DVD Shopping Bag: Godzilla Criterion Blu-ray (Mania.com)

By:Robert T. Trate
Date: Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Source: Mania.com


I’ve said it once and I will continue to say it as long as they don’t disappoint me. When you pick up a Criterion Collection Blu-ray/ DVD you have to savor it. Savor it as if it were a fine bottle of wine. Because whatever genre the picture is, it isn’t going to get any better than this. Rest assured Maniacs, Criterion Collection delivers again with Ishirô Honda’s Godzilla(a.k.a. Gojira, Spine #594).
When a 400 foot lizard, Godzilla, destroys several fishing boats and a village, the government calls in a young scientist, Dr. Daisuke Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata), for help. Serizawa is quick with ideas but fears his latest invention will be used not only to stop the beast but as a weapon that could bring about another world war.
Gojira came out a couple of years after World War 2 and there is this immediate fear and concern with atomic energy and radiation. Scientists were experimenting with it and people were still trying to understand it. This launched a whole new era of film. The term in Hollywood for this kind of film was called "Atomic Age" films. These films always had a scientist, a hero, and a giant creature. The incredible thing about Gojira is that it was from Japan. Here was a foreign film (circa 1954) that was completely in tone with what Hollywood was doing. However, being that the film is Japanese, the fear and concern about radiation seems to have a poignancy that doesn't exist in American films. That fear is still ever present especially with all that has happened to Japan in the last year.
Gojira was an incredible treat to watch. It wasn't like so many of the Godzilla films I had seen on Sunday mornings (guys in rubber suits destroying miniature cities). There was a love story at the heart of Gojira between Serizawa and his betrothed. These actors delivered believable performances that passed through the language barrier. However, if that language barrier is a problem for some of you Criterion has added Godzilla, King of Monsters (1956) to their Blu-ray/ DVD release to handle that problem.
The die hard fans will know what that means. For those of you who don’t (and for me too, until recently) Godzilla, King of Monsters is the “Americanized” version of Gojira. The story is slightly different and begins just minutes after the destruction of Tokyo. American journalist Steve Martin (Raymond Burr) is in town visiting a friend when the story of life time rises right in front of him. The main plot of Gojira is still present although now we see it from a journalistic point of view. Martin interacts with many of the principle characters, yet he isn’t exactly present with the actors. We see and hear dialogue from behind their heads, over the phone, or (for the most part) Martin tells the story in a voice-over narrative. It works as we witness the devastation first hand. Oddly enough this storytelling device used to get around the language barrier seems more poignant today in our media heavy culture. In watching Godzilla, King of Monsters today you’llfeel right at home as you become both witness and spectator to Martin’s news story.
The major difference to Godzilla, King of Monsters is the love triangle between Serizawa, Emiko (Momoko Kôchi) and Ogata (Akira Takarada) which has been pushed to the side. It is spoken of by Martin but is practically non-existent in relation to Gojira. It is a sad turn in the re-editing of this film as it was the unexpected surprise of Gojira.
As I mentioned earlier, a Criterion Blu-ray/ DVD should be savored like a fine bottle of wine. What makes a Criterion release last so much longer is the wealth of supplemental materials included. There is an incredible featurette detailing the matte paintings and special effects used for Gojira. Key insights are supplied by the original special effects supervisor Koichi Kawakita and special effects director Motoyoshi Tomioka. This featurette is required watching upon completion of either version of the film. You’ll wonder how they did so much with simple camera tricks. A recent (2011) interview with Japanese-film critic Tado Sato opens the doors to impact Godzilla had on Japan and the world. Sato also elaborates on the men involved and how this was the biggest thing to ever come out of Japanese cinema. With all the rich commentaries and interviews on the disc, it was the short historical documentary about the Lucky Dragon #5 sailing ship that was the unexpected surprise. No, these sailors never met their end by the hands of a giant lizard. They were only witnesses to a hydrogen bomb test on the bikini atoll whose horrific story inspired the birth of Godzilla. Finishing off this documentary is look at the actual ship remains and its final resting place.
Godzilla films definitely have their nitch in the movie culture and are not for everyone. Criterion Collection’s release of Gojira and Godzilla, King of Monsters (trailer below)is a great introduction for the uninitiated and the curious. Where does one venture after this? I’m sure Mania’s community can supply enough answers in the comment section below.
Top 5 Picks of the Week:
1. Godzilla (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
2. Spellbound [Blu-ray]
3. Rebecca [Blu-ray]
4. Notorious [Blu-ray]
5. Wings [Blu-ray]
Calgary Stampede Starring Hoot Gibson, Jim Corey and Clark Comstock
Canyon Hawks Starring Yakima Canutt and Buzz Barton
Dirty Little Trick Starring Michael Madsen, Dean Cain and Christie Burson
Essential Killing Starring Vincent Gallo, Emmanuelle Seigner and Zach Cohen
Flash Point [Blu-ray/DVD Combo] Starring Donnie Yen, Louis Koo and Collin Chou
Flash Point Starring Donnie Yen, Louis Koo, Collin Chou and Bingbing Fan
Forgotten Westerns Two-Fer: The Last Gun & Now They Call Him Sacramento Starring Cameron Mitchell, Michael Forest, Fred Harrison
No Man's Law Starring Oliver Hardy and James Finlayson
Notorious [Blu-ray] Starring Claude Rains and Cary Grant
Punished Starring Anthony Wong, Richie Ren and Maggie Cheung
Rebecca [Blu-ray] Starring Laurence Olivier and George Sanders
Roger Corman's Cult Classic's Lethal Ladies Collection, Vol. 2 (The Arena, Cover Girl Models, Fly Me) Starring Pam Grier, Tara Strohmeier and Pat Anderson
Spellbound [Blu-ray]
Whistleblower Starring David Strathairn
Whistleblower [Blu-ray] Starring David Strathairn
World God Only Knows: Complete Collection [Blu-ray]
World God Only Knows Complete Collection
Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated: Season 1 Part 2 (2012)
Ultimate Gulliver Collection (2012)
Wings [Blu-ray] Starring Clara Bow, Richard Arlen, Charles "Buddy" Rogers
Wings Starring Clara Bow, Richard Arlen, Charles "Buddy" Rogers
Annie Hall [Blu-ray] Starring Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts and Carol Kane
Manhattan [Blu-ray] Starring Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Mariel Hemingway
See No Evil, Hear No Evil [Blu-ray] Starring Richard Pryor, Gene Wilder and Kevin Spacey
Stir Crazy [Blu-ray] Starring Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor
Stripes (Extended Cut) [Blu-ray] Starring Bill Murray, John Candy, Harold Ramis and Warren Oates
The Toy [Blu-ray] Starring Richard Pryor, Jackie Gleason, Ned Beatty
Criterion Collection
Godzilla (Criterion Collection) Starring Takashi Shimura and Akira Takarada
Godzilla (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] Starring Takashi Shimura and Akira Takarada
The Moment of Truth (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] Starring Linda Christian and Miguel Mate
The Moment of Truth (Criterion Collection) Starring Linda Christian and Miguel Mate
Always From Darkness Starring Dan Van Wert, John Jillard Sr. Seregon O'Dassey
Cold Light of Day Starring Bob Flag, Claire King, Martin Bryne Quin and Steve Munroe
Cold Creepy Feeling: Paranormal Exorcism Starring Jared Vandenberg, Dennis Woodruff Lisa Younger
The Devil's Men / Terror (Katarina's Nightmare Theater) Starring Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasance
Fascination [Blu-ray] Starring Franka Mai, Brigitte Lahaie, Jean-Marie Lemaire
Fascination (Remastered Edition) Starring Franka Mai, Brigitte Lahaie, Jean-Marie Lemaire
Head Case Starring Paul McCloskey, Barbara Lessin Brinke Stevens
Hell On Earth Starring Mary Corrine Miller, Peter Stickles Brett Fallon
House on Sorority Row (remastered special 2 disc edition) (1982) Starring Eileen Davidson, Kate McNeil, Katarina Leigh Waters
The Iron Rose [Blu-ray] Starring Francoise Pascal, Jean Rollin, Pierre Dupont
The Iron Rose (Remastered) Starring Francoise Pascal, Jean Rollin, Pierre Dupont
Lips of Blood [Blu-ray] Starring Jean-Loup Philippe, Annie Briand, Natalie Perrey
Night Of The Dead Starring Randal Malone Ron Jeremy
The Nude Vampire (Remastered) Starring Maurice Lemaitre, Caroline Cartier, Ly Lestrong
The Nude Vampire [Blu-ray] Starring Maurice Lemaitre, Caroline Cartier, Ly Lestrong
Paranormal Activity 3 (Blu-ray/DVD Combo in Blu-ray Packaging) Starring Katie Featherston
Revenge (Katarina's Nightmare Theater) (1971) Starring Joan Collins, James Booth and Katarina Leigh Waters
Shiver of the Vampires [Blu-ray] Starring Sandra Julien, Marie-Pierre Tricot, Michel Delahaye
The Summer of Massacre [Blu-ray] Starring Brinke Stevens, Nick Principe and Cleve Hall
The Summer of Massacre Starring Brinke Stevens, Nick Principe and Cleve Hall
Woman [Blu-Ray] Starring Pollyanna McIntosh, Sean Bridgers and Angela Bettis
Woman Starring Pollyanna McIntosh, Sean Bridgers and Angela Bettis
Real Steel (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo) Starring Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly and Dakota Goyo
Real Steel (Three-Disc Combo: Blu-ray/DVD + Digital Copy) Starring Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly and Dakota Goyo
Real Steel Starring Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly and Dakota Goyo
Time Traveller-Girl Who Leapt Throught Time Starring Riisa Naka, Anna Ishibashi, Narumi Yasuda and Mayu Kitaki
Kojak: The Complete Movie Collection Starring Telly Savalas
Mannix: Sixth Season Starring Mike Connors and Ward Wood
Nip/Tuck: Complete Second Season Starring Dylan Walsh, Julian McMahon, Joely Richardson
Godzilla Criterion Collection Trailer

Robert Trate writes three weekly columns for Mania: the DVD Shopping Bag, the Toy Maniac, and The Geek Life. Follow Robert on Twitter for his for Geek ramblings, Cosplay photos and film criticisms.