Varan the Unbelievable, released in Japan as Giant Monster Varan (大怪獣バラン Daikaijū Baran), is a 1958 Kaiju film directed by Ishirō Honda and Eiji Tsuburaya (special effects), and their last black-and-white monster film.
The title character Varan is one of Toho Studios’ least-famed creations. Although shown in Japanese-language movie houses in the USA, the film saw general US release by Crown International in 1962 only after being heavily revised, in the manner of Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, to have all principal scenes reshot with American actors. Indeed, the plot itself was generally revised, and the Japanese material consisted only of special effects, a few incidental shots, and the ending scene.
Originally, the film was to be produced for American television, but the US producers backed out at the last minute. With most of the film already completed, Toho’s crew filmed additional scenes and it was released in Japan. A reconstructed version of the TV version is included on both the Japanese and American DVDs.
A group of scientists explores Siberia to find red-trimmed butterflies, but not allowed by the natives to go into a lake named Kitakami in the mountain because they believe it was the home of their mountain god: Jigoku-no-Sanjin, or Varan.
They belittled the natives’ story and get into the lake, but a roar was heard and they scream as green light shines and an explosion was heard. Further expeditions were sent, the “Mystery of the Centuries” group, was dispatched.
But the groups also disappeared, and so, only one of them was left. He was Kenji Kogoro, a member of a scientific team. Actually, when he was still with his friends, a giant flying monster named Varan emerged from Lake Kitakami and attacked them…
‘Apart from that insane flying squirrel business, there’s nothing here we haven’t seen before, and to a great extent I mean that literally; most of the footage of the military defending Tokyo was recycled from the original Godzilla, and even the monster’s voice is just the familiar Godzilla roar with an extra layer of electronic distortion on it.’ 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting
‘Light on plot but heavy on fun, Varan the Unbelievable delivers what you want in a Japanese monster movie, namely models being smashed apart, hordes of extras running in panic, shots of the creature rising out of a pool of bubbling ocean water (emphasis on the pool), and scenes of scientists trying to figure out some way to dispose of the creature.’ Monsters At Play