4 May 2004 | dotdman
Misunderstood and misrepresented disaster epic.
Nostrodamusu no Daiyogen was released originally in 1974 and subsequently banned in its homeland due to two scenes graphically depicting the aftermath of radiation exposure. The Japanese censors thought that the two scenes were far to reminiscent of the Hiroshima bombing to be seen by the public at large. Toho has since disowned the title, which has never been legitimately released in its original and unaltered form.
Catastrophe 1999, the international version of the film, was played in Europe and elsewhere. The film was cut from 114 minutes to 85, mostly removing important characterization scenes and the heartfelt speech of the Japanese Prime Minister that occurs in the final minutes of the film. This cut is still available on VHS in some European nations, but is hard to come by.
In the 1980's, Harry Saperstein (responsible for the US television releases of films like War of the Gargantuas and Frankenstein Conquers the World) got a hold of a print and butchered it into a cut several minutes longer than the international version (88 minutes) but lacking even more of the important scenes in the film. The original introduction was recut beyond repair, most of the references to Nostradamus and his prophecies were removed, and a makeshift ending was tacked on that minced scenes from the original Japanese ending and other parts of the film together. Paramount released a VHS and laserdisc of this version under the title The Last Days of Planet Earth and it is still played on television occassionally.
Thankfully for fans of Japanese cinema, someone located an unadulterated timecoded print of the film and has since made the original 114 minute version available, albeit only in Japan. I managed to snare a copy through an import service. The differences are astounding. Gone is the choppy editing of the international and US versions of the film, vanished is the dubbing, and what's left is one of the finest Japanese disaster films of all time. I can say for a fact that those of you who have only seen the Last Days of Planet Earth or Catastrophe 1999 prints of the film have, in fact, not seen the film at all. Judging the film by watching these butchered versions is not only difficult, but nearly impossible.
I encourage anyone with interest in the film to locate a copy of the 114 minute cut. It may not be for everyone, but those that even slighly enjoyed either of the cut versions are sure to find infinitely more to enjoy in the original Japanese version.