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Although the majority of American audiences are most likely unfamiliar with the name GOJIRA ($22), it is one of the most significant science fiction films ever released in Japan- and a movie that has launched a cinematic dynasty that has lasted for five decades. If that last sentence isnít clue enough, then ask yourself if you are familiar with a towering monster stomping on Tokyo by the name of Godzilla. GOJIRA is the Japanese name for the title character of director IshirŰ Hondaís 1954 anti-nuclear sci-fi classic, which finally arrives on DVD in America its original form and original running time of ninety-eight minutes. The plot of GOJIRA is very similar to that of many American science fiction films of the same era, as it concerns the aftermath of atomic weapons testing, which, instead of creating radioactive mutants, resurrects the prehistoric monster and sends him on a rampage across Japan.

Disc two of the set features GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS, which is the highly truncated, eighty minute Americanized version of GOJIRA. Much of GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS has been dubbed into English and contains new footage consisting of inserts of Raymond Burr, portraying American reporter Steve Martin, who comes to Japan on the invitation of an old friend- the primary scientist involved in the investigation into the resurrected prehistoric monster. Utilizing approximately sixty minutes of the original Japanese film, and through creative editing Burrís Steve Martin becomes a primary character and the narrator of GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS. Of course Burr is only able to "interact" with the Japanese characters through the use of close-ups of Burr and body doubles for the Japanese actors, who always keep their backs to the camera. Also, instead of the straight narrative found in GOJIRA, GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS tells its tale in flashback from the perspective of the American reporter who witnessed the events of the rampaging monster from the sidelines.

Classic Media has made GOJIRA available on DVD in a black and white transfer that frames the film in the 1.37:1 full screen aspect ratio. For a fifty plus year old Japanese film, GOJIRA looks surprisingly good. While there is some variation during the course of the presentation, the image generally appears sharp and the level of detail is more than respectable. Blacks are usually accurate; as are the whites, plus contrast and grayscale are pretty solid. Minor blemishes pop up with some frequency, but are not particularly bothersome. A grain structure is noticeable from time to time, but is never excessive. The transfer for GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS is very similar to that of GOJIRA, but the film elements are for the American version are in somewhat rougher shape. Digital compression artifacts maintain a low profile for both versions.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is just fine for a Japanese language film that is over fifty years old, as much of background hiss and surface noise have been cleaned during the mastering process. As expected, fidelity is a bit lacking, but the sound effects do manage to hold their own. Additionally, some mild distortions creep up at higher volume levels. Since I donít understand Japanese, I cannot judge intelligibility, but yellow English subtitles are provided. The monaural soundtrack for GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS gets the job done, but does exhibit some age related limitations.

Animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a nice complement of supplements. Godzilla experts Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski offer highly informative running audio commentaries on both versions of the film. Godzilla: Story Development is a nearly thirteen minute featurette, whose content is made evident from the title. Making Of The Godzilla Suit is a thirteen-minute featurette on the filmís special effects, focusing on the creation of the man in the rubber suit stomping miniature sets. An Original Theatrical Trailer for the Japanese version closes out the disc based supplements. An informative sixteen-page booklet on the making of the film and its exportation to America is also provided.

Itís a blast to finally be able to see GOJIRA in its intended form on this side of the Pacific. Classic Media has done a good job with the presentations on both versions and offers some thoughtful supplements. Recommended to genre fans.



Godzilla - Gojira Deluxe Collector's Edition (2 DVD set) (1956)



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2006 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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