Last weekend, I watched Italian Star Wars ripoff/homage Starcrash. As those things go, it’s actually one of the better ones — it has a young David Hasselhoff, a southern robot, and plenty of lasers. It certainly beats director Luigi Cozzi’s other Star Wars-inspired film, The Humanoid. But as strange as those two movies are, neither of them come close to the psychedelic, bloodstained chaos that is Cozzi’s Italian re-edit of Godzilla, affectionately known as Cozzilla.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters — the American version of Gojira — was released in Italy in 1957. Cozzi’s early experience with the movie contributed to his love of cinema, and decades later in the late 70s he attempted to release Gojira in Italian cinemas, inspired by the recent remake of King Kong. Running into rights issues, he was forced to settle for the American King of the Monsters. There was a problem, though — King of the Monsters, like the original Gojira, was filmed in black and white, and by the 70s, audiences had come to expect color films.
So, Cozzi decided to use a process he had developed while working on Starcrash to colorize Godzilla. He called the process Spectrorama 70, and it involved placing colored gels over every frame in the movie. It was a laborious, clumsy method of colorizing, but it produced a distinct effect that makes Cozzilla a unique viewing experience even today. But Cozzi didn’t stop there. Godzilla was a little too short for Italian expectations at the time, so he added footage to make up the difference. Some of this was from other monster movies, but other clips were sourced from World War II newsreels, and showed real death and destruction. Finally, Cozzi replaced the film’s soundtrack with a new one created by Fabio Frizzi, known for his work on Lucio Fulci films like Zombi 2.
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The combined effect of these changes is to create a version of Godzilla that is stranger and more unnerving than most other depictions of the character — at least until 2016’s Shin Godzilla, which made the King of Monsters into a sad, googly-eyed fish. If you want to hear more about that movie, check out the latest episode of our film podcast You Love to See It in the player below or in your podcast app of choice, and if you’re a fan of monster movies, make sure to stick around for the rest of the month as the crew covers more creature features.
Italian Godzilla was difficult to find for decades, and few even knew about it outside of Italy until the late 90s. But in 2017, film preservationist Geno Cuddy obtained a full version of the film from an Italian collector and put it on the Internet Archive, where it’s available to watch for free. If you want to know more about the movie — including details on its fascinating soundtrack, check out this video from Justin Whang, which is where I first heard about it.