Thursday, May 1, 2014

Godzilla vs Hedorah, Gigan, The Sea Monster (Blu-ray Reviews) - Kraken Releasing

Japan/1966, 1971, 1972
Directed By: Jun Fukuda, Yoshimitsu Banno
Written By: Shenichi Sekizawa, Kaoru Mabuchi, Yoshimitsu Banno
Starring: Akira Takarada, Hiroshi Ishikawa, Akira Yamauchi
Color/264 Minutes/PG
Region A
Release Date: May 6, 2014

The Films

By 1966 Godzilla was a monster at the box office (wink wink). Business was booming for the Kaiju genre in Japan and other studios were coming up with their own monsters to compete with Godzilla. Having already fought a variety of beasts and monsters, Godzilla's next foe would be the giant lobster Ebirah in GODZILLA vs THE SEA MONSTER. This was one of a a few Godzilla movies that had an island adventure theme, when a boat is wrecked by Ebirah and the men aboard wash ashore an island where a secret organization has enslaved the native population to work in their plants where they produce chemicals and heavy water for their criminal intentions. The group stumbles across Godzilla, hibernating in a cave and awaken him using a lightning rod, while the native population prays to Mothra for salvation. What we get is Godzilla fighting Ebirah, a giant Condor that never gets a name, fighter jets, and Mothra saving the day not only the enslaved natives but Godzilla too.

GODZILLA vs THE SEA MONSTER isn't among the best in the series, but it certainly doesn't disappoint. It is immensely entertaining with the monster battles and with Mothra's appearance. I've always wondered why the giant Condor never received a name, though it doesn't do much to deserve one. It is an interesting twist having Godzilla's biggest threat not be a fellow monster but being the island and organization operating on it.

GODZILLA vs HEDORAH (aka The Smog Monster) is a beautiful representation of the year it was made. Hedorah is a monster made of the sludge, smog, and trash littering Japan and its waters. He starts as a tadpole in the water and eventually mutates to adapt for the land and then gains the ability to fly. Unfortunately for Japan, Godzilla's attacks have little effect on Hedorah at first until the scientists discover a way to weaken the disgusting monsters defenses enough that Godzilla can come in and finish the job.

This is among my favorite films in the series, definitely in the top 5. Hedorah is probably the most vicious monster in the Godzilla series. He emits a sulphuric gas that melts metal buildings and disintegrates humans down to their bones. He is like H-Bomb that should never have been released and it's all because of the filthy condition of Japan. The commentary on the state of the environment is in plain view, and with the Ozone layer becoming a major concern later in the decade GODZILLA vs HEDORAH is not only one of the best and most entertaining films in the franchise, it is a bit ahead of its time with it's message.

The next film in the Godzilla series is 1972's GODZILLA vs GIGAN, which introduced the space monster with a rotating saw in his abdomen. Earth is unknowingly under attack by a shape-shifting alien cockroach species who masquerade as Japanese businessmen building a Godzilla theme park. The main attraction at the park is Godzilla Tower, a giant monument to Japan's favorite monster. Their plan however, is to call Godzilla to the park and eliminate him with the super laser hidden inside Godzilla Tower. Godzilla and Anguirus end up in a 2 on 2 fight against the space monster King Ghidorah and the alien's new favorite weapon Gigan.

GODZILLA vs GIGAN has some of my favorite fight scenes in the entire Godzilla franchise. It doesn't hurt that some of my favorite monsters of the series are featured as well. Even the underrated Anguirus is on point here doing some tag team moves straight from WWE. The Road Warriors would be proud. Gigan and King Ghidorah are no slouches though, and both draw blood from their opponents and give them everything they've got while trying to take over the world for their weird cockroach alien friends. GODZILLA vs GIGAN is a fucking blast of Kaiju action that'll have you spilling popcorn everywhere while you cheer on the action.

The Audio & Video
Kraken Releasing brings these three classic Godzilla films to Blu-ray for the first time with 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfers. All three discs are on par with each other, as they each have their positives and suffer from a couple negatives as well. The bad first, occasionally each film is a bit soft and the color palette is muted and dulled down. The source material also has a bit of dirt and debris. The blame on this isn't to be shouldered by Kraken Releasing, it should be aimed solely at Godzilla's parent studio Toho. For 60 years Godzilla has made Toho money, it has been a beloved franchise worldwide and is their flagship character and franchise. For some reason Toho likes to take a crap on it by issuing licensors weak HD Masters to work with and do the best they can. Luckily, Kraken Releasing has done a good job with these because colors, while muted, still look good and detail levels are very strong. That is my favorite part of these releases is the strong levels of detail. From skin tones on the actors to the scaly Godzilla suit, the hair on King Ghidorah and the crustacean exoskeleton on Ebirah are awesome.

The audio for these discs is the original Japanese tracks with English subtitles, thankfully. That is enough to rejoice with right there. There is an option to watch with the English dub but don't, just don't. Either way you're listening to a DTS-HD mono track that sounds good. There's no annoying background noise or hissing or popping.

The Extras
Each disc features a trailer for its respective film.

The Bottom Line
Could the video presentation of the discs be better? Yeah, they could be, but as they stand they're a definite step up from the decade old Sony DVDs. The good strongly outweighs the bad and I'm so fucking happy that these discs have been released and that they're in my collection. Go out and grab these discs and have a blast with Godzilla!


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