Canceled Godzilla

A look at the Godzilla films that almost were!
Trevor Benedict

The 1970’s saw hard times for the Japanese film industry.  The animation boom which had begun in the late 60s had all but edged out live-action special effect films. Financial problems, cause by diminished box office returns, caused studios like Toho to utilize stock-footage films such asGodzilla on Monster Island(1972) andGodzilla vs. Megalon(1973).  In the extreme case, studios like Daiei, creators of the popularGameraandDaimajinfilms, were forced to close it production facilities altogether.  Even Japan’s most famous director, Akira Kurosawa, could not get financing for his film projects.  It was only through the efforts of foreign ventures with the Soviet Union (Derusu Usara, 1975), the United States (Kagemusha, 1980) and France (Ran,1985) that saved the renowned “auteur” from falling into obscurity and returned him to cinematic glory.
When production on the last Godzilla film,Terror of MechaGodzilla(1975), was completed, Tomoyuki Tanaka made several unsuccessful attempts to keep the Godzilla series going.  Although hopping to keep Godzilla alive until the 1980s, these films were scripted in the same “Godzilla-saves-the-earth” style that had plagued the series sinceGodzilla vs. the Smog Monster(1970).  The first of these was “Godzilla vs. the Devil,” and involved the King of the Monsters battling a demonic creatures in the shape of a giant spider, a giant condor and finally a creature shaped like Satan himself.  These creatures, brought about by mankind’s selfishness, slowly sucked the life force from the very earth, and Godzilla would battle each of them until his final confrontation with the devil.  Inspired by such popular American films asThe Exorcist, the film was reported to have been scripted by an American, but any actual intention of producing this film probably never got passed the rumor phase.
Dating from about the same time was “Godzilla vs. Gargantua,” intended to be a co-production with Henry G, Saperstein’s UPA Productions of America.  This project also failed to get off the ground, supposedly both Toho and UPA could not come to licensing agreements.  Incidentally, this was not the first time that Godzilla was slated to battle one of the Frankenstein clan.  In 1964, a script called “Frankenstein vs. Godzilla” was under consideration at Toho. This idea evolved into 1965’sFrankenstein Conquers the World.  Also rumored for production was “Space Godzilla” (not to be confused with 1994’sGodzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla), based on an original story that appeared in JapaneseStarlog. But this concept joined the other unmade Godzilla films.
In 1980, an idea called “Star Godzilla” popped up in China, but was never started due to pressure from Toho. Frustrated in his plans to produce a new Godzilla film, Tanaka had announced a Godzilla film festival for 1980, made up of clips from all 15 films. Yet even this plan was never realized.  It was also in 1980 that Toho give consideration to “The Resurrection of Godzilla,” aka “Rebirth of Godzilla,” aka “Return of Godzilla.” This ambitious story featured a series of battles between Godzilla and the constantly changing and virtually indestructible monster Bagan.  Though destined not to be filmed, many plot elements from “The Resurrection of Godzilla” appeared inGodzilla 1985, the main factor being when Godzilla attacks a nuclear reactor.
In 1986 Toho held a story contest for the sequel toGodzilla 1985.  The first place winner was Shinichiro Kobayashi who presented an early draft of what would eventually becomeGodzilla vs. Biollante.  Second place went to American Jim Bannon for a script entitledGodzilla 2.  The story featured a futuristic world where Godzilla would have to battle a powerful computer.  To defeat the King of the Monsters the computer created battle machines which would attack Godzilla.  Although never filmed the story did become the basis forGunhead(1989), with the Godzilla elements removed from the story of course.
The release ofGodzilla vs. Biollantein 1989 opened the door to a new series of Godzilla films, but the uninspiring box office returns convinced Tanaka to resurrect one of the series older monsters.  In 1992Godzilla vs. King Ghidorahwas a huge box office success, and so it was decided to keep to the formula of pitting Godzilla against an old monster, thus allowing for the very successfulGodzilla vs. Mothra(1992) andGodzilla vs. MechaGodzilla(1993).  The idea of the super-monster Bagan would “resurface” in 1990 as part of Kazuki Omori’s “Mothra vs. Bagan” script, but the idea was dropped in favor of Death Ghidorah.

Article © 2003 Trevor Benedict/Visagraph Films International.