It’s lycanthrope vs lizard in this unreleased, unfinished clash of the monster movie titans.
Famously, in the late 1950s Willis O’Brien, the man behind the special effects in the 1933 King Kong, was working on a revival of the character, the unlikely-sounding King Kong vs Frankenstein in which Kong would battle an equally huge creation by Dr Frankenstein that was – for some reason or other – stitched together from bear and elephant parts. While often talked of as one of the great unfilmed movies, it’s hard to see how audiences would not have found this a crossover too far, and perhaps it was for the best that producer John Beck essentially took O’Brien’s idea and sold it to Toho, who re-wrote the idea into King Kong vs Godzilla.
Nevertheless, the idea of Kong clashing with classic monsters of the Universal era clearly struck a chord somewhere – more specifically, it struck a chord with Shizuo Nakajima, who had been a Toho employee in the 1970s working on films like Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla and Terror of Mechagodzilla. Nakajima was determined to combine Japanese Kaiju and gothic horror, and in 1972 made the short fan film Wolfman vs Baragon, a three-minute movie that was never completed as he instead developed ambitions to match the lycanthrope with Japan’s most famous giant monster. It would take another decade before Godzilla vs Wolfman – or, more literally translated, Legendary Giant Beast Wolfman Against Godzilla – went into production, as Nakajima worked his way through various screenplay ideas in the 1970s. The original plan was simply to make a short fan film but somewhere along the way the project evolved into a feature film with a Godzilla costume provided by Toho designer Fuyuki Shinada. This version went into production sometime in the late 1970s but was never completed. By 1983, Nakajima was ready for another go with a redesigned Godzilla suit and upgraded Wolfman, and re-shot the earlier footage together with new material to create a new feature film.
Inspired by classic Godzilla films and Hammer‘s Curse of the Werewolf, the plot involves a radioactive werewolf that grows to enormous size and rampages across the Japanese countryside where he meets a revived Godzilla, who had escaped after being trapped at the North Pole. In the classic tradition, the pair then battle it out with Godzilla being the ‘good guy’ – or at least the monster who is going to cause the least amount of death and destruction. Inspired by the 1960s Showa era of Godzilla movies, the film was an authentic-looking pastiche and something that most fans of Japanese monster movies would enjoy.
Unfortunately for Nakajima and monster movie fans everywhere, he had not secured permission from Toho to use their most famous character. This was, perhaps, a mistake given that Toho is a notoriously litigious company. They got wind of the new project where it was still being edited – perhaps because several of their former and current employees were working on it – and issued a cease-and-desist. Although – according to Nakajima at least – some ten hours of footage had been shot, the film was never completely edited and quickly became a lost project. It wouldn’t be until the 2010s that evidence of the film’s existence became concrete with footage appearing online and at Godzilla fan conventions where Nakajima would show clips and tease a final edit of the movie – which at one point was being claimed as having a 140-minute rough cut that was being edited to 100 minutes – and said that he was in negotiations with Toho for an official release. He even went as far as to announce that a DVD would be issued in 2016 – though you’ll perhaps be unsurprised to hear that the year came and went without any sign of the film. The best we have so far is a 26-minute version that might well be as far as the editing ever went. You can buy DVDs of questionable legality on eBay – or just watch it below for free.
Is there any serious chance that this will be properly released? Well, history tells us to never say never – weirder things have suddenly turned up. But it doesn’t seem to be in Toho’s interests to allow an 8mm Godzilla feature to be released, even if it is hardly going to harm the reputation of their top monster – and in any case, who is going to cough up what I suspect will be a hefty licensing fee for a movie that is going to have very niche appeal? There is also the possibility that the version online is all there is – that claims of ten hours of footage waiting to be edited are simply hype and that nothing more than what we already have exists. Who – apart from Shizuo Nakajima – really knows? However, I suspect that there would be no end of people willing to help put this project together and, who knows, even crowd-fund a release if the materials really did exist.
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