|Godzilla, King Of The Monsters
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|Japanese Title: Gojira (“Godzilla”)
Directors: Ishiro Honda (Godzilla vs. Mothra, Rodan) and Terry Morse (Unknown World)
Original Release Year: 1954 (Japanese version), 1956 (U.S. version)
Running Time: 79 minutes
DVD Released By: Classic Media / Sony Music Entertainment
Audio: English mono, English 5.1
Extras: Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee video game preview
Closed Captions: English
UPC #: 074645462394
Catalog #: LVD 54623
Status: Available (individually, or as part of the Ultimate Godzilla Collection Box Set).
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|Reviewed by: Zillamon51
|The Film: Japan is plagued by a sudden wave of maritime disasters: Without warning, ships are exploding into flame and sinking beneath the waves. The few survivors are able to shed little light on the situation, as they quickly die from radiation and strange burns. A group of investigators, including prominent paleontologist Dr. Yamane and American reporter Steve Martin, are sent to Odo Island to investigate. The natives warn that the ships are being destroyed by Godzilla, a legendary monster. These claims are verified when a gigantic, dinosaur-like creature comes ashore and demolishes the native village. Dr. Yamane concludes that Godzilla is a prehistoric creature that has been awakened and mutated by atomic bomb tests.
The military decides to use depth charges on the monster. However, the attack is unsuccessful, and Godzilla follows the ships back to Tokyo Bay. Coming ashore at night, Godzilla razes Tokyo. The destruction left in his wake is comparable to an atomic bomb. Military firepower proves useless against the monster. It is feared that Godzilla will continue to lay waste to the cities of Japan, and perhaps the entire world.
It is up to Emiko Yamane (Dr. Yamane’s daughter) to convince her former fiancé, Dr. Serizawa, to use his Oxygen Destroyer against Godzilla. Serizawa is skeptical; he fears that this terrible device might be more dangerous than the monster. However, he finally decides to make the ultimate sacrifice to rid the world of Godzilla.
This film is one of the masterpieces of science fiction. It has a low-budget, documentary feel that brings horror and immediacy to the threat of Godzilla. While American monster movies of the same period were mere “popcorn” movies, Godzilla was a grave representation of the horrors of the atom bomb; horrors that Japan knew all too well. Scenes of the destruction caused by Godzilla, and of the broken, burning bodies pulled from the rubble, look authentic enough to be documentary footage of Hiroshima or Nagasaki. The film must have been therapeutic for the Japanese people: It was a huge hit in Japan. Two years after its 1954 release there, it was brought to the U.S. The film was dubbed into English, and additional scenes featuring Raymond Burr as reporter Steve Martin were filmed and inserted into the movie. Burr was able to “interact” with the original Japanese cast by the clever use of stand-ins. While many films in the series suffered from careless American tampering, the Americanization of Godzilla was skillfully done, with respect for the original work. The result is a film that serves as a companion piece to the original; each tells the same story from a slightly different perspective. This moody black & white classic is still the best of all the giant monster movies, with the possible exception of the original King Kong. Grade: A
Video: The film shows its age, with film scratches and other blemishes. Other than that, the image is sharp and clear, with good contrast and deep, rich blacks. All in all, it’s brighter and clearer than the Simitar release, although the print appears identical. It’s also noticeably more film-like and less digital than that edition. Grade: B+
Audio: The film’s original mono soundtrack is reproduced faithfully. The dialogue is mostly clear, though a few lines are slightly muffled. The sound effects, especially Godzilla’s booming footfalls, are powerful. Akira Ifukube’s alternately rousing and haunting score comes through loud and clear. This disk also features a 5.1 remix. Since I don’t yet have a 5.1 system, I can’t comment on that option. A common complaint with these remixes is that the entire soundtrack has a distracting “echo” effect, which is apparent even on a basic stereo television. Grade: A-
Extras / Menus: The only extra is a preview of the Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee video game for the Nintendo GameCube. (An enhanced X-Box version of the game is also available.) It’s a nice clip, featuring a live Japanese reporter fleeing from the in-game action. The fast action and cool graphics of the game are shown to good effect. Too bad Classic Media didn’t include some trailers, or any other extras. Only the main menu is animated, with a still image of Godzilla looming over a city. Grade: C-
Final Analysis: This is the best-looking edition of this movie on video in the U.S. Unfortunately, the disk is sparse on extras.
Final Grade: B
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