What’s Going on with “Kunashiroshima” in “Varan, the Unbelivable” (1962)

by Brian Scherschel

Background

I mentioned in episode 40 on “Varan” that the American version of the movie loves the word “Kunashiroshima”, as it is said plenty of times.  The creators of the American version decided to make Kunashiroshima an island.  They moved every event in the movie to this island.  In the Japanese version, the events take place in the mountains of Tohoku in Iwaya Village.  The military and scientists kill Varan at Haneda Airport in Tokyo.

The island of Kunashir is in the Kuril Islands, which are called the Northern Territories in Japan.  The Japanese refer to this island as Kunashiri.  The Soviet Union invaded this group of islands towards the end of the Great Pacific War.  They have been Soviet/Russian territory ever since.

In a previous article, I mentioned how this disputed territory will likely never be resolved because neither side is budging despite what the president of Russia said to Prime Minister Abe recently.  There are currently a significant number of Russian troops on Kunashir and Iturup, because of the recent increases in global tension.  All of these islands are very close to Hokkaido.

The Kuril Islands (source: Google Earth)

Why the Location Change?

Why is the location changed and then given this name in the American version of Varan?  Shima in Japanese translates to “island”.  So the island in the movie is Kunashiro Island.  Sid Harris, the screenwriter for Varan, may have purposely changed the location to Kunashir in order to connect Varan with the Soviet Union.  Varan represents the Soviets, who are lying in wait to attack and invade.  Varan is in the lake and is ready to attack at any time.

The American version was released at the height of the Cold War in 1962.  So this type of symbolism would fit with the times.

Connection to Other Kaiju Films

This isn’t really new though.  In previous movies covered in the show, there have been connections made between Godzilla and the United States because of his relation to nuclear weapons.  Rodan may represent the Soviet Union as well.  King Ghidorah has a possible connection to China in the 1964 Ghidorah film.

While I usually expected Takeshi Kimura or Shinichi Sekizawa to do this, I didn’t expect the American remake of Varan to do it.  Viewers don’t really look for the American remakes to be smart.  It’s not necessarily “in your face” symbolism, just as the other Japanese movies have done.  If the symbolism was obvious, then it wouldn’t be as good.

If this is the case, then bravo to whoever decided to do it, because it works!  It’s even in line with what other Japanese kaiju films have done!

Episode 40: Varan (1958)

Kaiju non-fiction author John LeMay joins me for a detailed analysis on the good Japanese version of Varan, and a brief review of the pain-inducing American version “Varan, the Unbelievable” starring Myron Healey from “The Unearthly” and released in theaters by the same company that gave us “The Skydivers” and “Beast of Yucca Flats”. John tells us all about the complicated story behind the making of Varan, because it was originally meant for television. We talk about Varan and his design and complicated origin. I notice the many similarities between Yuriko from this movie and Yuri from GMK (2001). The related topic for this episode is the hisabetsu-buraku (discriminated communities), who may be represented as the natives in the movie.

You can find all of John LeMay’s books on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/John-LeMay/e/B003KTW83K/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1539779359&sr=8-2.

This episode is dedicated to master prop and monster suit builder Keizo Murase.

I’d like to send a shout-out to our patron Sean Stiff for donating at the Kaiju Visionary level. Thank you for your support! I really appreciate it.

MP3:

Introduction: 0:00 – 2:02

Part 1 – Film Description: 2:02 – 8:01

Part 2 – Opinion and Analysis: 8:01 – 54:51

Part 3 – Related Topic: 54:51 – 1:05:48

Closing: 1:05:48 – End

 

Host/Editor/Director/Scenic Videos: Brian Scherschel

Guest Co-Host: John LeMay

Video Location: Fox Island County Park (Bowman Lake), Allen County, Indiana

Music: Audiophiliac (www.fiverr.com/audiophiliac)

“Torii Gate” Banners: Kevin Geary (kevincgearydesign.com)

Logos: Nanoparticles (www.fiverr.com/nanoparticles)

Copyright Brian J. Scherschel

All Rights Reserved

Announcement of Season 2 Episode List / “My Farewell Address”

by Brian Scherschel

What’s Next

Get ready for a season of great classic Toho movies starting next month!!!

Season 2 of Kaijuvision will premiere on Wednesday September 19 with “The Mysterians”.  Episodes for the newer Godzilla movies will debut shortly after the movies are released.

The new episodes will follow the same 3-part structure (Description/Opinion and Analysis/Related Topic).  Episodes will debut every other week on Wednesdays at noon Eastern.  I’ll release the DVD guide for these movies next week.

Season 2 Lineup:

The Mysterians (1957)
Varan (1958)
Battle in Outer Space (1959)
The Last War (1961)
Gorath (1962)
Matango (1963)
Atragon (1963)
Dogora, the Space Monster (1964)
Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965)
Godzilla Anime Trilogy (all in one episode)
War of the Gargantuas (1966)
Latitude Zero (1969)
Space Amoeba (1970)
The Submersion of Japan (1973)
War in Space (1977)
Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

My Commitment to the Fans of Kaijuvision Radio

As the show continues, many things won’t change, but a few things will.

I may be disabled from a number of physical health issues and I may be acting as a caregiver for my 96-year old grandmother, but those two things didn’t stop me when I decided to create this podcast, and can promise you they won’t now either.  My devotion to my grandmother, maintaining my health, and this podcast is unwavering.

I will be taking on sole responsibility for the podcast here on out.

Currently our Patreon donations are not fully covering the monthly data fees and storage for the distribution of the podcast.  Please visit the Kaijuvision Radio Patreon site to see just what you will get back for your donation.

I knew I wanted to create something different and unique.  Mission accomplished there.

Thank you Nathan for your many visits to Kaijuvision Radio HQ and for your contributions to the podcast.

Thank you to all fans of Kaijuvision Radio for watching/listening, and for your positive responses to this truly great show!

If you like what you’ve seen and heard so far, you’ll love what comes next.

-Brian


“My Farewell Address”

by Nathan Marchand

It is with a heavy heart that I tell all of you, G-fans and kaiju lovers, that I am stepping down from Kaijuvision Radio. I will be starting grad school, working at the university as a teaching assistant, and moving to a new apartment. While I’ll still be in our local area, all those changes would make it difficult to produce the high-quality content that is the staple of this podcast.

I was determined to make it work, but upon further consideration, I’ve realized that I need to take time to get used to my “new normal.” I simply wouldn’t be able deal with the additional pressure during this time of adjustment. I believe in the work we’ve done on this podcast, and I love our listeners. So, as much as I wanted to discuss some classic Toho tokusatsu, that just isn’t in the cards right now.

On the bright side, this will give me a chance to finish some writing projects. I have some books in the works, so my spare energy for the time being will be diverted to those. Feel free to follow my progress on my website (www.NathanJSMarchand.com) Facebook (www.Facebook.com/nathanjsmarchand), and Twitter (@NathanMarchand7).I do plan to stay involved with the kaiju fandom. I’ve spent too much time and effort researching these films not to be. So, don’t worry: I’m not disappearing. Like Godzilla himself, I’ll still be around, even if I’m just hanging out on Monster Island and not stomping through cities.As I often say at the end of a KVR episode…Sayonara!

Episode 14: Destroy All Monsters (1968)

We swear we’re not under Kilaak control, but we are pretty big fanboys of this movie. Before Marvel Studios made “The Avengers”, there was this film, which was intended to be the culmination of the studio’s kaiju films and the Godzilla series’ grand finale. Listen to Brian and Nate gush over this fan favorite film that defies analysis. Our related topics are the 1968 student demonstrations in Japan, the Bonin (Ogasawara) Islands being returned to Japan, and the highest economic growth in Japanese history (measured by % growth).

MP3:

Introduction: 0:00 – 1:36

Part 1 – Film Description: 1:36 – 6:43

Part 2 – Opinion and Discussion: 6:43 – 41:25

Part 3 – Related Topic: 41:25 – 1:08:26

Closing: 1:08:26 – End

 

Co-Hosts: Brian Scherschel and Nathan Marchand

Editor: Brian Scherschel

Video Location: Hodell Acres, Fort Wayne, Indiana

Video: Brian Scherschel

Music: Audiophiliac (http://www.fiverr.com/audiophiliac)

Copyright Brian J. Scherschel

All Rights Reserved