Hollywood's First Go At Godzilla: Abandoned 1983 Film Revealed

·UK Movies Writer
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Script details and storyboard artwork have been revealed from the first attempt at an American ‘Godzilla’ movie, which failed to get off the ground in 1983.

The iconic giant monster from the long-running Toho Studios series has been adapted twice by Hollywood to date: in the widely reviled 1998 Tristar production from director Roland Emmerich, and earlier this year in the more warmly-received Warner Bros/Legendary production directed by Gareth Edwards.

However, many years earlier we might have had a different take on the King of the Monsters in a 3-D movie from director Steve Miner, who received permission from Toho to make an American ‘Godzilla,’ and hired Fred Dekker to write the screenplay.

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This past weekend, a panel at Austin, Texas convention Mondo Con featuring production designer William Stout discussed the would-be ‘Godzilla’ movie in detail, and Ain’t It Cool News covered the event.

Stout declared Fred Dekker’s screenplay to be “the best script I’ve ever read,” and revealed it would have seen Godzilla awakened by nuclear missiles inadvertently fired into the Pacific when an asteroid hits an armed space satellite (surely a nod to Ronald Reagan’s controversial ‘Star Wars’ project).

Whilst American and Russian forces (including a ‘Snake Plissken-esque eye-patch wearing hero' named Daxton) struggle to retrieve the one surviving nuke, the Big G himself emerges to wreak havoc in San Francisco, building up to a final showdown on Alcatraz Island.

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The now-legendary monster maker Rick Baker was reportedly hired to build a “full scale animatronic Godzilla head,” but for the most part Godzilla was intended to be brought to life via old-fashioned stop motion animation, to be handled by FX artist Dave Allen.

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As for why the film never got into production, it seems every studio to consider the project got cold feet over the prospective budget (reportedly a then-gargantuan $30 million).

It would be another 15 years before the first American ‘Godzilla’ finally arrived - and, some might say, another 16 before America finally got it right (though, of course, opinions vary).

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Would Miner’s film necessarily have won over Godzilla devotees as Emmerich’s film would fail to do? Obviously we will never know - but I for one have my doubts.

For starters, Dekker’s script appears to have committed two of the cardinal sins that the 1998 film would later do: it gave Godzilla no other monster to do battle with, and ended with the monster killed by the military.

It would also seem the script emphasised the human conflict over the monster action - the most common complaint of Gareth Edwards’ film.

Above all else, though, I’m not sure Steve Miner could have pulled it off, particularly given the FX limitations: stop-motion was, sad to say, pretty old-hat by 1983.

It’s hard to see Miner taking on something so huge, given his most notable work at the time was the second and third chapters in the ‘Friday the 13th’ series: well-made, but very lo-fi affairs.(That said, we might have said the same of Gareth Edwards making his $160 million ‘Godzilla,’ having previously only directed ‘Monsters’ for under $500,000.)

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Steve Miner and Fred Dekker would ultimately collaborate on 1986 horror movie ‘House.’ Miner would go on to direct ‘Halloween H20,’ ‘Lake Placid’ and the ‘Day of the Dead’ remake, while Dekker would turn director with ‘Night of the Creeps,’ ‘The Monster Squad’ and ‘Robocop 3.’

Dekker told fans on Facebook that he regretted missing the Mondo Con panel, but that “writing a NEW military vs. monster movie intervened.” He is currently scripting a new ‘Predator’ movie, to be directed by his old friend (and ‘The Monster Squad’ co-writer) Shane Black.

A sequel to this year’s ‘Godzilla,’ to be again directed by Gareth Edwards and scripted by Max Borenstein, is provisionally set for a 2018 release.

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Picture credit: Warner Bros/Ain’t It Cool News