9/29/2004

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Contact: Bill Tsutsui, Center for East Asian Studies, (785) 864-9435

KU to screen uncut, original rare Godzilla film Oct. 28 in Lawrence theatre

LAWRENCE -- "Gojira," (pronounced GO-gee-rah) the rarely seen 1954 film that launched the Godzilla franchise, will be shown for the first time in this area as part of the festivities for "In Godzilla's Footsteps: Japanese Pop Culture Icons on the Global Stage."

The screening begins at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 28 in Liberty Hall, 642 Massachusetts St.; admission is free and open to the public.

The film is part of a three-day conference and film festival celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Godzilla films at the University of Kansas and in Lawrence, organized by William Tsutsui (pronounced soot-SUE-ee), KU associate professor of history, and Michiko Ito (pronounced EE-toh), KU librarian for Japanese studies.

The Oct. 28 screening in Lawrence will mark the first time the new print of the original film has been shown in Kansas or the greater Kansas City area. An older print of "Gojira" was shown at a 2001 KU film festival celebrating Godzilla; that event attracted about 400 people and inspired Tsutsui and Ito to plan the 50th anniversary conference and film festival.

One of the world's classic monster movies, "Gojira" is a sober reflection on the dangers of nuclear weaponry, the painful legacies of war and the consequences of humankind's disregard for the environment.

The story of a giant reptilian monster created by H-bomb testing, "Gojira" was made as a star-studded, big-budget blockbuster featuring special effects that remain impressive even 50 years later, Tsutsui said.

Few American moviegoers are familiar with "Gojira," because the original Japanese film was not released in the United States.

Instead, "Gojira" was heavily re-edited. Many powerful scenes were removed, and extensive new footage featuring Raymond Burr as an American reporter in monster-ravaged Tokyo was added. The resulting feature, titled "Godzilla, King of the Monsters," premiered in New York City in 1956 and has for 50 years mistakenly been considered the first Godzilla movie by many American fans.

The film to be screened in Lawrence is a new print of the original 1954 "Gojira," uncut and unedited but with new subtitles.

"We invite area residents and Godzilla fans to join us, on the occasion of Godzilla's 50th birthday, in celebrating the creature's remarkable -- and seldom seen -- cinematic debut," Ito said.

After the screening, Gregory Cushman, KU assistant professor of history, will moderate a discussion at the theatre.

The KU conference "In Godzilla's Footsteps" will challenge long-standing scholarly and popular assumptions, examining the 27 Godzilla films from a range of disciplinary perspectives and revealing their significance as pioneering examples of the postwar globalization of East Asian popular culture.

Conference registration is required by Oct. 15. To register online go to http://www.g2004.net/godzilla/registration.asp; or call KU's Center for East Asian Studies, (785) 864-3849.

Funding from the Japan Foundation and the Toshiba International Foundation as well as from the KU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Hall Center for the Humanities, KU Center for Research, the Kansas Asia Scholars and the Kansas Consortium for Teaching About Asia is making Godzilla's 50th birthday party in Lawrence free to the public.

The Toshiba International Foundation, based in Tokyo, helps promote international exchange and understanding of Japan while contributing to local and global community development. The Japan Foundation is a semigovernmental organization whose objective is to promote international cultural exchange and mutual understanding. KU is a past recipient of Japan Foundation library support and staff expansion grants.

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