Kraken Releasing/Section 23 Films

It was 60 years ago when the world was introduced to one of most recognized, celebrated iconic characters in pop-culture, Godzilla. Because it is his 60th birthday several home entertainment companies are re-releasing a number of Godzilla movies on home video. Earlier this year a label that came out of nowhere, Kraken Releasing , also known as Section 23 films , surprised many a Godzilla fan when they announced they would be releasing three Godzilla movies from the beloved Showa era not just on DVD, but on Blu-ray for the first time ever in the USA. Those movies are GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER, GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH and GODZILLA VS. GIGAN.

GODZILLA VS THE SEA MONSTER, also entitled EBIRAH, HORROR OF THE DEEP, features Godzilla facing a giant shrimp. Ebirah comes from the Japanese word Ebi, which is shrimp; the monster is a giant Shrimp but looks more like a giant lobster. The film takes place on a South Seas Island where a terrorist group known as The Red Bamboo is doing nuclear testing. The movie also has an ensemble of familiar Kaiju actors including Akira Takarada (the original GODZILLA/GOJIRA, GODZILLA FINAL WARS) Jun Tazaki (ATRAGON, DESTROY ALL MONSTERS), Kumi Mizuno (Miss Namikawa in GODZILLA VS. MONSTER ZERO). Originally, this film was to star King Kong, not Godzilla. Creative differences with Rankin-Bass put an end to that project.

GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH, more widely known as GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER, has Godzilla battling a monster made from pollution. Hedorah, the Smog Monster, grows from absorbing all of Earth’s pollution. The movie is best known for its AIP English dubbed “Save the Earth” song, which sadly isn’t on this disc. The little boy in this film, Ken (Hiroyuki Kawase) would also appear in GODZILLA VS. MEGALON. Godzilla also flies for the first (and only) time in this movie. At the time of release, GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH was considered too unconventional, too dark a picture for a Kaiju film, that its director, Yoshimitsu Banno was banned from directing any more Kaiju films.

GODZILLA VS. GIGAN, also known as GODZILLA ON MONSTER ISLAND, was the film that immediately followed GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH. This movie was back to the more traditional Kaiju film. Godzilla and his Monster Island pal Anguirus (a spikey giant armadillo monster who was actually the first monster that Godzilla fought during the entire run of movies) battle Gigan, a giant cyborg bird creature with a buzz saw chest and Ghidorah the three-headed monster (his forth film of the series). These space monsters are controlled by alien cockroaches from Space Hunter Nebula M who want to take over Earth. They want peace on Earth, but only after destroying Earth’s inhabitants. This film has some infamous scenes of Godzilla and Anguirus actually talking to each other in word balloons (which are not seen on this disc in the Japanese version).This film was also planned as something more extravagant with more monsters. At one point the movie was to have Godzilla, Varan and Rodan fight Gigan, Ghidorah and a new monster named Mogu, but the budget limitations prevented this other proposed idea from happening.

Previously released in 2004 from Sony during Godzilla’s 50th anniversary, Kraken Releasing has brought these movies back to life in high definition. And they have done a very credible job. Just like the Sony DVD releases, which were HD transfers, all three Godzilla films look really good overall in high definition and in their original 2.35:1 aspect ratios. Because of the higher resolution there is an improvement over the SD releases. There are many scenes which look crisper and better detailed. In some parts of each Godzilla film, the image looks substantially better than the DVD releases, while in other scenes, they look only slightly improved. The daylight scenes look really impressive in 1080p. There is film grain present in all three and it appears that no DNR was used. Overall the picture quality was really impressive and all three Godzilla films look as good as they ever have. The discs include both the Japanese and International English dubs of the films. The English subtitles are very easy to read. The audio, DTS-HD mono, sounds perfectly fine.

As with most Godzilla Blu-ray releases these come with no extras except for a Japanese trailer. Some fans may be indifferent about bonus material, while others feel that this was a missed opportunity to do interviews or commentaries with cast and crew or any of the Godzilla historians. Nevertheless, these movies at last have gotten Blu-ray releases, and are very affordable, averaging around $10.00 to $13.00 online as well as in stores. (David Steigman)