Fans of vintage Japanese monster films will be excited this weekend when one of television’s iconic horror hosts will be saluting one of the legendary creatures.
Svengoolie Presents: “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” (1956, as part of Sven’s February salute to Godzilla)
This will be the first of four Godzilla features that Sven will showcase on his Saturday evening salute to the vintage screen monster throughout the month of February. Sven will be presenting “Godzilla Raids Again” on Feb. 11 (originally filmed in 1955, released in the United States in 1959), “Godzilla vs. Mothra” on Feb. 18 (released in 1964) and “Godzilla’s Revenge” on Feb. 25 (released in 1969 as “All Monsters Attack” in Japan).
Directed by Ishiro Honda and Terry Morse, the film features Raymond Burr (as reporter Steve Martin), Takashi Shimura (as Dr. Yamane), Momoko Kochi (as Emiko Yamane), Frank Iwanaga (as security officer Tomo Iwanaga), Akira Takarada (as Ogata) and Akihiko Hirata (as Dr. Serizawa).
Godzilla: Originally known as “Gojira” in Japan
Originally released in Japan by Toho Studios under the title of “Gojira” in 1954, Joseph E. Levine (of Embassy Pictures fame, who released the film under the “Transworld Films” moniker) obtained the North American distribution rights to Ishiro Honda’s monster epic.
According to the American Film Institute’s article on the first Godzilla film, Honda’s original Japanese cut was trimmed down from 96 minutes to 80 minutes. For the American release, Terry Morse directed additional sequences, featuring Raymond Burr and Frank Iwanaga. Morse’s re-filmed scenes were added into the footage from Honda’s “Gojira.”
A cultural phenomenon in cinema
The iconic fire-breathing lizard would become a cultural phenomenon to audiences and would spawn various film series produced by Toho Studios. In addition to various Godzilla films, the studio would specialize in other monster (or kaiju) film series throughout the years, including “Rodan” (beginning in 1956, also directed by Honda), “Mothra” (beginning in 1961, which was recently riffed by RiffTrax), “Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster” (1964) and Godzilla’s metal foe, “Mechagodzilla” (beginning in 1974 with “Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla”).
Even Toho’s competitors wanted to get onto the kaiju cinema bandwagon, including Daiei Studios and their flying turtle character, “Gamera” (beginning in 1965 with “Gamera: The Giant Monster”). Several Gamera films were riffed on “Mystery Science Theater 3000” (during the show’s KTMA run in Minneapolis in 1988-89 and on Comedy Central in 1991).
Raymond Burr’s other notable roles along with his appearance in “Godzilla, King of the Monsters:”
Two years before he appeared in “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” Raymond Burr would appear as the murderous killer Lars Thorwald in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 suspense thriller, “Rear Window” (opposite James Stewart and Grace Kelly).
Burr would go on to greater fame as the title character of the hit 1957-1966 CBS television adaptation of Erle Stanley Gardner’s criminal defense lawyer novel series, “Perry Mason” (he would reprise his role in a series of made-for-TV movies on NBC from 1985 until his death in 1993). One of Burr’s other notable roles on TV was in the 1967-75 series “Ironside,” playing the title character of the wheelchair-bound sleuth Robert T. Ironside.
29 years after the Godzilla phenomenon swept the states, Burr would reprise his role of Steve Martin in the Toho-New World production of “Godzilla: 1985.”
Why you should watch Svengoolie’s premiere of “Godzilla: King of the Monsters”
If you’ve seen “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” or if you’ve never seen the film before, you will experience one of the treasure Japanese kaiju cinema, hosted by Svengoolie as he will salute vintage Godzilla films throughout the month of February! You will not be disappointed!
Sat., Feb. 4 at 10 p.m. Eastern/9 p.m. Central on Me-TV Network
In the Frederick, Maryland metropolitan area: WJLA-TV 7.2/Comcast 204
In Baltimore: WBAL-TV 11.2/Comcast 208 (time-delayed to 11 p.m. due to TV-11’s special 10 p.m. newscast on their Me-TV subchannel)
Watch Raymond Burr in “Perry Mason” and “Ironside” on Me-TV (“Perry Mason” airs weekday mornings at 9 a.m. Eastern*/10 a.m. Central and weeknights at 11:30 p.m. Eastern/10:30 p.m. Central, “Ironside” airs on Me-TV’s overnight block at 3 a.m. Eastern/2 a.m. Central). *WJLA-TV’s Me-TV subchannel preempts the morning run of “Perry Mason” for infomercials.