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Classic Media presents
"Petty problems of the moment were forgotten. How many casualties would there be before it was all over? No one dare guess."
DVD ReviewFor English-speaking fans of Godzilla, getting good quality, subtitled, properly presented versions of the films has always been the holy grail; bootleggers have long profited from Toho's vice grip on their films. Since the DVD age, however, that absence of product has been turned around, with numerous films in the series now available in subtitled and dubbed editions. One of the rarest films in the series has been Godzilla Raids Again (Gojira no gyakushu), better known in the US as Gigantis the Fire Monster. Classic Media have licensed several of the Showa-era Godzilla films, including this one, for special edition treatment, though the results are a bit mixed.
In the wake of the first film's success, Toho wanted a sequel, as profit-oriented studios usually do with successful product. In the case of GRA, however, some of the key elements of the first film do not return, including director Ishiro Honda and composer Akira Ifukube. In Honda's place comes Motoyoshi Oda, and Masaru Sato pick up the composing duties. Sato does his job admirably, though his score lacks the menace that Ifukube brought. Oda proves a lackluster replacement for Honda, with a film that is let down as much by its script as the tepid direction. The story picks up some short time after the events of the original story, as two pilots (Hiroshi Koizumi, Minoru Chiaki) stumble upon Godzilla and a new monster, Anguirus, fighting on a Pacific island. Having alerted the authorities, the self-defense forces gear up to try and direct the monsters away from Osaka, where the monsters are expected to make landfall. They fail, and the city is reduced to rubble. In the aftermath, Godzilla remains at large, and the two pilots get involved in the fight to defeat him.
It's obvious that one of the keys to a successful Godzilla film is the quality of the human side of the story; if the characters are useless, or have nothing of worth to do, the action is dragged down as well, as we're left counting the minutes until the next appearance of Godzilla. And so it is with this film, as the stories of pilots Tsukioka and Kobayashi aren't especially interesting. Neither has any real conflict; they're simply mundane tales of everyday life, albeit one made more eventful by the reality of the enormous creature. The bits with Godzilla and Anguirus are good enough to make this worth watching for fans, of course, though the uninitiated would be better served watching other G-films before checking this one out. The black and white photography gives the preceedings something of a classier feel than color might havedone.
Re-edited by cretins and released in the US (01h:18m:08s) as Gigantis the Fire Monster in 1959 by Warner Bros., Toho has insisted that the GRA title be inserted at the beginning of the film, even though characters refer to the monster as Gigantis. The title card is digitally inserted and looks cheap. The dub cast, incidentally, includes future Star Trek favorite George Takei as well as Paul Frees and Keye Luke. The American version here is shorn of several minutes (despite a three-minute difference in running time, there is loads of moronic stock footage inserted), and the rewriting of the script renders some portions of the storyline nonsensical. What makes this a truly aggravating watch, however, is Keye Luke's relentlessly obvious narration, which tells us innumerable things we can already see happening before our eyes. Masaru Sato's score is also largely replaced, and with inferior music to boot. Do yourself a favor: skip this version, as it isn't even good for kitsch value.
The relative failure of this sequel compared to the first Godzilla film meant that Toho would mothball the monster for several years, bringing him back in 1962 for Godzilla vs King Kong, and then the next entry in Classic Media's series, Mothra vs Godzilla, where we'll pick up next time.
[A further note: while this release has been advertised as streeting on November 7 of this year, Classic Media has changed their plans and made it exclusive to their web site, with a wide release announced for February 2007, in order to prevent this title from being swallowed up in the holiday release season.]
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C
Image Transfer Review: Both versions of the film are presented in their original Academy ratio of 1.33:1. The Japanese one suffers from a bad interlacing effect about 64 minutes in, which lasts for a few minutes. It's obviously some kind of glitch in the encoding, and to their credit, Classic Media is replacing the disc for those who have ordered from their site. When the DVD debuts in other outlets next year (not to mention future copies from CM's web site), all copies will presumably be corrected. The transfer otherwise looks okay; the source materials show a fair amount of damage, with plenty of speckling and lines.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: Each version of the film has its original mono track. Both sound fine, but the Japanese track has evidence of wear and tear; it's not a make or break issue, though, given the state of the film these days.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Feature/Episode commentary by authors Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski
The optional English subtitles need some good proofreading, as they feature several instances of typos and grammatical errors.
Extras Grade: A-
Final CommentsFor Godzilla fans and collectors, this is mostly a no-brainer, as there's never been a subtitled version available to English-speaking audiences. The film itself proves to be something of a letdown, with some fairly dull stretches between the monster battles. The packaging is a winner, however, as are the extras.
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