Japanese Giant Monster Movies (kaiju eiga)

In 1952, RKO reissued their 1933 classic King Kong to phenomenal success around the world - the re-issue netted four times as much at the box office as the film had made on its original release. The success of the re-issue sparked a wave of giant monster movies, with the first out of the gate being Eugene Lourie's The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.

It too was a huge success and, along with the popularity of King Kong in Japan, prompted Toho producer Tomoyuki Tanaka to hatch plans for his own giant monster movie. He planned to wed the city-levelling spectacle of the genre with Japan's concerns about the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the wake of the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and was able to pitch the idea to Toho's board during a lull in production. The result, Gojira (1954), was an immediate hit, particularly at home in Japan where it was one of the biggest films of its year, with immense queues forming at cinemas across the country.

Gojira was re-edited for Western cinemas, with footage of Raymond Burr as an American journalist commenting on the mayhem, and repeated the success it had enjoyed back home. So successful in fact that Toho was quick to capitalise on it and launch a whole series of films featuring the King of the Monsters. The subsequent history of the Godzilla films can be found in the Godzilla Zone.

Gojira, along with a string of American films, proved that there was a market for giant monster movies and Toho were soon adding a whole raft of oversized critters to their ever-growing roster of stars. The films, soon dubbed kaiju eiga (literally monster movies), made household names out of the flying reptile Radon (Rodan in the West) and Mosura (Mothra), and offered Oriental takes on classic Western monsters like the Frankenstein monster (Furankenshutain no kaijû: Sanda tai Gaira (1966) and Furankenshutain tai chitei kaijû Baragon (1965)) and even the one that began it all, King Kong (Kingukongu no gyakushu (1967) and Kingukongu tai Gojira (1962), probably the best known kaiju eiga in the West). Many of these creatures, and many more besides, were pitted againgst the mighty Godzilla at one time or another.

The kaiju eiga travelled surprisingly well and were popular in Britain and Europe and positively huge in the States - as the Godzilla series wore on, American stars were introduced and there was even funding on offer to keep the supply of monsters coming. Inevitably, a lot of the cultural references were watered down or eliminated altogether, resulting in fairly mindless knockabouts which had an adverse effect on the genre - Toho had already started shifting the emphasis of the Godzilla films away from the concerns that underpinned the earlier films in favour of more kiddie-friendly fare.

Other companies noted the success that Toho was enjoying and tried for a slice of the pie themselves. Japan's oldest production company, Nikkatsu, made only one kaiju eiga, Daikyoju Gappa (1967), before turning to the more lucrative soft-porn roman porno genre from 1971, but Daiei were able to start two of their own series. The first was a short-lived (three films) franchise featuring giant deity-statue Maijin, who debuted in Daimajin (1966), but the second, featuring a giant flying turtle, was a bigger hit. Starting with Daikaijû Gamera (1965), the Gamera series initially ran for just six films, until the series was retired in 1971 with Gamera tai Shinkai kaijû Jigura - 1980's Uchu kaijû Gamera was a compilation of clips from earlier films with barely the minimum of new footage. Noting Toho's decision to change the tone of their Gojira films in search of a younger audience, the Gamera films were exclusively aimed at children, lacking the darkness of the early Godzillas.

The first wave of kaiju eiga ended in the late 70s as the genre ran out of ideas and audience flocked to see the more flamboyant thrills of Star Wars (1978) and its successors and imitators. But they'd been successful enough to inspire similar efforts from around the world - South Korea gave us Taekoesu Yonggary (1967), Reptilicus (1961) was an American / Danish co-production and London was flattened by an enraged prehistoric mum looking for junior in Gorgo (1961).

But the kaiju eiga refused to go away. Toho revived Godzilla in 1984 and hooked a whole new generation of fans, and great rival Gamera was back a decade later for his own trilogy of updated efforts. Toho again put the rubber suits away in 1995 with the release of Gojira vs Desutoroia (which saw Godzilla conclusively killed for the second time) and the Japanese owned but Hollywood based Sony picked up the gauntlet for their own, disastrous, Americanised version of the King of the Monsters in 1998. Toho subsequently took the franchise back, steering Godzilla through to another death in his 50th anniversary outing, Gojira: Final wars (2004). In the meantime, the Koreans had rounded up a bunch of American non-actors, bought a few CGI software packages and unleashed the abominable Yonggary remake 2001 Yonggary (1999).

With Godzilla once again laid to rest, the future for the kaiju eiga from the perspective of summer 2004 looks bleak. The kaiju flag had been kept flying by Toho and their decision to - supposedly - retire the Beast from the East for good doesn't bode well. But fans of stuntmen in wobbly rubber suits stomping intricately detailed model cities have much to enjoy in the fantastic back catalogue of one of the most enduring, if strangest, genres in cinema history.
KEVIN LYONS

FILMOGRAPHY

Daikaijû Baran (1958)
Baran: Monster from the East
The Great Monster Baran
The Monster Varan
Varan the Unbelievable
- US title

Daikaijû Gamera (1965)
Gamera
Gamera the Invincible
Gammera
Gammera, the Invincible
- US title
El mundo bajo el terror - Spanish title

Daikaijû kessen: Gamera tai Barugon (1966)
Attenzione! arrivano i mostri - Italian title
Gamera vs. Barugon
Godzilla, der Drache aus dem Dschungel
- West German title
Los monstruos del fin del mundo - Spanish title
War of the Monsters

Daikaiju Tokyo ni arawaru (1998)

Daikyoju Gappa (1967)
Gappa - Frankensteins fliegende Monster - West German title
Gappa il mostro che minaccia il mondo - Italian title
Gappa the Triphibian Monsters - US title
Gappa, la bestia gigante - Argentinian title
Gappa, o Monstro Gigante - Brazilian title
Gappa, the Triphibian Monster
The Giant Beast Gappa
Monster from a Prehistoric Planet
- US title

Daimajin (1966)
The Devil Got Angry – USA advertising title
The Giant Majin - Canadian television title
Majin – French / US title
Majin the Hideous Idol - US advertising title
Majin the Monster of Terror
Majin, Monster of Terror
Majin, the Stone Samurai
The Vengeance of the Monster

Daimajin gyakushu (1966)
Le combat final de Majin - French title
Majin Strikes Again
Le retour de Majin
- French title
Return of Majin - US title
The Return of the Giant Majin - US title

Daimajin ikaru (1966)
Wrath of Daimajin - US title

Furankenshutain no kaijû: Sanda tai Gaira (1966)
Adventure of Gargantuas
La batalla de los simios gigantes
- Spanish title
Duel of the Gargantuas
Frankenstein - Zweikampf der Giganten
- West German title
Frankenstein hyökkää - Finnish title
Frankenstein's Monsters: Sanda vs. Gailah
La guerre des monstres
- French title
Katango - Italian title
King Kongarnas krig - Swedish title
Kong, uragano sulla metropoli - Italian title
Sanda vs. Gailah
The War of the Gargantuas
- US title

Furankenshutain tai chitei kaijû Baragon (1965)
Frankenstein - Der Schrecken mit dem Affengesicht - Austrian title
Frankenstein a la conquista de la Tierra - Venezuelan title
Frankenstein alla conquista della terra - Italian title
Frankenstein and the Giant Lizard
Frankenstein Conquers the World
- US title
Frankenstein Meets the Giant Devil Fish
Frankenstein vs. Baragon
- English language title
Frankenstein vs. the Giant Devil Fish
Frankenstein vs. the Subterranean Monster
Furankensuten to Baragon

Gamera 2: Region shurai (1996)
Gamera 2: Assault of the Legion - US title

Gamera 3: Iris kakusei (1999)
Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris - Canadian title
Gamera 3: The Awakening of Iris
Gamera 3 -
French title

Gamera daikaijû kuchu kessen (1995)
Gamera: El guardián del universo - Spanish title
Gamera: Giant Monster Midair Showdown
Gamera: The Guardian of the Universe

Gamera tai daikaijû Giron (1969)
Attack of the Monsters
Gamera contra Guiron, guardián del planeta fantasma
- Spanish title
Gamera vs. the Giant Evil Beast Guiron
Gamera vs. Guillon - US title
Gamera vs. Guiron - US title
King Kong contro Godzilla - Italian title

Gamera tai Daimaju Jaiga (1970)
Frankensteins Dämon bedroht die Welt - West German title
Gamera contra Jiger, el señor del caos - Spanish title
Gamera gegen Jiggar, Frankensteins Dämon bedroht die Welt - West German title
Gamera vs. Giger - English language title
Gamera vs. Jiger
Gamera vs. Monster X
- US title
Kinkong l'impero dei draghi - Italian title
Monsters Invade Expo '70
War of the Monsters

Gamera tai Gyaosu (1967)
Boyichi and the Supermonster
Daikaijû kuchusen: Gamera tai Gaos
Gamera contra Gaos, el terror de la noche
- Spanish title
Gamera contro il mostro Gaos - Italian title
Gamera gegen Gaos - Frankensteins Kampf der Ungeheuer - West German title
Gamera vs. Gaos
Gamera vs. Gyaos
Return of the Giant Monsters

Gamera tai Shinkai kaijû Jigura (1971)
Gamera vs. Zigra
Gamera vs. the Deep Sea Monster Zigra
Gamera contra Zigra, la amenaza de los océanos
- Spanish title

Gamera tai uchu kaijû Bairasu (1968)
Destroy All Planets
Gamera tai Viras
Gamera vs. Outer Space Monster Viras
Gamera vs. Viras
Il mostro invincibile
- Italian title
Viras ataca la Tierra - Spanish title

Gezora-Ganime-Kameba: Kessen! Nankai no daikaijû (1970)
Aliens - Monster des Grauens greifen an - German video title
Atom il mostro della galassia - Italian title
O Desafio dos Monstros - Brazilian title
Kessen! Nankai no daikaijû
Die Monster des Grauens greifen an
- West German title
The Space Amoeba
Supesu Amiiba
Yog: Monster from Space
- US title
Yog: The Space Amoeba

Godzilla 2001 (2001)

Godzilla and Other Movie Monsters (1998)

Gojira (1954)
Daikaijû no tai Nimon Mairu
G
Godzilla - Der sensationellste Film der Gegenwart
- West German title
Godzilla - monstret från havet - Swedish title
Godzilla - French / Hungarian / Italian / Polish / UK / US title
Japón bajo el terror del monstruo - Spanish title
O Monstro do Oceano Pacífico - Portugese title

Gojira (1984)
Godzilla - Die Rückkehr des Monsters - West German title
Godzilla - English language title
Godzilla 1985: The Legend Is Reborn - US title
Godzilla: 1985 – US title
O Regresso de Gozilla - Portugese title
El retorno de Godzilla - Spanish title
Le retour de Godzilla - French title
The Return of Godzilla

Gojira: Domination (2002)
Godzilla: Domination

Gojira-Ebira-Mosura: Nankai no daiketto (1966)
Big Duel in the North - English language title
Big Duel in the North Sea - English language title
Ebirah, Horror of the Deep - UK title
Ebirah, Terror of the Deep
Frankenstein und die Ungeheuer aus dem Meer
- West German title
Godzilla - Das Ungeheuer aus dem Meer - West German television title
Godzilla Versus the Sea Monster - US title
The Great South Seas Duel
Los monstruos del mar
- Spanish television title

Gojira: Final wars (2004)
Godzilla: Final Wars - English language title
Gojira: Fainaru uôzu

Gojira Fuantajî ~SF Kôkyô Fuantajî~ (1984)

Gojira: Kaiju dai-rantou (2002) +

Gojira-Minira-Gabara: Oru kaijû daishingeki (1969)
All kaijû daishingeki
All Monsters Attack
Attack All Monsters
Godzilla's Leverage
Godzilla's Revenge
- US title
Great Charge of All Monsters
Minya: The Son of Godzilla
- US title
Il ritorno di Gorgo - Italian title

Gojira, Mosura, Kingu Gidora: Daikaijû soukougeki (2001)
GMK - advertising title
Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack - English language title
Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Daikaiju Sogougeki

Gojira ni-sen mireniamu (1999)
G2K: Godzilla 2000 - Canadian title
Godzilla 2000 - US title
Godzilla Millenium - English language title
Godzilla vs. el calamar gigante - Mexican title
Gojira 2000

Gojira no gyakushu (1955)
Counterattack of the Monsters - US advertising title
Fire Monster
Gigantis
Gigantis the Fire Monster
- US title
Godzilla contraataca - Spanish re-release title
Godzilla kehrt zurück - West German title
Godzilla Raids Again - US title
Gojira Strikes Again
Gojira's Counterattack
Il re dei mostri
- Italian title
Le retour de Godzilla - French title
The Return of Godzilla
El rey de los monstruos
- Spanish title
The Volcano Monster

Gojira tai Biorante (1989)
Godzilla contra Biollante - Spanish title
Godzilla Contra-Ataca - Portugese title
Godzilla contre Biollante - French video title
Godzilla vs. Biollante
Godzilla, der Urgigant
- West German title
Gojira Vs Biorante - US title

Gojira tai Hedora (1971)
Frankensteins Kampf gegen die Teufelsbrut - West German title
Frankensteins Kampf gegen die Teufelsmonster - West German title
Godzilla - Furia di mostri - Italian title
Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster - US / UK title
Hedora, la burbuja tóxica - Spanish title

Gojira tai Megagirasu: Jii Shômetsu Sakusen (2000)
Godzilla vs. Megaguirus
Godzilla vs. Megaguirus: The G Annihilation Strategy
GXM
– advertising title

Gojira tai Megaro (1973)
Ai confini della realtà - Italian title
Godzilla kontra Megalon - Polish title
Godzilla vs. Megalon - US title
Gorgo y Superman se citan en Tokio - Spanish title
King-Kong - Dämonen aus dem Weltall - West German title

Gojira tai Mekagojira (1974)
Godzilla A Mechagodzilla ellen - Hungarian title
Godzilla contra Cibergodzilla, máquina de destrucción - Spanish title
Godzilla contro i robot - Italian title
Godzilla vs. Bionic Monster - US title
Godzilla vs. Cosmic Monster - US re-release title
Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla - US title
Invasion från Applaneten - Swedish video title
Jättihirviöiden kaksintaistelu - Finnish title
King Kong gegen Godzilla - West German title

Gojira tai Mekagojira (2002)
Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla - Hong Kong DVD title

Gojira torêdjingu batoru (1998)

Gojira vs Desutoroia (1995)
Godzilla gegen Destoroyah - German title
Godzilla vs. Destoroyah
Godzilla vs. Destroia
Godzilla vs. Destroyer

Gojira vs Kingugidora (1991)
Godzilla - Duell der Megasaurier - German title
Godzilla Contra King Ghidorah - Portugese title
Godzilla contra King Ghidorah - Spanish title
Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah - US title

Gojira vs Mekagojira (1993)
Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II – USA video title
Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla - US title
Godzilla vs. Super-Mechagodzilla

Gojira vs Mosura (1992)
Godzilla - Kampf der Sauriermutanten - German title
Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth - US title
Godzilla contra Mothra - Spanish title
Godzilla vs. Mothra
Gozdilla e Mothra
- Portugese title

Gojira tai Mosura tai Mekagojira: Tôkyô S.O.S. (2003)

Gojira vs Supesugojira (1994)
Godzilla gegen Spacegodzilla - German title
Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla

Kaijû daifunsen: Daigoro tai Goriasu (1971)
Daigoro vs. Goliath - US title

Kaijû daisenso (1965)
Avaruushirviöt hyökkäävät - Finnish title
Battle of the Astros
Befehl aus dem Dunkel
- West German title
Godzilla vs. Monster Zero - US title
The Great Monster War
Invasion of Astro-Monster
Invasion of Planet X
Invasion of the Astro-Monsters
Invasion of the Astros
- US armed forces circuit title
Invasion planète X - French title
L'invasione degli astromostri - Italian title
Inwazja jaszczurów - Polish title
Kaijû daisenso Kingughidorah tai Gojira – re-release title
Monster Zero - US title
Los monstruos invaden la Tierra - Spanish title

Kaijû sôshingeki (1968)
All Monsters Attack
Attack of the Marching Monsters
Destroy All Monsters
– UK / US title
Les envahisseurs attaquent - French title
Gli eredi di King Kong - Italian title
Frankenstein und die Monster aus dem All - West German title
Frankenstein und die Monster aus dem Weltall - West German title
Godzilla - Die Monster aus dem All - West German television title
Godzilla und die Monster aus dem All - West German title
Gojira dengeki daisakusen - re-release title
Hirviöt uhkaavat maailmaa - Finnish title
Invasión extraterrestre - Spanish title
The March of the Monsters
Monster Attack March
Operation Monsterland
- UK title

Kaijûtô no kessen: Gojira no musuko (1967)
Frankensteinin saari - Finnish title
Frankensteins Monster jagen Godzillas Sohn - West German title
Godzillas son - Swedish title
El hijo de Godzilla - Spanish title
Monster Island's Decisive Battle: Godzilla's Son
Son of Godzilla
- US title

Kaitei gunkan (1963)
Agente 04 del imperio sumergido - Spanish title
Atoragon: Flying Supersub
Atragon
- Italian / US title
Flying Supersub Atoragon
U 2000 - Tauchfahrt des Grauens
- West German title

Kingukongu no gyakushu (1967)
King Kong - Jättiläishirviö - Finnish title
King Kong escapa - Spanish title
King Kong Escapes - US title
King kong il gigante della foresta - Italian title
King Kong kauhun saarella - Finnish title
King Kong på skräckens ö - Swedish title
King Kong se escapa - Spanish title
King-Kong s'est échappé - French title
King-Kong, Frankensteins Sohn - West German title
El regreso de King-Kong - Argentinian title
La revanche de King-Kong - French title
The Revenge of King Kong

Kingukongu tai Gojira (1962)
King Kong contra Godzilla - Spanish title
King Kong kommt zurück - West German television title
King Kong vs. Godzilla
Die Rückkehr des King Kong
- West German title
Il trionfo di King Kong - Italian title

Kyôryu: Kaichô no densetsu (1977)
Denizlerin tanrisi - Turkish title
Giganten der Vorzeit - West German title
Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds - English language title
The Legend of the Dinosaurs - US title
Terremoto 10° - Italian title

Mekagojira no gyakushu (1975)
Die Brut des Teufels, Konga, Godzilla, King Kong - West German title
Distruggete Kong! La Terra e in pericolo - Italian title
The Escape of Mechagodzilla
The Escape of Megagodzilla
Godzilla contra Mechagodzilla
- Spanish title
Godzilla und der Kampf der Titanen - West German television title
Konga-Godzilla-King Kong - Die Brut des Teufels - West German title
Mechagodzilla vs. Godzilla
Monsters from an Unknown Planet
Monsters from the Unknown Planet
Revenge of Mechagodzilla
The Terror of Godzilla
- US title
Terror of Mechagodzilla - US video title

Mosura (1961)
Daikaijû Masura
Mothra
- US title
Mothra bedroht die Welt - West German title

Mosura (1996)
Mothra - Das Siegel der Elias - German title
Mothra
Mothran ylösnousemus
- Finnish television title
Rebirth of Mothra - US title

Mosura 2 (1997)
Mothra 2: The Undersea Battle
Mothra vastaan Dagaran
- Finnish television title
Rebirth of Mothra II - US title

Mosura 3 (1998)
Mothra III - King Ghidora kehrt zurück - German title
Rebirth of Mothra III - US title

Mosura tai Gojira (1964)
Godzilla contra los monstruos - Spanish title
Godzilla Fights the Giant Moth
Godzilla und die Urweltraupen -
West German title
Godzilla vs. Mothra
Godzilla vs. the Giant Moth
Godzilla vs. the Thing
Mothra contre Godzilla
- French title
Mothra möter Godzilla - Swedish title
Mothra vs. Godzilla
Panik in Tokyo
- West German title
Watang! Nel favoloso impero dei mostri - Italian title

Saikyoju tanjo: Nezulla (2002)

San daikaijû: Chikyu saidai no kessen (1964)
The Biggest Battle on Earth
The Biggest Fight on Earth
Ghidora, the Three-Headed Monster
Ghidrah
Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster
- US title
Godzilla contra Ghidorah, el dragón de tres cabezas - Spanish title
Godzilla vs. Ghidorah the Three Headed Monster - Swedish video title
The Greatest Battle on Earth
The Greatest Fight on Earth
Monster of Monsters
Three Giant Monsters: The Earth's Greatest Decisive Battle

Sora no daikaijû Radon (1956)
Die Fliegenden Monster von Osaka - West German television title
Radon
Rodan
Rodan il mostro alato
- Italian title
Rodan! The Flying Monster - US title
Rodan, tuntematon vihollinen - Finnish title
Rodan. Los hijos del volcán - Spanish title
Skräck över Japan - Swedish title

Super Godzilla (1993) +

Uchu daikaijû Dogora (1964)
Dagora, the Space Monster - US title
Dogora il mostro della grande palude - Italian title
Space Monster Dogora
X 3000 - Fantome gegen Gangster
- West German title

Uchu daikaijû Girara (1967)
Big Space Monster Guilala
Gilala
Girara
Guila - Frankensteins Teufelsei
- West German title
Odissea sulla Terra - Italian title
The X from Outer Space - US title

Utahime makai o yuku (1980)
Diva in the Netherworld - English language title

Uchu kaijû Gamera (1980)
Gameka – French Belgian title
Gameka et les 3 Super Women – French video title
Gamera Super Monster - US television title
Gamerak - French title
Phoenix Dominator – French Belgiian title
Rosvoalus Zanon - Finnish title
Supermonstruo - Spanish title

 


Last Updated: 1 January, 2009

 


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