By Mark Searby
As the creature rises from the water ready to do battle with the humans, his mighty battle roar echoes and shudders. Fire rushes from his mouth, burning the city. People run for their lives. The fire burns red, then orange, then blue. The crowd running from the vicious monster also appear in the same colour sequence. Welcome to the first ever colourised version of Godzilla, which has actually been dubbed Cozzilla by fans. But this is no ordinary monster movie. Instead this is an Italian redubbed/semi ripped/part stolen take on the Far East’s most famous monster from one of its biggest fans and the director of Cozzilla – Luigi Cozzi.
So a quick run through of how Cozzi’s version was arrived at. The black and white Japanese 1954 film Godzilla (the original theatrical movie featuring the monster) was bought by Jewell Enterprises in the US and redubbed with American voices and additional footage inserted with actor Raymond Burr. Burr’s footage was filmed and inserted to match the original style from the 1954 film, making it look and feel as if it was all shot at the same time. This new English language version called Godzilla: King Of The Monsters was a big success at the US box office, and eventually in Europe. This is where it came to the attention of Cozzi. He wanted to licence the original ’54 version without the Raymond Burr scenes, but was unable to obtain the rights. Instead was sold the Americanised version and set about creating the first colourised film version of Godzilla.
At first Cozzi tried to release the black and white version in Italy, but the distributors felt black and white films had become boring and wouldn’t capture the audience's money anymore thanks to Technicolor movies becoming the main staple of cinemas. Also the original Godzilla runtime was only 80 minutes, but during the 1970s a film had to run over 90 minutes for a theatrical release in Italy. Cozzi was forced to add more footage to make sure it played in theatres; the final runtime of Cozzilla was 105 minutes. The additional material consisted of scenes from other sci-fi films and real-life footage from news reels about death and destruction, including scenes of dead bodies scattered in wasteland. The additional Godzilla scenes had been ripped from Godzilla Raids Again (1955) and the shark fighting an octopus nabbed from Ray Harryhausen’s The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953). There are some minor additional clips from The Train (1964) and The Day The Earth Caught Fire (1961) also inserted to pad out two disaster scenes.
Cozzi decided to colourise his Godzilla movie and hired Italian animator and cartoonist Armando Valcauda to work on this, by using gels attached to the negatives one frame at a time. This new colourisation was called Spectrorama 70. Yet this is an invented name by Cozzi to help sell advertising. The 70 refers to the 70mm movie reels that every major Hollywood blockbuster was being shown on. The issue arises on the film that shows the gels used consisted of four or five different colours only. Many times the orange, blue and yellow gels are used during the scenes featuring humans and the red gel reserved for big explosions. But when the camera pans across the gels remain static, causing a real mess on screen.
Due to the additional length of Cozzilla, the film required new musical scores for selected scenes which were provided by an Italian music composer called Vince Tempera under the alias Magnetic System. The name Cozzilla actually came from Cozzi’s pen-name, which he used when writing articles for sci-fi magazines. He decided to use it as the production company name for his version of Godzilla, and it is seen at the beginning of the film causing the film to have a nickname that differentiates it from all the other Godzilla movies from around the world.
With the updated Cozzilla finished, Luigi Cozzi released it into the wilds of Italian movie theatres in 1977. It received mixed to positive reviews from Italian film critics, yet audiences flocked to see the monster from the deep finally in colour. In selected cinemas it had additional special feature that when Godzilla took a step the seats would rumble creating a bigger immersive experience for the viewer. The movie soldiered on in Italian cinemas for a couple more months and was then withdrawn; at the time, no home entertainment existed (VHS and Betamax were a while off yet) for its lifespan to continue.
So with all this Godzilla talk, where is the Cozzilla? Where is it possible to watch it? The answer is: virtually nowhere. In-the-know traders have sold and exchanged copies on worn out VHS tapes that were converted to DVD-Rs. This version is from the 16mm print (they even included reel announcements beforehand), but it cuts off towards the end without the film's ultimate resolution. The now defunct website wtf-film.com was given a copy in 2008, which it restored as best possible – the source copy was recorded from TV with lots of video interference. The site even added subtitles to the film, and uploaded its version of Cozzilla to Google Video; sadly, it has since been removed and the site is now archive only.
In 2013, exploderbutton.com received several moments of the ending of Cozzilla that had never previously been seen on the bootleg copies floating around the trading tables. Long since thought lost, this end segment gives as much an ending as possible but still see’s the finale cut before the end credits can roll – giving no conclusion to the question of whether or not humanity has been saved.
This still leaves Luigi’s Godzilla without an official release in this age of DVD and Blu-ray restorations of classic and cult films. But why? Well the answer seems to now lie at the door of Italian distribution house Yamato Video, specialists in importing Japanese animation to Europe. It is believed that it owns a copy of the original colourised 35mm film negative. Intending to package it as a double DVD release along with the original Americanised release, this never materialised and has since faded into just a rumour. It’s unclear as to if Toho Studios (the original Godzilla production house) has a copy, but as Cozzi basterdised its version, I wouldn’t expect them to be too happy putting out a film that doesn’t show their work in the greatest of offerings. Cozzi is keeping very quiet as to if he may have a copy stored away at his home or in the clutter of the Deep Red Store, a retail shop he co-owns in Rome with Italian Giallo master Dario Argento.
This crazy, bizarre, psychedelic edition of Godzilla appears destined to be consigned to the bootleg versions. It’s a shame to see the first ever colourised version of Godzilla is unlikely to receive an official release. It’s looking increasingly likely that the real Godzilla will appear before a Cozzilla DVD/Blu-ray will hit the shelves.