During the nine-year interim between the Showa G-series and the Heisei G-series, many other G-projects were announced and planned, both authorized and unauthorized. Financial difficulties on Toho’s part ultimately squashed any attempts at Godzilla movies for the rest of the '70s and the first few years of the '80s, and threats of litigation by Toho quickly put the kibosh on the unauthorized projects.
The first few G-projects to be announced were authorized films to be done by Toho, and it’s clear that the company initially planned to continue the continuity of the Showa film series.
In 1978, Toho leaked out word on a film titled Godzilla vs. the Devil, which would have pitted the heroic version of the Big G against several monsters apparently created as supernatural manifestations of the evil inherent in humankind. This movie was to be a joint effort between Toho and UPA Productions, who had previously released G-films in America, and the latter film company wanted to produce a G-film that would jump on the thematic band wagon of demonic phenomena that was very popular in American cinema during the 1970s, with high grossing horror films built from this motif such as The Exorcist and The Omen, and the end-of-the previous decade hit Rosemary's Baby. Combining the themes of demonic horror and dai kaiju into a single suspensful cinematic hybrid must have seemed like a wildly fantastic idea at the time, and a screen treatment was evidently written. Unlike the American horror films featuring demonic themes, however, this time the supernatural phenomena was obviously going to be on a far grander scale, with the demonic manifestations taking the form of a giant spider, bird, and fish-like creature, who Godzilla would confront and destroy in short order, with the climax of the movie featuring a confrontation between the Kaiju King and a gigantic manifestation of Satan himself. This time, it would be the atomic power of Godzilla rather than the Bible and the indomitable Christian prayers of Father Lancaster Merrin to the rescue!
Despite this very interesting premise, nothing more was said or done about this project or with the screen treatment after its initial announcement.
Also in the late '70s was a proposed co-production between Toho and UPA to produce Godzilla vs. Gargantua, which would have featured the long-awaited return of one of the two giant Frankenstein brothers from the semi-classic 1966 film War of The Gargantuas. The late Henry Saperstein, the head of UPA Productions and then owner of the Godzilla copyright in America, who co-produced War of the Gargantuas with Toho and released it in America in 1970, liked the concept of the two giant freakish humanoids, and long desired to put one of them up against the King of the Monsters. This idea also died a quick death, despite the financial assistance offered by Saperstein.
Another notable proposition was Space Godzilla, a film proposal which was to be based upon a story that appeared in an issue of the Japanese version of STARLOG magazine. Evidently, this would feature a battle between the Showa version of Godzilla and an extraterrestrial offshoot of the Atomic Titan who would arrive on Earth and challenge the original. Two decades later, an extrapolation of this idea would finally be realized with Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla, but now featuring the Heisei version of the Big G.
After that project fell through, Tomoyuki Tanaka came forth with the idea to revamp Godzilla’s continuity and return the atomic beast to his former glory as a deadly serious, malevolent threat to humankind, and to revive the nuclear themes so important in the kaiju’s early days. Tanaka was greatly convinced that the transformation of Godzilla from a terrifying threat to humanity and symbol of nuclear irresponsibility to a semi-comical super-hero geared to younger audiences had besmirched the monster’s image among the adult fans, thus leading to the beast’s extreme wane in popularity. This idea came as early as 1977, when Tanaka planned to produce a film featuring the restoration of Godzilla’s classic image titled Rebirth of Godzilla.
Despite the fact that Toho liked the idea (and would eventually realize it) continued financial hardship convinced the company to work only on non-sfx projects for the next few years. The latter proposal, however, was one of three authorized projects whose elements were later worked into the script for what eventually would be released in America as Godzilla 1985.
In 1980, Tanaka’s idea was taken under consideration once more with a film proposal known as The Return of Godzilla. Reviving the evil version of the Kaiju King, the story that appeared in the screen treatment described Godzilla being reawakened by covert nuclear waste dumping operations in the Pacific Ocean. In addition to having Godzilla renew his attacks on humankind, he would also be pitted against another kaiju, the legendary shape-shifting supernatural monster called Bagan (a later aborted film project was to pit a different, more mythologically accurate version of Bagan against Mothra, though Godzilla would indeed eventually end up facing Bagan, albeit not on the celluloid screen). Bagan would shape-shift into three different forms in the course of the proposed film: a land-roving simian creature, a dragon-like flying beast, and an aquatic, fish-type monster. Both Godzilla and Bagan would threaten the world, eventually clashing in combat with Bagan winning the initial round due to his power to heal after each successive transformation from one incarnation to another. After replenishing his energy by absorbing the radiation from a nuclear power plant, Godzilla attacks Bagan once more, this time utterly demolishing his opponent. Godzilla then turns his fury back on human civilization, and the only salvation for humankind appears to be in the hands of a scientist named Inamura. In a plot device shamelessly stolen from the first G-film, Inamura has a terrible invention, a secret anti-nuclear substance known as reiconium, which is the only thing that can stop Godzilla’s rampage. Going through the familiar motions of not wanting to use the invention since it might be turned into a weapon against humanity itself by the various governments of the world (a justifiable concern, mind you), Inamura finally relents and Godzilla is seemingly killed by a nuclear power overload brought on by the reiconium. The film was to have ended with Godzilla’s body washing up on shore in the United States, and having a narrator announce that as long as nuclear power was in use, Godzilla would live, a truly chilling premonition.
Toho also planned to produce The Godzilla Show Movie the same year, which would feature film footage clips of the first fifteen G-films, and offer a retrospective of the series. This was to directly precede the release of The Return of Godzilla, and was an obvious publicity warm-up for the Big G’s return. Alas, both projects never saw the light of day.
The third of the authorized proposals that had a few ideas which were incorporated into Godzilla 1985 was to be an American-made production by Steve Minor, the producer of such revered American horror exploitation films like Friday the 13th Part 3-D. Set to be released in 1984, Godzilla, King of the Monsters In 3-D was to feature a complete reworking of the Godzilla mythos, as well as returning the beast to an antagonistic to humankind slant. The film was not only intended to be shot in 3-D, but was to feature stop motion animation from designs created by noted dinosaur artist William Stout. Like the Tri-Star film, Minor wanted to completely alter Godzilla’s appearance, making him resemble a Tyrannosaurus rex in appearance and body structure, the only commonality with the original version being that the monster would retain its trademark dorsal fins. As typical American fare, the film was to feature bad science to explain Godzilla’s origin, as well as totally ripping off the plot from the often fondly remembered 1961 British dai kaiju film Gorgo. However, the monster’s nuclear theme was to be restored, at least, and topical Cold War tensions were to be dramatized in the film. The story, written by screenwriter Fred Dekker, is as follows.
A nuclear missile accident during a Cold War conflagration with a Soviet nuclear submarine off the coast of California results in the appearance of a huge, prehistoric dinosaur-like monster that attacks the sub for its stores of radiation. The giant creature is soon killed by an anti-fission missile, and scientific analysis indicates the monster is a “proto-saur,” a pre-dinosaurian beast that originated in the primordial days of the planet’s evolution, which had a nuclear internal power source due to the species having evolved during the solar system’s early days of nuclear fission. The explanation here is so much bogus and fabricated science that Toho itself can never be criticized for its own pop science in explaining the existence of their dai kaiju. The creature is coined ‘Godzilla’ from an ancient Japanese legend of nuclear powered dragons, and the dead beast is put on public display in San Francisco. However, the monster turns out to have been only a baby of the species, and a full adult parent creature soon emerges and begins a destructive trek through California in search of its missing offspring. Naturally, the 50 meter beast easily fends off the attacks of the U.S. military, and upon locating and discovering its progeny to be dead, the creature’s rampage becomes even more intense. After a climactic attack on Alcatraz Island, the adult Godzilla is finally killed when an experimental nuclear implosion missile is fired down its throat.
Minor was able to peddle the idea to many interested production companies, and storyboards and detailed models were constructed, leading many to believe that the movie would actually see fruition. Perhaps luckily, all the studios ultimately turned down the funding requests, and another G-project quietly bit the dust.
As for the unauthorized projects, many such proposed endeavors were announced between the late '70s and early '80s, all of which were evidently squelched by Toho. Two notable examples are the most well known, and are described below.
In 1980, Hong Kong’s First Distributors announced a film called Star Godzilla. A small ad for the flick was seen in the May, 1980 issue of VARIETY, and it featured a drawing of Godzilla standing amidst a burning city, along with many military vehicles, several apparent spacecraft hovering in the sky, and a giant ape resembling King Kong. The ad also displayed a blurb above the title of the film, which said, “Where the old world and the new world meet.” However, threats of litigation by Toho quickly put an end to this very intriguing idea.
[Note: A review of Star Godzilla appeared on the Stomp Tokyo web site, which seemed to provide evidence that the movie was actually produced and filmed, and all of this info (plus a few stills) are provided here on the Stomp Tokyo web site, and this site typically does an excellent job of reviewing such films. The aforementioned review stated that the movie was extremely difficult to come by, and the site's esteemed scribes, Scott Hamilton and Chris Holland, had this to say on the matter of how they acquired a copy of this ever elusive pseudo-G-film: "Looking at the circumstances surrounding Star Godzilla's release, it's not hard to figure out why it's not better known. Toho must have put the kibosh on this film early, and it may never have played in theaters, even in its native land. We saw a copy we acquired from one of our favorite bootleggers, and it didn't look like it was dubbed from a laserdisc. It was blurry most of the way through, and the tape case featured a hazy xerox of the VARIETY ad." Sadly, as reported in this site's guest book, it now seems that the entire review was a hoax, and this movie was never actually made, more's the pity when you consider the sheer "so bad it's good" entertainment value such a film would have likely provided bad movie buffs and G-fans alike.]
I would like to thank site visitor and fellow G-fan Michael R. Cantone for providing me with this important tidbit of info concerning the mysterious "Star Godzilla."
The second well known unauthorized project proposal was Godzilla vs. Cleveland, a concept proposed by Golan-Globus, and to be produced by Cannon Films, the now defunct producers of low budget crap cinema during the '80s (thank goodness they never ended up producing that proposed Spider-Man movie in 1985 for only a few million dollars!). This movie was obviously intended to be a comedy, designed to exploit the typical American attitude that Godzilla is a joke, and that under no circumstances is he to be treated respectfully by American film companies. The poster ad art for the movie depicted Godzilla trampling through Cleveland (wearing sneakers, no less!) while not very terrified people watched in the foreground, one of them even being shown wielding a camera and snapping pictures of the great kaiju (possibly a slightly less than tasteful pun on a common stereotype attributed to Japanese tourists in America). A plug near the film title read, “He emerged from the depths of Lake Erie and ate everything in sight. He’s a man eater and a lady killer...” It’s certainly no wonder that Toho was incensed at the disrespectful, unabashedly campy take on their kaiju star, and a threatened lawsuit promptly brought the production to a permanent halt.
As it turned out, however, Godzilla continued to live on after the Showa Series ended via frequent television re-showings of the films (always much anticipated by G-fans during the pre-VCR days of the '70s), Hanna-Barbera’s animated series, a two-year comic book sojourn courtesy of Marvel Comics, recurrent movie marathons and (especially in Japan) film festivals. In 1982, an English sub-titled edition of the first G-film was given respectful analysis at many art and film galleries throughout even the U.S., and Toho re-released Godzilla vs. Mothra in Japan to surprisingly great box office success in 1980. It was made clear to Toho that the deadly serious, original Godzilla was still a hot commodity among both old and new G-fans. In fact, during a landmark theatrical re-release marathon of many of their classic films in Japan by Toho in the early '80s, the early Godzilla films drew a larger audience than even Akira Kurasawa’s classic movies, which Toho found astounding. A monumental letter writing campaign to Toho was issued by thousands of G-fans making up the the Godzilla Resurrection Society, demanding a new Godzilla movie.
Thus, it was truly inevitable that by 1984, Toho took Tanaka’s longtime idea to heart, and decided to produce a new G-film with a brand new beginning for the King of the Kaiju. The result was the film released in America by New World Pictures a year later as Godzilla 1985, thus paving the way for the seven film Heisei Era G-series, which is covered elsewhere on this site.
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