A previously unknown and unsuspected Japanese giant monster film has just come to light — one that resonates backwards right to the start of the daikaiju eiga tradition. What is it? You’ll have to read on to find out.
In the history of giant monster cinema, the Japanese take on it — called daikaiju [or kaiju] eiga — looms very large indeed. At its genesis, and occupying a sizeable part of its growth and continuity, lies Gojira, or Godzilla as the “King of Monsters” came to be known. The original Gojira was made by Ishirô Honda in 1954 and its phenomenal success led to a franchise that has not only produced 28 official films featuring the atomic giant (plus one made in America), but its central aesthetic morphed into a tradition of super-monster film metaphysics that appears throughout Japanese cinema and television, most notably in the many Ultraman TV shows and movies. Godzilla himself remains — along with King Kong — the most iconic of giant monsters worldwide. Everyone knows him.
But Gojira was inspired by two other films that preceded it. One was Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack’s 1933 giant ape film King Kong, which was re-released in 1954 and attracted big business both in the States and in Japan. Toho executive and eventual Gojira producer Tomoyuki Tanaka was keen to take advantage of the popularity of the Great Ape’s re-appearance, but it wasn’t until Eugène Lourié’s The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms hit it big at the US box-office in 1953 that Tanaka decided to take elements of that film and run with them. Then, once Honda was given the job of directing “The Giant Monster From 20,000 Miles Beneath the Sea” (working title), it quickly became Gojira and began to develop its own unique qualities.
But what is important for us here is the story that inspired The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms — at least partially. It was a short story called “The Fog Horn”, written by great science fiction fantasist Ray Bradbury and first published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1951. Wikipedia describes the intricate relationship between the film and the story thus:
The original title of the story was The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. It was published in The Saturday Evening Post. Meanwhile a film with similar theme of prehistoric sea monster was being shot under the shooting title of Monster from Beneath the Sea. Later producers, who wished to share Bradbury’s reputation and popularity, bought the rights to Bradbury’s story and changed the film’s title. Bradbury then changed the title of his story to The Fog Horn. The monster of the film was based on the illustration in The Saturday Evening Post.
Here is a synopsis:
Johnny has been working with McDunn at the old lighthouse for the past three months. The lighthouse is situated on a rock 2 miles out to sea, and Johnny is looking forward to “shore leave” the following day. That night, McDunn tells him about a huge sea creature that comes to the lighthouse every year to cry out at the fog horn [mistaking it for the cry of its own kind]… and tonight is that night! The two make their way to the top of the tower and watch as the monster ascends and begins its yearly ritual. Very fascinating indeed, but when McDunn turns off the fog horn the monster shows its true, primitive nature! (bestsciencefictionstories.com)
One less direct connection between the film and the story is the claim by Bradbury that the original idea was inspired by the ruins of a demolished roller coaster he saw on a Los Angeles-area beach, which suggested a dinosaur’s skeleton to him. The movie version ends in Coney Island amid the ruins of the roller coaster there. But the only real connection between the story and the film’s narrative is the rise of the monster from the sea and its coming ashore at a lighthouse, which it destroys. It’s a brief moment within the film, but a powerfully effective one.
The Fog Horn’s Fate
Until now, Bradbury’s important story — which indirectly led to Godzilla and all that followed for the giant monster genre — has never been accurately filmed, not as such. In the mid-2000s, to remedy this oversight, Japanese director Daisuke “Daice” Sato and his crew from the Replica Co. Ltd production studio took Bradbury’s story “The Fog Horn” as the basis of a short experimental film — a project completed in 2007. The film, however, has never been released. A trailer for it recently surfaced on YouTube and now, thanks to Kaiju Search-Robot Avery, there is a chance that it will emerge from its self-imposed obscurity.
The Fog Horn (Japan-2007; short [20 min.]; dir. Daisuke Sato)
Detailed cast and crew list:
- Cast: ‘Macdan’: Tomonobu Okano (Masked Rider Den-o, Yuuto Sakurai) / ‘Johnny’: Tetuya Inagawa
- Director/ script/ camera: Daisuke Sato
- Lighting: Tadashi Thagi
- Special Effects: Daisuke Sato/ Kaz Oiti
- Model Maker: Tomohiro Matumoto/ Daisuke Sato
- Studio: Replica Co. Ltd.
The film came about when Mr Sato and his crew were working on the costumes and the suitmation designs for Gojira: Fainaru uozu [trans. Godzilla: Final Wars] (2004; dir. Ryuhei Kitamura) and Gamera: Chiisaka yusha-tachi [aka Gamera the Brave; Gamera: Little Braves] (2006; dir. Ryuta Tazaki). “We made The Fog Horn as a demonstration of our technical skills,” Mr Sato commented. “It has not been released, not even in Japan. There is actually a problem with the copyright of the original, and so that is why we haven’t yet released it to the public. But if there is enough demand for it and a lot of people want to see it, then we’ll definitely release it. If we do, it will be as a DVD or online.” He added that he would definitely add English subtitles for international viewers.
The film’s fate now seems dependent on how much interest giant monster fans can demonstrate. Mr Sato says he will only release the film if there is a demand for it.
Making The Film
By shooting in black-and-white and giving it a slightly degraded look, Mr Sato intended that The Fog Horn would mimic the sort of unrestored appearance of an old ’50s monster film — as a respectful tribute to The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms and its place in the daikaiju heritage. It is an aesthetic we’re all familiar with, and one that resonates strongly.
Daisuke Sato has had considerable experience in the genre, with credits that include Godzilla Final Wars (monster suit, see images 1 and 2 below)), Gamera the Brave (monster suit), Lion Maru G (props), Ultraman Mebius and Ultraman Brothers (Invader GUTS suit), Ultraman Max (Geronga suit, see image 3 below), Exexion (Europe suit, see image 4 below), Gransazer (props) and Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack! (props). Similarly, modelmakers Tomohiro Matumoto and Kaz Oiti have worked on Mirror Man Reflex (Hero suit and monster suit), Shinkaijû Raiga [aka Deep Sea Monster Raiga] (monster suit), Justirazer (Hero suit and mechanical work), Ultraman Mebius and Ultraman Brothers (Invader Knuckle) and Gohongers (monster suit).
Gamera The Brave Storage Area [Area 51?]
Mr Sato states that he has always loved daikaiju eiga, coming to the realisation that he wanted to work on films at age 15. He attended and graduated from a school of art in Japan, and was 20 years old when he started on his first film. He came to work with Replica Co. Ltd., which is run by “the great Takashi Ogami”, in 2004.
After naming Eiji Tsuburaya, Shinji Higuchi (the Heisei Gamera trilogy; Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack; Casshern; The Princess Blade; the Evangelion re-build) and Tomoo Haraguchi (Sakuya: Slayer of Demons; Gamera: Guardian of the Universe; Gamera 2: Advent of Legion; Uzumaki) as major influences and idols, Mr Sato also confessed to a particular passion for Ray Bradbury’s work.
“I decided to film ‘The Fog Horn’ partly because of its connection with Gojira and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms,” he said, “but the main reason is that it has been my favourite of Ray Bradbury’s writings for a long time. Ray Bradbury’s fiction is very poetic. ‘The Fog Horn’ impressed many Japanese people, and of course me, too, because of the enchantment he brings to it, evoking the tragic agonising of the monster and giving it a profound poetic quality.”
On the subject of whether he was working on any new films right now, director Sato was understandably reserved. “Ha! Sorry,” he said. “I can’t tell you about that.” On the possibility of working on further giant monster films, however, he was willing to admit: “I do have a plan to do another, but I think first I’ll direct a concept movie. That’s all I can say about it for now.”
Meanwhile, though Mr Sato’s “The Fog Horn” doesn’t contain traditional daikaiju eiga tropes, such as city destruction and monster-vs-monster wrestling matches, it does represent the first accurate rendition of a story that holds primary historical significance for the genre. As such, Undead Backbrain thinks it should be made available and hopes that our revelation of its existence will spur fans on to express their enthusiasm for it, too. We want to see in action the monster that Mr Sato refers to only as “the sea-monster”. From the trailer and the images the director kindly provided, it well may be that Daisuke Sato and his crew have captured in its 20-minute running time all the lyricism, poignancy and spectacle that lies at the heart of Bradbury’s original story.
So this is your big chance. Kaiju Search-Robot Avery’s enthusiasm has convinced Mr Sato to consider looking at ways of releasing the film. He will be watching to see how much interest exists in his little homage to the beginnings of daikaiju eiga. So if you want to see it, with English subtitles, leave a comment below and say so. Help save The Fog Horn from becoming a lost opportunity, like those Japanese King Kong films from the 1930s we know about but will never see.
- Source: Thanks to Daisuke Sato. Big Kudos to Avery Battles for not only discovering that The Fog Horn exists, but for getting in contact with Mr Sato and interviewing him.
Gallery (including more images of work by Replica Co. Ltd. as well as screenshots and behind-the-scenes for The Fog Horn):
Please release it I mean there havnt been any new kaiju films recently for me to see so if this one comes out then there be a new one for my collection…… : )
I would earnetly like to see Sato-san’s rendition of Bradbury’s excellent story. Please releash it for those of us who love and appreciate the art and craft of kaiju films.
I love the story, I love GODZILLA and I wan’t to seethe movie!!!
this movie will be great!!! It feels so Majestic and there is so much heart and feeling behind it!!! This is just what we have been waiting for!!! PLEASE relese it!!! im so damn excited!!! WE NEED THIS!!!
This looks promising. I read The Foghorn when I was in 5th grade. Count me in! Bring the Foghorn to the Masses!!!
Well, I want to see this movie out. If their is a Kaiju film I have not heard about, I want to see it. Bring it to the west!
Wow – it looks so awesome : ) An international release will be awesome as well. I love Daikaiju Eiga!
This movie MUST be released!
RELEASE THE MOVIE!
I really wish there was a blog requesting the release of the Tsubaraya television show Ultra Q in the U.S.
I’m glad to hear that giant monsters are still alive in the Japanese islands, even if their appearances aren’t as frequent. This looks like an interesting short and I would hate to see the crew’s hard work and dedication go unnoticed.
Please release this, even on YouTube, for us Giant Monster and Sci-Fi fans. This rendition of Ray Bradbury’s story is important to these fan groups. Bradbury’s Estate should give you the right to release this as fan-created art.
This would be just awesome to see so please release it
Kaiju movies are in short supply, so please release the film! It’s looking good so far.
looks pretty good. hope it gets released.
Please release this to kaiju completists like myself…:) This sounds awesome !!
WOW! A kaiju film that insipire The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms! Thats so cool! I’m thinking that Ray Harryhausen is Japanese!
I really hope you release this! i love films about ocean monster plus this is a japanese version of one of my favorite films!! the beast from 2000 fathoms!!!!
Definitely interested! I’ve read the story and I think it would be amazing if made into a movie, even if just a short-film. Hoping to see this
This film looks amazing, not to mention inspiring. I’ve been obsessed with kaiju since i was 5, I’m now 15 and I think it looks wonderful. I’d love, no, WANT to see it. Don’t let a young kaiju enthusiast down.
i would love to see this film!! been a Gojira fan since 1985 (my frist at age 3!) and have not only sought out every film from is series, but other Kaiju series. the beast from 20,000 fathoms is one of my favorites. i would love to see the way this entire genre was put together.
i hope Mr. Sato decides to release his film for all monster fans to enjoy
Looks good! I hope it makes it’s way to the indie circuit… or DVD.
Hey all, I am Logan, and if this is released, I will most certainly buy it. It is hard to come across decent kaiju eiga nowadays, and this looks like it could be a solid entry in the series.
I also would love to see this. On the WB dual disc of Beast from 20000 Fathoms/Them, There is a nice interview with Ray Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen and they discuss this story and it’s inspirational ties to what would become the “Beast” movie.
but I MOST certainly advocate seeing the original story done.
Here is the original image taken from the Saturday Evening Post from that story.
I truly hope this comes about!
Pingback: Help The Fog Horn! « Godzilla Kingdom
At very long last! Mr. Sato has, from what I have seen in the trailer, taken a simple yet poetic story and turned it into a beautiful and masterfully made film! I beg Mr. Sato to please allow his film to be released onto DVD. I have been a lifelong fan of daikaiju eiga, and have devoted the last two years trying to find every movie in the genre that I can. Please release “The Fog Horn” onto DVD. We have lost too many movies to refusal to release, such as the 1930 Japanese King Kong films, Agon the Atomic Dragon, Thunder of Gigantic Serpent, Gorath, Wangmagwi, and the 1962 Bulgasari. Don’t let this gem be denied to us as well, Mr. Sato.
Oh man I am totally in love with the fact that this was shot in glorious black and white! Hoping for a DVD release in the States!
Wow, that looks and sounds great! I’d really love to see how you play out the story, especially if the trailer is any indication.
It looks like, at last, there is another monster movie with the spirit of the 50s: The heart, the mind, the very soul. I would love to see this achieve a release, even if it’s only streaming on the internet. Hell, I’d pay for it and I’m a penny-pinching cheapo.
They really have to release this movie. I have to see it. COME ON!
I will buy this film the second I can if it is released, please do so, Mr. Sato!
Your film elegantly brings to life my favourite Bradbury story as well, I am blown away but the feel of your work and am thrilled to have learned of its existence tonight, I’ve just emailed this link to friends round the world letting them know about it. How can I and the other good folks on this site help bring your excellent film to the world? I’d buy it in a heartbeat. Thank you also Avery for your hard work on this endeavor! がんばってください
In a sub-genre with so little films being made in this day and age, its unacceptable to let any of those few become lost to obscurity, especially one so original and brimming with as much potential as this one. Please release this film (preferably with English subtitles)!
This looks awesome, and seems like a true labor of love. I love giant monster films, and I would really like to see this film, with English subtitles.
Pingback: Ray Harryhausen – Monsters and Sinbad – on TCM « zerode – a sensibility
Make it looks awsome!!
you really should make it, it looks awsome! I would love to see this!
This is a fascinating story, and I would love to see the film! Please do release it.
Looks to most the most!
Ease it on us, yo.
Pingback: w i g h t h o u s e - The Ropes: Gojira
I would love to see a subtitled release of this movie.
Pingback: NEW DAIKAIJU!! "HOWL FROM BEYOND THE FOG" - HorrorFix - Horror Movie News Reviews and More!
I wonder whatever happened with this, especially with the interest around the new “Howl From Beyond the Fog.” I’d still like to see “The Fog Horn” — anything?