Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The Best Godzilla Movies Never Made...?

As I mentioned earlier this month, I spent some time this spring reading through some of writer John LeMay's books, including Kong Unmade: The Lost Films of Skull Island and The Big Book of Japanese Monster Movies: The Lost Films (Mutated Edition), both of which are bursting with recaps and explanations of intriguing ideas, pitches, concepts and scripts for extremely promising-sounding films that have the benefit of never having actually been fully produced and released, meaning they can never actually disappoint us in the ways that, say, Roland Emmerich's 1998 Godzilla or Dino De Laurentiis' 1976 King Kong could. Both books are basically pure food for the imagination of monster movie fans.

The Big Book of Japanese Monster Movies is incredibly complete, its 450+ pages seemingly covering every "lost" kaiju film whose potential existence left some trace of evidence in the world, and it is, in fact, more complete than even my interest in the subject (For whatever reason, Ultraman, for example, does nothing for me). The category of "lost" films I was most interested in were those starring Godzilla, and there were could-have-been films featuring exciting opponents (Gamera, the American Godzilla, the devil, The Mysterians, TV's Batman, various versions of King Kong) and exciting directors, like Clive Baker and Tim Burton (Seriously! Imagine either of them having made a mid-90s Godzilla instead of Emmerich!).

There are dozens of "lost" Godzilla movies covered in the pages of LeMay's book, but these are the four I found most exciting...

1.) Bride of Godzilla? If it had actually been made, this 1955 script by Hideo Unagami would have been the third Godzila film, following the 1954 original and 1955's sequel Gojira no gyakushū/Godzilla Raids Again...and it would have been the weirdest, wildest one yet. Heck, maybe ever. It breaks sharply from the more or less realistic nature first two films (which were basically the real world + giant monsters, in term of tone and premise), in large part to explain where Godzilla and Anguirus came from and, in even larger part, to stave off their threat.

In it, we learn that the two monsters from the first two films come from a hollow earth lost world, discovered by miners, and that this strange underworld includes mountains, deserts, lakes and giant monsters Godzilla, Anguirus (they would have each been one example of their species, as there would have been multiples of each), plus a giant archaeopteryx, a giant chameleon, a giant bat, giant fleas and, oddly enough, mer-people. The mer-people, one of the script's doctors believes and mentions in a lecture, were a stage in human evolution. This underworld would also have its own orange-colored sky...which would change colors every 23 seconds, its light being given off by a massive wall of uranium.

As for the title character, it is the invention of a Dr. Zenji Shida, a roboticist who has created a sentient robot duplicate of a woman he once loved, as well as a giant robot version of her, the latter as part of the Godzilla Countermeasures Center's plans for dealing with future Godzilla attacks.

Naturally, the monsters escape their cavern, at least the four biggest ones do: the chameleon, the archaeopteryx and one each of the two name monsters we met in the previous films. The military and Bride battle them all, until only Godzilla and the Bride are left standing. The pair then journey together to the entrance of the cavern, where they embrace and the bride detonates, seemingly killing this Godzilla and sealing up the monster-sized entrance.

The budget necessary to turn such a script into a film likely doomed it more than its crazier ideas, but it's worth noting how much it would have changed what became the Showa Godzilla series had it been established so earlier on that Godzilla was a species, rather than an individual (or two...or so), and that Japan had giant-robot, monster-fighting technology so early in the game. As LeMay noted, many ideas from this script would end up in other, future films, most immediately 1956's Rodan.

Whenever a new comics publisher gets the license for producing Godzilla comics again, I would love to see a creative team take a crack at making this into a graphic novel...actually, that goes for all the films on this list (Plus Batman Meets Godzilla, obviously).

2.) Ryu Mitsuse's Godzilla Chapter 30 of LeMay's book is entitled "Stranger than Shin Godzilla: The Godzilla Revival Meeting of 1978." Out of this early discussion of how to restart a Godzilla series after the final movie of the Showa Era—remember, Terror of Mechagodzilla was just released in 1975—Toho approached three Japanese science-fiction authors to make pitches, and while all three of those discussed here sound cool as hell (Yoshio Aramaki's bore the title Godzilla: God's Angry Messenger), and all, coincidentally or not, involved alien origins for Godzilla, Ryu Mitsuse's is the one I most would have liked to see, as among its surreal imagery would have been dinosaurs, the Loch Ness Monster and other such "real" monsters from around the world.

As LeMay explains it, the initial scene is set during the age of dinosaurs. A massive ship lands on Earth, causing untold destruction and interrupting scenes of dinosaur-on-dinosaur violence, when the various carnivores stop hunting and attacking the various herbivores, and they all move in unison toward the ship:
It's not clear in this translation whether the aliens create Godzilla from the dinosaurs, or whether they have brought Godzilla to earth as some sort of doomsday beast. Godzilla roars, and soon the dinosaurs begin committing mass suicide, jumping off cliffs and drowning in the ocean, which fast runs red with blood.
LeMay compares the next portion of the script to IDW's Godzilla: Rage Across Time miniseries, as in a series of episodic scenes Godzilla causes the inhabitants of an ancient village to all commit suicide, knocks down the Tower of Babel and sinks Atlantis.

The final time jump takes us to the present, where some human characters are investigating the mystery of Lake Kussharo's cryptid monster, Kussie. It is actually Godzilla who rises from the lake,  his eyes emitting a strange light, and he roars, causing all who hear his cry—human and animal alike—to walk in a trance into the lake and commit suicide. All around the world, other lake monsters with the same weird powers arise, and "soon, oceans across the world are filled with corpses."

The ending, involving scientists turning Godzilla's suicide urge powers against him, seems rather anti-climatic, but LeMay offers this intriguing description of the project's potential, saying of its episodic nature that it was "as if Stanley Kubrick had written a Godzilla film." That...sure sounds like a movie I would like to see.

3.) A Space Godzilla LeMay says its unclear how seriously Toho ever took this notorious proposal by House director Nobuhiko Obayashi's story, but they approved of it enough to apparently let Starlog publish an illustrated version of it in 1979, along with  proposed credits, including music by Japanese rock band Godeigo and a "Model Animation" credit suggested it would have had stop-motion monsters. Starlog's story, by the way, was illustrated...by none other than Katsuhiro Otomo! (You can see a couple of images  and read much more about it here, which is where I stole the image at the top of this post from.)

This one may actually be more insane than the Bride proposal above, although since Obayashi seems to have been going for insane, that sort of tempers the craziness, I think.

In brief, Godzilla's body washes up on the shore, and the defense forces begin an autopsy, which includes loading Godzilla's brain onto a truck to haul away. When the little girl protagonist who first discovered the body is hounded by reporters, she hides inside the dead Godzilla and discovers a gestating baby Godzilla in the womb! A psychic is employed to communicate with the still-living brain of the dead (dead-ish...?) Godzilla, which explains her real name isn't Godzilla, but Rozan, and she's from a planet called "Godzilla". The humans then rebuild her body into a sort of sentient rocket, load the baby Godzilla back into it and shoot her off towards her home planet, where she hopes to give birth to her child.

The space journey sounds as mythological as it is trippy, as Rozan casts off various body parts to escape various dangers, eventually landing her child Ririn on Planet Godzilla, which has been overrun by monstrous aliens called The Sumerians, lead by General Gamoni. "From here," LeMay writes, "the story stops being any sort of kaiu eiga and turns into a 1960s Italian sword-and-sandal movie, except with Godzillas instead of people."

Among the surreal imagery are Sumerian allies that look like sphinxes and travel in a pyramid-shaped ship, and a final battle between Gamoni, Ririn and his father, carried out atop floating debris in the planet's atmosphere.

4.) Godzilla Vs. Ghost Godzilla Chapter 55 is devoted to one proposal for the seventh (and final) Heisei era Godzilla film, the one that ultimately became 1995's Godzilla Vs. Destoroyah. Because the idea was to kill off Godzilla and lie low for a few years to make room for Tri-Star's American Godzilla (the film that eventually became Emmerich's), the plan was to kill their Godzilla off...while laying the groundwork for his return. Series producer Shogo Tomiyama wanted to use the original, 1954 Godzilla as the villain, which makes some amount of sense; what foe is better-suited to killing Godzilla than Godzilla himself?  There were a couple of different proposals to do so, but the coolest one was that suggested in this title: To pit the Heisei Godzilla against the ghost of the original.

I honestly kind of love this idea.

The Oxygen Destroyer that disintegrated the OG Godzilla's body didn't destroy his life energy, which, over the course of 40 years slowly re-coalesced. That Godzilla then begins haunting Japan in a variety of foreboding ways, including citizens of Tokyo hearing and feeling massive foot falls, but never being able to see what is making them, buildings collapsing in the middle of the night for no apparent reason, and so on.

Ghost Godzilla would have a variety of supernatural powers, including intangibility, teleportation, levitation, creating duplicates, control of light, temperature and weather and, in order to give the live Godzilla something to fight, the ability to possess living kaiju—here, Godzilla Junior/Little Godzilla, who was introduced in 1993's Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla II, and whose form the ghost would grow and warp upon entering it. Ghost Godzilla would also have intriguing weaknesses, like being afraid of daylight, and the fact that it could only move within spaces where he had walked in 1954.

Apparently Tomiyama's pitch was passed on to others to work on, and I don't actually care for all of the details revealed in the more detailed versions that followed, including a father/son human sub-plot and the ghost Godzilla being confined to an island and then Little Godzilla being sent there to fight him as some kind of dumb publicity stunt, but the idea of the the original Godzilla returning as an evil, vengeful spirit whose wrath must be exhausted before it can finally go to its eternal rest...? That all sounds pretty amazing.

Apparently, the reason this was decided against was that the Heisei Godzilla had just fought Mechagodzilla and Space Godzilla in his previous two films, and it seemed like the wrong time to have Godzilla fight another evil version of himself. That's too bad, but hopefully it's an idea that Toho can revive in the future, perhaps for Godzilla's 70th or 75th anniversary...?

Anyway, check out LeMay's The Big Book of Japanese Giant Monster Movies: The Lost Films; I won't tell you again. (Two times seems more than sufficient, right...?)

No comments: