Friday, November 29, 2013

King Kong and Frankenstein's "Other" Appearances in Japanese Sci-fi Films

Toho, the Japanese film studio and king of Japanese Giant Monster films, made two fully licensed movies with King Kong, King Kong vs. Godzilla in 1962 and King Kong Escapes in 1967.  It also made two films about Frankenstein's monster, Frankenstein Conquers the World in 1965 and War of the Garguantuas (Japanese Tile : Frankenstein's Monsters: Sanda vs. Gaira) in 1966.  For the former, Toho studios licensed the character from RKO Studios and for Frankenstein Conquers the World it licensed the distinctive Jack Pierce designed Frankenstein's Monster look from Universal.

While Godzilla had been introduced to the world in 1956, two years after his Japanese debut, King Kong and Frankenstein's Monster were of an earlier generation of movie monsters.  King Kong was released in 1933 and Universal's Frankensteinin 1931 (the latter appearing in six subsequent Universal films).  The films were highly regarded in the 1960s and 1970s and the characters were far better established in much of the movie-going world than Godzilla and other Japanese movie monsters.

Godzilla and other Japanese films were released in different countries at different times.  While Godzilla and Godzilla Raids Again were generally released with those or similar titles across the world, when it came to Toho's later films, all bets were off when it came to the naming game.  West Germany, in particular, rarely gave Godzilla the title credit the film itself intended.  Instead, the distributors came up with a variety of creative titles for the films released in that country.

Japanese Title (Translation) U.S. Theatrical Title German Theatrical Title (Translation)
Gojira Godzilla, King of the Monsters Godzilla

Gojira no gyakushu Gigantis the Fire Monster Godzilla Kehrt Zurück
Counterattack of Godzilla
Godzilla Returns

Kingukongu tai Gojira King Kong vs. Godzilla Die Rückkehr des King Kong
King Kong vs. Godzilla
The Return of King Kong

Mosura tai Gojira Godzilla vs. the Thing Godzilla und die Urweltraupen
Mothra vs. Godzilla
Godzilla and the Primeval caterpillars
San daikaiju: Chikyu saidai no kessen
Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster
No Theatrical Release
Three Giant Monsters: The Greatest Battle on Earth

Kaiju daisenso Monster Zero Befehl aus dem Dunkel
The Great Monster War
Command from the Dark

Gojira-Ebira-Mosura: Nankai no dai Ketto Godzilla Versus the Sea Monster Frankenstein und die Ungeheuer aus dem Meer
Godzilla, Ebirah, Mothra : Big Duel in the North Sea
Frankenstein and the Monsters from the Sea

Kaiju shima no kessen: Gojira no musuko Son of Godzilla Frankensteins Monster jagen Godzillas Sohn
Monster Island's Decisive Battle: Godzilla's Son
Frankenstein's Monsters hunt Godzilla's Son

Kaiju Soshingeki Destroy All Monsters Frankenstein und die Monster aus dem All
Attack of the Marching Monsters
Frankenstein and the Monsters from Space

Gojira-Minira-Gabara: Oru kaiju daishingeki Godzilla's Revenge No Theatrical Release
All Monsters Attack

Gojira tai Hedora Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster Frankensteins Kampf gegen die Teufelsmonster 
Godzilla vs. Hedorah
Frankenstein's Battle against the Devil's monsters

Chikyu kogeki meirei: Gojira tai Gaigan Godzilla on Monster Island Frankensteins Höllenbrut
Earth Destruction Directive: Godzilla vs. Gigan
Frankenstein's Hellspawn

Gojira tai Megaro Godzilla vs. Megalon King-Kong - Dämonen aus dem Weltall
Godzilla vs. Megalon
King Kong - Demons from Outer Space

Gojira tai Mekagojira Godzilla vs. the Cosmic Monster King Kong gegen Godzilla
Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla
King Kong vs. Godzilla

Mekagojira no gyakushu Terror of Godzilla Konga-Godzilla-King Kong - Die Brut des Teufels
Counterattack of Mechagodzilla
Konga, Godzilla, King Kong – The Spawn of the Devil

Sora no daikaiju Radon Rodan The Flying Monster Die fliegenden Monster von Osaka
Rodan the Giant Monster of the Sky
The Flying Monsters of Osaka

Chikyu Boeigun The Mysterians Weltraum-Bestien
Earth Defense Force
Space Beasts

Bijo to Ekitainingen The H-Man Das Grauen schleicht durch Tokio
Beauty and the Liquidman
The Horror creeps through Tokyo

Uchu daisenso Battle in Outer Space Die Bestie aus dem Weltenraum
The Great Space War
The Beast from Space

Mosura Mothra Mothra bedroht die Welt
Mothra threatens the World

Sekai daisenso The Last War Todesstrahlen aus dem Weltall
The Great World War
Death rays from Outer Space

Yosei Gorasu Gorath Ufos zerstören die Erde
Suspicious Star Gorath
UFOs to destroy the Earth

Kaitei gunkan Atragon U 2000 - Tauchfahrt des Grauens
Undersea Battleship
U 2000 – Submarine Voyage of Horror

Uchu daikaiju Dogora Dagora, the Space Monster X 3000 – Phantome gegen Gangster
Space Monster Dogora
X 3000 – Phantoms vs. Gangsters

Furankenshutain tai chitei kaiju Baragon Frankenstein Conquers the World Frankenstein - Der Schrecken mit dem Affengesicht
Frankenstein vs. the Subterranean Monster Baragon
Frankenstein – The Terror with the Ape Face

Furankenshutain no kaiju: Sanda tai Gaira The War of the Gargantuas Frankenstein - Zweikampf der Giganten
Frankenstein's Monsters: Sanda vs. Gaira
Frankenstein – Duel of the Giants

Kingu Kongu no gyakushu King Kong Escapes King-Kong, Frankensteins Sohn
Counterattack of King Kong
King Kong, Frankenstein's Son

Gezora, Ganime, Kameba: Kessen! Nankai no Daikaiju Yog: Monster from Space Monster des Grauens Greifen An
Gezora, Ganime, Kameba: Battle! Monsters of the South Seas
Horror Monsters are Attacking

Wakusei daisenso The War in Space Der große Krieg der Planeten
The War in Space
The great War of the Planets

Gojira Godzilla 1985 Godzilla: Die Rückkehr des Monsters
Godzilla: The Return of the Monster

Gojira vs. Biorante Godzilla vs. Biollante Godzilla, der Urgigant
Godzilla vs. Biollante
Godzilla, the Primordial Giant

You may notice that King Kong and Frankenstein appear very frequently in this list of German titles, more often than the name Godzilla.  Apparently for King Kong Escapes, the distributor felt free to add the Frankenstein name to the title for even more marquee value.  However, not until Godzilla vs. Megalon did the German distributors find the courage to use the King Kong name for a movie without King Kong in it.  Thus Jet Jaguar and Mechagodzilla are renamed King Kong in the last three Showa Godzilla movies.  Continuing with the reappropriating of the names of monster movie apes, in Terror of Godzilla, Titanosaurus is renamed "Konga", presumably from the 1961 British film of the same name.  The remake of King Kong by Dino De Laurentiiis was being made and shown around the time when these films were being released in West Germany, which may explain the change from Frankenstein to King Kong.  These "King Kong" and "Frankenstein" films were released by Constantin Film.  

The Germans were not the only country to use the King Kong name when the real King Kong was not in the movie.  The Italian title for Destroy All Monsters was Gil Eredi di King Kong, or The Inheritors of King Kong.  This actually does make a kind of sense, as Godzilla and later films owe a large creative debt to King Kong.  The movie posters do show King Kong, however.  Again, for Terror of Godzilla, the Italians distributed "Distruggete Kong! la Terra e in Pericolo" or Destroy Kong!, Earth is in Danger.  King Kong is the only monster featured on the contemporary film poster.  Titanosaurus is renamed "Titan Kong" in the dubbing.  

For Godzilla vs. the Thing, the Italians renamed the film Watang! Nei Favoloso Impero del Mostri, Watang! The Fabulous Empire of Monsters.  Godzilla is still called Godzilla in the film, "Watang" refers to Infant Island.  Godzilla has been renamed Gorgo in the title when Italian distributors re-released Son of Godzilla in the late 70s to coincide with a showing of the British classic Gorgo.  Also, for Spain the film Godzilla vs. Megalon became Gorgo y Superman Se Citan en Tokio, Gorgo and Superman Fight in Tokyo.  According to my source, Jet Jaguar was dubbed Superman and Gigan became Gorgo.  Like in the Italian case above, the distributors also had the rights to the real Gorgo film and some episodes of Super Giant, which was renamed Superman in Spain.  At least the European distributors had enough sense not to try and rename Godzilla to "Gorgo" or "Watang" or something else.  In the United States, the distributors renamed Godzilla to "Gigantis" for the second movie and the box office rewarded them in an appropriately stingy fashion for that blunder.  

My original inspiration for this article was the recent Blu-ray release of Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster in Germany.  This movie is the only Japanese Godzilla Film Blu-ray release in 2013 anywhere in the world.  The movie apparently was never released in West Germany theatrically.  The current German distributor has given the title "Frankensteins Monster im Kampf gegen Ghidorah", Frankenstein's Monsters in a Battle against Ghidorah.  Either Frankenstein's name is still often used for monster or horror movies in Germany, or the distributor is trying to evoke memories of the old films, as the West Germans may have remembered them. In this film, according to the title at least, apparently Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra were all created by Dr. Frankenstein.  The Blu-ray is subtitled and not dubbed and presumably faithful to the Japanese, where Frankenstein is not in the dialogue.  Otherwise, Frankenstein may be a generic word in German for fantasy, at least when the word Monster follows it.  It is curious that while Frankenstein may have been a German scientist, the book which introduced him was published by Mary Shelly, an Englishwoman.  (Also compare the embrace of Dracula in post-Communist Romania by Irish author Bram Stoker).

Frankenstein was often, via dubbing, inserted into the plot.  For a movie like King Kong Escapes, it was easy enough to rename the villain from "Dr. Who" to "Dr. Frankenstein."  For other films the connection becomes a bit more tenuous.  In Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster, in the German dub the Red Bamboo are working for Frankenstein.  In Son of Godzilla, the Kamacuras and Kumonga are said to be Dr. Frankenstein's creations.  Similar conventions may occur in later films.  Godzilla vs. the Thing was released very late theatrically in West Germany, in 1974, so by that time Godzilla's name apparently had sufficient marquee value to displace Frankenstein's.  I guess no one thought to rechristen Mothra.  


  1. Since you asked:
    I'd translate "Monster des Grauens Greifen An" with "Horror Monsters are attacking" (or maybe "attack", "to attack" - please choose an appropriate time form). (Correct capitalization would be "Monster des Grauens greifen an", though. Although German uses much more capitalization than English it doesn't have the rule that capitalization is different in a book/movie title. I won't mention this again for the other titles.)
    Another few:
    "Frankenstein und die Ungeheuer aus dem Meer" would be "Frankenstein and the Monsters from the Sea" since "die Ungeheuer" is plural.
    "Frankensteins Monster jagen Godzillas Sohn" is "Frankenstein's Monsters hunt Godzilla's Son" since "jagen" is plural (you can't tell from "Monster" alone since there is no definite article).
    "Frankenstein und die Monster aus dem All" - "Frankenstein and the Monsters from Space".
    "Frankensteins Kampf gegen die Teufelsmonster" - "Frankenstein's Battle against the Devil's monsters" (probably not the literal devil, that would be "Monster des Teufels". I don't know if there is such a discinction in English.)
    "King-Kong - Dämonen aus dem Weltall" - "King Kong - Demons from Outer Space"
    "Die fliegenden Monster von Osaka" - "The Flying Monsters of Osaka"
    "U 2000 - Tauchfahrt des Grauens" - Tauchfahrt describes the journey of a submerged submarine, not SCUBA diving so "diving trip" sounds wrong. No idea for a proper translation.
    "Godzilla: Die Rückkehr des Monsters" - "Godzilla: The Return of the Monster" ("des Monsters" is singular, plural would be "der Monster" here)
    "Godzilla, der Urgigant" - "Godzilla, the Primal/Primeval/Primordial Giant" (please choose whatever fits best)

  2. Thanks, I updated the post. I seem to have forgotten everything I ever learned about plural nouns in German.

  3. You are welcome. I wasn't sure if you knew German, used some translation tool or had another source for these translations.

    "Frankensteins Monster" was probably used as a synonym for "horror", although this would be quite obsolete today.

    You changed my suggestion "Frankenstein's Monsters hunt Godzilla's Son" to "Frankenstein's Monsters hunts Godzilla's Son". Was my English grammar wrong? Monsters is plural so shouldn't it be "hunt" and not "hunts"?

  4. I’d like to correct the Italian titles:

    “Gli eredi di King Kong” — “King Kong’s Successors”
    “Distruggete Kong! La Terra è in pericolo!” — “Destroy Kong! Earth is in danger!”
    “Watang! Nel favoloso impero dei mostri” — “Watang! In the Fabulous Monster Empire”

    Incidentally, I found this article because I just subtitled an Italian video that mentions this very thing:

  5. Thank you very much for those corrections. That video is pretty well-informed.

    Sometimes you can catch snippets or foreign language trailers of Godzilla and Japanese sci-fi films on Youtube. These channels are pretty good :