Saturday, January 9, 2016

Godzilla Series on Blu-ray

The Blu-ray format has shown some favoritism toward the Godzilla series.  Unfortunately, except for the Japanese Blu-rays, the series is not complete.  Here I will detail what is available and what English-speaking audiences can appreciate (without having to look elsewhere to read a translation of Japanese dialog).

Of the Showa series, covering the period from 1954-1974, seven titles have official U.S. releases :

Godzilla (The Criterion Collection)

King Kong vs. Godzilla - Universal Pictures

Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster ! / Ebirah: Horror of the Deep ! - Kraken Releasing

Destroy All Monsters - Media Blasters

Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster / Godzilla Vs. Hedorah - Kraken Releasing

Godzilla on Monster Island / Godzilla Vs. Gigan - Kraken Releasing

Godzilla Vs. Megalon - Media Blasters

Also, King Kong Escapes has a Blu-ray release through Universal Pictures

As described in a previous blog entry, http://nerdlypleasures.blogspot.com/2013/01/godzilla-on-disc-criterion-blu-ray-vs.html, Godzilla has two official Blu-ray releases, and the Criterion is vastly superior in terms of image and audio quality, but in the special features department the two are a bit more even (or would be if Classic Media included the U.S. version on the Blu-ray, but it is only available on DVD.)  I would suggest obtaining the Criterion Blu-ray and the Classic Media DVD for the special features.

Germany has official Blu-ray releases of two Godzilla films which are not available in the U.S., Godzilla Raids Again and Ghidorah the Three Headed Monster, but they have no English language options either in dubbing or subtitles.  Toho released many of the Godzilla films in 2009 but re-released them and added the rest of the Godzilla films in 2014 for the U.S. Godzilla film's release.  The 2014 re-releases retail for 4,700 Yen, which is more reasonable than the DVDs used to cost (Toho reissued those as well for 2,500 Yen).  France also has its official version of the original Godzilla and Godzilla Raids Again.  I cannot find any other official Blu-ray releases for the Godzilla films, and the Spanish Blu-rays appear to be pirated.

Back Covers to US Blu-ray Releases (note the Special Features for Destroy All Monsters)
Fortunately, all the Heisei films have seen an official U.S. Blu-ray release and are in print.  All of the Millennium series films are also in print on Blu-ray :

The Return of Godzilla

Godzilla Vs Biollante

Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah / Godzilla Vs. Mothra (1992) - Set

Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla II / Godzilla Vs. Spacegodzilla - Set

Godzilla Vs. Destoroyah / Godzilla Vs. Megaguirus: The G Annihilation Strategy - Set

Godzilla 2000

Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002) / Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack - Set

Godzilla: Final Wars / Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. - Set

All the Gamera films, the three Daimajin films and the three Heisei Mothra films have official U.S. releases (the 3rd Mothra film was not released on DVD).

Rebirth of Mothra / Rebirth of Mothra II / Rebirth of Mothra III - Vol

Daimajin - Triple Feature Collector's Edition - Blu-ray

Gamera HD Bundle Collection - All 11 Gamera films: Gamera: The Giant Monster - Gamera: Guardian of the Universe - Gamera vs. Gyaos - Gamera 2: Attack of Legion - Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris + six more!

You can also buy the Gamera films in a box set containing the three Heisei films and two "volumes" containing the first four and the last four Gamera films.  While the films were released separately earlier on DVD, I do not believe Gamera: Super Monster was available.  The first two Gamera Heisei films were originally released before the third film.  The third film, whether sold individually or in a box set, holds the special features for all three films (behind the scenes, special effects, trailers).

Gamera Trilogy (Guardian of the Universe / Attack of the Legion / Revenge of Iris)

Gamera: Ultimate Collection V1 (4 Movie Pack) : Gamera: The Giant Monster - Gamera vs. Barugon - Gamera vs. Gyaos - Gamera vs. Viras

Gamera: Ultimate Collection V2 (4 Movie Pack) : Gamera vs. Guiron - Gamera vs. Jiger - Gamera vs. Zigra - Gamera: Super Monster

The presentation of the original Showa Gamera films leave much to be desired, being encoded in 1080i and having to fit four films on a Blu-ray disc.  They contain no extras.  Mill Creek released both the Gamera Showa and Heisei films and Daimanjin films, (originally released by Daiei) but the Daimanjin films have Behind the Scenes and Trailers for each film.

The Mothra films come in a two-disc set and each film contains trailers.

No other Japanese giant monster film (Rodan, Mothra, Space Amoeba) has seen a U.S. Blu-ray release but many have seen DVD releases.  Godzilla vs. Biollante was released by Echo Bridge.  All Godzilla movies thereafter and the Mothra trilogy were released by Sony as they had been on DVD.  Sony had previously released the Kraken Releasing titles on DVD, and the same masters were used by both companies.  Gamera: The Brave apparently had a Blu-ray release through Media Blasters, but is out of print : http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Gamera-the-Brave-Blu-ray/36792/

Versions of the Films

Godzilla from Criterion contains both the Japanese original and the U.S. version Godzilla, King of the Monsters.  The Classic Media Blu-ray only has the Japanese original.

King Kong vs. Godzilla and King Kong Escapes only contain the U.S. Theatrical releases, which are dubbed and for King Kong vs. Godzilla heavily altered with U.S. actors thrown in.

All the rest of the Showa films use the "International Versions", which are essentially uncut from their Japanese originals.  They replace the Japanese language credits with English language credits and use dubbing typically from Japan (by Frontier Enterprises for Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster and Destroy All Monsters) or Hong Kong (for Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster, Godzilla on Monster Island and Godzilla vs. Megalon).  The title card for Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster / Ebirah, Horror of the Deep uses a newer title that says "Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster", not the official title, which is "Ebirah, Horror of the Deep".

All subsequent Toho films use essentially unremarkable International versions with the exception of Godzilla 2000. All have Japanese and English language soundtracks now.  The Return of Godzilla does not include Godzilla 1985 with Raymond Burr.  The good news is that Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah / Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth now come with English and Japanese language options and are not Pan and Scan.  Sony's DVD had both these failings.  Even so, they cut the credits at the end and shift the credits around at the beginning.

I am not sure whether Daiei even put out "International Versions" of their films, but the films available are pure Japanese versions with English subtitles.  Most of the Showa Daiei films were originally dubbed in the 1960s by AIP, but five films were later redubbed by Sandy Frank for home video.

Godzilla 2000's Blu-ray features both the Japanese and English language versions of the film.  The DVD only had the English language version.  The Japanese language version is eight minutes longer than the English language version, but in most people's opinions nothing essential was cut or added when Sony did its English language version.  The English language version looks clearly superior to the Japanese version.

Special Features

The Godzilla series are not known for an abundance of special features on U.S. discs.  The films from Kraken releasing have trailers, but Universal's releases have nothing.

There are two Blu-ray releases of Destroy All Monsters, both from Media Blasters.  The first release in 2011 had quite a few special features, an Image Gallery, Production Art and Storyboards, a Promo Reel, 8mm Films and a Commentary from Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski.  The second release has none.  The first release was discontinued shortly after it was released due to a dispute over the special features between Toho and Media Blasters.  The first release can command $70-80 dollars used.  The second release from 2014 has also just been recently discontinued.  Godzilla vs. Megalon may also be discontinued.

Godzilla vs. Megalon on Blu-ray has no special features, nor does the officially released DVD thanks to disputes between Toho and Media Blasters.  However, there were some meaty special features prepared for it and some DVDs were released with the features included.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to impossible to tell which is the featured disc and which is the featureless disc without opening the case.  The special features included US and Japanese Theatrical Trailers, US Print and English Print Credits, and Image Gallery, Trailer Reel, Japanese trailer for Destroy All Monsters, an interview with Voice Dubber Ted Thomas and Commentary by Steve Ryfle and Stuart Gailbraith IV.  These have been recently been released and are easy enough to find, however questionable some of the material may be legally.

Godzilla vs. Biollante contains a lengthy Making of and a short Design featurette, both subtitled in Japanese.  The Sony releases contain teaser and theatrical trailers for each film but nothing else except for Godzilla 2000 and the Godzilla Tokyo S.O.S./Godzilla: Final Wars release.  For Godzilla 2000, there is a Japanese theatrical trailer, a short Behind the Scenes featurette and an Audio Commentary on the English Language version by the producers of the English language version of the film.  In addition to the standard teasers and trailers, both films contain a Making of feature subtitled in Japanese.  Godzilla Tokyo S.O.S. and Godzilla: Final Wars each have a behind the scenes featurette in addition to their trailers.

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