Director: Jerry A. Baerwitz
Writer: Sid Harris
Cast: Myron Healy, Tsuruko Kobayashi, Clifford Kawada, Derick Shimatsu, Hideo Imamura, George Sasaki, Hiroshi Hisamune, Yoneo Iguchi, Michael Sung, and Roy K. Ogata
Composer: Akira Ifukube (Uncredited)
Release Date: 12/7/1962
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Led by Commander James Bradley (Myron Healy), a joint U.S.-Japanese military operation experiments on a saltwater lake located near the island of Okinawa. Thereafter, a giant, formidable creature known as Obaki awakens from hibernation, posing a tremendous threat to the people of Japan.
The Americanized version of Daikaiju Baran, Varan the Unbelievable can best be described as a second-rate imitation of Godzilla, King of the Monsters!. Specifically, little attempt is made to integrate footage from the Japanese feature (already a problematic movie) with newly filmed sequences, resulting in a disjointed, unacceptable product.
Though poorly executed, the framing narrative in Varan the Unbelievable may, at least on a surface level, allow English-speaking viewers to relate with the foreign subject matter presented in this offering.
Against the wishes of nearby villagers, Commander Bradley conducts a series of desalinization tests in a lake with unusual properties. As a consequence, Bradley comes across as an insensitive, unsympathetic protagonist long before his experiments perturb the monster Obaki.
As opposed to Steve Martin (the American reporter portrayed by Raymond Burr in Godzilla, King of the Monsters!), Bradley never directly interacts with the characters carried over from the Japanese source material. Viewers may therefore question why Kenji Uozaki and Yuriko Shinjo, both of whom play a significant role in the original film, are given so much attention in Varan the Unbelievable despite not exchanging a single line of dialogue with Bradley.
Varan the Unbelievable contains a laudable, albeit underdeveloped, commentary on the dangers of disturbing nature in the name of scientific progress—arguably the only improvement over Daikaiju Baran, which fails to draw a connection between human activity and the sudden reemergence of a prehistoric beast.
By removing key aspects (e.g. Obaki’s attraction to flares) from the Japanese story that inspired it, Varan the Unbelievable will surely disappoint fans of Daikaiju Baran. Especially worth criticizing, the monster in this film appears unable to fly away when attacked by the Japanese Army—much in contrast to his counterpart from the Toho Studios version.
Overall Quality: 3/10
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