Monty Cristo lays his vengeful paws on Criterion's GODZILLA Blu-ray!!!
Harry here with another item from the mysterious, vengeful swashbuckler with his look at next year's Criterion Blu-Ray of GODZILLA - and nothing says Christmas like Godzilla, right? Here ya go:
GODZILLA Criterion Blu-ray Review
Monty Cristo returns, bearing a Christmas Eve surprise for you all, dear confidants!
I am told that, in this particular situation, it is custom ‘round these parts to chant something akin to…
MAN IN SUIT! MAN IN SUIT! MAN IN SUIT!
Courtesy of the Criterion Collection
Exactly one month from today, Criterion is releasing one of their most-anticipated titles in years: Ishiro Honda’s GODZILLA. I am beyond pleased that my conspirators have smuggled an advance copy of the Blu-ray to me so that I might regale you of its glory. They went all-out on this sucker, going so far as to get the brilliant Bill Sienkiewicz to do the cover art.
At first glance, the inclusion of GODZILLA in The Criterion Collection might seem odd, even if you are among the hordes of GODZILLA fans (like myself) who are delighted that the film is getting this sort of treatment. I wonder how many people identify with the later incarnations of the character, but whom never happened to see the original 1954 film, which is gushing with social commentary and topicality. I agree with Village Voice critic J. Hoberman, who asserts in the essay in the booklet that GODZILLA is most appropriately at home next to movies like DR STRANGELOVE (among others).
The 1956 Americanization, GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS (also included on Criterion’s new edition), does as well. That assertion might surprise those who have decried it as a crass bastardization, which (let’s be honest) it is in quite a few respects, from bizarre editing choices to the deletion of some of the most powerful subtext.
Japan was still coming to terms with having been on the losing end of a World War, and the Hydrogen Bomb test that sets the movie in motion was an all-too-real experience for many who survived or lost people to the A-bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The movie opens with a fishing boat and its crew caught in an H-bomb blast that awakens the titular sleeping giant.
A giant dinosaurian beast wasn’t awakened in real life, but a US H-bomb test did catch the crew of a boat called the Lucky Dragon #5 by surprise. This was major news in Japan at the time, and is certainly still remembered. I would be surprised if many Americans even knew this happened. The US involvement isn’t so much as mentioned in the US version.
Courtesy of the Criterion Collection
The implications of Weapons of Mass Destruction for their own sake ring through in both versions, though admittedly much more profoundly in the Japanese version. Those who think of GODZILLA as merely a series of goofy rubber monster movies are missing out on one of the most profound and important post-WWII Japanese films.
Even as laughable as some might find the editing and dubbing choices in GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS, upon re-watching it, I stand by my feeling that Raymond Burr gives an outstanding, sobering performance in scenes that were never part of the movie originally. After the 2009 Blu-ray from Classic Media omitted this US version, I’m glad to have it here not only in HD, but digitally restored. Speaking of restoration and all that…
Criterion did a digital restoration on both films, and the picture quality on both features is better than I’ve ever seen from either, including the restored 35mm print of GODZILLA that started making the rounds some years ago. That said, the original movie (and by extension KING OF THE MONSTERS) had a great deal of scratches, dirt, and debris in its original release prints. The source was partly the frantic nature of production and also the optical effects used throughout.
Do not expect this movie (either version) to look flawlessly crisp like Criterion’s work on titles like WAGES OF FEAR or M or SEVEN SAMURAI. Think more along the lines of the astonishingly good-looking STAGECOACH Blu-ray from a couple of years ago. In many, many instances where they would have been adding information where there never was any in its original presentation, they had the good judgment to leave well enough alone.
From the booklet of the forthcoming Criterion Collection edition of the film
The extras are everything one could hope for, from a scholarly (and yet IMMENSELY entertaining) pair of commentary tracks to far more newly-recorded interviews than one might expect from a nearly 50-year-old movie.
David Kalat wrote A Critical History and Filmography of Toho’s Godzilla Series, the first truly comprehensive and analytical English-language tome on the world of kaiju movies. I have friends who come down on some Criterion commentary tracks as being too much like a recorded film studies lecture. These are the same friends who don’t know why anyone reads anymore. That said, some of their film scholar tracks do require a fairly alert mind. Kalat eliminates the need for stimulants or daytime viewing. In short, the man is a fucking hilarious and brilliant geek of the highest order.
He provides an amazingly concise and yet elaborated history of the giant monster movie, starting with KING KONG (1933) and its 1952 re-release. He goes deep into the plethora of Kurosawa connections found in Honda’s GODZILLA. He goes on at length on the birth of practical special effects on a large scale. Kalat even pish-poshes the “do we call it GODZILLA or GOJIRA? Which one is right?” argument, by declaring both as equally correct. There was a far more pretentious time in my life when I would have argued with him for no good reason other than to declare I was right. I’d like to think solid reason and logic are why I agree with him 100% in the here and now.
Here’s a nugget that Kalat drops during the US version: I had NO IDEA that James Hong (yes, Lo Pan himself!) provides most of the Japanese male overdubbing in KING OF THE MONSTERS.
If you end up buying this release, you will massively shortchange yourself if you don’t watch the films back-to-back and then re-watch them with his yack tracks on.
Only THEN should you move on to the next bits.
Next up are a series of interviews (recorded in 2011) that I almost didn’t believe when they announced this disc: Akira Takada (Ogata, the male romantic lead), Godzilla performer Haruo Nakajima (THE Man in Suit!), and the pair of FX technicians Yoshio Irie and Eizo Kaimai. The first couple of interviews run around 10 or 15 minutes in length, and the FX guys talk for a solid half hour.
On top of that, there’s an interview from 2000 (recorded for the original Japanese DVD release) with composer Akira Ifukube that runs for nearly an hour. He talks about his career for the most part, which was born from the ashes of WWII. He has a really fascinating life story, and his insights into film music are intriguing.
Up next is a 10-minute piece examining how various visual effects were achieved, a featurette that also appears to originate from around the same timeframe as the Ifukube interview.
We then jump back forward to another 2011 interview, this time with Tadao Sato, a major Japanese film critic and historian. If unfamiliar with him, combine Roger Ebert with four or five other historically important US critics to your taste (Kael, Sarris, take your pick), and you have something resembling his status in Japan. Subjects he discusses are also brought up in the commentary, but there’s no redundancy here.
Rounding things out is The Unluckiest Dragon, whose title sounds like a Disney Classic Animated Short. It is, in fact, a 10-minute visual essay about the real-life fishing boat tragedy that inspired the movie (as I mentioned above).
This is the first must-own Blu-ray of 2012, and it may just finish next year as one of the best catalog film restorations as well as overall special editions, when all is said and done. No offense to the previous Classic Media releases (on DVD and Blu-ray), but this edition eclipses everything that has come before quite handily.
The Amazon pre-order is currently at $27.99, which is entirely reasonable for the hours and hours of stuff packed in here. You’re not a real GODZILLA geek if you don’t get this thing right when it comes out. Click on the Bill Sienkiewicz cover art below to pre-order at Amazon.
Harry, if you’re reading, I only wish that a bunch of geeks got a chance to see this restored masterpiece on big screens in a room packed with their own ilk. This movie with a crowd…forget about it. Just think of when the “Occupy” Odo Island crowd protests government inaction in the Diet building.
Once again, dear readers, I hope this reaches you well.
Yours in bloody, delicious vengeance,
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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Dec. 24, 2011, 3:55 p.m. CST
Based on everything being offered besides a transfer that sounds no better then the one from a few years ago everything else is available online or will be on youtube with those new interviews.
Dec. 24, 2011, 4:07 p.m. CST
http://www.criterion.com/films/27755-godzilla The hardcover Toho/Sony DVD releases were still pretty well-done, though.
Dec. 24, 2011, 4:46 p.m. CST
Wait, so the boats in the beginning were destroyed by H-Bombs? I thought they were destroyed by Godzilla.
Dec. 24, 2011, 4:47 p.m. CST
"At first glance, the inclusion of GODZILLA in The Criterion Collection might seem odd" The fuckit is. Godzilla (Gojira) the japanese version is a great movie. no need to be appologetic about it.
Criterion once again does the right thing. Hurrah!!
Dec. 24, 2011, 4:53 p.m. CST
you obviously know little of Criterion. it's days of cash grab are long over. they have godzilla becasue it's culturally significant. which is.
Dec. 24, 2011, 5 p.m. CST
It's a must have!
Dec. 24, 2011, 5:04 p.m. CST
to do the DVD release column by any chance? It sounds like he, ya know, like, watches the damn things. Plus, he can write coherent sentences to boot!!
Dec. 24, 2011, 5:09 p.m. CST
Can't stand it when people say: "well these extras are on youtube" or "almost the same stuff is available online". You have to realize that the majority of people are not going to sit at a computer all day looking for clips. I'm going to get this and enjoy the hell out of it.
Dec. 24, 2011, 5:24 p.m. CST
Who the hell watches movies on their computer. A couch or theater seat is needed, if you want to kickback. I also love the people that say they will just torrent movies and not see them in the theater or rent them. What a bunch of dumb-ass mother fucks. I won't go see the Avengers, cuz it will suck, but I'll watch it on my computer. That is the pinnacle of bullshit logic.
Dec. 24, 2011, 6:08 p.m. CST
As everybody knows the big guy is known as Gojira in Japan and Godzilla is a name given to him when the original movie was re-edited and americanized. Surely Criterion is sticking with the Japanese name/title.
Dec. 24, 2011, 6:11 p.m. CST
I say Godzilla. Man in suit still stomps the fuck out of some sweet miniatures. Everybody is happy.
Dec. 24, 2011, 6:43 p.m. CST
by The Reluctant Austinite
At one point, some years ago, when I realised that Toho was still making Godzilla pictures, I became obsessed with all things "gorilla whale." I spent a lot of money on vinyl figures from overseas and bootleg VHS tapes. While I've cooled my collecting heels recently, I still have most of the series on DVD. In fact, my biggest disappointment this Christmas has been the continually delayed release of "Godzilla VS Megalon." As far as I can tell from online research, Toho has never approved Media Blasters' final release print and there's no word when or even if they will. While "Megalon" bears absolutely nothing in common with the masterfully somber 1954 film, it was the only Godzilla film that I saw in a theater as a kid in its American theatrical debut, and it features a robot that looks like Ultraman! And that's enough for me to want to own a widescreen version!
Dec. 24, 2011, 6:47 p.m. CST
by Anthony Torchia
Sorry, release it in Japan as Gojira I wants me my God, GODZILLA fuck you :)
Dec. 24, 2011, 7:44 p.m. CST
man. in. suit. Whoop-de-shit.
Dec. 24, 2011, 8:38 p.m. CST
by Monty Cristo
I'm not being apologetic, but rather, commenting on the fact that GODZILLA is not exactly what one immediately expects from Criterion based on what people generally consider to be a "Criterion-ish" movie.
Dec. 24, 2011, 9:15 p.m. CST
by Monty Cristo
Ah, this TalkBack thing. I must get used to it. allpowerfulwizardofoz: I guarantee you that the new content won't find itself on YouTube or "all over the net" or the like. This is far from just some brand slap. I don't tell everyone that every disc is a must-buy, but hopefully you bat725: Chalk it up to careless phrasing on my part. The H-bomb causes the awakening of Gojira, which in turn causes their deaths. Lazy self-editing. I blame alcohol and exhaustion. maxjohnson1971: I can't hope to cover the amount of ground that Harry does. The man is an inhuman monster of Nuclear Age proportions. I'm happy to cover individual titles that I can manage here and there. snootyboots: The bit on the commentary about the title controversy is very satisfying. I use both titles, and consider both correct in different contexts. The Criterion spine is GODZILLA, and I agree with its use. David Kalat's commentary is substantiation enough and then some. Trust me for now. mr_fancy_pants: Well put. the reluctant austinite: Toho is very strict about the presentation of their properties, and it is this limbo that I presume this holdup is caught in. It'd be an interesting thing to research... Thanks for the comments everyone. You may be hearing form me again sooner than later.
Dec. 24, 2011, 9:16 p.m. CST
Dec. 24, 2011, 9:28 p.m. CST
I would certainly enjoy reading more video reviews from you.
Dec. 24, 2011, 9:35 p.m. CST
Dec. 24, 2011, 10:11 p.m. CST
That picture is awesome! Where's it from?
Dec. 24, 2011, 11:13 p.m. CST
Can't stand it when people say: "well these extras are on youtube" or "almost the same stuff is available online".
I don't give a rats ass about those who say this.....but it does irk me more if they add to it "You are an idiot for wasting your money on xyz" Since when is spending your own hard earned cash on something you'll get enjoyment out of a bad thing? I personally could care less whether the next man spends his money on a fancy meal or tv dinner.....nor do I care if he gets a hand job from a hooker or buys his wife flowers and fucks her head off. Who gives a shit. When it comes to cool movies some of us are collectors and just dig the experience of a new HD blu-ray and kicking back and watching it on a widescreen. The often mentioned/bragged "I can get it online free" is lame. Oh you can find it online free? Whoaaa! Awesome trick. Only you and a top secret select 4 billion other people know that.
Dec. 25, 2011, 12:59 a.m. CST
by Chief Joseph
Er, I think it qualifies and even exceeds that.
Dec. 25, 2011, 1:11 a.m. CST
by Chief Joseph
...Toho has actually been using the "Godzilla" spelling pretty consistently in the Heisei and Millennial movies and recent merchandise. ゴ ジ ラ GO DZI LLA Close enough.
Dec. 25, 2011, 5:49 a.m. CST
Dec. 25, 2011, 8:42 a.m. CST
Classic Media's release of GOJIRA a couple of years back did a great job on this property. I'm looking forward to any new commentary on this, though.
Dec. 25, 2011, 11:47 a.m. CST
I don't think there is a "usual" Criterion. Don't forget that "The Blob" and "Equinox" have been released by them, and I wouldn't call either of those "great" movies. Hell, even the Beastie Boys videos have been released by Criterion. I never thought that just because it's out from Criterion that it is necessarily a "classic" film, but more of a case being made for a film that did something that needs to be noticed or recognized for. Hell, even they tell you that they are films that are important or noteworthy, but not necessarily great. I've seen my share of movies on Criterion that I didn't like. ("Sweet Movie" anyone?)
Dec. 25, 2011, 11:52 a.m. CST
No offense to Harry, but I would rather see a few well done reviews than the ad Harry does for Amazon now and again.
Dec. 25, 2011, 1:39 p.m. CST
by Monty Cristo
Typo. Meant 60. Carry on.
Dec. 25, 2011, 1:40 p.m. CST
by Monty Cristo
Again, I don't mean that you, the far above average connoisseur. I mean the average person who thinks Criterion=Cries and Whispers with a side of Eisenstein.
Dec. 25, 2011, 2:08 p.m. CST
by Chief Joseph
No wonder he's been taking it easy lately.
Dec. 25, 2011, 2:13 p.m. CST
anyway, that was a quality review you did there. Hit all the basis and made me evne more interested in geting this new Criterion title. well, it's criterion, already makes me interested, but you put the icing in the cake of my interest. what i mean to say is, it's a damn good review. carry on and bring more. thanks.
Dec. 25, 2011, 2:17 p.m. CST
i see no cheesiness in the movie. i can watch it as if from the eyes of a person from the 50s, and not mind the obvious SFX used in the movie. it still doesn't matter, the movie's power as cinema overcomes whatever technical limitations. the rest is just first class, fromthe story, to the acting, to the mood build to the story, to the themes both text and subtext, to the drama. It's all good. Calling it a chessy movie just because it has a giant monster portaited by a guy in a suit stomping some awesome great miniatures is not reason enough to dimish this great movie and put it into the cathegory of chesse. if you do that, you are a fucking amateur in regard to movies and have some serious bad filter glasses that prevent you from truly appreciate film. it's sad. GOJIRA is a great movie, and anybody who thinks likewise shouldn't be affraid to say so and proudly admit as such.
Dec. 25, 2011, 5:02 p.m. CST
by Monty Cristo
Thanks very much. You'll be seeing more of me, I assure you.
Dec. 25, 2011, 6:11 p.m. CST
Dec. 25, 2011, 9:32 p.m. CST
I knew what you meant and wasn't aiming that comment directly at you. I guess we were talking about the same thing really.
Dec. 25, 2011, 10:11 p.m. CST
First off, nice, well written article, Monty. I'd like to add and comment on a few things here.... Much as I've always admired Bill Sienkiewicz's art (very surprised he was asked considering his background and style), I feel his cover for this release totally misses the mark. Why not Bob Eggleton, who's done many beautiful Godzilla paintings over the years? Maybe Toho in their usual OCD controlling attitude towards non-Japanese releases of their films dictated a "shot-from-behind' view of Godzilla. I dunno, but this quickie mock-up I did using Japanese Kaiju painter Yuji Kaida's art for a '90's Godzilla book is much more suited to this release: http://i60.photobucket.com/albums/h26/Partyslammer/GodzillaCriterionCover1.jpg Also, based on the credits, it sounds very much like the transfer for the Japanese "Gojira" on this release is the same one done around 2003 by Toho for Japanese HD channel broadcast and the Japanese Blu-ray release. That's not necessarily a bad thing as the Japanese Blu-ray released about 2 years ago looks pretty good - it blows the horrible, up scaled US Classic Media Blu-ray (whoever said it looks great is blind) out of the water, but it's not anything close to perfect. I would be happily shocked if this release improves upon the Japanese Blu-ray. I'm actually much more curious how the English language cut looks as a new negative was found a year or two ago and was the source for (the US) "Godzilla." A bit of history here between Criterion and Toho Studios..... Criterion originally wanted to release "Gojira/Godzilla" (and the 1964 "Mothra vs Godzilla" as well) in North America as far back as the early 90's on laserdisc. There were several years worth of negotiations that eventually fell apart. Interestingly, after the deal with Criterion fell through, Toho ran with the idea and released both films in Japan with both the English and Japanese versions in beautifully elaborate LD sets. Also, it sounds like the short feature on how many of the special effects were composed and created comes from the recent Japanese Blu-ray release of "Gojira." As mentioned, much of the bonus material is cribbed from the older Japanese dvd release but it will be nice to finally view it translated to English. Speaking of Godzilla on Blu-ray, the recently released US Blu-ray (and dvd) "Destroy All Monsters" from Media Blasters has become an instant collector's item due to Toho objecting to supposedly unauthorized material included in the Extras section - specifically the stills gallery of all things. Not only is the title instantly Out Of Print but Media Blasters have put a hold on their release of (the otherwise loveably awful) "Godzilla vs Megalon" Blu-ray which was due out a few weeks ago. Toho once again proves they can be real pricks to deal with.
Dec. 26, 2011, 12:28 a.m. CST
by Monty Cristo
I was scanning and replying real fast. I think if we learned anything today, it is that we are allies. TO REVENGE!
Dec. 26, 2011, 4:48 a.m. CST
Dec. 26, 2011, 11:23 a.m. CST
by Tera Sanders
David Fincher should do a shot for shot remake with a gritty Trent Reznor cover of B.O.C.'s Godzilla. It could feature game-quality CG animation and star someone really talented like Ryan Gosling or Shia LaBeouf. Wouldn't that be great?
Dec. 26, 2011, 2:42 p.m. CST
First the love for Vincent and The Doctor and now GOJIRA.... I may have a man crush on you. lol
Dec. 26, 2011, 5:46 p.m. CST
i'm always a better guy once you get to know me better.
Dec. 26, 2011, 5:49 p.m. CST
i never saw the american version called GODZILA. i only know the original japanese version called GOJIRA.
and that movie kicked my ass. i truly like it a lot. so, i'm not suprised that criterion made a DVD/blu-ray edition of it. it's kinda inevitable, really.
Dec. 27, 2011, 12:15 a.m. CST
The Americanized version "Godzilla" is actually a really good 50's sci-fi monster flick on a par with other greats of that time including Ray Harryhausen's "Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (which directly inspired Gojira) and "Them" among others. And it's remarkably coherent especially considering the scenes with Raymond Burr were filmed in tiny sets that would make Ed Wood cringe over just a few days' time. The English language dubbing was done in a single day in a small room *without* the movie being unspooled before the voice actors - they simply read from the script into microphones like a radio broadcast! The opening scene with Burr's character (Steve Martin, who's name became unintentionally funny in the late 70's when the same-named comedian rose to fame) struggling to regain consciousness in the rubble of the destroyed news office after Godzilla's attack on Tokyo is a much more chilling opening than the Japanese version, imo. Most of the scenes involving Burr talking to Japanese characters work amazingly well in the movie even if it's usually a Japanese stand-in with his back to the camera talking to Burr. The big downside to the American version is Godzilla's link to US nuclear testing and the overall Japanese attitude about the Atomic Bomb and it's affects post-WWII is drastically downplayed compared to the original Gojira. The love triangle between the three principle Japanese characters is also nearly eliminated in the US version. Also, you have Steve Martin basically narrating everything going on in the movie much like the Deckard voice-over narration in the theatrical cut of Blade Runner. The American version has always looked very rough on home video since the VHS days. The Japanese original version has looked far better (although still far from perfect) especially since it made its dvd debut in Japan in 2001. So as I mentioned previously, it's actually the US version from a new high quality print that most intrigues me with this new Criterion release.
Dec. 27, 2011, 9:40 a.m. CST
by David Assholehoff
Huge Gojir@/Godzilla fan here. They are two very different movies, both enjoyable for their own approach and messages. This is a must have, very worthy of Criterion status.
Dec. 27, 2011, 2:20 p.m. CST
by Jaster Mareel
Then I turned 9.
Dec. 27, 2011, 3:10 p.m. CST
I hope they use one of Godzilla's classic enemies in the Legendary Pictures film otherwise the film is ℲUCKED.
by the Green Gargantua
Dec. 27, 2011, 5:48 p.m. CST
We will agree to disagree. This is much like what has happened to many of these classic films where there is a cult following. I know because I too used to be suckered into this special editions, including Criterion. Once a movie studio sees a trend with every new release of their "insert cult movie here" they continue to plan for the next release which offers up something new with the print, or some new interview etc etc. Sure enough they get the sale. Think George Lucas Star Wars or the Evil Dead series which by all measures is the biggest offender next to Ol turkey neck. I have nothing but love for Godzilla/Gorja but I honestly do not see any real benefit of buying this movie again. I have had it on VHS, DVD and of course Gorja on Bluray. Do I really need another version after that one anyway? No, IMO no. Gotta stand by what I wrote. Those extra interviews will show up on youtube and does not take away from the movie experience. That's just foolish to even say so since you don't see interviews like that in the movie theater, and all of you are posting on a movie site which means you do look at videos online. Viewing them on the computer or on your TV won't change the experience of the interview. Viewing the movie however should be viewed proper. But interviews? Come on that's a stretch lol
Dec. 27, 2011, 5:50 p.m. CST
Yeah I just caught my spelling error. 21st century and still no fucking edit button on the AICN talkbacks.
Dec. 27, 2011, 6:15 p.m. CST
Criterion should have released this as Gojira . . . it is the name of the movie. Go with Godzilla if the primary feature stars Raymond Burr. The title of this disc refers to one of the special features.
Dec. 28, 2011, 6:54 a.m. CST
As for the american version Godzilla movie, i cannot say since i never saw it.
Dec. 28, 2011, 6:58 a.m. CST
As soon i got to the Steve Martin part of your post above, i just couldn't stop laughing for the remain of the post. It's just too hilalrious, Perry Mason playing Steve Martin in a japanese monster movie. I fear mjy reaction to the Godzilla version of GOJIRA for me will be like with Ridley Scott's LEGEND. I'll watch the americanized version out of curiosity once, but whenever i wish to rewatch the movie i'll go for the original director's cut, if you know what i mean. I do that with LEGEND, and i'm sure it will happen so with Godzilla. Anyway, thanks for your very informative post. Good stuff. Thanks a lot, pal.
Dec. 30, 2011, 5:59 p.m. CST
Someone whip up a Phantom Edit version of GINO, trimming the fat (essentially removing as much Bueller as possible) and shortening the too-long run time. Why do I believe a salvageable movie exists in there with some careful editing and maybe 5 minutes of additional footage that doesn't exist? :(
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