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GODZILLA (a.k.a. GOJIRA) is the roaring granddaddy of all monster movies. It's also a remarkably humane and melancholy drama, made in Japan at a time when the country was reeling from nuclear attack and H-bomb testing in the Pacific. Its rampaging radioactive beast, the poignant embodiment of an entire population's fears, became a beloved international icon of destruction, spawning almost thirty sequels.
For more about Godzilla and the Godzilla Blu-ray release, see Godzilla Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on December 26, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Takashi Shimura, Akihiko Hirata, Fuyuki Murakami, Akira Takarada, Momoko K˘chi, Kin Sugai
Directors: Ishiro Honda, Terry O. Morse
» See full cast & crew
Godzilla Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, December 26, 2011
Japanese director Ishiro Honda's "Gojira" a.k.a "Godzilla" (1954) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include Terry O. Morse's reworking of the original film, "Godzilla, King of the Monsters!" (1956); theatrical trailers; brand new video interviews with cast and crew members; video interview with Japanese cinema expert and film critic Tadao Sato; audio essay by historian Gregory M. Pflugfelder; featurettes; two audio commentaries by critic David Kalat; and more. The disc also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by critic J. Hoberman. In Japanese, with optional English subtitles. Region-A "locked".
The story is legendary. After some nuclear testing, a giant monster, called Godzilla, emerges from the depths of the sea and heads towards Tokyo. The Japanese government sends the army to stop it, but it quickly becomes clear that it does not have the proper resources to do so. With panic quickly taking hold in the minds of the Japanese people, Dr. Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata, Zero Pilot, The Imperial Navy) reveals that he has built a powerful new weapon, the "Oxygen Destroyer", which could be used to destroy the monster. But respected paleontologist Kyohei Yamane (Takashi Shimura, Seven Samurai, Yojimbo) urges the government to form a research team and study the monster first before destroying it.
Japanese director Ishiro Honda's legendary film Godzilla is undoubtedly a product of its time. Completed only nine years after the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it embodies the fears of a country seriously concerned with nuclear experimentation. The film is slow and moody, at times more depressing than exciting, looking terribly dated. Most unfortunately, however, its message is still relevant today.
There is a fascinating sequence early into the film where the paleontologist speculates where the monster might have come from and why. Immediately after his report, high-ranking politicians begin arguing whether the information should be made public. Some believe that the public should be kept in the dark to avoid panic and preserve the economy; others believe that the information from the report should be made public right away. This specific debate appears awfully similar to the one Japanese politicians apparently had earlier this year after accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The tone of the film, however, is not preachy; rather it is respectful and sensible. The various arguments and warnings heard after Godzilla's arrival make sense because they are grounded in reality, urging the viewer to consider the difficult dilemmas a serious nuclear disaster could create. Naturally, the real monster in the film is not the seemingly indestructible Godzilla, but fear.
In 1956, two years after director Honda's Godzilla premiered in Japan, an American adaptation of the film titled Godzilla, King of the Monsters! was completed. Codirected and edited by Terry O. Morse and starring Raymond Burr as a reporter on his way to Egypt who gets stuck in Tokyo when the monster appears, the films combines a large amount of footage from the Japanese film with new material which alters the original order of events. The American film begins after the monster's second attack on Tokyo and thus omits the linear structure of the Japanese film. Additionally, the American film also omits all of the important scenes that condemn the nuclear experimentations. Unsurprisingly, Godzilla and Godzilla, King of the Monsters! are two very different films. The former is a dated but socially conscious film with a meaningful message. The latter is a lighter and less ambitious film meant to entertain rather than raise awareness and spark debates.
Godzilla was lensed by acclaimed Japanese cinematographer Masao Tamai, who contributed to various films directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, Hiroshi Inagaki, and Kon Ichiakawa. Tamai's most prolific work, however, was with director Mikio Naruse (Meshi, The Thunder of the Mountain, When A Woman Ascends The Stairs). The special effects in Godzilla were directed and overseen by Eiji Tsuburaya. In 1954, the film won Best Special Effects Award at the Japanese Academy Awards.
Godzilla Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Ishiro Honda's Godzilla arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
Criterion's presentation of this classic Japanese film is leaps and bounds ahead of Classic Media's presentation (see review here). Not only are detail and clarity dramatically improved, but there are entire sequences where it literally feels as if a filter of some sort has been removed - the effect is most obvious during the nighttime sequences, even though Criterion's high-definition transfer is notably darker than the one used by Screen Media (compare screenshots #5 and 7 with screenshots #1 and 3 from our review of Classic Media's Blu-ray release). Furthermore, contrast levels have been carefully elevated and colors rebalanced, while brightness levels have been toned down. Some careful noise corrections have been performed, but the fine grain has been retained (the Classic Media transfer has been severely degrained and as a result an enormous amount of detail has been lost). Various stabilizations have been performed as well, and when Godzilla enters Tokyo it is very easy to appreciate them. This being said, small scratches and damage marks still remain, but these are inherited source limitations that obviously could not be addressed without affecting the integrity of the image. All in all, Criterion's presentation of Godzilla is enormously satisfying, and I feel comfortable speculating that it will be considered the definitive presentation of the film for years to come.
Also included on this Blu-ray disc is Terry O. Morse's Godzilla, King of the Monsters!. I don't currently have a copy of this film in my library to do some direct comparisons, but I highly doubt that there is a DVD release which comes close to matching the quality of Criterion's Blu-ray release. Detail, clarity and especially color reproduction are quite impressive. When projected, the film also conveys very pleasing depth. Additionally, when compared to Godzilla there appear to be far less damage marks and scratches.
Screenshots #1-19 are from Godzilla. Screenshots #20-29 are from Godzilla, King of the Monsters!.
(Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Godzilla Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: Japanese LPCM 1.0, for Godzilla, and English LPCM 1.0, for Godzilla, King of the Monsters!. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for both films.
I have a feeling that a lot of people, and especially those who know Godzilla well and have owned it on DVD, will be genuinely surprised with the quality of the Japanese LPCM 1.0 track. The opening credits with that heavy thumping followed by Godzilla's roar have certainly never sounded this lush and well rounded before; on DVD, the audio has always been a mixed bag, compromised by various stability issues, distortions, and weak dynamics. In the beginning of chapter 3, for instance, the clarinet and the violins are extremely easy to identify, while the dialog is completely free of background hiss. It is clear that additional stabilizations have also been performed to ensure that the dynamic progressions in Akira Ifukube's legendary music score are as effective as possible. The English LPCM 1.0 track from Godzilla, King of the Monsters! is equally pleasing. The dialog is clean, stable, and very easy to follow.
Godzilla Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Godzilla Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Fans of Japanese director Ishiro Honda's hugely influential Godzilla will be enormously pleased with Criterion's upcoming Blu-ray release. In terms of quality, it is leaps and bounds ahead of all previous commercial releases of the film, including Classic Media's recent Blu-ray release. In addition to a wealth of brand new supplemental features, Criterion have also included Terry O. Morse's Godzilla, King of the Monsters!. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Godzilla: Other Editions
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