The Volcano Monsters

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The Volcano Monsters
Cover of the May 7, 1957 draft of The Volcano Monsters
Alternate titles Spawn of Hell[1],
Volcano Monsters[2]
Planned 1957[2]-1958[3][4][5][6]
Intended release 1957,[7][8] 1958[3][4]
Written by Ib Melchior, Edwin B. Watson
Production
company
AB-PT Pictures Corp. (May - ca. September 1957);
Unknown/None (Fall 1957 - ca. July 1958)
Planned budget $250,000 - $500,000 (AB-PT)
Concept history The Volcano Monsters
Gigantis, the Fire Monster
This was my first feature film (screenplay), so I worked very, very hard on it, but of course the movie was not made and it's hard to say how it would have turned out.
„ 

— From 1992 interview with co-writer Ib Melchior[9]

Wild Terror! Cold Horror! You'll SWEAT This One Out When You See It!
„ 

— Tagline used to promote Godzilla Raids Again under the title The Volcano Monster in Toho Films 1957[10]

The Volcano Monsters was an unmade American film project originally written and planned for 1957 release and still in development through 1958.

After a group of Hollywood producers who had previously worked on the U.S. localization and distribution of Godzilla struck a deal to distribute Godzilla Raids Again in the U.S., they changed plans and hired writers Ib Melchior and Edwin B. Watson to create an original screenplay for a new film incorporating special effects and pandemonium sequences from Godzilla Raids Again. Melchior and Watson's screenplay would have changed Godzilla and Anguirus to gigantic forms of Tyrannosaurus rex and Ankylosaurus on the loose in San Francisco, and would have called for numerous additional special effects shots. AB-PT Pictures Corp. - which would have financed and produced the film under the title Volcano Monsters - delayed shooting, scrapped the project from their 1957 slate, and apparently moved it to the 1958 slate for unknown reasons, even after receiving suits built by Toho to use in new special effects shots and hiring Howard Anderson to provide the special effects. Effects technician Bob Burns' eyewitness account of the suits upon delivery indicates that at least one of them had already sustained heavy damage appearing to be characteristic of special effects stunts; despite this, no special effects footage of these suits is known to exist, and their fate is unknown.

While in development hell, Melchior and Watson's script was revised in February 1958, and their agent Forrest J Ackerman continued to promote the project as a forthcoming 1958 release for months afterward. However, in the same year, Godzilla Raids Again had been more conventionally re-edited, dubbed, and rescored, and by January 1959 acquired by Warner Bros. for release. This version was given the title Gigantis, the Fire Monster, and was released theatrically in May of that year.

Plot

Paleontologists investigate a prehistoric cavern, unearthed in the eruption of Japan's Noshiro volcano. Inside, the scientists discover two enormous dinosaurs, theorized to be related to Tyrannosaurus rex and Ankylosaurus, both still living thanks to a specific mixture of volcanic gases. Arrangements are made for the dinosaurs and the gases to be studied at a university laboratory in San Francisco. En route, however, the tyrannosaur is lost at sea during a turbulent storm.

No longer subdued by the volcanic gas, the ankylosaur awakens and heads for Golden Gate Bay, where the tyrannosaur has surfaced. Being prehistoric rivals, the monsters resume their ancient battle and destroy the city's Chinatown. The tyrannosaur kills its opponent and returns to the sea. Some time later, it surfaces at an island in the Arctic Ocean, where scientists theorize that the monster will lay its eggs. U.S. Navy jets bombard the island, trapping the dinosaur under tons of ice, where it will be preserved for scientists to study.

Meanwhile, a monstrous claw emerges from the Noshiro cavern.[11]

Appearances

Monsters

  • Giant Tyrannosaurus rex (stock footage; Gigantis Godzilla)
  • Giant Ankylosaurus
  • Clawed monster


Weapons, vehicles and organizations

  • U.S. aircraft carrier
  • Tank (stock footage)
  • Military truck (stock footage)
  • U.S. naval aircraft
  • U.S. naval submarine
  • U.S. naval destroyer
  • Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star (stock footage)


History

Edward Barison, Harry Rybnick and Richard Kay of Jewel Enterprises,[2][12][note 1] who had previously been creatively and financially involved in the U.S. localization of Godzilla, acquired the U.S. rights to Toho's Godzilla Raids Again.[13] Unhappy with the film's story, the three men decided to make a new U.S. film while reusing pandemonium and special effects shots from Godzilla Raids Again. Rybnick hired Ib Melchior and Edwin B. Watson to co-write a new story and screenplay, with Forrest J Ackerman acting as their agent. In March 1957, Ackerman announced in the fan magazine Imaginative Tales that "Ib J. Melchoir (sic) and Edwin Watson are engaged on a story outline for Topaz Productions called Spawn of Hell", which was likely an early title for the project;[1][note 2] in an issue of the fan magazine Nebula published the same month, Ackerman announced the two writers' assignment for a screenplay called The Volcano Monsters.[13][14][15]

Melchior and Watson delivered a 129-page shooting script on May 7, 1957, about giant cousins of Tyrannosaurus rex and Ankylosaurus on the loose in San Francisco.[12][16] Their script specifies which shots from Godzilla Raids Again were to be used, along with notes to cut all views of Japanese faces and all footage of Godzilla's atomic breath.[9] Despite the intent to disguise the dinosaurs' true identities and the Japanese origin of the reused footage, Ackerman puzzlingly reported in the fan magazine Imaginative Tales in May 1957 that "Godzilla returns – and meets up with Anzilla, another prehistoric [Japanese] monster – in The Volcano Monsters, an English version co-scripted by Ib Melchior & Ed Watson. The nightmares from [Japan] raise a hullaballoo", and again claimed that Topaz was connected to the film.[17]

Barison, Rybnick and Kay were set to produce the film through American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres Pictures Corporation (AB-PT Pictures Corp.) under the title Volcano Monsters.[12][9][note 3] Originally launched as Am-Par Pictures Corp. on November 19, 1956 and changing its name on February 21, 1957,[18] AB-PT Pictures Corp. was formed as the wholly-owned subsidiary[19] and production wing of the now-defunct theatrical circuit American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres, Inc. with the intent of addressing the decline in U.S. theatrical production rates and directly producing films for its own theaters. An established distributor would handle distribution in other U.S. theatrical circuits and other countries following runs at AB-PT theaters. Films would be budgeted in the range of $250,000 to $500,000, shot on the Republic Pictures lot, and processed at Consolidated Film Laboratories in Hollywood and New York.[20][21]

Melchior and Watson's The Volcano Monsters screenplay called for the addition of numerous new special effects inserts requiring the use of optical mattes, rear projection, prosthetics of the dinosaurs' spikes and feet, storm effects, miniature buildings, and new monster suits based on the designs of Godzilla and Anguirus. Teizo Toshimitsu, Yasuei Yagi, Eizo Kaimai, and Yoshio Suzuki built two monster suits that Toho shipped overseas,[22] and effects artist Howard Anderson was hired to produce the new special effects inserts. Previously, Anderson had created special effects for Barison, Rybnick and Kay at Jewel Enterprises on Curucu, Beast of the Amazon, a 1956 film that was edited by Godzilla, King of the Monsters! director and supervising editor Terry Morse.

In May 1957, while working as an assistant to effects creator Paul Blaisedell on the filming of Invasion of the Saucer Men at Anderson's studio, effects technician Bob Burns found the Tyrannosaurus rex and Ankylosaurus suits inside of two already opened crates at the far side of the soundstage. In a 1996 interview, Burns described the physical condition of the Tyrannosaurus suit:[9][23]

The suit was in really bad shape, it looked like they were going to really have to patch it up, because it had burn holes all over it – you could really see where they had shot that thing up, and where they had run lines when they were shooting fireworks into it. I used to wear monster suits, and I'd have hated to be the guy in that thing! It There was actually a hole on the inside where it had burned through. I'm sure the actor who was inside that thing got burned. They didn't really fix it up at all [...] At that time, [Howard Anderson] didn't know what they were going to do with the suits. He told me, 'We just got those in, we're going to be shooting some inserts.' I never knew what happened to those suits.

A day before the final draft was delivered, AB-PT Pictures president Irving H. Levin announced that Volcano Monsters was slated to begin production on June 17, 1957, and this date was reported in both Motion Picture Daily and The Hollywood Reporter.[24][2] Two days later, The Hollywood Reporter gave a start date of June 18 for the film (possibly a typographical error); in the same issue, AB-PT took out a full-page advertisement for the world premiere of their first two films, Beginning of the End and The Unearthly, along with a list of films in production and in preparation, including Volcano Monsters in the latter category.[25][26] In Chicago on May 14 before an audience of over one hundred American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres executives, Levin asserted that the seven films currently on AB-PT Pictures' slate fulfilled the exhibitors' aim of "highly gimmicked and exploitable" product.[27]

On June 12, 1957, AB-PT finalized a deal with Republic Pictures whereby Republic would physically distribute their product in the U.S., its territories and Canada following runs at AB-PT circuits; at this point, Volcano Monsters was still listed as one of the seven properties scheduled for 1957, but its start date was no longer mentioned.[7] AB-PT's production of Volcano Monsters was evidently delayed, as a progress report written by Irving H. Levin and published in Independent Film Journal on June 29 of the same year indicated Volcano Monsters was a forthcoming project on the 1957 slate "soon to go before the cameras."[8] By July 17 of the same year, the AB-PT Pictures 1957 slate consisted of ten films, no longer including Volcano Monsters.[28] No trade magazine news items have been found that indicate cast assignments or location scouting on the film preceding or following the initial start date. The film was evidently moved to the 1958 slate, as a newspaper report on upcoming productions from September 2, 1957, in the Buffalo Courier Express indicates that Volcano Monsters was still on AB-PT's schedule.[29]

On November 18, 1957, Ackerman took out an advertisement in The Hollywood Reporter, listing the script of The Volcano Monsters by Ib Melchior and Edwin Watson as one of Ackerman Agency's activities.[30] By this point, it is unknown what company was set to produce the project, if any. From September 1957 to July 1958, Forrest J Ackerman continued to report in fan magazines that The Volcano Monsters was forthcoming. In the first issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland published in February 1958, Ackerman declared the film "due this year."[31][4][32][6] A revised draft dated February 14, 1958, corroborates Ackerman's claims that the project was still active.[3] The contents of this revision are largely unknown, as the summaries publicly available describe the May 7, 1957 draft, and it is unknown who ordered the revision.

On May 28, 1958, after making only four films, AB-PT president Leonard H. Goldenson announced that it was "standing still as far as new filmmaking is concerned" and that AB-PT "will go with a new picture only on condition that the right kind of script comes along."[33] In the second week of August 1958, director Joe Parker had shot a screen test for AB-PT Pictures of a scene featuring Marcia Valibus and Ron Hagerthy; the title of this unmade film is unconfirmed.[34] Although The Volcano Monsters was still an active project after May 1958, no titles of active AB-PT projects after May 1958 have been confirmed, so it is unknown whether or not Volcano Monsters was still an AB-PT project after that point and could have been the unnamed film.

On November 19, 1958, following eight months without activity from its production subsidiary and having made no further films beyond the original four, AB-PT abandoned production and its heads Irving H. Levin and Harry L. Mandell bought the subsidiary, its assets, and properties.[35] On January 21, 1959, Variety announced that Paul Schreibman had re-edited, dubbed, and rescored a film entitled Gigantis from an "original, which was tabbed Angirus (sic)," and that Warner Bros. had acquired it for distribution.[36] Like The Volcano Monsters, the source film's origin as a sequel to Godzilla was obscured, and the origin of the monsters was changed to one involving volcanic gases with rejuvenating properties. In their film censorship application submitted April 29, 1959, to the Motion Picture Division of the State Education Department of New York, Warner Bros. specified the year of the film as 1958, indicating that Schreibman's re-edit had been an active or completed project while AB-PT Pictures was still active, and possibly while The Volcano Monsters was still active.[37] Warner Bros. released Schreibman's re-edit as Gigantis, the Fire Monster in May of 1959.[38]

It is unknown why The Volcano Monsters was never produced. If it were due to the closing of AB-PT Pictures, then this would have occurred when Gigantis, the Fire Monster had been completed or nearly so. However, it can't be established whether or not both projects were in development at the same time, as there is no certainty over when in 1958 The Volcano Monsters was abandoned or cancelled and by whom, no reports have surfaced that give a timeline of the 1958 production cycle of Gigantis, the Fire Monster, and it has never been irrefutably confirmed that any of its financial or creative personnel were involved with The Volcano Monsters. It is unknown why Gigantis, the Fire Monster was produced, it is unknown how or why Godzilla Raids Again was acquired in order to create it, and similarities to The Volcano Monsters may or may not be coincidental.

It is unknown when AB-PT Pictures' involvement with The Volcano Monsters ceased, or if another company became attached to the project at some point after September 1957. The fate of the Tyrannosaurus rex and Ankylosaurus suits is also unknown, and it has not been established why the Tyrannosaurus suit created for the production appeared to have been extensively used already, according to Bob Burns' testimony. It is unknown how deep into development the project had entered while it was still active.

Color photograph of the Tyrannosaurus rex suit, with color correction based on the testimony of Bob Burns

The last known photograph of the Tyrannosaurus suit - and the only known photo of it stateside or in color - shows it being used for what is believed to be the August 1957 promotional campaign for the Lon Chaney biopic Man of a Thousand Faces; unexplained blood stains are visible on the right arm of the suit. The suit is dark gray in color "with a little green in him" and is relatively short, according to Burns' testimony and the color photograph.[9]

Gallery

Trivia

  • The Volcano Monsters had been in development for at least one year and five months by the time it was last reported as an upcoming film in July 1958 - nearly three times as long as the production cycle of Godzilla Raids Again.
  • The Volcano Monsters had been in development over three times longer than the production cycle of King Brothers' 1957 U.S. version of Rodan, an Americanization that appeared to serve as the major inspiration for Gigantis, the Fire Monster, and whose production occurred largely while Volcano Monsters was still on the AB-PT 1957 slate.[39][40]
  • The Tyrannosaurus rex and Ankylosaurus suits that Toho created for use in The Volcano Monsters differ in design from the respective Godzilla and Anguirus suits used in Godzilla Raids Again. The Tyrannosaurus suit was later dubbed "Gigantis Godzilla" in official publications and merchandise, with companies such as Marmit and more recently Super7 creating figures based on it.
  • After advertising Godzilla Raids Again in their 1956 overseas sales book, Toho advertised Godzilla Raids Again again in their 1957 book, this time using the title The Volcano Monster instead. The synopsis, cast and crew list, and the film length are all identical to the 1956 listing.[41][10]
  • Howard Anderson later went on to provide photographic effects for Varan the Unbelievable, an Americanization similar to The Volcano Monsters with its added opticals and prosthetic monster foot.
  • The 1962 Danish-American film Reptilicus, also co-written by Ib Melchior, reuses many concepts from The Volcano Monsters:
    • Newly-discovered prehistoric dinosaur fossils with preserved tissue are later found to be alive only after being removed from their original environment.
    • A romance develops between a chauvinist, ill-tempered military commander and a woman scientist.
    • The scientists are determined throughout the film to preserve the monster instead of killing it.
    • One of the monsters is let loose during a storm due to a negligent scientist.
    • The military commander and the woman scientist go out for a night on the town.
    • A scientist in a lead role is sent to the hospital due to a life-threatening medical condition brought on by the stress of witnessing the havoc that he realizes he is responsible for.
    • The scientists rush to create a sedative that will allow the monster to re-enter suspended animation.
    • The monster kills some of the main cast.
    • The threat of multiple monsters being spawned.
    • An open-ended finale featuring a shot of a surviving monster's claw.
  • Several films in the Godzilla series make similar references to suspended animation and volcanic gases with reinvigorating properties:
    • In Gigantis, the Fire Monster (the more conventional U.S. localization released instead of The Volcano Monsters), Tsukioka describes Iwato Island - the location where he and Kobayashi discovered Gigantis and Anguirus - as "a barren, bleak series of uninhabited rocks which nature had created out of volcano formations" in his narration.
    • In Gigantis, the Fire Monster, Dr. Yamane presents and narrates a film that opens with an explanation of the origin of the Anguirus family of fire monsters. He tells that boiling earth pools and atmospheric gases enabled the evolution of the creatures, with fiery matter contributing to their survival. He also tells of the long hibernation of the two Anguirus monsters before their 20th century reappearance.
    • In King Kong vs. Godzilla, suspended animation and relevant examples in nature are offered by Dr. Shigesawa as an explanation to the press for how Godzilla, long presumed dead, survived his burial by the JSDF at Kamiko Island in Godzilla Raids Again.
    • In Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, the Venusian speaking through Princess Salno foretells the resurrection of the monster Rodan by the volcanic gases in the caldera of Mount Aso.
  • The KingGoji suit suit bears similarities to the Tyrannosaurus suit, such as the lack of ears, fangs or a fourth toe and a thicker lower body.
  • The only other known project that co-writer Edwin B. Watson worked on was the story for Live Fast, Die Young, a 1958 film noir released by Universal Pictures whose story and screenplay were co-written by Ib Melchior. Like The Volcano Monsters was meant to be, the film was produced by Edward Barison, Harry Rybnick, and Richard Kaye, this time for their own Jewel Enterprises production company. In the February 1966 issue of WGA West Newsletter, Edwin Watson was named as one of the writers to receive residuals for the TV releases of 317 Universal films whose principal photography commenced on August 1, 1948 and before June 13, 1960.[42][43] From June 1966 to July 1987, however, Edwin Watson appeared on the Writers Guild of America residual department's list of missing persons.[44][45]

Notes

  1. In an interview with Brett Homenick, Ib Melchior recalled that Paul Schreibman was one of the three producers who hired him to write the screenplay instead of Richard Kay. When interviewed by Steve Ryfle, Schreibman was not aware of The Volcano Monsters. A news item in The Hollywood Reporter states that Harry Rybnick, Edward Barison, and Richard Kay were the three producers, with no mention of Schreibman.
  2. Paul Schreibman was president of Topaz Film Corp. As previously mentioned, when interviewed by Steve Ryfle, Schreibman was not aware of The Volcano Monsters.
  3. All known mentions of the film in connection with AB-PT Pictures Corp. call it Volcano Monsters.

References

This is a list of references for The Volcano Monsters. These citations are used to identify the reliable sources on which this article is based. These references appear inside articles in the form of superscript numbers, which look like this: [1]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Ackerman, Forrest J (March 1957). "SCIENTIFILM MARQUEE". Imaginative Tales – via Archive.org.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "Trio is Set to Produce AB-PT 'Volcano Monsters'". The Hollywood Reporter. Vol. 144 no. 38. 7 May 1957 – via ProQuest.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Lf2.png
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Ackerman, Forrest J (1958). Famous Monsters of Filmland. Central Publications, Inc. – via Archive.org.
  5. Ackerman, Forrest J (May 1958). "SCIENTIFILM MARQUEE". Imaginative Tales. Greenleaf Publishing Company – via Archive.org.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Ackerman, Forrest J (July 1958). "SCIENTIFILM MARQUEE". Space Travel. Greenleaf Publishing Company – via Archive.org.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Republic Films To Handle AB-PT Productions". Motion Picture Exhibitor. Vol. 58 no. 7. 12 June 1957 – via Archive.org.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Progress Report". Independent Film Journal. 29 June 1957 – via ProQuest.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Ryfle 1998, p. 68.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Toho Films 1957. Toho International. p. 45.
  11. Ryfle 1998, pp. 70-71.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 THE IMAGINATION OF IB MELCHIOR! A Conversation with the Danish Monster Movie Maker! | Vantage Point Interviews
  13. 13.0 13.1 Ryfle 1998, p. 67.
  14. Classic Movie Monsters. The Scarecrow Press, Inc. 1978 – via Archive.org.
  15. Ackerman, Forrest J (March 1957). "SCIENTIFILM PREVIEWS". Nebula – via Archive.org.
  16. Ryfle 1998, p. 68-70.
  17. Ackerman, Forrest J (May 1957). "SCIENTIFILM MARQUEE". Imaginative Tales – via Archive.org.
  18. "Am-Par Changes Name To AB-PT Pictures Corp". The Hollywood Reporter. Vol. 143 no. 35. 21 February 1957 – via ProQuest.
  19. "AB-PT Pix to Roll 6 Features During First Half of 1958". The Hollywood Reporter. Vol. 148 no. 5. 3 January 1958 – via ProQuest.
  20. "AB-PT Launches Film Unit; Levin Mandell in Key Posts". The Hollywood Reporter. Vol. 142 no. 19. 19 November 1956 – via ProQuest.
  21. "Independents to Produce for Republic Release". Kinematograph Weekly. 4 July 1957 – via ProQuest.
  22. Ryfle 1998, p. 69.
  23. Godziszewski, Ed (1996). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Godzilla. Daikaiju Enterprises. p. 120.
  24. "'Volcano' to AB-PT". Motion Picture Daily. Vol. 81 no. 88. 7 May 1957 – via Archive.org.
  25. "AB-PT Sets Fourth To Roll in 10 Weeks". The Hollywood Reporter. Vol. 144 no. 40. 9 May 1957 – via ProQuest.
  26. "AB-PT PICTURES: THIS IS THE BEGINNING". The Hollywood Reporter. Vol. 144 no. 40. 9 May 1957 – via ProQuest.
  27. "Pictures: GIMMICKED & EXPLOITABLE AIM". Variety. Vol. 206 no. 11. 15 May 1957 – via ProQuest.
  28. "AB-PT Pictures To Hypo Activity". The Hollywood Reporter. Vol. 145 no. 37. 17 July 1957 – via ProQuest.
  29. Screen Shot 2024-03-23 at 9.42.26 PM.png
  30. "OUT OF THIS WORLD AGENCY". The Hollywood Reporter. Vol. 357 no. 24. 18 November 1957 – via ProQuest.
  31. Ackerman, Forrest J (September 1957). "SCIENTIFILM MARQUEE". Imaginative Tales. Greenleaf Publishing Company – via Archive.org.
  32. Ackerman, Forrest J (May 1958). "SCIENTIFILM MARQUEE". Imaginative Tales. Greenleaf Publishing Company – via Archive.org.
  33. Variety, May 28 1958, page 3.png
  34. Screen Shot 2024-03-25 at 2.29.02 AM.png
  35. "AB-PT Quits Prod'n, Sells Two Subsids To Levin And Mandell". The Hollywood Reporter. Vol. 152 no. 30. 19 November 1958 – via ProQuest.
  36. "Pictures: Clips From Film Row - LOS ANGELES". Variety. Vol. 213 no. 8. 21 January 1959 – via ProQuest.
  37. Screen Shot 2024-03-20 at 5.18.11 PM.png
  38. Ryfle 1998, p. 72.
  39. "King Bros. Gets 'Rodan'". The Hollywood Reporter. Vol. 144 no. 30. 25 April 1957 – via ProQuest.
  40. "Kings Deliver 'Rodan'". The Hollywood Reporter. Vol. 146 no. 32. 19 September 1957 – via ProQuest.
  41. Toho Films 1956. Toho International.
  42. February 1966 WGA West Newsletter.jpg
  43. WG West Newsletter Feb 1966 - pg 8 and 9.jpg
  44. Pg-2.jpg
  45. April 1987 WGA West Newsletter.jpg

Bibliography

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