Thursday, August 4, 2022

The Godzilla Series Japanese Film U.S. Non-Theatrical Releases

In the prior blog entry, I worked to document the titles, credits and logos affixed to the theatrical releases of the Godzilla series.  Not all those films were given a wide theatrical release and as the blog entry covering theatrical releases was rather long, I decided to talk about the films which did not have theatrical releases in this entry.

When a film does not have a theatrical release, it can be difficult to determine when it was released and how many people saw it in the immediate aftermath of that release.  Records from decades past can be lost or hard to find.  In the 1960s and 1970s, home video really did not exist.  If you wanted to watch a movie you had to go to the theater or catch it on television.  Then until the next time it was being shown you had to rely on your memories of the film. 

But in the 1980s, movies began to be released on home video and video recorders became affordable.  Eventually every film in the Godzilla series was been made available on home video, but for all but the first three films discussed here, that was the way they premiered in the United States.  For the first four films, their presentation has varied significantly from their premieres to the present day, so documenting how they looked when they were first released is the priority of this blog post.  The remainder have not differed nearly as much over time, and as home video, in modern formats, tends to have something of a long shelf life, I will only identify presentation changes for major releases.  

One important difference here is that because most of earlier films were released to TV and VHS-era home video, their original presentations would be Pan and Scan.  When DVD became more mature, the presentations changed, thankfully, to widescreen.

1.  Godzilla vs The Sea Monster

Official Toho English Title : Ebirah, Horror of the Deep
Release Date : 1968
Distributor : Walter-Reade TV

This is the first Godzilla film released directly to TV in the US.  Presumably to allow for more commercial time, Walter Reade cut out the credits sequence.  There are no cast or crew credits shown in the Original US TV Version.  A short sequence showing Ebirah's claw attacking Yata's boat was added to the beginning of the TV version, but this was repeating footage used later to show Ebirah's attack on Ryota's boat.  Certain other minor trims were made, and the scene where Godzilla is attacked by the Red Bamboo air force no longer has music.  

Walter Reade was not wholly cheap, the added a new title for their film using a stylized font.  Not seen on many copies of the film is a The End card in the same style as the title.  Later, when the film was being distributed by Alan Enterprises in the 1970s-80s, a different The End card with a Toho copyright notice replaced the stylized The End card.  Additionally, Walter Reade did not use Toho's International dub and instead had a new dub made for its version by Titra Sound Studios.  The International dub would be used when this film was released on DVD and Blu-ray.

Release Date : 1969
Distributor : Walter-Reade TV

Walter Reade treated Son of Godzilla similarly to Sea Monster.  Even though they did not retitle the film, they still made a new title for it that plays before any other footage.  It cut most of the opening sequence where a pair of airplane pilots have a surprise encounter with Godzilla in a storm but kept most of Godzilla's presence in the scene.  In the International Version, the title is shown as Godzilla walks toward the camera.  The TV Version did not eliminate the opening scenes showing Solgell Island where the credits would have played, but no credits are shown in these shots.  

Walter Reade once again chose to have Titra redub the film rather than use Toho's International dub.  There does not seem to be a "The End" card for its version, it ends by going to the Walter Reade logo.    Later, when the film was being distributed by Alan Enterprises in the 1970s-80s, it added a The End card with a Toho copyright notice.  The International dub would be used when this film was released on DVD and Blu-ray.

Release Date : 1969
Distributor : UPA TV

Terror of Mechagodzilla is on both the Theatrical and Non-Theatrical lists because this film is unique in that both its Theatrical and original TV versions have historical significance, especially as the Theatrical Release by Bob Conn was something of a low-key affair.  The original TV airing was supervised by United Productions of America, which had experience with Godzilla films going back to Godzilla vs The Thing.  The International version's dub was used, but unlike the Theatrical Release, the only objectionable element cut for the TV version was a shot of Katura's exposed (and artificial looking) breasts.  The TV version has additional credits specific to it that the Theatrical Release does not have.

The original TV version also added a prologue with a narrator explaining Godzilla's origins and struggles with humanity and then aliens.  This prologue lasts for approximately six minutes and uses footage from UPA's other Godzilla films, Monster Zero and Godzilla's Revenge.  This prologue was not included for home video releases.

Release Date : November 25, 1992
Distributor : Miramax, HBO Video

Godzilla vs Biollante premiered via the pay-cable movie channel HBO and its VHS distribution arm in 1992.  The next year it received a Laserdisc release and there was a widescreen version of the VHS available.  

The Home Video version used the International Version.  What was notable about this International Version is that it has an English-Language title, later films superimpose English on a Japanese title. This version also has English titles over the Japanese warning texts and full English credits.  This International title and those titles are not found on the Blu-ray and DVD releases from Echo Bridge and Lions Gate in 2012 and onward.  

Release Date :  April 28, 1998
Distributor : TriStar Pictures

The remainder of the Heisei and the entirety of the Millenium series of the Godzilla films were distributed by TriStar Pictures, which was owned by Sony Entertainment.  TriStar released both films on the same day on VHS and followed up with a Pan and Scan DVD later that year containing both films on a double feature disc.  (One side holds King Ghidorah, the other holds Mothra).

Both films feature only their respective International Version English dubs and only show TriStar logos.  The credits are few and the font is a generic white Times New Roman.  There are no end credits on either film, only a scroll identifying copyrights, trademarks and legal disclaimers.  The International Versions of both films are known to exist, but their English titles are rather generic looking.  Establishing English titles present from the International Version are missing for both films.  

The Sony Blu-ray for King Ghidorah uses a widescreen transfer and adds in the Japanese language track and subtitles.  The structure of the presentation, with the opening TriStar logo (1.85:1 version used), the Times New Roman opening credits and the lack of end credits is the same as the DVD.  The legal scroll is the same but no TriStar logo is shown at the end.

The Sony for Blu-ray Mothra has more changes relative to its DVD.  In addition to widescreen and Japanese language options, it has the English subtitle for the Japanese title in a new font.  The Blu-ray ditches the "TriStar Pictures Presents" and "A Toho Co., Ltd. Production" pre-title credits in favor of single pre-title credit with white on blue text crediting only Toho.  The TriStar opening logo is gone, replaced with a modern Toho logo.  The cast credits are still present with the Times New Roman font and the movie ends with the legal scroll instead of ending credits.  My disc has two minutes of a silent black screen after the legal text scrolls off the screen.  No ending TriStar logo is present.  

Release Date : January 19, 1999
Distributor : TriStar Pictures

Like with the prior entry, TriStar released both of these films on the same day on VHS and followed up with an anamorphic widescreen DVD the next year containing both films on a double feature disc.  Other than that, not much has improved.  The opening credits are still sparse, but instead of using Times New Roman, an Arial font is used for the text.  Still no end credits but the legal scroll has become longer.  Only the International English dub is included.

Spacegodzilla had an error on its disc where the Japanese title is stretched so only about 2/3rds of the Japanese text is visible.  TriStar never fixed their disc master for DVD.  

Destroyah had its end credits scroll over scenes from the prior Godzilla films in its Japanese original, but TriStar cuts this short at the third shot taken from Godzilla (1954).

The Sony Blu-rays for these films change their presentation significantly.  Both are their International versions without any TriStar logos or TrisStar generated credits.  The proper Toho logo is shown before the film begins.  Both have Japanese language options, full English end credit scrolls and ditch the copyright scroll found on the DVDs.  The opening credits use a different font and the opening title English text is more stylized.  Spacegodzilla's opening title was fixed and Destroyah includes the full closing montage.  The English superimposed text (Supers) during Destroyah, such as "Hong Kong 1996" is not included in the Blu-ray.

Release Date : August 3, 1999
Distributor : TriStar Pictures

Strangely, Mechagodzilla's official US release came after its two successors, but while the VHS release came relatively quickly after those films, it took almost five years to get a DVD of this film released.  This would be the last Godzilla film officially released on VHS in the US.

The only improvement that the DVD has over Space Godzilla & Destroyah is the addition of the Japanese language track to the International version English dub.  Subtitles on TriStar DVDs tend to be dubtitles, which do not independently translate the Japanese dialogue but copy lines over from the dub track.  Otherwise it uses the same Arial font for the few credits it displays and uses the same legal scroll as those films.  The International Version of Mechagodzilla II has never really been fully tracked down and there was an earlier dub for it than what made its way to TriStar's DVD.  

The Sony Blu-ray for this film does not make substantial changes until the ending, which adds English scrolling end credits, which look more 2014-vintage than 1993-vintage.  While the TriStar logo is shown before the film begins, it is not shown at the end.

8.  Godzilla vs MegaguirusGodzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah : Giant Monsters All-Out Attack
Release Date : August 31, 2003
Distributor : TriStar Pictures, Sci-Fi Channel

Both Megaguirus and GMK were released to TV on the Sci-Fi channel in edited form and had been screened in an unedited form at G-FEST.  However, the films became more widely available when TriStar released them both on DVD on January 27, 2004.  

These releases improve upon the past DVD releases in the most important respects.  Gone are the generic TriStar credit titles, Japanese language tracks are included in addition to the International English dubs and full English credits are at the end of the films.  Megaguirus does not display the TriS
tar logo when the film begins.  GMK has some English credits after the title screen, but Megaguirus and the next two films following GMK do not.

The Sony Blu-ray changes almost nothing with Megaguirus except for a somewhat altered "Godzilla" overlaying the Japanese title and uses a more HD-friendly version of the font.  GMK's Blu-ray does nothing other than possibly make the font more HD-friendly.

Release Date : March 23, 2004
Distributor : TriStar Pictures

Mechagodzilla has the same properties as Megaguirus (with the TriStar logo added).  The Sony Blu-ray looks to use the same transfer but does not display the TriStar animated logo.

Release Date : December 14, 2004
Distributor : TriStar Pictures

 Tokyo S.O.S. has the same properties as Mechagodzilla.  The Sony Blu-ray looks to use the same transfer and changes nothing from the DVD.

Release Date : December 13, 2005
Distributor : Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Godzilla: Final Wars is a bit more interesting than its predecessors.  It had a a few very limited theatrical releases prior to being made more available on DVD.  I first saw it in a New England arthouse theater in 2005 before it was released on disc. It is the first Godzilla film with an English Title and Opening Credits for both the Japanese Original and US Release Version.  The location titles are in both languages.  The Japanese track on this disc does not dub Don Frye or other western actors into Japanese, they speak English while the Japanese actors speak Japanese, with Frye's own voice being heard.  Frye's voice is still heard on the International English dub.  Sony stopped using the TriStar branding, so there is no TriStar logo on this disc.  The Sony Blu-ray looks to be the same transfer and changes nothing other than the HD.

As Sony has let its renewal rights to its Heisei and Millenium Series films lapse, it is quite possible that a new distributor may pick these up in the future.  In that case, one can expect the TriStar logos to disappear as surely as the logos of the companies who released the other films theatrically.


  1. Thanks for listing all these, was a big Godzilla fan as a kid. I'm always tempted when I see some of these on sale as "package deals" at Wal-Mart.

  2. Hello, your blog is great, so I hope you don't mind just a little bit of "ummm ackshully"... it'd be more accurate to say that "Sea Monster" and "Son of Godzilla" were dubbed by Titan Productions, as that is what Titra Sound changed their name to in November of 1965; blurbs about the name change can be found in trade publications (Variety, Box Office, etc) from the first week of December 1965.

    1. Thank you, I did not know when Titra changed its name to Titan.