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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
DVD ReviewColumbia (soon to be Sony Pictures) continues to delve into the Godzilla back catalog with another nicely realized entry in the "showa" series of pictures featuring the radioactive dinosaur. While there are elements that make zero sense, there's enough giant-rubber-monster mayhem to satisfy just about any fan of the series.
Dr. Kusumi (Tadao Takashima) is conducting weather modification experiments on the isolated Sollgel Island. Photojournalist Goro Maki (Akira Kubo) sneaks onto the island in order to get a story and joins the group as a member of the team. But as the experiments go haywire and wreck their base camp and radio, the Kamacuras, a groups of gigantic praying mantises, strike. But before long, their attention is drawn by a huge egg. Unfortunately for all concerned, the egg hatches to reveal Minilla, the infant Godzilla. Soon papa (or is it mama?) Gojira (Seiji Onaka) is on his/her/its way to defend his/her/its offspring against all threats.
The isolated setting of the island makes for a rather odd entry in the series. Godzilla never gets a chance to destroy Tokyo or any other city, having to make do with a tent camp. But that's all right, because he/she/it gets in a good deal of action both against the Kamacuras and a gigantic black spider, Kumonga, with lots of slow-motion antics and fun monster violence without getting gory or disturbing for youngsters. It does take a while for the action to start, but Godzilla makes a brief pre-credits appearance just so you don't think you've put in the wrong disc when you're half an hour in.
On the down side, Kusumi's experiments are completely outlandish and make no sense whatsoever, especially in light of Japan's sensitivity over fallout issues. They involve putting the island into deep freeze, and incidentally spewing radioactive material all over the place. How exactly this madness is supposed to "benefit all mankind" as Kusumi asserts is left both unquestioned and unexplained. In addition, the finale seems inappropriately optimistic, given the last visuals we see of Godzilla and Minilla, but since they were both back next year in Destroy All Monsters and the year after that for the execrable Godzilla's Revenge, I suppose we have to accept it as it is.
The cast is serviceable, with Akira Kubo frequently being entertaining as the enthusiastic journalist. Beverly (or Bibari) Maeda is a dispensable love interest as the woman inhabiting the supposedly uninhabited island. Everyone else is fairly wooden. There's some whimsical comedy work in the interaction between Minira and Gojira, especially as the Big G tries to take a nap and little Minilla can't resist being a pest. This is one of the most kid-friendly in the series, while still being tolerable to adults.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C-
Image Transfer Review: Although this film is usually seen in a pan-and-scan version, this anamorphic widescreen presentation really opens up the picture, dwarfing the humans in the scenery and giving the monsters plenty of room to rumble. The source print is immaculate, without any damage other than the dirt printed into some of the opticals. Color is excellent, as are black levels. Unfortunately, Columbia/Sony has seen fit to add excessive edge enhancement to the disc, creating annoying rings and a harsh digital edge to what would otherwise be an exemplary viewing experience. Please, guys, restrain yourselves when digitally sharpening.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: Both the Japanese and English 2.0 mono tracks sound fine, though the English track is shoddily dubbed. They're quite clean, especially for their age. The whimsical lounge score by Masaru Sato (with elements of Vic Mizzy to boot) is distinctive and quite enjoyable, with plenty of range and a very reasonable bass presence, though the strings have a bit of shrillness.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Godzilla Tokyo S.O.S., Kaena: The Prophey, Steamboy
Extras Review: Other than some random trailers (including one for the most recent Gojira film) and a compilation trailer for the whole series, there are no extras. Chaptering is a little thin.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsAlthough the cast and the plot aren't much, there's a lot of amusement value here nonetheless for kaiju eiga fans. Not much for extras, though, and far too much edge enhancement spoils an otherwise beautiful transfer. But how can you argue with original aspect ratio and the original Japanese?
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