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 39: The Mysterians (1957)

They want your land, your women, then more of your land, and, well, you get the idea. The aliens have even searched through binders full of women for very best ones. Listen as I analyze Moguera, the Markalite FAHPs, and those fabulous matte paintings! And then I’ll connect the story in the movie to contemporary events: The normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and the Soviet Union in 1956.

This episode is dedicated to eminent virtuoso actor Takashi Shimura.

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 – 2:35

Part 1 – Film Description: 2:35 – 10:04

Part 2 – Opinion and Analysis: 10:04 – 33:19

Part 3 – Related Topic: 33:19 – 45:39

Closing: 45:39 – End

 

Host/Editor/Director/Scenic Videos: Brian Scherschel

Video Location: Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton construction site, Fort Wayne, 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

“The Mysterians” and Japanese-Soviet Relations

by Brian Scherschel

At the Eastern Economic Forum this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, “Let’s conclude a peace treaty before the end of this year, without any pre-conditions.”  PM Abe did not reply directly.  Some media outlets wrote that Putin was merely “trolling” the Prime Minister.

The Japanese government later stated that their position on the Kuril Islands has not changed.  The majority of Japanese polled said that they did not support the idea of “no pre-conditions”.  Russia and Japan have still not signed a peace treaty, even though World War II ended 73 years ago.

Japan and the Soviet Union restored diplomatic relations in October of 1956.  The Sputnik satellite was launched in October of 1957.  The landmark Japanese tokusatsu movie “The Mysterians” came out in late December of 1957 for New Year’s Holiday.

“The Mysterians” is a tokusatsu treasure.  It’s so exciting, polished, and fresh!  I’ll analyze the topic of Japanese-Soviet relations up to 1956, because the issue was on the minds of many people in Japan in the two years before this.  I’ll examine the agreement the two countries signed in 1956, and then what the obstacles are to a future peace treaty.

Check Kaijuvision Radio at noon Eastern next Wednesday to listen to this incredible episode for an incredible movie!

Episode 32: Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)

Turn of the Millennium Month comes to an end as Nate and Brian discuss an outlier of the Millennium Series and one of the highest-rated films in the franchise.  Directed by Shusuke Kaneko, the mastermind behind the acclaimed Heisei Gamera Trilogy, this is a complex film meditating on deep themes while also featuring incredible kaiju action, special effects, music, and characters.  It dared to make Godzilla purely evil and King Ghidorah a hero along with Mothra and Baragon (who’s sadly left out of the film’s mouthful of a title).  You’ll learn the “secret origins” of our podcast, which stems from us discussing GMK on our friends’ podcast several years ago.  Our related topics are the election of Koizumi, the U.S.S. Greenville collision, and the many events of 2001.

You can listen to that episode of Derailed Trains of Thought (hosted by Nick Hayden and Timothy Deal) here: http://derailedtrainsofthought.blogspot.com/2014/12/episode-50-guest-starringeverybody.html.

MP3:

Introduction: 0:00 – 1:58

Part 1 – Film Description: 1:58 – 8:39

Part 2 – Opinion and Discussion: 8:39 – 1:05:26

Part 3 – Related Topics: 1:05:26 – 1:21:02

Closing: 1:21:02 – End

 

Co-Hosts: Brian Scherschel and Nathan Marchand

Editor: Brian Scherschel

Video Location: Trophy Point (Hudson River), West Point, New York

Video: Brian Scherschel

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

Copyright Brian J. Scherschel

All Rights Reserved