Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, September 3, 2015


VARAN THE UNBELIEVABLE aka Daikaiju Baran Japanese version/1958. Director: Ishiro Honda.

Two scholarly students looking for a rare species of butterfly in the "Tibet of Japan," are found dead after coming upon a monstrous something. Yuriko (Ayumi Sonoda), the journalist sister of one of the scholars, goes to investigate the region with handsome Kenji (Kozo Nomura) and a buddy. The natives fear a god named Baradgi, but their problems are actually caused by a species of prehistoric creature known as varanpodi that rises out of a bucolic lake to cause death and destruction. Varan has a more interesting design than Godzilla, and is a fairly lively "suitmation" creature. The opening scenes are creepy, and the photography is moody and atmospheric. All told, this is no world-beater but it isn't totally terrible, either. Four years later footage was added with Myron Healey as an Army officer with a sub-plot involving both U.S. and Japanese forces experimenting on salt water. Oddly this version is five minutes shorter than the original. Ishiro Honda also directed Gojira (Godzilla) and Rodan, both of which were better than this.

Verdict: One of the better Japanese monster movies, which may not be saying too much. **1/2.

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