The Importance of Being Godzilla (Part 3)

For those of you who missed last week’s post, a quick recap:  I recorded audio commentaries to both the Japanese and American cuts of Ishiro Honda’s GODZILLA for Criterion, but some of the material was cut from the tracks as the discs were sent to the factory.  I am using this forum as a venue by which to publish some of the deleted material.

The most controversial sections addressed the European distribution of the original Godzilla.  Last week we saw what happened in Germany–this week we explore the nuttiness of COZZILLA!

Cozzilla!

In the published commentary, I do talk about how the Americanized version GODZILLA KING OF THE MONSTERS was dubbed into other languages for distribution in various countries—and in 1959, it was shown in Italy, dubbed into Italian, and called GODZILLA IL RE DEI MOSTRI.

There’s nothing special about the IL RE DEI MOSTRI version—it’s just the same as the American version, but in Italian.  (One nice touch though—whoever dubbed Raymond Burr’s voice into Italian sounds exactly like him.  If I didn’t know better I’d say it was Burr speaking Italian.)

[wpvideo mglwWJr2]

However, it gave birth to something utterly weird.

In the audience then in 1959 was a little Italian kid named Luigi Cozzi, and he fell in love with the movie.  Much as seeing KING KONG had turned people like Ray Harryhausen into filmmakers, seeing GODZILLA IL RE DEI MOSTRI turned Cozzi into a filmmaker.  He became an acolyte of Dario Argento, and collaborated with Argento on various Italian thrillers in the 1970s.

In 1976, Dino De Laurentiis decided to remake KING KONG—and he poured tons of publicity into that thing.  It was such a big blockbuster event movie that everyone remotely connected to the sci-fi exploitation genre was trying to cash in—for example, the US distributors of GODZILLA VS MEGALON promoted that film with a poster that tried to mimic the 1976 KING KONG.

Movie poster

Over in Italy, Cozzi figured this was a perfect moment to re-release GODZILLA, his childhood love, and piggy-back on all the KING KONG hysteria.  So he negotiated with Toho for the rights—and the folks at Toho told him that the only version they had available was the American cut with Raymond Burr.  Cozzi said, “Sure, that’s fine—that’s the version I know, anyway.  You’ve got yourself a deal.”

OK, well, you have to forgive Mr. Cozzi for a surfeit of enthusiasm because he rushed out and made that deal before actually discussing the matter with any of his distribution partners, and as soon as they heard what he’d done, they started tearing out their hair in frustration.

There were two problems, they explained:

#1. GODZILLA KING OF THE MONSTERS runs about 75 minutes, which is OK if you’re fitting it into a double feature in 1950s America, but for 1977 Italy it’s too short.

#2. It’s in Black & White, and nobody goes to black and white movies anymore.

So, Cozzi put on his thinking cap.  He went back to Toho and said, I’d like to amend the terms of our deal.  I’m going to release GODZILLA in Italy like we agreed, but I’d like permission to add some footage to it to pad it out by about a half hour or so, and I’m going to colorize it.  And probably disco up the soundtrack while I’m at it.  Whattya think?  Toho said, sure, but only if we get to keep it when you’re done.

Cozzi hired an editor, Alberto Moro, and together they started taking stock footage and newsreel clips and things like that and adding them to the movie—these were all grisly scenes, Faces of Death kind of stuff, to enhance Godzilla’s attack scenes with a more R-rated sense of mayhem.  While they were at it, Cozzi went into his personal vaults and got out some 16mm prints of BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS and other Godzilla movies and figured, why not put some of this in as well?

Having padded GODZILLA out with stock footage horror, the next step was punching up the soundtrack to 1970s standards.  He called this “FUTURSOUND” which was a fancy made-up word for let’s add a lot of sound effects, remix the tracks in stereo, and wherever we feel like it let’s add some hard-rocking music by Vince Tempera that sounds like the kind of jangly music that Goblin was recording for Dario Argento at the time.

There was one last thing to do—make GODZILLA into color.  This was before computer-based colorization, mind you, so there was no existing methodology for this.  But Cozzi was already mulling over making a STAR WARS knock-off called STARCRASH, and had bought an optical printer to do the effects with.  He brought on optical effects supervisor Armando Valcauda to experiment with using the optical printer to colorize GODZILLA—and he and Valcauda considered the experience to be a trial-run for doing the more demanding effects of STARCRASH.

Star Crash

Cozzi and Valcauda selected colored gels which they cut out and placed into the optical printer, printing large blocks of color onto different sections of the film—it wasn’t colorization as we may know it today, which attempts to create an illusion of realistic color, instead these were bold, stylized color swaths, expressionistic and aggressive—if you’ve seen the Giorgio Moroder version of METROPOLIS you’ve seen something similar.  Cozzi called this process SPECTORAMA 70.

[wpvideo pjOyzgvP]

I have not had the privilege of seeing this version in its entirety—I’ve only seen clips.  But, oh, those clips.  It’s a deliriously strange experience—and unsettling.  Godzilla fires his atomic ray and the next thing you see is real footage of a real human being being burned alive.

[wpvideo EnEqtwTP]

Once you see real people dying in Godzilla’s wake, and GODZILLA turns into a snuff film, the tenor of it changes.  I think Cozzi’s impulse was to enhance the atmosphere of apocalyptic horror—and he just needed to amp things up for 1970s tastes.  But the apocalyptic dimensions are already pretty intense, so pushing them farther with plane crashes and actual buildings collapsing and people drowning—it’s a bit much.

Toho took the negative after Cozzi was done with his 1977 release, and held on to it for years.  They used it for a Turkish release—for reasons I can only guess at—but other than that it has mostly vanished.  I’m indebted to John DeSentis whose interview with Cozzi at the web site SciFi Japan provided the bulk of this information.

Cozzi’s version is another case study in how this movie continued to find relevance and meaning such that distributors were compelled to adapt it into local niches—there aren’t many 1954-era movies that were revived for 1977 Italian audiences, with added color.  In fact there were none—just this one.  Instead of decrying the changes we should marvel at the fact that the movie had enough power to warrant trying.

22 Responses The Importance of Being Godzilla (Part 3)
Posted By dukeroberts : November 19, 2011 8:21 am

Interestingly odd.

Posted By dukeroberts : November 19, 2011 8:21 am

Interestingly odd.

Posted By curtiswhitear : November 19, 2011 2:22 pm

Think there’s any chance we’ll ever see any kind of official release for this?

Posted By curtiswhitear : November 19, 2011 2:22 pm

Think there’s any chance we’ll ever see any kind of official release for this?

Posted By davidkalat : November 19, 2011 3:02 pm

Absolutely not.

Posted By davidkalat : November 19, 2011 3:02 pm

Absolutely not.

Posted By Tom S : November 19, 2011 3:38 pm

Man, this sounded amazing up until the ‘footage of real people getting killed’ part. I thought monster movies that used real WW2 bombing footage were bad enough.

Posted By Tom S : November 19, 2011 3:38 pm

Man, this sounded amazing up until the ‘footage of real people getting killed’ part. I thought monster movies that used real WW2 bombing footage were bad enough.

Posted By evan dorkin : November 19, 2011 3:56 pm

What Tom S. said. Yeesh. I hate to admit it but I’m still fascinated, has anything exactly like this ever been done before? It’s so nuts. What a bizarre mix of fan devotion, showmanship and callous mondo exploitation.

Posted By evan dorkin : November 19, 2011 3:56 pm

What Tom S. said. Yeesh. I hate to admit it but I’m still fascinated, has anything exactly like this ever been done before? It’s so nuts. What a bizarre mix of fan devotion, showmanship and callous mondo exploitation.

Posted By John DeSentis : November 19, 2011 4:28 pm

Glad to see you enjoyed my interview! Cozzi was a real charming character and a pleasure to talk to about this!

Posted By John DeSentis : November 19, 2011 4:28 pm

Glad to see you enjoyed my interview! Cozzi was a real charming character and a pleasure to talk to about this!

Posted By Jenni : November 19, 2011 4:55 pm

Agreeing with Tom S.’s assessment. Wondering why the exploding Hindenburg footage wasn’t used too! I am also wondering what Toho charged Cozzi for the rights to the film to doctor it up and re-release it. Also, if you mentioned it and I missed it, sorry, but was it a box office success for Cozzi?

Posted By Jenni : November 19, 2011 4:55 pm

Agreeing with Tom S.’s assessment. Wondering why the exploding Hindenburg footage wasn’t used too! I am also wondering what Toho charged Cozzi for the rights to the film to doctor it up and re-release it. Also, if you mentioned it and I missed it, sorry, but was it a box office success for Cozzi?

Posted By John DeSentis : November 19, 2011 5:08 pm

According to Cozzi, the film did OK business. Not anything great, but not a loss. As far as I know he just paid for the re-release rights. He wasn’t charged extra for insertion of new footage.

Posted By John DeSentis : November 19, 2011 5:08 pm

According to Cozzi, the film did OK business. Not anything great, but not a loss. As far as I know he just paid for the re-release rights. He wasn’t charged extra for insertion of new footage.

Posted By Jenni : November 19, 2011 6:21 pm

Thanks for the answers, John.

Posted By Jenni : November 19, 2011 6:21 pm

Thanks for the answers, John.

Posted By MedusaMorlock : November 20, 2011 11:02 am

Wow! Grim! I’m not sure that seeing the real footage of people afire isn’t ultimately an okay thing — it’s in keeping with the very serious tone of the original movie. It’s rightfully horrifying. I don’t think it trivializes death, it makes it more impactful and chills to the bone.

I don’t think ANYBODY would laugh at it or be struck with anything other than stunned silence. That can’t be a bad thing.

Great series you are doing on Godzilla, David! Really enjoying it.

Posted By MedusaMorlock : November 20, 2011 11:02 am

Wow! Grim! I’m not sure that seeing the real footage of people afire isn’t ultimately an okay thing — it’s in keeping with the very serious tone of the original movie. It’s rightfully horrifying. I don’t think it trivializes death, it makes it more impactful and chills to the bone.

I don’t think ANYBODY would laugh at it or be struck with anything other than stunned silence. That can’t be a bad thing.

Great series you are doing on Godzilla, David! Really enjoying it.

Posted By Eric Hall : November 20, 2011 3:16 pm

Fascinating!

Posted By Eric Hall : November 20, 2011 3:16 pm

Fascinating!

Leave a Reply

Current day month ye@r *

MovieMorlocks.com is the official blog for TCM. No topic is too obscure or niche to be excluded from our film discussions. And we welcome your comments on our blogs and bloggers.
See more: facebook.com/tcmtv
See more: twitter.com/tcm
3-D  Action Films  Actors  Actors' Endorsements  Actresses  animal stars  Animation  Anime  Anthology Films  Art in Movies  Autobiography  Avant-Garde  Aviation  Awards  B-movies  Beer in Film  Behind the Scenes  Best of the Year lists  Biography  Biopics  Blu-Ray  Books on Film  Boxing films  British Cinema  Canadian Cinema  Character Actors  Chicago Film History  Cinematography  Classic Films  College Life on Film  Comedy  Comic Book Movies  Crime  Czech Film  Dance on Film  Digital Cinema  Directors  Disaster Films  Documentary  Drama  DVD  Early Talkies  Editing  Educational Films  European Influence on American Cinema  Experimental  Exploitation  Fairy Tales on Film  Faith or Christian-based Films  Family Films  Film Composers  Film Criticism  film festivals  Film History in Florida  Film Noir  Film Scholars  Film titles  Filmmaking Techniques  Films of the 1980s  Food in Film  Foreign Film  French Film  Gangster films  Genre  Genre spoofs  HD & Blu-Ray  Holiday Movies  Hollywood history  Hollywood lifestyles  Horror  Horror Movies  Icons  independent film  Italian Film  Japanese Film  Korean Film  Literary Adaptations  Martial Arts  Melodramas  Method Acting  Mexican Cinema  Moguls  Monster Movies  Movie Books  Movie Costumes  movie flops  Movie locations  Movie lovers  Movie Reviewers  Movie settings  Movie Stars  Movies about movies  Music in Film  Musicals  Outdoor Cinema  Paranoid Thrillers  Parenting on film  Pirate movies  Polish film industry  political thrillers  Politics in Film  Pornography  Pre-Code  Producers  Race in American Film  Remakes  Revenge  Road Movies  Romance  Romantic Comedies  Satire  Scandals  Science Fiction  Screenwriters  Semi-documentaries  Serials  Short Films  Silent Film  silent films  Social Problem Film  Sports  Sports on Film  Stereotypes  Straight-to-DVD  Studio Politics  Stunts and stuntmen  Suspense thriller  TCM Classic Film Festival  TCM Underground  Television  The British in Hollywood  The Germans in Hollywood  The Hungarians in Hollywood  The Irish in Hollywood  Theaters  Thriller  Trains in movies  Underground Cinema  VOD  War film  Westerns  Women in the Film Industry  Women's Weepies