Come June, Japanese moviegoers will be seeing double as Shochiku, one of Japan’s major film studios, simultaneously releases two versions of the same movie with the same leading actors.

Romantic drama

“Rampo” is a romantic drama about the life, loves and books of Edogawa Rampo, a popular turn-of-the-century mystery writer who is known as the Japanese Edgar Allan Poe.

The film is widely expected to be one — or two — of the company’s top domestic B.O. draws for 1994.

The unprecedented move comes as a result of unresolvable differences between the producer, Kazuyoshi Okuyama, and the original director, Rentaro Mayuzumi. Releasing both versions of “Rampo” is a “face-saving strategy,” according to one exec at a rival studio, who says that “in America, the original director would just be out of luck. But face is important in Japan. And who knows, it’s so unusual, it might create lots of free publicity for Shochiku.”

Directed by Mayuzumi

The original version was directed by Mayuzumi, a TV director on loan from NHK Enterprises, a production arm of public broadcaster NHK. But the producer and Shochiku executive vice president Okuyama screened and disapproved of it.

After several confrontations, a compromise was reached: Okuyama would reshoot his own version, but the company would simultaneously release both versions through their chain of theaters. The film is also a first in that while Okuyama had already produced 17 movies, it was his first attempt at directing.

Includes cameos

According to execs at Shochiku’s international division, Okuyama’s version is “over 60%” new and includes cameos by a number of famous Japanese actors and writers.

However, some of Mayuzumi’s shots will appear in Okuyama’s final version as well.

A local showbiz expert says that Okuyama’s retakes added $ 1.36 million to the original production costs of $ 3.18 million.

Shochiku itself gives the total cost for both at 600 million yen, or nearly $ 6 million.

Ads have already started for the film — the version mentioned in the ads is Okuyama’s.

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