GODZILLA: THE SHOWA-ERA FILMS,1954-1975: Blu-ray Set Review





So, as I promised when I posted the news about its release, here’s my rather belated review of this box set. The reason for its lateness is because, despite being a huge Godzilla fan as you probably know, I wasn’t sure I wanted to buy the set at first because of reports of various flaws in it. I decided to wait until the UK set came out two months after the US one, which I hoped would be cheaper to buy because of import fees, by which time I hoped there would be some reviews to help me make up my mind. Well, silly me, the UK set was an extremely limited edition [UK kaiju fans getting shafted yet again] so it sold out before the official release date, while what reviews there were of the set were hardly comprehensive, as if the reviewers had just taken a small peak at each disc or only a few of them. So I ended up importing the US set anyway, having convinced myself that, yes, I did need it. After all, this was the first one all thirteen films from the first Toho Studios Japanese Godzilla series were available together. And of course, I just had to watch each film again in its entirety [despite having done that earlier this year in the lead up to Godzilla: King Of The Monsters], which took time. Seeing as I reviewed all the films for this website in detail several years ago, my write-ups for each movie will be short, with as much focus on the actual discs.

Well, this is certainly a release with some problems which seem to be largely due to the control freakery of Toho, who seriously limited what Criterion could include as well as lumping them with 2008 masters. Some films come with both subtitled and dubbed versions, some just with subtitles even though the dubs were previously available. Only the first movie has some special features, the rest being bare bones despite some of them having been previously released with extras on DVD. And the films themselves – well, they may be in HD but for the most part are below today’s Blu-ray standard in picture quality and and some of them [I kid you not] have white flashes at the bottom of the screen when we cut to another shot, something that a quick browse on a couple of forms confirmed that it wasn’t because I had some faulty discs! Being quite frank, I think it’s insulting of Toho to offer only these versions to Criterion. But on the bright side the set looks great, the films are as wonderful as they always were, disc eight offers some interesting special features, and we can finally [legally] see the original Japanese version of King Kong Vs Godzilla which is far superior to the butchered, condescending American edit which most people are sadly familiar with. So it’s a mixture of good and bad really.

The set comes in the form of a very tall book containing reviews of each film by Ed Godiszewski, plus artwork for every movie and just Godzilla in general from a variety of artists. The painting on the front of the book is hardly inspiring as its the Godzilla from the later ‘Heisei’ series, not this one. I’d have personally have preferred the awesome original Japanese poster art, and I’m not sure about all that pink, but in general the artwork, which seems to have irritated some fans, is fun to look at and appropriate in its garishness to most of the films. The discs though are housed in cardboard slots in the last two pages, which is very disappointing. I know that many of us have cases we can put them in, but that’s not really the point. Anyway, on to the actual discs!

DISC ONE:
GODZILLA [1954]
Investigations into some sunk ships near Japan leads to the discovery that a nuclear explosion has released a 250-foot prehistoric reptile. Dr. Kyohei Yamane thinks the beast ought to be studied, but Tokyo is in danger of being totally destroyed and it seems that only Dr. Daisuke Serizawa’s secret experiment may be able to save the world – but Serizawa, who’s betrothed to Yamane’s daughter Emiko even though she loves another, won’t use it….

Certainly not the goofy camp-fest many expect, this first outing is a deadly serious affair. The ‘50s was full of atomic monsters, but Godzilla was an anguished cry of pain from a nation which suffered the most destructive use of a military weapon in history. All its characters are intriguingly conflicted by duty and personal integrity, and it even weaves a love triangle into something that will decide the fate of the world. Perhaps a little slow and heavy for the kids, but an emotive, intelligent and frightening classic nonetheless. 9/10

This seems to be a port of the earlier North American Criterion release of this film which also included the surprisingly well put together 1956 Godzilla King Of The Monsters US recut which removed some Japanese footage and inserted Raymond Burr. I never got around to buying that, not having a Blu-ray player when it came out and being satisfied with the DVD from Classic Media which also had both cuts. This Blu-ray is certainly an improvement over that version, with sharper picture quality, though much evidence of print damage sadly remains. This film sure wasn’t well looked after. David Kalat provides exhaustive commentary tracks on both versions which are well worth a listen, and we also get three featurettes: Photographic Effects which looks at how some shots were put together, Tadao Sato which has said critic discuss the film, and The Unluckiest Dragon, where historian Greg Pflugfelder describing the tragic fate of the fishing vessel Daigo Fukuryu Maru, a real-life event that inspired Godzilla. Some cast and crew interviews from the original disc are missing, though the Akira Ifukube chat is on Disc Eight.

 

DISC TWO:
GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN [1955]
Pilots Tsukioka and Kobayashi see two monsters fighting on an uninhabited strip of rocks formed by volcanic eruptions. One is another member of the Godzilla species, and one is Anguirus, another creature who lived at the same time as Godzilla, who has now been probably brought back to life by the same hydrogen bomb tests that awoke the original Godzilla. As both threaten Osaka, Tsukioka and Kobayashi are enlisted to help destroy the creatures….

Also black and white, this first sequel was something of a quickie effort and somewhat falls between two stools; it doesn’t have the power and intensity of Godzilla, but nor is it as wacky, fun and purely Japanese in feel and spirit as the films to follow, despite having a surprisingly vivid sense of how Japan rebuilt itself after the Second World War It’s still fairly serious, though not helped by some odd pacing and an overlong, repetitious climax where it takes forever to get rid of Godzilla. However, the two monsters battling in Osaka while buildings crumble is a terrific highlight despite the sped up footage. 6.5/10

This was one of seven Godzilla films that Classic Media brought out on DVD in North America with alternate cuts and special features, though the Blu-ray versions on this set are bare bones. The subtitled-only Godzilla Raids Again looks about the same as Godzilla here – it’s far more detailed than the DVD but still possesses some uneven grain management, specks, tears, and the like. Toho obviously forbade Criterion from including the dubbed US cut Gigantis The Fire Monster [there are varying explanations as to why the distributors pretended it wasn’t a Godzilla movie]; it’s not very good, but has historical value, being the first version that many people would have seen. They also didn’t allow the audio commentary and suitmation featurette – Criterion would surely have included them if they could.

KING KING VS GODZILLA [1962]
Head of Pacific Pharmaceuticals Mr. Tako is frustrated with the dull TV shows his company is sponsoring and wants something to boost his ratings. When told about a giant monster found on Faro Island, Tako believes that it would be a brilliant idea to use it to gain publicity and sends two men, Sakurai and Kinsaburo, to bring it back. It turns out to be a huge gorilla worshiped by the island’s natives. Meanwhile Godzilla escapes from the iceberg he was trapped in in 1955 – and Tokyo isn’t big enough for two huge creatures….

The contrast between the first two Godzilla films and this often spoof-like effort is huge, though unfortunately most viewers in the West are only familiar with the weak US edit which cuts footage, replaces the score and adds crappy new stuff. This version gives the impression that much of the humour is unintentional, which is not so much the case in the Japanese version, though the satire on TV and advertising survives. The action rarely stops and the big fight on Mt. Fuji [soon to be a favourite spot for monster brawls] is hilarious, though the special effects, including a terrible ape suit, are somewhat below Toho’s standard for the time. 7.5/10

A big bonus of this set is that Criterion, after no doubt loads of negotiation, were able to give the Japanese cut a legal release outside Japan, though it’s only in SD, looks very soft for its opening 20 or so minutes, and is in poor sound [you can barely hear the score at times] to boot, which is probably why it’s housed on Disc Eight, though I’d still have preferred it to have been put on Disc Two with the American cut as an alternate option. Maybe it was only decided that Criterion were allowed to include it quite late in the day. The US version, probably a port of Universal’s Blu-ray release, actually looks really good from what I saw of it, vibrant and sharp, though these days I can barely sit through more than ten minutes of this version before putting on the Japanese one instead. If you’ve never seen either version, please go for the Japanese one despite the significantly inferior picture quality. Apparently Toho restored the film in 4k, but surprise surprise decided not to let Criterion use it.

 

DISC THREE:
MOTHRA VS GODZILLA [1964]
A typhoon washes ashore a large scale and a huge egg. News reporter Ichiro Sakai, photographer Junko Nakanishi and Prof Miura arrive on the scene, but the egg has already been bought by rich entrepreneur Kumuyama, who wants to make it into a large tourist attraction. Meanwhile the scale is found to be radioactive, and Godzilla emerges to threaten Tokyo again. Seeing as the only way to get rid of one monster seems to be to employ the services of another, Sakai, Nakanishi and Miurago journey to Infant Island to enlist the help of Mothra, the huge moth to whom the egg belongs….

This is often regarded as the apex of the entire series, though I’d personally rate Godzilla, the following entry, and two of the ‘90s films a tad higher. For a start, I never buy two measly caterpillars managing to easily best Godzilla! But it might be the most perfectly tonally balanced; reasonably serious without ever restraining the sense of fun. The plot has a certain logic to it and allows director Ishiro Honda [who did seven of these thirteen films] to comment on capitalism and the environment, the latter leading to an astonishingly well written scene where our human heroes beg the residents of Infant Island for help because they are part of the ‘”brotherhood of man”. The monsters are by no means the only good things in these films you know.

Now here’s where I’m really going to have to restrain my whinging. Sure, this film looks relatively sharp and detailed, even if it’s very obvious that it’s from an old restoration. But nearly every time there’s an edit there’s a white flash at the bottom of the screen. These flashes seem to be the physical splices between shots, meaning that the print was badly damaged and needed some serious work done on it, but it’s really insulting that this is what Toho, who clearly don’t think much of Godzilla’s overseas fans, presented Criterion with in this day and age. The Classic Media DVD doesn’t have them. One could say that Criterion shouldn’t have accepted this, but no doubt Toho told them to like it or lump it. Of course Toho also forbade the inclusion of the Classic Media special features which included the US cut which is rather good and has some extra Godzilla footage, meaning that there’s no English dubbed option at all. 8.5/10

GHIDORAH THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER [1964]
Police Detective Shindo is assigned to guard Princess Selina Salno of Selgina during her visit to Japan, but after escaping an assassination attempt she disappears before re-appearing claiming she’s from Venus and foretelling of disasters. Meanwhile a meteorite shower draws the attention of Professor Murai, who along with his team sets out to examine the largest of the meteors. The amnesiac Selina is proved right when Godzilla and Rodan the huge pterodactyl appear – but there’s worse to come….

It’s this one that for me represents the peak of the series – some may dislike the way it starts serious and gets progressively sillier, but I’m that Godzilla fan who loves the daft stuff that no American monster movie would dare depict, and who also loves Godzilla depicted as the earth’s defender. But than this movie would be fine even without the monsters; the human story with its fantastical tinges is involving enough. The monster stuff is gradually mixed in more and more before the most rousing climax of any Godzilla film when Mothra finally gets Godzilla and Rodan to set aside their differences and the three take on the fearsome Ghidorah in maybe the best staged of all monster battles. 9/10

The disc for this one is very similar to Mothra Vs Godzilla’s. The picture would be decent [if hardly great] if it wasn’t for continual white flashes – it’s a shame that two of the best entries are actually quite hard to settle into because of this hugely distracting element. And again there’s no English dub option because that would mean including the re-edited American cut that was included in the Classic Media DVD. Toho seem to abhor these versions, yet the worst of them all King Kong Vs Godzilla is included in this set. Strange. Owners of that DVD will again want to hang on to it for the US cut and special features.

INVASION OF ASTRO-MONSTER [1965]
A spacecraft crewed by astronauts Fuji and Glenn approaches Jupiter’s orbit to explore the newly discovered Planet X. There, they encounter the Xians, human-like aliens who live underground because King Ghidorah is terrorising them. They want Earth’s help in capturing Godzilla and Rodan to subdue Ghidorah, in return for which they will gift humanity with a wonder drug that can cure all cancer. However, some of the Xians are already on Earth, their actual plan is really nefarious, and what’s up with Glenn’s mysterious girlfriend Miss Namikawa?….

I wasn’t too keen on this one back in my earlier days of Godzilla fandom; despite its exciting-sounding plot it moves at quite a slow pace and features less monster footage than any other entry. However, it grew on me, and taken as a retro science-fiction spectacle with lots of cool visuals and touches plus a guest appearance by the King of the Monsters, there’s lots of entertainment to be had, even though so much doesn’t bare scrutiny [i.e.how do the monsters breath on the air-less Planet X?]. American leading man Nick Adams’s Humphrey Bogart-inspired performance is an especially fun highlight, which is why I usually watch this one dubbed into English. 7.5/10

There are far less white flashes here, meaning that this is the best looking disc yet, even though of course I’d love for a full, modern restoration to be done. For here on, the American versions of the films had only minor alterations, so here Criterion are able to provide an English dub and just lace it over the Japanese version, fans now being able to enjoy the dub combined with the original unaltered music cues and the Controller speaking in Xian which formerly could only be viewed with the subtitled version. But the Classic Media extras are of course missing.

 

DISC FOUR:
EBIRAH, HORROR OF THE DEEP [1966]
Ryota’s brother Yata is missing so he tries to enter a dance contest to win a boat to search for him. Too late by a few days, he meets up with two contestants who have already been eliminated, and the three board the same boat that a bank robber called Yoshimura is hiding out on. The following morning Ryota has set sail, but they’re caught in a storm which sinks the boat and deposits them on Letchi Island, which serves as the base for a group of international terrorists called the Red Bamboo, not to mention the giant crab Ebirah. But Godzilla is discovered fast asleep….

Declining box office and Japan’s film industry in a crisis due to television led to the next two entries taking place on tropical island, while, after helming all the previous entries except for Godzilla Raids Again, Ishiro Honda was given a rest and Jun Fukuda, who’d go on to do four more, given a chance. The result feels rather fresh, not really suffering from its smaller scale, and is full of charm, adventurous spirit and non-stop action, though it’s obvious that this was originally intended to feature King Kong; there’s even a bit where Godzilla seems to fancy Kumi Mizuno [though who could blame him?].Godzilla is neither good or bad here, he just is, and Mothra makes a guest appearance. 8/10

Under its alternative title Godzilla Vs The Sea Monster, this is one of four Godzilla films formerly released in North America on Blu-ray by Kraken Releasing, and I bought three of them. They featured nicely restored prints and the English dubs. But for Criterion’s set, Toho not only insisted that they use their own, softer prints but also that they not include the English dubs. Yes, you got that right. Not include the English dubs, even though Kraken were able to include them [though only the  Toho-produced dubs, a few of the films had alternate and better dubs done by the American distributors]. Why? Who knows. At least it’s nice to see the original Japanese credits which weren’t previously available to Western viewers [Kraken didn’t release any of these], there’s slightly more picture information, and the white flashes are few in number.

SON OF GODZILLA [1967]
Scientists on Solgel Island are conducting weather control experiments but are interrupted by the arrival of nosy reporter Goro Maki, who thinks he sees a woman swimming in a lake. Then the first test goes awry due to interference, creating a radioactive storm that causes the island’s large preying mantises the Kamakuras to grow to enormous sizes. They also start to dig an egg out from under a pile of earth, out of which comes a baby Godzilla named Minya. Life is hard for him, but luckily dad [or mom] is around….

Yes, what sex is Godzilla? One tends to assume male, but us fans do wonder. Anyway, the second ‘island’ Godzilla film, which rehashes some of the ides of the first, is even more of an attempt to court a young audience than before, though Minya disturbingly resembles a baby human freak far more than an infant reptile, which must be why Godzilla looks almost as bad with a face like Kermit the Frog, though the insect monster puppets are well designed and articulated. Some of the scenes between parent and son are cute and funny, making this an engagingly oddball entry, though there’s not much real menace until Kumonga the giant spider shows up. But how touching is the final scene? 7/10

We’re back to Blu-ray debuts with this one, and I have to say that, despite a few of those white flashes, this is the best looking entry yet. Colours are vibrant, there’s almost no black crush or uneven grain management, and it’s all fairly sharp, at least considering the print’s age. And an English dub is included, though as with Ebirah, Horror Of The Deep it’s the Toho-produced dub, not the superior one done by the original American distributors. Toho don’t want these dubs to exist, even though many fans grew up with them.

DESTROY ALL MONSTERS [1968]
In the year 1999, all of Earth’s monsters have been collected and confined to Monster Island. When communications with Monster Island are suddenly severed, and some monsters have attacked world capitals, Dr. Yoshida of the UNSC orders Captain Katsuo Yamabe and the crew of his spaceship, Moonlight SY-3, to investigate. They discover that the scientists have become mind-controlled slaves of a feminine alien race identifying themselves as the Kiraku, who reveal that they are also in control of the monsters..…

This fan favourite brought back most of Toho’s creatures for the company’s twentieth monster movie, though a few are only briefly seen due to suit damage, something that inhibits the climactic fight when they all take on poor Ghidorah. There’s little room for human characterisation or even plot, what story there is being cribbed from Invasion Of Astro-Monster and the non-Godzilla Battle In Outer Space, but who cares when the result is so entertaining, a thrilling romp packed with action that never slows down for a moment? While not the best, it may just be the essential kaiju movie, the one to see if you are only able to see one. 8.5/10

Tokyo Shock brought this one out on Blu-ray in North America, though had to recall the first run and re-release it bare bones due to Toho. Supposedly they hadn’t approved the extras, though it’s probably because Tokyo Shock originally included the American English dub. Criterion’s version looks exactly the same; not great but good and with no white flashing. I was quite pleased with it when I bought it a couple of years ago. Criterion retain the Toho English dub. Unfortunately Criterion’s disc started freezing around half way through, though when I played it in my other Blu-ray player it was fine.

DISC FIVE
ALL MONSTERS ATTACK [1969]
Ichiro Miki is a lonely kid growing up in urban, polluted Tokyo, whose mother and father constantly work late. His only friends are toymaker Shinpei Inami and girl Sachiko. Every day after school, Ichiro is tormented by a gang of bullies led by a child named Sancho, whom he’s nicknamed ‘Gabara’. When he’s asleep, Ichiro starts to dream about visiting Monster Island where he witnesses Godzilla battling various enemies and is befriended by Godzilla’s son Minya who has bully problems too, continually pestered by a monstrous ogre…..called Gabara..…

The series goes meta, with all the monster action existing in the mind of a small boy, and where you can make excuses for the copious amount of footage from Ebirah, Horror Of The Deep and Son Of Godzilla. Though clearly aimed at young kids, it’s set in a very realistic milieu and has intelligence as it teaches life lessons to kids and mildly preaches to parents, saying especially that, to survive, you may sometimes need to commit acts which you may afterwards regret. Some comic gangsters are hardly a threat and many fans hate this one, but it’s certainly unique. 7/10

The picture looks a tad faded compared to Ebirah, Horror Of The Deep and Son Of Godzilla which had comparable tropical settings – and even sometimes the same tropical settings – though one possibly wouldn’t want the Tokyo scenes to look too sharp and bright in this one. Some white flashes appear though not very many. But for the second time there’s no English dub, and none of the extras from the Classic Media DVD, of course.

GODZILLA VS HEDORAH [1971]
A fisherman brings marine biologist Dr. Turo Yano something that looks like a tadpole but is nearly a foot long and was caught in salt water where no amphibian could survive. Meanwhile, a much larger sea creature is wrecking havoc. Turo goes for an investigative dive with his son Ken where the fisherman was, and comes out with half his face burnt by sulphuric acid secretion. Intuitively making the connection between the monsters and the industrial pollution of the local waters, Ken dreams that Godzilla will come to save the day, but it seems that this toxic new species, called Hedorah, can metamorphosise..…

Also called Godzilla Vs The Smog Monster – or ‘a Godzilla film on drugs’. There’s barely a plot, much takes place offscreen, the big fight is oddly unexciting, and goofy stuff like Godzilla flying [!] exists awkwardly alongside gruesome deaths, but then you get cartoons explaining pollution, multiple split screen, a guy tripping on acid in a psychedelic nightclub imagining everyone has a fish for a head, and a rather exhilarating party scene watched by ghosts [I think]. The result is hardly good but words can’t really convey the experience of watching it. Yoshimitsu Banno should have made more Godzilla films. 6/10

This was another Blu-ray Kraken release; bare bones but with both Japanese and English language versions [though again the weak Toho dub, not the superior American one]. Due no doubt to Toho, Criterion’s disc has a slightly softer picture than Kraken’s because they had to use what Toho sent them, and for the third time weren’t allowed to include any English dub. Do you think Toho were trying to sabotage this set?

 

DISC SIX: GODZILLA VS GIGAN [1972]
Down on his luck artist Gengo Kotaka gets a job with a non-profit organisation in charge of the World Children’s Land amusement park, but then runs into a girl named Machiko Shima fleeing from the company’s Committee Office with a stolen tape, who thinks her brother has been kidnapped by them. The tape, when played, only offers a garbled message to the confused listeners, but the signal carries out to Monster Island where Godzilla and Anguirus hear it. It seems that this lot are actually aliens out to conquer earth with their own two monsters Ghidorah and Gigan….

One that used to be one of my favourites but which has lost much of its lustre for me since then, this is basically an attempt at a ‘60s Godzilla film with a tiny budget, which means a hell of a lot of old footage being re-used, something that becomes hilarious when it goes back and forth from day to night during the big destruction scene. The plot is often nonsensical – for a start there’s no reason for the aliens to hire Gengo at all unless they wanted him to snoop around and discover things – but some early scenes have an ominous mood to them and this film features the longest monster battle of them all. And Godzilla talks. 5.5/10

Well, he does in every previous version released in the West, but finally Criterion and Toho have let us see the dialogue between Godzilla and Gigan rendered in speech bubbles just like the Japanese saw it. Godzilla Vs Gigan was another Kraken Blu-ray release under its US title Godzilla On Monster Island, so again Criterion’s disc looks inferior. And again – no English dub.

GODZILLA VS MEGALON [1973]
Nuclear testing is having a bad effect on the world, causing earthquakes and even annoying the inhabitants of Monster Island and the underground kingdom of Seatopia. Meanwhile inventor Goro Ibuki completes his humanoid robot Jet Jaguar, but he, his young brother Rokuro and ‘friend’ Hiroshi Jinkawa keep being pestered by Seatopian agents who want to control Jet Jaguar and unleash its monster god on the surface…..

Normal critical faculties don’t always apply to films like this. It’s an often shoddily made [how shoddily made? – take the scene where Megalon supposedly knocks airplanes out of the sky and we keep cutting to the hook hands of Gigan, who later shows up properly to aid Megalon against Godzilla and Jet Jaguar, from the previous film doing the actual knocking!] and terribly written effort, and Godzilla, in a terribly simplified suit with a puppy-like face, plays second fiddle to a giant robot who lacks any discernable personality. But its total lack of connective tissue between the action gives it an almost dreamlike feel. 4.4/10

Like Destroy All Monsters, this previously came out on Blu-ray in North America from Tokyo Shock, who again had to re-release a bare bones edition because of Toho. I didn’t buy either version [which is odd – despite it being poor I’ve watched this entry far more than some others because it makes me laugh so much], but I’d imagine that this one looks the same. Like most of the others in this set, it really looks more like SD upscaled rather than full HD because of the age of the transfer, but there are no major flaws, and at least we get the English dub this time.

 

DISC SEVEN:
GODZILLA VS MECHAGODZILLA [1974]
In Okinawa, reporter Keisuke Shimizu discovers cave paintings which predict that, when certain weather conditions occur, a monster will appear to bring destruction but will be stopped by two other monsters, while his brother discovers aliens from the Third Planet of the Black Hole nearby. Meanwhile Godzilla attacks and kills his monster buddy Anguirus and seems have returned to his evil ways – but then another Godzilla appears. It appears that the first one is actually a cyborg under alien control. And what about Okinawan monster god King Seezer, who sleeps nearby?….

Often regarded as the best of the ‘70s efforts, this mostly Okinawan-set entry lacks the copious stock footage of the previous two, and is undeniably better made, but it’s really just a rehash of Godzilla Vs Gigan with dashes of Mothra Vs Godzilla and more human/alien action, and still contains some really dumb story telling i.e. truly stupid aliens who clearly didn’t bother to read the second part of the film’s prophecy. It also curiously has more monster action in its first third than its final third. 6/10

THE DISC
About the same as Godzilla vs Megalon except for a couple of white flashes, with the English dub. Though like Destroy All Monsters the disc froze, this time near the end. My other Blu-ray player handled it fine though.

TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA [1975]
Reports of a dinosaur send Inspector Jiro Murakoshi and marine biologist looking for Dr. Shizo Mafune, who fifteen years ago claimed he’d discovered a dinosaur named Titanosaurus but was discredited, sacked and fell into hard times. Now, he’s working for the aliens from the Third Planet of the Black Hole, both sharing the common goal of destroying humanity. These aliens also brought back to life his daughter Katsura as a cyborg….

After a four film gap, Honda returned to the series with what was seemingly intended as a direct follow-up to Godzilla Vs Mechagodzilla, though it has some peculiar inconsistencies, and partly remakes that film too, but with a more adult tone. In fact it’s surprisingly sombre and downbeat, with a climactic self-sacrifice that parallels the one at the end of Godzilla. For the first time in ages there’s some decent human drama and even a tragic love story, plus also the most spectacular monster action in a while too, despite being hampered in places by a ‘70s budget. The best of the ‘70s efforts. 7/10

The last of the Showa series is slightly softer in appearance than the last few in this Blu-ray set, though the more nighttime scenes than normal have only very minor black crush. The dub is included, but this was also one that came out on DVD from Classic Media with extras, so you’ll probably want to hold on to that disc if you own it.

DISC EIGHT:
SUPPLEMENTS
Here are grouped the Japanese cut of King Kong Vs Godzilla in SD, plus some special features, some produced by Criterion themselves. First up is Honda And Banno, an interview from 1990, where the director of Godzilla Vs Hedorah chats to an elderly Honda in his house for nearly an hour. Honda goes on for ages about his career though only a small part covers his kaiju movies. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed it as it was the first time I’d seen this director I’ve really liked for ages [and even owned a biography of] talk. Handcrafted Artistry has Alex Cox, who like me became a Godzilla fan before he’d seen a single Godzilla film, comment on the evolution of the franchise and praise the hand-made effects. Launching Jet Jaguar is Tsugotoshi Komadam who could barely see a thing while wearing the suit, recalling what it was like to play the heroic robot in Godzilla Vs Megalon. Man Of Many Faces is Bin Faruya, who went to play Ultraman, remembering his small parts in three Toho monster movies and how he couldn’t lift the Godzilla suit which Haruo Nakajima was able to perform in with ease.

Good Music Is Always Simple is from the Criterion Godzilla disc and has composer Akira Ifukube, who scored many Godzilla films and the man still most musically associated with the franchise much like John Barry and James Bond, describe in detail how he created the roar and footsteps of Godzilla, and how at first sight he had no idea that the octopus in King Kong Vs Godzilla was real. And last but certainly not least, we come to Unused Special Effects Complete Collection, a 1984 Japanese TV programme that looks at the special effects of Eiji Tsuburaya including some behind the scenes footage and, as the title probably suggests, a hell of a lot of unused bits. Often these are very brief or consist of more military mobilisation, but there are some extra monster shots, and you get to see some amusing cock-ups like model army vehicles crashing into each other and Godzilla in Mothra Vs Godzilla unable to wreck a castle, plus Godzilla wrecking more buildings and tussling with Manda the giant serpent in Destroy All Monsters which should have been left in the film! This is full of awesome stuff – even the footage from Toho war movies looks really good making me want to see these films – and fans will love this feature.

 

In general this set is a mixed bag. I’m genuinely annoyed at those white flashes you see in some films and the lack of dubs for some of the films, even ones where Toho had allowed dubs to be used on previous Blu-ray releases – it makes absolutely no sense. While I don’t tend to watch the dubs very often except for Invasion Of Astro-Monster, I think that they should have all been included even if they originally accompanied altered versions of the films, partly because if people want to get their kids into Godzilla it’ll be far easier with the dubs as opposed to subtitles. The lack of many special features formerly available is something else that hardly makes this set definitive, though there is still some good stuff. And regarding subtitles – it’s nice to now have all the songs in the films translated. This article has probably sounded like an exercise in bashing Toho at times, but all the evidence points to Toho being really petty and being the ones who prevented this release from being as good as it could have been, their arrogant, nationalistic attitude often coming across as self-defeating – surely they’d want as many folk as possible to enjoy their films in the best possible quality? But on the other hand it is great to have all thirteen Showa films altogether, something thought impossible for years. I’m glad I own it, and I hope that Criterion produces a second run for UK fans. I still think that it’s just about worth getting if you don’t have any of these on Blu-ray, or are totally new to the films.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ [OVERALL RATING OF SET]

About Dr Lenera 3018 Articles
I'm a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don't really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly 'have a life', I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I've always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

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