the only chance they had at making the world green again, and it looked like Godzilla was actively searching for her to stop exactly that from happening. Good thing, then, that the same person saves a single rose, which, the implication is obvious, is going to be the Biollante that brings the world back.

So yeah, I... I don't feel like I need to write it. Not only is the story itself basically doing the job, but the comic itself, like, in the context of the real world, is a lifeline to the real Godzilla, and if that single rose can survive, maybe he can to. But, I still have things I need to share, if it's not something I wrote myself, there is at least still information I can catalog, some stuff that has never been seen before in English. Stuff that absolutely boggles me that it does not exist ANYWHERE else on the internet in English... other than skynet's translator.

What untold stories, unchronicled information could I possibly have about the biggest monster in history that apparently exists nowhere else in the English language? It pertains to the cutting room floor, story ideas and script drafts and treatments and contest entries that never made it and such. What new information I have isn't particularly numerous, though, so instead what I'm going to do is put down here everything that I know about the subject, near as I can remember it, so that, no matter where you're coming into this article from, you'll be well aware of at least something new here, and you'll get the whole story all at once instead of having to pick bits and pieces off various sources of varying reputability. Hopefully there are still people out there for whom this information is still important.



So let's go by decades:
 1950's
Godzilla as a franchise, Take 1

1954   Project G or The Giant Monster from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
       The origin of Godzilla has become, in itself, somewhat of a legend. And because of Godzilla's nature, and his origin as a personification (some say this idea originated with Tanaka and it was why he approached Honda, but that has always struck me as unashamed credit hogging), the starting point was never "an amphibious theropod." It was the bomb. Whatever kind of animal they ended up using as a base was just the fluff, and so accordingly the very early history of Godzilla includes drafts of the monster that veer off in totally different directions. As far as I know, only two of these have been recorded: Oodako ver. 1 and the Mushroom Cloud Ape.


I say "Oodako" instead of just "giant octopus" for what I hope are obvious reasons to anyone reading this, but then again this is the wasteland. Eiji Tsuburaya loved King Kong to death, essentially literally, in that it changed his life so much that he was still acting out his need to "make King Kong," as it were (don't worry if you don't understand what I mean by that) up until the day he died. Some say he died on the set of Latitude Zero while inspecting the big Alpha. Who says that? I did, just now, because I want to start that legend, so spread it around, it isn't important if it's true or not.

Of course this would mean that, since at the time King Kong still had the crown, that the obvious choice was a giant ape, and this is where we find our old friend the mushroom cloud-headed monster. The design is quite startling, honestly, and it spooked the hell out of me I first saw it. It isn't hard to imagine that THIS personification, as opposed to the Godzilla we ended up with and his radiation-burned skin and his atomic ray, would have been equally effective. In some other timeline that's the movie that got made, and it was every bit as dismal and intense as what we had, but just in a different way. Personally I'll always prefer the one we got, since dinosaurs rule, but there you go.

These storyboards were made before the final design was nailed down, but after a general direction of an Iguanadon-Tyrannosaurus-Stegosaurus hybrid was established, and were done by an enormous number of different artists.
But Tsuburaya didn't fixate on the clade as much as he did the effects themselves, that is to say stop motion. The animal he wanted was actually an octopus, and while such a time consuming effort as an eight-limbed stop motion monster (something not even Ray Harryhausen attempted, his cephalopod monster only had six legs) obviously never got off the ground, the monster itself, a giant octopus, actually did enter into the Toho mythos in time.

Teizo Toshimitsu's three original marquettes, each with a different skin texture and a slowly changing head. From left to right: "Scaly" Godzilla, "Warty" Godzilla, and the final "Alligator" Godzilla featuring the trademark radiation burn texture which has sense become such a monumentally important aspect of the character.
Two things I've always wondered: did Tsuburaya just like octopi and think they were cool, or was his being in the octopus camp a matter of wanting a creature that would look dynamic and interesting with stop-motion, possibly something that would even outshine O'Brien's own monsters? The other thing is, that "Oodako" isn't a name, it just means "giant octopus," the English-speaking world calls it Oodako because it's so weird for a Toho monster to not have a name, it's so out of place and there's a strange vacuum there which the word Oodako fills. But I wonder, the fact that it's the first Toho kaiju never given a proper name (there were others afterwards, but that's usually for the reason that they're just bit players), combined with it's inaugural appearance in, you know, King Kong vs. Godzilla, the convergence of the two forces that created Oodako in the first place... is he supposed to BE "Gojira?" Like, it has already been inferred that Oodakos are not considered to be "kaiju" in the Tohoverse, but simply real life krakens, could the backstory here be that the monsters responsible for the "Gojira" legend on Odo Island weren't Godzillasaurus at all but rather these big assed octopi? It's an interesting way to look at the "original" Godzilla, at least.

The original treatment, which was actually serialized as a short story, by Shigeru Kayama, doesn't really pick a side, per se, although I'm pretty sure it was written at the time the decision to make Godzilla a dinosaur was set in stone it's clear they didn't actually have a design yet. The story has never been translated, so what I know about the description of Godzilla in the story is that for the most part it isn't really there. Very nebulous, but with an exception in the mention of the monster having big floppy ears that flap when it gets angry. A depiction of a "legendary" Godzilla that more or less matches this description does actually appear in the 1996 short Dark Horse comic "Origins of a Species." Of course, this one isn't technically unseen anwyas, since... you know, it was published, but I'm mentioning it here because it wasn't filmed as per the original intention, which is a situation we'll see again later.
As for the development of the story itself, there was a pretty straightforward path from Kayama's story to a shooting script to the final film. The treatment of the monster by Kayama was a great deal different, having as its primary motivation simple hunger, and it generally behaves as not much more than a giant amphibious predator, although this did survive into the shooting script as Godzilla was originally going to have a half-eaten cow dangling from his mouth, which got as far as test shots before it was cut from the film in favor of the mountain shot we have today. There was also a scene where Godzilla destroys a lighthouse in Tokyo Bay as an homage to the Rhedosaurus. Dr. Yamane was also quite a bit different, as a sort of gothic mad scientist character who wears a black cape and lives in a spooky old mansion. He was originally going to actively sabotage the electric perimeter by sneaking into the power station at night. Speaking of the giant electric fence, while the pacing of the final film blasts through this plot point with a montage, the original concept was that it would serve to build tension as the construction takes a far longer amount of time, during which there is no sign of Godzilla at all. This would create a question of whether the fence was even necessary at all.

One last thing to mention is about the name. As to where "Gojira" came from, that has been, thankfully, obscured by legend. Was it the nickname for a stagehand? Was it the result of an in-house contest? Don't know, don't care, it's just more appropriate to have the origin of the name be mysterious. Maybe some angels visited Ishiro Hondo in his dreams or something. One of the pre-Gojira ideas for the name, which has sort of been swept under the rug, was actually "Angirasu." Anguirus has over the course of the series been connected to Godzilla in a pretty intimate way, and we can see that right from the beginning, and then again throughout the 50's.


1955   Bride of Godzilla
   So Godzilla changed the world, and the quickie sequel did alright. I've always been under the impression that Godzilla Raids Again fell short in some way, but I don't... I don't really see it? GRA is by far a much inferior production than the first film, but that's like saying Rampage: Total Destruction is nowhere near as great as Super Mario 64. Like.. duh, GRA was always a quickie sequel from the start, it wasn't trying to change the world, it was just another movie. Of course it pales in comparison, but it's not a bad movie, it's just different, especially in light of the following films of the "golden era." And even then, compared to the entire series, the "figuring out what a Godzilla sequel IS" weirdness itself pales in comparison to the legitimately weird sequels like Hedorah.

But the impression I've always got was that GRA failed, and the reason why it took so long for Godzilla 3 to happen was because they decided that a series wasn't going to work, so they went with Rodan and just did new monsters each time. But... I mean it DID work, didn't it? I've never actually heard anyone in the know say straight up that "GRA was a spectacular failure," and I've heard a lot of people in the know talk about it quite a bit. From what I can find online, which I can't guarantee is reliable, the original film was made for the equivalent of $900,000 (in today's dollars, I assume) and sold 9 MILLION tickets, while the sequel sold a paltry 8 million and was made for the insane budget of $800,000, which it... sounds like it very easily made back and was exactly as proportionally financially successful as the original?

...wait, why the fuck wasn't there a Godzilla 3 in the 50's? No really, what the actual fuck happened? It seems like, I guess, there were artistic reasons for it. I guess the fathers of Godzilla saw the quickie sequel, decided they wanted to do something with more integrity, and opted for not going the over-saturation route and instead only did the stories they thought would work. Right off the bat in Tohoverse history, you get a string of these incredible, amazing films that are utterly unlike anything that came before them. They used ideas from western sci-fi, sure, but from the very beginning it was clear, even before Sekizawa, that a Toho monster movie was something very special and very pure. No schlock here, folks. And if that's the real motivation for the lack of a Godzilla 3, then it's safe to say the "golden era" was the only thing good enough to bring back Godzilla, another quickie just wouldn't do.

So what, then, was their other option? It will probably surprise a lot of you that there was, in fact, a draft for Godzilla 3, and it was written by the same guy who did The H-Man, Hideo Unagami. Just from the title alone, Gojira no Hanayome or Bride of Godzilla, you can tell that we're following the example of previous monster movies here rather than blazing a new trail for the new king, specifically the Universal series. There isn't too much I can say about the plot, though, since not much is known... by me, because I'm apparently the only person in the English speaking world who knows this exists, which is incredibly strange when you consider the information is publicly available on fucking wikipedia. The idea is that Godzilla and Anguirus reappear, and to combat them some mad scientist builds a giant, feminine looking robot daughter or "Robomusume," which is, by the way, not a name, and I have no idea if or what the robot's name was.

Humanoid robots will show up again in the realm of unseen Godzilla much later, and it's kind of a weird idea on its own, but here? Skynet is a terrible translator, but I know this much: Robomusume at one point tears Anguirus' jaw (a scene which would finally see the light of day 19 years later, with a very differently shaped robot), and... um... Godzilla falls in love with it? Yikes. It's certainly very 30's and 40's-ish. And, of course, because it's so weird and strange, I love the hell out of it. Godzilla falling in love with a human-shaped robot is probably pushing it a bit, and this is coming from someone who's a superfan of ASG (don't worry, we'll get there), but as a take on what the Godzilla series COULD have been, it's quite interesting, and much more in line with the western tradition than what we'd see later that typified Toho's unique style of monster movies.

STOP THE DAMN PRESSES!


While searching for a particular piece of fanart to share on this entry, I came across a Japanese blog entry that has WAAAAAY more information about Bride of Godzilla, in fact it has the entire god damned plot up for all the world to see. Now, of course, as I said skynet is a horrible translator, and I don't really have the patience to go over this kanji by kanji just now (although I might do just that in an update) but there is enough intelligible information there to at least give me the general idea. And OH MY LORD is it amazing. No really, it's no A Space Godzilla (which I can't wait to get to) but it's definitely worth a silver medal on the totem pole of most absolutely insane Godzilla stories ever conceived. Which of course means I love it. Are you ready for this? Alright, then let's get to it.

Our main human character, or at least the main part of the ensemble cast who drives the initial plot forward, is one Dr. Shida. Shida builds robots, in particular he has built himself a robot wife with the face of a long-lost lover (either dead or one that rejected him, not too clear on this). In addition to this, he is also building another giant robot, this one in the likeness of a "foster child" whom he has a great deal of affection for (I can't tell if it's a romantic or sexual one or something a little more platonic, but...) who is engaged to another human character that becomes another main character. Why is Dr. Shida building a gigantic robot daughter? To fight Godzilla of course.

If you remember Dr. Yamane's thesis about the origin of Godzilla, he postulates that one of the primary reasons Godzilla's species has gone undetected for so long is that it is a deep water animal that lives most of its life in trenches, hidden from view. Dr. Shida takes this even further and proposes that Godzilla was so far down in the trenches that he actually comes from the OTHER SIDE, as in from INSIDE THE HOLLOW EARTH. Yes, that's right, and not only that, but both Godzilla and Anguirus come from a hollow Earth that's like something out of a Edgar Rice Burroughs novel with a whole prehistoric ecosystem. The whole 9 yards. Spoilerz alert: he's 100% correct.

Concept art for Rodan that aims for an Archaeopteryx-like flying dinosaur rather than a pterosaur as in the final version. Could the similar monster in Bride of Godzilla have been a prototype of Rodan? Either way, this is not the last we'll see of this kaiju, and I don't mean Rodan...
Inside the hollow Earth, Dr. Shida discover not only Godzillas and Anguiruses (Anguiri?), but a race of ultra attractive mermaids. During a scuffle between Godzilla and Anguirus, something is dislodged from Anguirus' hide, which is a giant mutant blood-sucking flea. Yep, that's right, Shokilas got his start right here, and the parasites from Cloverfield ought to pay some respects as well.

There are... entanglements. Good lord things get weird. And I'm not talking about the monsters. If you thought the implied robo-pedophilia is out there, that's just the tip of the iceberg. I haven't really gone over it with a fine toothed comb, as I'm saving that for later, but there's clearly a love (and/or lust) polyhedron going on here between the main cast, complicated by Dr. Shida's bizarre masochistic desires and his robot wife and and and... oh bejeezus. As the blogger I'm getting this from notes, this was not only written at a time before Godzilla's demographic had made a dip towards lower age brackets, but this is straight up the other direction entirely, it is a Godzilla movie for adults.

One of the "slurpasaurs" (lizard with fins glued on it) featured in the 1959 film adaptation of Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth. In my head, this is EXACTLY what the chameleon kaiju is, and I simply refuse to hear otherwise.

Back to action, stuff happens, and monsters from the hollow Earth emerge to attack Kyushu (I suppose with a presumably limited portals to the hollow Earth, it gives a pretty solid explanation for why this shit keeps happening to Japan almost exclusively). And by "monsters" plural I don't just mean Godzilla and Anguirus, but also a giant Archaeopteryx (an early Rodan, perhaps?) and a giant chameleon monster. Wild. The good news is that the giant Robomusume is finished, and she's off to defend Japan. If there's a final fate for the Proto-Rodan and Chameleon-ra, I didn't catch it, but Anguirus as mentioned earlier gets his jaw broken.

The final battle between Godzilla and Robomusume is purely physical, as it turns out the robot is immune to Godzilla's heat ray for some reason. But this fight is more than just chasis deep, as our human characters tell us, in one of the greatest lines of dialogue in alternate universe film history:

"...it is the foreplay of love to be beaten."

...this IS a Godzilla story, right? Yes, and it turns out there's a second surprise in store. Not only is Robomusume carrying the secret weapon of being a giant dominatrix, but she's ALSO a giant fucking timed nuclear bomb. YES! REALLY!! She takes Godzilla out to sea or back to his weird ecosystem, and blows the whole fucking thing to pieces. Weird, then, that Godzilla could be destroyed by thing that created him in the first place, but this story is so fucking crazy that I'm not about to start trying to hold it accountable to any sort of logic just now. The story ends with our happy mermaid couple swimming away into the misty Pacific Ocean... yay? What? Well, anwyas, that's the story of Bride of Godzilla.

There's a kind of trend, I've noticed, about 50's Godzilla sequels, in that Anguirus is always present. And I mean there's only four of them. One is the original, which, I mean, it has Anguirus in it because it's the movie with Anguirus, one, which we're about to get into, is basically just GRA anwyas, and then there's BOG, where Anguirus is present... because he was in the last one? It's weird, and weirder because there was a comic published in 1958 called "Godzilla 2: Anguirus Strikes Back," which was apparently a sequel to GRA about a rematch between the two. That's three original stories that for different reasons all end up using the same opponent for Godzilla over again. It's one thing to think about the schlocky Universal direction the series could have gone in, but if the Godzilla series continued from the 50's on, it raises a lot of questions about what the cast would have looked like. Having King Kong in the third movie set a precedent for crossovers, which allowed Mothra, Rodan, and the rest to jump ship into the Godzilla series, but what if that didn't happen? What if Anguirus was THE Godzilla opponent, with a few unique monsters thrown in later, and Rodan and Mothra just sort of... stayed in their own world? That is, if they would have existed in this timeline at all. This idea, weirdly, ended up actually taking hold, as after DAM the new Anguirus shape took precedence over using Rodan or Baragon, and because of it Anguirus is like this huge deal, not because of the weird quickie sequel, which if DAM went a different way might have been his only appearance, but because of his activity in the 70's. Funny how things work out like that.

1957   The Volcano Monsters
   This is that other sequel I was talking about, which is something of a special case. First of all, it's not even intended to be a Godzilla movie, despite the fact that... you know, it was going to be exactly that, which is weird and confusing. The other part is it isn't even an original film. Sure, certain new scenes would have been filmed, including new monster footage made with new suits for Godzilla (?) and Anguirus (?), but really what this was is a Power Rangers style adaptation, one far more dramatically different than even 1956's Godzilla, King of the Monsters was from the original film. As far as I know, this is the earliest example of this kind of Power Rangers-level story and footage editing of an existing film ever attempted.

So what is different? The story, crafted by Ib Melchior, a notorious talentless hack who cranked out a bunch of shitty, trashy B-movies in the 50's back in the time of Them! and The Amazing Colossal Man and all the rest of that crap that people either enjoy ironically or convince themselves wasn't terrible with the help of nostalgia, goes something like this: There's an eruption in Noshiro which reveals a cave... and there's like... dinosaurs in there. Alive, I guess, but in suspended animation? What? Huh? Oh, and then, um... like... they keep calling one of them a Tyrannosaurus... even though it's a Godzillasaurus? Because... ? Um? I don't get it. I mean I just don't understand this part at all. But anwyas, basically you've got a really shitty standard fill in the blank plot about a stupid asshole douchebag American military guy who doesn't know shit about shit and he physically forces some dame to fall for him, and then the dinosaurs revive and go to attack Chinatown in San Francisco, a ruse that they later attempted with gino 2. It's, um, unbelievably stupid and makes no sense at all. On the surface it's actually kinda neat, in that you have what MIGHT have been a similar situation to Rodan with some preserved Godzillasaurus and Angilosaurus eggs being contaminated and mutating into another Godzilla and Anguirus. Sounds cool as an Americanized sequel to GKOTM, I think, and in the following Americanization, that of King Kong vs. Godzilla there's actually a throw away line about Godzillasaurus remains being found on mainland Japan... which makes sense if we already know that a living Godzilla was ON mainland Japan. But then they go and fuck that up by making it, like... a Tyrannosaurus? I don't know, I really don't. If you want to know what the fuck these people were smoking, you'll have to ask someone else, as this is one of the stupidest moments in Godzilla history, I have to say.

Chinatown in 1957. What is it about G.I.N.O.s and San Francisco? First there's a "Tyrannosaurus," and it's the setting for the original Zilla pitch from 1983 "King of the Monsters in 3D." It's also the location of the climax of "Neo Godzilla version 2's" fight with the, uh... those... those moopoes or whatever the fuck they were called. God what a fucking abomination that stupid piece of shit was, I should really do a whole article about how awful it is once we come up for air on the other side of this gino 2 bullshit.

...I mean, a fucking Tyrannosaurus?! Really? Last thing about TVM, but the Americanized GRA we did get isn't... I mean it's not like it's some sort of bastion of logical consistency or anything. It's preeeetty fucking atrocious, probably the second worst in the whole series, based purely on how little sense it makes.

The Mysterians
   In Jojiro Okami's original story for The Mysterians, there was no giant monster. But as we'll see happen repeatedly over the course of the Golden Era, Tomoyuki Tanaka insisted that one be included, as it was clear from the success of Godzilla and Rodan that it can only make things better. The monster they came up with didn't hail from the sea or the air, but was actually a subterranean beast who shares many physical characteristics with Toho's later fossorial kaiju Baragon. Honda wanted the monster to adhere to the theme, though, and changed the monster to a completely mechanical one so as to showcase the Mysterian's vast technological achievements, but everything else about the character carried over. Moguera was a robot, yes, but it was still a giant burrowing mole monster robot. I've also heard that it was at one point supposed to look organic, but then when it was killed it would be revealed as a robot, sort of like Mechagodzilla's disguise from GvsMG, but I'm not sure if that was really a thing or not.

1959    Battle in Outer Space
   So like with The Mysterians, there were some changes from the original draft, but more significant ones. For starters, the connections to the first film were far more direct, with an assumption that they'd get the original actors back to reprise their roles, and I've even heard that the alien menace was going to be a second Mysterian invasion, but this is one of those unconfirmed bits of info that is hard to see said the same way twice. Not sure what to think about it. After the decision to go with the Natals, however, the original design ideas were totally different. I've heard it said that they were going to be tentacled aliens at some point, but the big thing which actually seems to be true are the insectoid versions of the Natal. They were going to have exoskeletons, and six limbs, which sounds pretty cool, but I guess doing the six limb thing turned into kind of an issue, and instead they opted for a bunch of kids in space suits. There was also a scene where the Moon-Buses fight off a number of pill-bug-esque Natal tanks, something that would have furthered the arthropod design aesthetic, but in the finished film the retreating Moon-Buses are simply attacked by the saucers. A seriously not-lame scene made to sound lame after you realize what you're missing, for sure. At least the mothership is still totally bad ass.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic and informative article -- thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete