Monday, December 19, 2011

GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA (GODZILLA VS. THE THING) (1964)

GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA (GODZILLA VS. THE THING) (1964)
Director: Ishiro Honda
Classic Media

In 1962, KING KONG VS. GODZILLA was released in Japan to a tremendous audience response. In fact, it became the highest grossing Godzilla film in Japan up until that time. In 1963, the film was released to excellent box office in the United States (albeit in a highly adulterated version). The following year, Toho executives were looking for Godzilla’s next foe and found one in the form of their 1961 success, Mothra. The result: GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA was created and one of the most fondly remembered “kaiju” (monster) films was born. In the fall of 1964, American International Pictures (AIP) released the film in the U.S. as GODZILLA VS. THE THING and double billed it with the Czech import, VOYAGE TO THE END OF THE UNIVERSE where it did quite good business and to this day, still has a special place in the hearts of genre fans.


A hurricane has hit the Japanese islands and washes ashore what appears to be a huge egg. The egg is immediately purchased by greedy tycoon Jiro Torahata (Kenji Sahara in a great villainous role) and his shifty henchman, Kumayama (Yoshifumi Tajima) for exhibition to the public. As the duo prepare their million dollar plan, the tiny six-inch twin fairies of Infant Island (Yumi Ito and Emi Ito) arrive and claim that the egg belongs to the giant protector of Infant Island, Mothra. After several failed attempts to persuade Kumayama and Torahata to return the egg to the island, the tiny women seek help from reporters Sakai and Junko (Akira Takarada and Yuriko Hoshi) and Professor Mura (Hiroshi Koizumi). Suddenly, Godzilla appears near Nagoya (washed ashore as a result of the recent hurricane) and proceeds to attack the city. In an effort to finally rid Japan of this menace, Sakai, Junko, and Mura appeal to the tiny women of Infant Island to persuade Mothra to fight Godzilla. At first, the natives refuse because the egg was not returned, but after an emotional appeal from Junko, the natives relent and Mothra battles Godzilla in a spectacular special effects eye full. After a valiant battle, the adult Mothra dies, but the twin caterpillars inside the egg hatch and use their wits instead of their baby brawn to get the better of Godzilla in a clever and special effects filled climax.

GODZILLA VS. THE THING is well remembered by genre fans and for several good reasons. For one thing, it is a well written (Shinichi Sekizawa) story which is nicely paced with good action sequences. Another thing that works exceptionally well is Eiji Tsuburaya’s special effects (most notably the matte work). The battle scene between Godzilla and the adult Mothra is a perfect example as there is a flawless matching of human onlookers and the dueling monsters on screen at the same time, without the tell-tale blue matte lines that hurt some of the effects in KING KONG VS. GODZILLA. Also, the tiny twin fairies are flawlessly integrated into the scenes to the point where one forgets that special effects are involved. Finally, maestro Akira Ifukubie has contributed another exceptional score with a specific motif written for each monster and skillfully interwoven into the battle scenes.

This Classic Media presentation of GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA is a single disc duel layered DVD which features an excellent anamorphic transfer of the original Japanese language version in Tohoscope (2.35:1). This version is presented with newly translated subtitles. Everything on this version is impeccable. By this time, Toho had ceased using the inferior film stock that marred the earlier films’ negatives with scratches and blemishes. On GODZILLA vs. MOTHRA, the Japanese negative is practically flawless and on par with the recent Media Blasters DVDs of the 1960s Toho films. The image is sharp and the colors are as vibrant as they come for a film made over forty years ago. The extras on this version include a poster gallery set to Akira Ifukubie’s rousing theme song and a loving tribute by Shogo Tomiyama to the late maestro who died in February 2006 at age 92 as well as the original Japanese trailer. The Japanese audio in mono is also excellent and the film runs 88 minutes.

Now this reviewer hates to be the bearer of some bad news, but would not be honest if the buying public was not told about the ONE significant flaw on this DVD. The American version (GODZILLA VS. THE THING) is NOT in 2.35:1 scope, but in 1.85 which means some cropping is involved. Now…after one hears the story as to why Classic Media went with this version, much forgiveness can occur. As the story goes, the only decent widescreen print of the American version was actually not all that decent. It was the print that Simitar used on their 1998 DVD and if collectors remember carefully, it had dull colors, missing dialogue scenes (brief…but still cut), and out of synch music and sound in some places (most notably the beginning credits). The 1.85 version, on the other hand, is re-mastered in high definition, has good color (especially when compared to the Simitar version), is uncut, and totally in-synch. Classic Media (with significant input from Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski) looked over both available prints and faced a dilemma…either go with the 1.85 version which looks good in every other respect or go with the correct aspect ratio version (2.35:1) and have the picture and sound quality be significantly inferior. The parties involved decided to go with the lesser of two evils and pick the former. It was one of those situations where neither choice was 100% perfect, so the best of a bad situation was made. However, the American version presented here features the famous American International Pictures logo we all know and love as well as the “James H. Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff present” credit and the GODZILLA VS. THE THING title card that are all missing from the horrible pan and scan version Classic Media released in 2002. This version is miles and miles ahead of that travesty in quality and presentation.

There is another fine audio commentary on the American version once again featuring Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski. This time they are joined throughout by the late Henry G. Saperstein, via a 1995 telephone interview made during conference calls, as well as two Titra Sound Studio veterans, Paulette Rubinstein (who voiced one of the twin fairies in GODZILLA VS. THE THING) and “Speed Racer” himself, Peter Fernandez. The American version’s English audio is also fine and this version also runs 88 minutes. Like GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN, GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA is presented in a hard case with the image of the Japanese poster on the front.

With the exception of the 1.85 transfer of GODZILLA VS. THE THING, Godzilla fans should be pleased overall with Classic Media’s presentation of this genre favorite. It towers over the horribly pixilated Simitar DVD from 1998 and the poor pan and scan version of 2002. The folks at Classic Media promise even more monster thrills with GHIDORAH, THE THREE HEADED MONSTER and MONSTER ZERO scheduled for release in January 2007 with GODZILLA’S REVENGE, TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA and WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS expected to be announced in the near future. (Joe Cascio)

EDITOR’S NOTE: The retail release of two highly anticipated Godzilla films – GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN and MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA – has been rescheduled from November 7th, 2006 to the spring of 2007. This new release date will allow for the opportunity to give the titles a larger retail release with increased marketing support. Both films are currently available exclusively at www.godzillaondvd.com.

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