(Second viewing, On Cable TV, July 2019) Blame my failing memory, but I assumed that Godzilla, King of the Monsters! was a sequel to the original Gojira, and nearly put off its viewing to another day after watching the original. But I didn’t, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that in its cinephile goodness, TCM had played both the Japanese original and its Americanization back-to-back. Godzilla, King of the Monsters! takes Gojira and reshapes its footage around new sequences featuring Raymond Burr as an American journalist who gets to experience the events of the film as part of his reporting. Extra sequences with Japanese actors talking with Burr are inserted in the previous film’s footage, providing a snappier rhythm (the film begins with catastrophic devastation, then flashes back in time to explain how we got there) and an accessible way for 1950s audiences to appreciate an unapologetically Japanese movie. Tall-and-wide Burr towers awkwardly over Asian extras as he describes the events unfolding, and even sort-of-interacts with some of the original characters through tricky editing. Despite the repetitiousness, it’s a far better movie if you’ve just seen the original as I did, as you can really appreciate the efforts that the American filmmakers went through in order to adapt the material to their target audiences. (History, hilariously enough, shows that this Americanization was more popular than the original in many markets, and even found its way back to Japan a few years later where it made a substantial amount of money.) Some of Gojira’s most explicitly political (read; anti-nuclear) material did not survive the recut, but some of the best lines of dialogue remain. For today’s far more cosmopolitan audience, the idea of re-cutting a foreign movie with American content is tantamount to heresy, and it’s easy to laugh at the clumsiness of the attempts. But that’s missing the historical context: Without Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, there wouldn’t be much of a Godzilla cultural imprint in American society, and perhaps even less of an inroad from other Japanese filmmakers (including Kurosawa) in 1960s American film culture. It did the job at the time, and it does feel reasonably respectful even today: Burr interacts humbly with his Japanese hosts, and even if the spotlight is on him, he does not diminish the heroism of the Asian characters. The result is fascinating, especially if you can pair it with the original.