Tuesday, October 12, 2021

DEEP DIVE: Did Tomoyuki Tanaka Tell Yoshimitsu Banno He 'Ruined' Godzilla?

Yoshimitsu Banno in July 2016. Photo by Brett Homenick.

It's a story that just won't go away. For decades, it's been repeated countless times that, during the production of Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster (1971), producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, furious at Godzilla's flying scene, told writer-director Yoshimitsu Banno that he "ruined" Godzilla. 

But is that how it really happened? The yarn still gets spun to this day, but sources are rarely cited. In order to shed some much-needed light on this situation, let's take a look at what Yoshimitsu Banno and special effects director Teruyoshi Nakano have actually said about it. 

In an unpublished manuscript about his film career that Banno sent to me in November 2012, he described Tanaka's reaction after seeing Smog Monster in Japanese:
In the English-language version of the manuscript Banno sent me to proofread, Banno described Tanaka's reaction this way (which is presented exactly as Banno sent it to me in November 2012):
Tanaka producer who came out the hospital after the completion film preview of “Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster” told me with an ill-humored face, "It is no good to change the character."
Banno has consistently told the story this way since I first met and interviewed him in July 2005. I've never heard or read Banno tell the story any other way, except when other Americans have purportedly quoted him on the matter. 

In my July 2005 interview with him, Banno states that he was unaware Tanaka was supposedly angry over the situation until he read about it in a book sometime after Tanaka's passing in 1997. 

According to another account recently told online, Tanaka was more upset at Banno for going around him to get approval for Godzilla's flying scene than he was over the flying scene itself, but, as demonstrated by the quotes above, this version is also false.

In 1978, Banno became director of Toho Eizo's planning section. In 1989, he became managing director of Toho Eizo Bijutsu, retiring from that position in 1994. Suffice it to say, this seems like an unusual career trajectory for someone who "ruined" one of Toho's most profitable franchises and was on the outs with a powerful producer like Tomoyuki Tanaka. 

Teruyoshi Nakano in June 2015. Photo by Brett Homenick.

We can safely rule out Banno as the source of the oft-repeated anecdote that he was told he "ruined" Godzilla. But I have also read that, while Banno himself may not have said it, SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano has been quoted as saying that Tanaka was angry and told Banno that Banno did indeed ruin Godzilla. 

On the evening of October 9, I was privileged to spend an evening with Mr. Nakano on his birthday. During the evening, I had an opportunity to ask him about the Smog Monster controversy. I made sure to specify the two different accounts that have been told and asked him which one was correct. Mr. Nakano recounted his memory of the events, which matched Banno's version completely. Mr. Nakano went even further to suggest that newspapers may have exaggerated the story.

Given all the above, it is more than a little difficult to believe that Tanaka furiously told Banno he ruined Godzilla. We may never know exactly what happened after Tomoyuki Tanaka saw Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster. But, when two of the principals directly involved corroborate each other, you have to lend that version some credence. 

No comments:

Post a Comment