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When a rare species of butterfly is found in a mysterious valley in Japan, a pair of entomologists go to investigate and find more. However, when they get there they find an uncharted lake and as they are observing it they are caught in a landslide and killed. A reporter named Yuriko, the sister of one of the men decides to go to the area to find out what exactly happened. She is accompanied by another entomologist named Kenji and a reporter named Horiguchi. When they get to the village where the men were last seen alive they find out about a legend regarding a giant monster. They soon find out that it is not a legend and the monster named Varan is very much alive. Soon Varan leaves the valley where he has lived for millions of years and is heading for Tokyo.Written by
Brian Washington <Sargebri@att.net>
This film began as straight-to-television co-production between AB-PT and Toho, and thus was shot in black and white in the Academy aspect ratio. AB-PT went bankrupt during production, but a two-part TV movie was still completed. The two parts were edited into a single, longer feature to be shown in Japanese theaters, which involved extending and re-recording the musical score, shortening scenes and adding new scenes. This theatrical feature was then cropped shot by shot and released in an ersatz anamorphic widescreen format apparently adapted from SuperScope called TohoPanScope. Neither the TV version nor the theatrical version exist in the Academy ratio, but the fully mixed audio track for the TV version still exists. See more »
The wires holding the jet fighters up are visible. See more »
Varan the Unbelieveable (1962) U.S., English dubbed, highly edited with footage replaced with scenes shot in the U.S. and the original score completely removed. See more »
One of the better of the early Toho monster epics, the film suffers from a lack of definition. We don't really know where this monster comes from, or why he's so pee-ed off he wants to stomp Tokyo. Also, he never even quite gets to Tokyo, which is major disappointment - what good is a Japanese monster movie where Tokyo doesn't get stomped.
I suspect that the secret to this problem lies in the original score for the film, by the great Akira Ifikube. Godzilla fans should recognize variations on three essential themes for other movies - for "Godzilla", "Rodan", and "Mothra". Yet they are not just borrowed sound-tracks from those films, but actual variations. Apparently Ifikube used composition for this film as a kind of notebook on themes that would later get improved on again and again. My sense is that this is true of the film as a whole, that director Honda and crew used this film as a test-case for work on later films - the kaiju film industry was about to go wide-screen and technicolor in a big way, but the exact formula for the genre had not yet come together. I think they were using this film to get it together.
In its favor, I remark the film is narratively tight, so that not much time is wasted on the back-stories. It is what it is, a straight-out rubber-monster stomp, and begs to be enjoyed for that, and nothing more.
By the way, the subtitled DVD release from Animego has a couple fascinating bonuses to it - an interview with one of the special fx crew, as well as a demonstration of the technique used to manufacture the monster's costume. The film itself is enjoyable, if no great shakes, but bits of film-history like this are priceless.
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