Friday, July 17, 2015
Mini-Review - "Varan, The Unbelievable" (1958)
Don't believe the title, Varan is very believable. In fact, I've seen this story before. It was called "Godzilla." Except "Varan, The Unbelievable" is devoid of all the character, awe, suspense and respect for the world around it that "Godzilla" had.
While watching this film, moments and scenes from "Godzilla" kept playing through my head and noticing how similar the two are. The mysterious accident that leaves people dead which sets the events into action, the natives who believe it was their god that attacked these people, the ultimate reveal of the monster that leads to the destruction of the natives land, and the military designated to stop the monster from destroying Japan. This is a plot we would see in several other monster films, but in "Varan, The Unbelievable," it is rushed and forced to get to the monster sequences.
This film feels like it was made by people who were impressed by "Godzilla" but didn't understand what made it so great. Which is extremely odd and depressing, considering "Varan" was made by the same creators as "Godzilla."
"Varan, The Unbelievable" was the fourth monster film created by Ishiro Honda and crew, following "Godzilla," "Rodan" and "The Mysterians." It is also the only other black-and-white monster film that Honda would ever make, yet it often relies on stock footage from "Godzilla," especially for the scenes involving the military. There are even some shots where we see Godzilla's tail or foot, but the film wants us to believe it is Varan.
However, "Varan, The Unbelievable" does get better near the end, as the military develops new techniques to combat Varan, including the use of flares and making the monster eat explosives. Like most of these Toho monster films, the effects can be impressive, if a bit laughable on the military vehicles. I'm not entirely sure why the film was shot in black-and-white when the vast range of colors is what made "Rodan" and "The Mysterians" stand out. Nothing impressive, but I do not regret seeing the film.
Final Grade: C-