on January 23, 2012
I just got my copy in the mail a day early and have just sat down to watch the American Version with Raymond Burr. I also own the Classic Media version that came out a few years back [The two disc set that's titled "Gojira"]. I have two computers side by side and decided to do a side by side compare of the two versions. My efforts have resulted in this conclusion. Both versions are nice for a film this old. Each has its good points and bad points. The earlier version by Classic Media has better, more balanced lighting. But it does show up more dirt specs and lines. Not a lot more i should add. The Criterion version has less specs and lines and is darker in dark areas and brighter in bright areas. The Criterion version has more contrast, Both films are very watchable. If i had to put a number on it, i would say the Criterion version is at least 20% better looking [video quality] than the older version. And the newer versions sound quality is 50% better than the older version. Here's the big major difference between the two. It appears that the Criterion version is giving us the absolute whole image from side to side and top to bottom. In the older version there are items in the film on the outer edges that are cut off more than the newer version. Its like the older version was mastered slightly zoomed in for whatever reason. If you didn't compare, you really wouldn't notice much difference. I have not watched anything else yet on the two discs, so cant comment on that "yet". Will update more then. In my opinion, this is worth double dipping. Another difference with the new version is the beginning opening titles. This new version has the old original Trans World Release opening. The older version has no opening titles. Also one last thing. The sound in the new version is excellent! Almost no clicks,pops or hiss at all. The sound is a major upgrade. The old version still has the clicks,pops and hiss, but that never bothered me. To me it actually adds to the overall experience. Well this review is not complete yet but it is my hope that this helps those of you who are still on the fence with buying this. Its a nice set to own.
Gojira is a film about the horrors of nuclear war. Japan was still feeling the effects, so to speak, of the nuclear strike on their country and weren't happy with a-bomb testing in the Pacific. What we have here is a giant lizard awoken by a nuclear bomb, destroying the Japanese country side with an anti-nuclear message.
Also included is the American re-working, Godzilla: King of the Monsters. This one is the one starring Raymond Burr. While it isn't a faithful translation and mutes some of the anit-nuclear message, it still manages to be a decent film.
Crirterion has done an amazing job with this release.
Being a Criterion release, you know this is a good looking transfer. There are some instances of dust, dirt and scratches, but nowhere near what we saw with Classic Media's release. The greytones are more solid and details are clear. This assessment goes for both Gojira and Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
Encoded in AVC with bit rates ranging from about 15-30 Mbps. It looks very, very good.
Both movies contain remastered audio (mono only for both) and are free of hiss, pops and clicks. I don't know that either film has ever sounded this good.
You have Photographic Effects where the director and effects photographer go into detail behind how some of the visual effects for the film were created. 1080i full screen (both people appear in a pillar and letter boxed format, though the effects are done full screen just as the movie was filmed). About 9 minutes.
Cast and Crew. These are interviews with various staff behind the film speaking about the film. There are 4 interviews total. Akira Takarada, 13 mins. Haruo Nakajima, 10 minutes. Yoshio Irie and Eizo Kaimai, 30 minutes and Akira Ifukube, 50 minutes. All but Ifukube's interviews were done in 2011. Ifukube, has, unfortunately passed away and is obviously unavailable for interviews today.
Another section is call Tadao Sato. Tadao is a Japanese film critic, thus it was not included in the Cast and Crew interviews. 14 minutes.
The Unluckiest Dragon, 10 minutes. This is a photo based documentary of the fishing boat that was part of what prompted the use of fishing vessels as the start of the Gojira film. The vessel in question was witness of some of the nuclear testing done in the Pacific and of course, most on the ship died or were negatively impacted by the death ash.
Excellent, high quality, top notch extras. Everything was worth watching and was full of all sorts of great information.
This one comes in a nice slip cover. Inside is a really cool fold out cardboard case holding the disc. On the fold out is an awesome Godzilla pop up, similar to children's pop up books.
Over all, this is a tremendous release. Many wonder why Criterion would release a film like this, but with how inbred Godzilla is in Japan's culture, and the American culture, it makes perfect sense to me. And they treated it with the respect it deserves.
If you have the Classic Media Blu Ray, double dip. The extras alone make it worth it, plus now you'll have an HD edition of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which was missing from Classic Media's release.
on December 6, 2011
This is the ultimate home video release of Godzilla. Not only has Criterion carefully remastered the original Japanese version of the film, but they've put just as much love and effort into restoring the 1956 American version as well. Most Americans grew up with that version, and even though many film buffs agree that the Japanese version is the definitive one, I'm very happy to that for Criterion's new release the American version was not just an afterthought. Unlike the disappointing Blu-Ray release of "Gojira" by Classic Media a few years back, this Blu-Ray not only gives you both versions of the film looking the best they have since their original theatrical releases, but also a monster-sized helping of supplimental features including new audio commentaries and interviews with the film's crew.
In short, it's a Criterion release through and through, which means you are getting the very best that the Blu-ray format has to offer. Fans of "Big G" would be remiss to not put this edition in their film library.
on January 25, 2012
After buying and watching the Classic Media blu-ray and dvd versions, which I was happy to have, I wasn't satisfied with the quality of these releases; especially the shabby blu-ray they released. Last night I popped in Criterion's blu-ray (in 1080p) and was completely blown away. This is the "Gojira" release I had always hoped for. The video is amazing for this haunting (Japanese version) and incredible film from the Golden Age of film making. Being a film student myself, this film is one of my treasures in the amazing history of film. Criterion has done this film justice. It is cool that they included both versions too. Of course, I prefer the original Japanese version. Hopefully, more Godzilla films will be released on blu-ray in the United States; like the elusive "The Return Of Godzilla" (1984) and "Godzilla vs. Biollante" (1989). I did buy Media Blasters' "Destroy All Monsters" blu-ray and for the most part, I am happy with it. I will probably import the Japanese version of "The Return Of Godzilla" because I am tired of waiting for it to be released in the U.S. someday. This Criterion blu-ray for "Godzilla" is a nominee for blu-ray of the year as far as I am concerned. 10/10. Thank you Criterion for a fine job well done and kudos for releasing this monumental film so wonderfully restored.
on February 4, 2012
The original, 1954 Japanese version of GODZILLA is surely my favorite monster movie ever. Maybe even my favorite movie ever. While most westerners equate Godzilla movies with hokey monsters, model cities, and bad dubbing, the original Japanese film transcends the genre that birthed it, and in its day, transformed that genre into something altogether new and different. Countless words have been written about Godzilla being a metaphor for the nuclear horror Japan experienced at the close of World War II, so I'll not belabor that point. While the U.S. version, with its added footage of Raymond Burr, retained at least a portion of the original's power, the Japanese version may be viewed through the same "serious" lens one would view Japanese classics such as SEVEN SAMURAI, RASHOMON, and IKIRU, and find it in no way wanting. Despite some crudities in its special effects, the film's grimness and documentary-style narrative imbues it with a sense of real-world horror that no other monster film, Japanese or otherwise, has ever achieved. Its limited U.S. theatrical release in the early 2000s received almost unanimous accolades from critics, and in a sense, opened a lot of eyes to a product that most American viewers only thought they knew.
The intersecting stories of Emiko Yamane (Momoko Kochi), Ogata (Akira Takarada), and Dr. Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata) propel the drama, but Godzilla is the fourth character in this relationship, affecting and influencing the human characters' every decision. Emiko and Serizawa are engaged, their marriage having been arranged when they were young; however, Emiko and Ogata are in love and wish to marry, but both have deep feelings for Serizawa and have no desire to hurt him. Serizawa, in his scientific research, has discovered an unusual energy force with the power to destroy oxygen molecules, and his dilemma is whether to use it against the monster and risk it falling into the hands of politicians -- the one thing he fears more than Godzilla -- or allow Godzilla to trample Japan unimpeded. It's his sense of honor as well as his compassion for Ogata and Emiko that motivate him to make the decision he does.
Tangential to the "love triangle" is the character of Dr. Yamane, Emiko's father and Japan's preeminent paleontologist, who fervently opposes the government's position that Godzilla must be destroyed, preferring that the monster be studied for its unique in its ability to survive both untold millions of years as well as massive doses of radiation from hydrogen bomb tests. Yamane is less susceptible than Serizawa to Ogata and Emiko's efforts to convince him that Godzilla must be destroyed, despite his recognition of the fact that Godzilla might inflict upon Japan a nuclear holocaust far worse than Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Only toward the end, after Tokyo has been reduced to ashes, does he appear to be reconciled to the destruction of the greatest laboratory sample the world has ever produced.
The American version retains the better part of the original plot, but too much of the character development has been edited out to make room for Raymond Burr for the story to come across as more than melodrama. That's not to say the scenes with Raymond Burr, directed by Terry Morse, are totally superfluous; certainly, for American audiences of the day, relatively soon after World War II, having a recognizable American star to participate in the drama, in effect becoming the audience's eyes and ears, served to make the original Japanese story more palatable. While the added scenes are occasionally too obvious -- especially when stand-ins are used for the original Japanese actors -- they are played very straight, and oftentimes blend in surprisingly well. For all its flaws, the Americanization did allow much of the original to remain undubbed, and Burr's scenes occasionally add an additional touch of suspense, such as during the storm when Godzilla first appears on Odo Island.
While most American audiences would probably never know the difference, Godzilla's rampage in the original Japanese version is far superior, in that Tokyo has been wonderfully reproduced in miniature, with Godzilla making a logical and accurate progression through the city. To Japanese audiences, the reshuffled scenes must appear quite confusing. Having Godzilla attack at night was a wise move, since the darkness adds immeasurably to the sense of menace and also offers the practical advantage of concealing flaws in the effects. Regardless, Eiji Tsuburaya's work in this film is masterful, particularly when one considers the limited budget, the time constraints, and the fact that it was all new and largely experimental at the time.
Akira Ifukube scored the film and also created the ominous sound effects for Godzilla's roar and footsteps. Many of the themes that fans explicitly identify with Godzilla originated in this film, and it's all the more remarkable that Ifukube composed the score without having seen a frame of film. He was instructed to write music for "something big." I believe he succeeded beyond anyone's wildest expectations.
The Criterion Collection DVD release is a true masterpiece. The Japanese and U.S. versions come on two separate discs (single Blu-Ray disc), and each film features a commentary track by noted author/film historian David Kalat. Extra features include interviews with actor Akira Takarada, Godzilla suit actor Haruo Nakajima, effects technicians Yoshio Irie and Eizo Kaimai, soundtrack composer Akira Ifukube, and film critic Tado Sato. The prints of both versions have been painstakingly restored to near-mint condition, and the soundtracks have never been more impressive. I couldn't give a higher recommendation to the presentation of these films. Some have complained about the art on the packaging, but I find it quite effective, if not spectacular. While the Criterion release is no doubt the definitive release of Godzilla, the earlier Classic Media edition at least offers several noteworthy extra features. It pays to own both.
on March 13, 2012
After the last Classic Media DVD release of Gojira, and then just viewing a rental of the Bluray version (which had a horrible picture), wasn't sure what to expect here, film-wise. I was plesantly surprised all the way around. Even with some very minor flaws, this is the ultimate version of the original "Gojira" and "Godzilla, King Of The Monsters". Picture quality is way improved, as is the sound. The supplements with interviews of the actors (lead actors and Godzilla costume performer), special effects crew & movie score creator are interesting, though there are some problems reading the subtitles. For these supplements, I would have used a light yellow type since it was back and forth between color and B&W, where the subtitles washed out in places over the B&W stills and film photography, where in the film, the white subtitles work just fine. Fans of the Godzilla series should be very pleased with this version of the films that started it all. I only hope now that Criterion will bring out Mothra in its Japanese and American Versions. It is only on Bluray in Japan without English subtitles, I believe, but would love to see it remastered to Bluray.
on January 26, 2012
This is it people! The GODZILLA we've been waiting too long to see is finally here. Thanks to the folks at Criterion, this seminal classic of Japanese sci-fi and giant monster movies is given the loving care it so justly deserves.
Transferred from a 35mm fine-grain master positive taken from the original camera negative, we can now see all the pictorial splendor of Ishiro Honda's apocalyptic masterpiece fully restored on Blu-ray. This is essentially how audiences saw the film when it premiered in 1954. In addition to the original Japanese cut, we get the 1956 American version, GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS, starring Raymond Burr, which also never looked better having been taken from a 35mm fine-grain print and a 16mm dupe negative. I have to say I agree with commentator David Kalat who praises this version as being a better film than it's generally regarded. Kalat offers intelligent insights on the Japanese version's second audio track as well.
The special features are sure to captivate all GODZILLA fans: Interviews with actors Akira Takarada and Haruo Nakajima, effects technicians Yoshio Irie and Eizo Kaimai, film critic Tadao Sato, and composer Akira Ifukube. There's a featurette on GODZILLA's visual effects that includes test snippets, and an audio essay on the tragedy of the fishing vessel, "Daigo Fukuryu Maru" ("Lucky Dragon V"), which inspired Honda's metaphor for atomic destruction that is GODZILLA. The original trailer, a booklet essay by J. Hoberman, and a fun pop-up storage case round up another splendid Criterion presentation of a worthy title.
This is the iconic movie that kicked off Japan's enduring Giant Monster series and it's still the best one of them all. See GODZILLA the way it should be seen and love it all over again.
on December 2, 2012
Well, I was browsing Amazon's streaming-video offerings, came across this and was aghast that it had no reviews yet because this is THE best monster movie ever. I first saw this on TV when I was a kid. It scared the stuffing out of me then and still has the power to give me chills 50+ years (and numerous viewings) later. Everything works -- the opening scene, the building tension, the monster, the scenes of destruction, the music, everything. No sequel or remake has ever come remotely close to the power of this black-and-white marvel. The original "Frankenstein" and "King Kong" are in the same pantheon of excellence, but this one stands a step higher than even those gems.
on January 29, 2012
Thank goodness for Criterion. They have turned my favorite movie of all time into a brilliantly constructed Blu-ray. This Blu-ray boasts a lot of excellent special features including interviews, a commentary, and even a featurette on photographic effects used for the film. The video and audio quality are leagues better than the Classic Media release. If you are an avid movie lover, especially a G-Fan, this belongs in your collection!
After watching the delightful Shall We Dance? (1996) (English Subtitled) [HD], I thought about what other Japanese movies I have watched. The only one I could come up with was Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which I saw as a child. Being in a nostalgic mood for childhood movies this summer, as well as wanting to see more Japanese movies, I decided to watch the original Japanese version, Gojira (English Subtitled), instead. I knew it would be a fun movie to watch. I could not have been more wrong. I cannot remember how different the American version is, but I'm obviously not remembering it correctly; it could not be THAT unlike the Japanese version. (And the current description of this movie here at Amazon is incorrect. This is not the movie with Raymond Burr as an American reporter in Japan. That is Godzilla: King of the Monsters.)
This original Japanese version is a dark, dead serious movie about the fear of being destroyed by nuclear weapons. Godzilla came up out of the sea after nuclear bombs were being tested. He was not only a really big destructive dinosaur, he was also radioactive. He was, in a sense, one big destructive walking nuclear weapon, who was going to annihilate Japan, unless he was stopped. There was one young scientist who could stop him, but that scientist feared what would happen if his weapon of destruction became known to the governments of the world. He was painfully aware they would do anything to acquire his knowledge, in order to destroy other enemies in the future--human enemies.
That is what Gojira (English Subtitled) is about. It is not for those looking for a fun movie. For fun, try King Kong vs. Godzilla [Blu-ray]. Or, for young children, get Godzilla's Revenge.Gojira (English Subtitled) is strictly for adults and mature teenagers who understand why this movie was made less than 10 years after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.