DVD Review: Godzilla

Godzilla DVDSTUDIO: Criterion | DIRECTOR: Ishirô Honda | CAST: Akira Takarada, Momoko Kochi, Akihito Hirata
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 1/24/2012 | PRICE: DVD $29.95, Blu-ray $39.95
BONUSES: commentary, U.S. version, featurettes, new interviews
SPECS: NR | 96 min. | Foreign language monster drama | 1.37:1 fullscreen | monaural | Japanese with English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Godzilla, the movie debut of the undisputed King of the Monsters (and sequels), continues to command respect in the digital domain with Criterion’s handsome new two-DVD set, which includes both Ishirô Honda’s original 1954 Japanese version and the re-edited, additional-scenes-laden 1956 American movie starring Raymond Burr (TV’s Perry Mason).

Godzilla movie scene

Godzilla stomps across Tokyo in his 1954 movie debut.

Without a doubt, the original 98-minute Japanese Gojira is the better film of the pair, featuring a stronger human element to the story as well as a more effective anti-war (specifically, anti H-bomb) message.

Like Classic Media’s excellent 2006 DVD edition of the film, Criterion’s Godzilla DVD comes filled with supplemental features, though they’re all completely different.

Included this time around are new interviews with actor Akira Takarada, Godzilla perfomer Haruo Nakajima, effects technicians Yoshio Irie and Eizo Kaimai and Japanese film critic Tadao Sato.

There’s also an excellent new essay by Stateside film critic J. Hoberman, who contrasts the film with Akira Kurosawa’s (High and Low) 1955 nuclear war-themed I Live in Fear.

The best DVD bonuses of the batch are the commentary tracks by film historian David Kalat, author of A Critical History and Filmography of Toho’s Godzilla Series. Energetic and informative — particularly in passages when he points out the political background and reasoning behind certain scenes that were excised for the U.S. release — the tracks on the two films are also delivered with a good sense of humor and fun. Kalat certainly is aware that he’s delivering lectures on a giant fake monster with atomic breath, after all.

The visual and audio quality of the films are quite fine, though I don’t know if it’s that much better than that of the Classic Media edition.

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.