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.
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 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 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 October 3, 2013
For genuine movie buffs this is, indeed, an underpriced item. It has both versions of Godzilla, plus original trailers, and quick narrated videos on writing the story, culling it into a film script, and creating its special effects. It turns out Godzilla was greatly influenced by Harryhausen's Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, with the original Japanese proposal being for a stop-action film--but that would have taken too long to produce and been too expensive. With a limited budget, producers opted for a man in a rubber suit and miniature buildings. The first suit was so stiff the actor inside could barely move. The second suit allowed movement of arms and legs, but was still so stiff it stood upright on its own when no one was inside. It was so hot its actors periodically passed out. Another interesting thing is that the monster was colored charcoal gray, not green.
The film is often underexposed, probably to hide its lack of production values, but is still nice and clear. The original Japanese feature is superior to the American hybrid. At first it has a Fritz Lang-ish narration of plot-advancing cuts without Lang's expressionist moments. As close as it comes to such a moment is a dissonant piano chord that is sounded when the heroine first sees the "oxygen destroyer" work, and which reverbs into diminishment during the next scene. Intertwined is a melodramatic love triangle which, unfortunately, takes over and comes to dominate the action near the end of the film. (That's a flaw in a lot of contemporary superhero films.) And there are continuity inconsistencies to catch. For example: why does Godzilla's booming footfalls still sound when he is underwater? Still, for such a low price you get two quality CDs with special features and a booklet. This is a bargain.
on February 6, 2012
Well, this certainly exceeded my expectations.
I'd asked myself "Am I being suckered here? How much clearer can a film be made when it was shot on stock which sustained permanent damage before it was even developed? When only a few years ago an exquisite restored version of both versions was released?"
Well, Criterion has succeeded in working some minor miracles here. There are details, such as the matte painting of a bird's-eye-view of Godzilla's footprint, and close-ups of the puppet godzilla head, which shimmer with new clarity without looking so scrubbed and enhanced as to lose the effect of watching an OLD classic of cinema.
The commentary for each version is incredibly informative and in each case has a very clear, well-chosen, well-argued. I'm able to grit my teeth to get through some cringe-inducing black-trenchcoat-geek self-indulgence in these tracks (such as the "stick it to the man" observation. I'd have taken editor's scissors to several such un-humorous asides.) because (a) the cares-way-too-much geek factor is inevitable. As a fan, I know I'd certainly make listeners cringe were I to record a commentary, and (b)the majority of the content is so well-informed, yet not at all dry or boring. I came away from listening to the commentary to GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS with a truly revised and much more educated opinion of the American version (and Raymond Burr).
The rest of the extras, while not terribly impressive must-haves, are enjoyable. Especially the before-and-after examinations of the matte paintings and other photographic effects.
Really, my only nit-picking criticism is that I just don't like the new cover. I'm a fan of the artist they chose, but, I find it misleading. It isn't clear enough that this is the original Toho film and not the later American Godzilla-in-name-only "blockbuster". The idea is sound, it's the execution that's unclear. However, the inner sleeve with the gorgeous Oxygen Destroyer photos makes up for that.
So, in my opinion, if you're a GODZILLA fan, you should definately add this to your library.
on September 13, 2014
I honestly see no difference between this Criterion Collection Blu-ray, and the Classic Media DVD version. Watching the two versions back to back, they appeared to be identical; with nice, clear, crisp pictures for the most part. Both the DVD and this Bl;u-ray have a lot of white spots and artifacts popping up in the sequence of the planes attacking Godzilla. During the underwater sequence when they are setting the oxygen destroyer, a string of black circles appears from right to left about 3/4 of the way across the screen, then there are a couple of flashes of white; the rest of the sequence is fine. To give them a fair test, I took both discs to work and played them side by side on two of the best Samsung Blu ray players we sell and two new Samsung 240Hz 55 inch curved 1080P TVs. Then just for kicks, I asked customers to pick which was the DVD and which was the Blu-ray version. Over half (18 out of 30) picked the wrong one. The sound is a somewhat different story. When I watch cable TV programmes, I typically keep the sound level on my Sony soundbar/subwoofer setup at roughly 25 out 100. With DVDs, including the Classic Media Godzilla, I have to turn the volume down to about 17. With this Criterion Collection Blu-ray I don't set the sound any higher than 13. The sound is louder, clearer, and cleaner with absolutely no pops, clicks, whistles, or other distortions. So, the Criterion Blu-ray is a definite improvement, if only for the better sound.
on February 8, 2014
I've always loved giant monster films and I was fortunate enough to see a lot of the early ToHo classics in my local theater as a kid. Yes, King Kong VS Godzilla, Godzilla VS The Thing, Godzilla VS the Sea Monster, Yog Monster From Space, Frankenstein Conquers the World, War of the Gargantuas Destroy All Monsters, Kino Kong Escapes and so forth are very vivid memories from my Saturday matinee creature double feature weekends for nearly a decade.
The original Godzilla is really a very different film, much more serious in tone than any of the sequels which range from good destruction filled fun fare to ridiculously juvenile and down right silly. Regardless, I have a special place in my heart for all things "monster" and I appreciate each and every one of these films.
OK, now on to the Criterion release on Blu Ray. Godzilla looks and sounds about as good as you can expect on Blu Ray. Clear audio and video are present with the ocasional scratches etc. showing up here and there. This release like the one before it from Classic Media has both versions of the film and while the original Japanese version is the superior one, I prefer the U.S. version the one I grew up with. One note the subtitles are at the very bottom of the screen and I had to acjust my projector to read them. This has never happened with any other video I've watched, so I'm not sure it the image is unusally long for a full screen image?
My reason for 4 stars is while the bonus material is very interesting, I think the G Man deserves a new documentary in English on this set. Doesn't he deserve it? He's starred in 30 plus films? He is know around the world, survived over 50 years and he has an impressive and loyal fan base. Is it too much to ask to have some sort of tribute to this iconic monster?
It's a solid release and I totally recommend it, but the extras aren't nearly as thorough as they should be. If you already have the Classic Media DVD, you'll have to decied if it's worth the upgrade as it is of excellent quality too.