Thursday, July 9, 2015

Varan the Unbelievable (1962)

It's funny, there's always this huge argument about subtitled films versus dubbed films. It often usually comes down to people either feeling that watching a film in its purest form is best, thus when watchinga film from another country, they go with the subtitles. I can understand this fully. Then you have the people who watch the dubs who generally just have the excuse of "I don't want to read and watch a movie at the same time", which I can honestly say I also understand. It can be incredibly difficult to keep up with subtitles sometimes and, depending on a person's attention span, it can ruin the entire experience.

"I can't keep up with these words! I can't pause the screen! This is why I never go to the theater anymore!!"

Me, I get both perspectives. Why? Because I have been on both sides of it. It is a struggle to watch a lot of subtitled films, as the text does indeed move faster than I can read at times. And it does ruin the pacing for me and make things confusing overall. In the case of someone like my mother, who has bad eyes and can't read the guide on the DVR half the time, it's even more of a problem. She often laments the fact that Guillermo del Toro's best films are often only available in another language, meaning there are subtitles. She loves his movies but she'd also love to know what is going on, which is a solid point in favour of having dubs available. Then there's the other thing...where an older movie gets dubbed and its entire plot gets changed around to the point where it doesn't even resemble the original film. We're here to talk about that.

"No! Not the American version!! Noooooooo!!!"
Yeah, as was too often the case back then, this is a movie where they took parts of the original film and cut them together with new footage featuring American actors. While this can be done in a very good way (Godzilla comes to mind) it can also be done in a very bad way that loses the entire plot, some of the monster effects, and downplays many of the elements tied with it's original release. This film is guilty of all of those sins, but even more than that it is guilty of the greatest movie watching sin of all: it put me to sleep. That's right, while watching this movie I actually dozed and lost my entire day due to how boring I found it to be. Keep in mind, I have seen the original Giant Monster Varan, so I know the real story of the big guy. It didn't put me to sleep. The American version? Straight up z's all over the place.

I'm blaming you, Cory Film Corporation! You roofied me!
The plot in this version concerns an American named James Bradley and his Japanese wife, Anna. I know, I was shocked they employed an Asian woman for an American version too. You wouldn't realize this though from the opening scenes, as we get some completely unsubtitled and undubbed footage with no real explanation as to what the fuck is even happening. Did I take something? Did Bill Cosby slip me a Micky? Because I really do feel like I'm about to be fucked against my will and I am not alright with that.We get past that and our leads saunter into the movie, revealing the intense plot that is so much better than the original. What is that? Desalination experiments. Now tell me, how does one go from experimenting with desalination to a giant monster fucking shit up?

GLOBAL WARMING!!!
Just kidding. No, rather than using actual scientific reasoning, we instead get something stupid. That'll come later though, as we have to get back to more undubbed footage! Man, I sure am glad I don't know what they're chanting. Yes, I'm sure it's nothing like "come great Varan and smite these Americans for running us out of our village" or anything of that nature. Nope, they're probably just singing the Reflex.

"The reflex is an only child! He's waiting in the park! The reflex is in charge of finding treasure in the dark!"
There's also a child character, because watching the American actors' lips not sync up in this undubbed feature isn't annoying enough, better toss in a useless kid too. After the footage from another movie finishes, James gets attacked by some guy who we shall refer to as the Dick Bandit, because nothing scares a red-blooded American male more than the prospect of someone stealing his dick. They wrestle and look like they're gonna make-out, but but the Dick Bandit flees in time for James' wife to come out. He acts as if someone totally didn't just try to steal his manhood. We then get footage from the original movie again, this time with James explaining shit to us via a voice-over, because exposition is better than character development. This is when I actually fell asleep.

It seems those Sean Connery-esque good looks just aren't titillating enough for me.
As such, I'll try and sum up the remainder of the film in a timely manner for everyone else who is dozing just by reading me talk about it. James does some stuff, Varan shows up, everyone shits their pants, scientists say Varan is a prehistoric monster rather than the more interesting story from the original film where he has ties to the village and is retaliating on their behalf. Nope, he's just a big monster, we better shoot him. Stupidity abounds here, I swear. More stuff happens, Anna and James get attacked by Varan for some reason, a truck blows up, Varan dies (I guess?) and this movie ends. Do I know all the details for certain here? No, honestly I am taking some of that from a synopsis I read because I tried watching this two more times and I kept dozing off! I fucking swear, the American version of this film simply does not want me to finish watching it.

If only I could say the same about some other more frightening movies.
Based on my knowledge of this film and my personal experience trying to watch it, I feel safe in saying that it utterly blows. The acting is boring, the plot is cookie-cutter, and the fact that so much is cut out makes you wonder why they didn't just make a new movie altogether. This is what Hollywood gives us when they the success of Raymond Burr in Godzilla. they give us a really shitty version of a fairly decent Japanese monster movie. One that barely features the monster as well as anything approaching common sense. The only positive I will give this film is that Myron Healey isn't bad. I'm not saying he's great, but he's fine here. He definitely no Raymond Burr though.

Although, for that matter, Varan is also no Godzilla.
In the end, trying to watch this felt like a massive waste of time on my part and I cannot reccommend trying yourself. It really is a very boring film and I would say you're much better off watching the film it was ripped from. No matter how you feel about subtitles, anything is better than this pile of shit. So, until I get requests to review the porn parody, Vagine the Unfuckable, I'll be here hopefully watching a much better movie. Later days, bleeders!

Varan, fly me the fuck outta here!

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