Criterion have finally achieved what seemed impossible due to several different companies owning the distribution rights to the films – put together a set containing all fifteen of the movies in the Showa Godzilla series in HD. These are:
Godzilla, Godzilla Raids Again, King Kong vs. Godzilla, Mothra vs. Godzilla, Ghidorah the Three Headed Monster, Invasion of Astro-Monster, Ebirah Horror of the Deep, Son of Godzilla, Destroy All Monsters, All Monsters Attack, Godzilla vs. Hedorah, Godzilla vs. Gigan, Godzilla vs. Megalon, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla and Terror of Mechagodzilla.
Seems like a dream come true to rabid fans like myself, especially with the release at last of the original Japanese cut of King Kong Vs Godzilla. Up till now, this far superior version of the film has not had an official release outside of Japan and fans have had to put up with the bastardised American edit unless they were willing to put up with poor looking bootlegs. The newly translated subtitles is a plus and the artwork appropriately garish and cheesy considering the films.
However, there do seem to be some flaws with this release, largely it seems down to Toho being really finicky about what they’ve allowed to go into it. Not all the films are given their dubbed soundtracks, a shame because, while us fans tend to agree that subtitles are the way to go, most of us first saw the films dubbed and therefore have some nostalgia for these versions, and it’s also a shame for those who may want to get their kids into Godzilla. The alternate US cuts of three of the films are also missing – again, while inferior, their exclusion is a disappointment. And quite a few special features present on earlier DVD releases including audio commentaries are also MIA. The HD transfers are from 2008 and apparently not very good, though Criterion may be able to make them look a bit better. And why does the box artwork feature the Godzilla from the Heisei reboot series that began in 1984?
I love Godzilla, but I’m on the fence about this set. The North American release date is October 29th. Rumours are going around that this may get a UK release two or three months after. I’m going to wait for that, by which time I will have seen some reviews and screen caps which will hopefully help me make up my mind. I have a feeling I’m going to end up biting, because this is probably the best it’s ever going to get for us non-Japanese Godzilla fans, and as a diehard supporter of physical media I ought to be backing releases such as this. But we shall see…..
*High-definition digital transfers of all fifteen Godzilla films made between 1954 and 1975, released together for the first time, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks
*High-definition digital transfer of Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956), the U.S.-release version of Godzilla
*Japanese-release version of King Kong vs. Godzilla from 1962
*Audio commentaries from 2011 on Godzilla and Godzilla, King of the Monsters featuring film historian David Kalat
*International English-language dub tracks for Invasion of Astro-Monster, Son of Godzilla, Destroy All Monsters, Godzilla vs. Megalon, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, and Terror of Mechagodzilla
*Directors Guild of Japan interview with director Ishiro Honda, conducted by director Yoshimitsu Banno in 1990
*Programs detailing the creation of Godzilla’s special effects and unused effects sequences from Toho releases including Destroy All Monsters
*New interview with filmmaker Alex Cox about his admiration for the Showa-era Godzilla films
*New and archival interviews with cast and crew members, including actors Bin Furuya, Tsugutoshi Komada, Haruo Nakajima, and Akira Takarada; composer Akira Ifukube; and effects technicians Yoshio Irie and Eizo Kaimai
*Interview with critic Tadao Sato from 2011
*Illustrated audio essay from 2011 about the real-life tragedy that inspired Godzilla
*New English subtitle translations
PLUS: A lavishly illustrated deluxe hardcover book featuring an essay by cinema historian Steve Ryfle, notes on the films by cinema historian Ed Godziszewski, and new illustrations by Arthur Adams, Sophie Campbell, Becky Cloonan, Jorge Coelho, Geof Darrow, Simon Gane, Robert Goodin, Benjamin Marra, Monarobot, Takashi Okazaki, Angela Rizza, Yuko Shimizu, Bill Sienkiewicz, Katsuya Terada, Ronald Wimberly, and Chris Wisnia