Before Hollywood producer Joseph E. Levine went highbrow with Two Women (which won Sophia Loren a Best Actress Oscar in 1962), The Graduate (which won Mike Nichols his Best Director award in 1967) and The Lion in Winter (which won Katherine Hepburn her third Oscar as Best Actress in 1968), he made his fortune by redubbing, re-editing and distributing foreign B pictures. One of Levine’s biggest hits was the purchase of the 1954 Japanese monster flick Gojira, directed by Ishiro Honda. (The film’s theme mirrored the devastation and aftereffects wrought by the WW II attacks on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.)

Levine reshot sequences with Canadian actor Raymond Burr and interspersed those with scenes of the rampaging monster stomping through a miniature papier-mâché Tokyo. Burr, who had recently appeared as a creepy murderer in Hitchcock’s 1954’s Rear Window, would soon go on to television stardom as defense attorney Perry Mason.)

Retitled Godzilla, the film was a smash, appearing at the same time as Ray Harryhausen’s seminal monster pic It Came From Beneath the Sea and Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, all dealing with our paranoia about unwieldy atomic power. The original Gojira — happily sans interference from Levine and Burr — has been rampaging through America since April as a prelude to the new CGI-laden remake by Gareth Edwards due this month.

7 p.m. May 24 and 27, and 5 p.m. May 25. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, visit mfah.org or call 713-639-7515. $9.
Sat., May 24, 7 p.m.; Sun., May 25, 5 p.m.; Tue., May 27, 7 p.m., 2014

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