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Classic Media presents
Torahata: I'm not playing dumb, young lady.
DVD ReviewPrior to 1964's Mothra vs. Godzilla (Mosura tai Gojira), Godzilla had made only three film appearances, the last being in 1962's series re-birth Godzilla vs. King Kong. The monster battles begun in Godzilla Raids Again had now become expected fare, and Godzilla would be opposed in his latest film by another Toho kaiju, Mothra, which had a prior film appearance of its own, a self-titled 1961 feature. This gave rise to frequent appearances by other Toho creatures in the Godzilla universe, which became the more or less de facto giant monster series from Toho. The film has remained a favorite of fans ever since. Now, it gets a welcome release in both its original Japanese cut and the fairly faithful American release version, re-titled
This time out, the story mixes environmental and business concerns in its plot, which revolves around the pursuit of a mysterious egg that shows up offshore after a typhoon. The local fishermen, sensing opportunity, bring it ashore, and make a deal to sell it to Kumayama (Yoshifumi Tajima), a sleazy entrepreneur who plans to milk the egg for every yen he can. The egg, however, belongs to the people of Infant Island (home of Mothra), and when their representatives, two miniature young women (Emi and Yumi Ito) show up to claim it, they are brushed aside as they have no "legal" standing. When Godzilla awakens nearby, Mothra's help is enlisted to stop the big lizard from destroying Japan. But Infant Island, ravaged by recent nuclear testing, has no interest in lending a hand. Will Mothra save the day? And just what's in that egg?
Mothra vs. Godzilla is bolstered most strongly by a quality cast and characters, led by its heroic trio of journalist Sakai (Akira Takarada), photographer Nakanishi (Yurioko Hoshi), and scientist Miura (Hiroshi Koizumi). They take the lead in trying to get the egg back to the islanders and then plead for Mothra's help. They're all likable, played well by the three actors, and they're each distinct characters, which helps as well. Tajima appears to relish his role as the greedy Kumayama, making for a fun villain to play off the heroes.
The monster sequences are good, although the final showdown gets a bit long for my patience as Godzilla's final fate takes ages to unfold. The suit work is solid, and the effects are generally good, though the rear projection work definitely shows its age. Akira Ifukube's score features his iconic music for the third time in four films, and it lends a dramatic gravitas; it's ominous and powerful without going too far over the top.
At its heart however, the film wouldn't work if the story and characters didn't provide that foundation for the monsters to work off of, and the film's balancing of environmental issues (nuclear testing and its effects in places we might otherwise ignore) and business ethics (the unscrupulous exploitation of nature for monetary gain) play off each other well. There's nothing deep and profound about Mothra vs Godzilla, but that's no strike against it. It delivers what it promises—fun. Plus, as the final Godzilla outing before the creature turned into a friend of children and dinosaur superhero of sorts, it heralds the end of a brief era for fans of the series. What followed would see the character and the franchise slowly devolve into some initially good, but as time passed, increasingly inferior productions.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: Let's mention the problematic side first: the American version is not presented in its original Scope format, but is cropped to 16:9 proportions. This was done, supposedly, because extent materials were damaged enough that this was the best presentation possible. As a consequence, if you have the earlier Simitar-released version of the American cut, which is in Scope ratio (but not anamorphic), you may wish to hang on to it, and you may find this a strong reason to not buy this release. I fully understand and respect that viewpoint. However, if, like me, you care more about the original Japanese version of the film, then you have nothing to worry about, as that is presented in all its anamorphic TohoScope glory. The transfer looks very good, with few instances of damage of any kind. My only complaint would be that it occasionally seems softer than it perhaps should be, but it's a minor issue. Getting back to the American version, the print shows more damage along the lines of speckling and dirt, though the cropping doesn't seem to overly damage the presentation, but it does sometimes seem cramped. The subtitles on the Japanese version are easy to read, but feature typos that should have been fixed at some point.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: Both films feature their original mono soundtracks, which sound fine if unexceptional.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Writers Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsA Godzilla classic gets an imperfect release, but a welcome one nevertheless. Some will be willing to skip this due to the less than perfect treatment of the American cut. If, like me, the bastardized version means little or nothing to you, then this is a highlight of the DVD year, as another Godzilla movie has come to us here in its original form, with English subtitles. Some decent extras top off a fine package. The disc is currently only available from Classic Media; a regular retail release will happen in early 2007.
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