The Psychedelic Version of Godzilla You’ve Never Seen
Deja View is a Telly Award-winning series that explores foreign remakes of popular American films.
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Up from the depths, thirty stories high, breathes fire, etc. Godzilla! A savage, catastrophic metaphor for atomic war rendered in stark, dramatic black and white.
Or is it a rainbow-colored acid trip with a bunch of stolen footage from other movies?
I’m getting a monstrous feeling of Deja View.
While principally a Japanese film, this obscure version of “Godzilla” has a rather more complicated and recursive pedigree.
Godzilla himself owes much of his existence to the re-release of Hollywood classic “King Kong” in 1952. “Kong” was a humongous hit in Japan, and in an attempt to “ape” its success Japanese studio Toho produced “Gojira.” However, when the film was sold in the United States as “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” it was “Americanized” via an elaborate re-edit and the incorporation of new scenes featuring American star Raymond Burr.
It was this US version of the film that was licensed by up-and-coming filmmaker and distributor Luigi Cozzi for a 1977 re-release, coming full circle by cashing in on the 1976 Hollywood remake of “King Kong.”
Unfortunately, by 1977 theater owners were loath to screen black and white movies, fearful that modern audiences would eschew the old-timey aesthetic. Cozzi’s ambitious solution, therefore, was to release “Godzilla” in color. Somehow.
Colorizing a film was no small task in 1977. It would be another eight years before computer colorization would be proven viable and TV mogul Ted Turner would literally change the way audiences looked at movies.
Processes for colorizing films existed, but they were far more laborious. As early as 1902 filmmakers were employing workers to painstakingly hand-paint films frame by frame. Tinting was also common, especially among silent films.
Cozzi’s method, dubbed “Spectrorama 70,” was somewhere between the two. With only three months to produce their new version, Cozzi and artist Armando Valcauda achieved the effect by placing an assortment of colored gels over each frame of black and white film. These gels corresponded only roughly to general areas such as sky, grass, fire, and people. The result is a kind of psychedelic, radioactive rainbow sherbet effect which, while technically color, is a far cry from the modern, more familiar forms of colorization.
Beyond the new coat of paint, “Cozzilla,” as it came to be known, was even further altered from its already-doctored American form. In addition to numerous cuts for the sake of pacing, Cozzi also added a substantial amount of extra footage to increase the brief 80 minute run time. Clips from “The Day the Earth Caught Fire,” “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms,” “The Train,” and even “Godzilla Raids Again” were absorbed into this new iteration. Most conspicuous, however, is the new “Hiroshima” prologue which morbidly integrates sequences from wartime newsreels featuring actual corpses and genuine devastation.
Just as important to the reconstruction as its visuals was its audio. Cozzi enhanced “Godzilla’s” soundtrack via a brand new, seat-shaking Sensurround mix featuring amped up explosions, demolitions, and monster roars to give the experience heightened intensity.
New electronic music by Vince Tempera accompanies some of the film’s original sequences, reminiscent of prog rock band Goblin who famously scored many Italian genre films.
The contemporary soundtrack combines with the colorful new look to form a deliriously bizarre alternate vision of Ishiro Honda’s masterpiece. While it is by no means an authoritative version of the film, it is nevertheless bound to entertain fans of the Big G.
Although “Cozzilla” was never shown outside of Italy, the poster found its way to newsstands all over the United States. Cozzi sent the specially created artwork to friend and magazine editor Joe Bonham, and through him it became the cover of the debut issue of “Fangoria.”
That’s pretty good publicity, but I hear he’s even bigger in Japan.
Thanks so much for watching, and I’ll see you next time.