DVD Title
 Frankenstein Conquers the World
International Title
 Frankenstein vs. Baragon
Movie Length: 90 minutes Original Length: 90 minutes
Company: Tokyo Shock Release: 2007
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic: Yes
Region: 1 Discs: 2
  
Language/Sound: Order
Japanese (1.0 Mono/5.1 Surround), English (1.0 Mono/5.1 Surround)
Subtitles:
English
Extras
· Menus (English)
· Chapters (12)
· Trailers: Frankenstein vs. Baragon (Teaser, Theatrical), The Mysterians (US DVD), Matango, Atragon, Dogora
· Commentary with Sadamasa Arikawa (Japanese, English Subtitled)
· Extra International Footage/Alternate Ending (12 Minutes)
· Deleted Scenes (5 Minutes)
· Photo Gallery
· Contains original Japanese cut, edited US version and "International" version with alternate ending
Captures
Review
Anthony Romero

Probably one of the more anticipated cult classics from Toho, which has been out of print in the US for decades, Media Blasters, under their Tokyo Shock label, has given the film a feature packed two disc release. Across the two DVDs, the firm has included three different "versions" of the 1965 production. This fact, coupled with a good video presentation, a solid audio offering and a wealth of extras, leads to another highly recommended release from Media Blasters.


 Video:

Due to the nature of this set, with the three separate video tracks, there is going to be a lot to talk about. To start off, its seems natural to begin with the "International" version as it's the first option presented. The video track accompanied with this version is respectable, although has its share of blemishes none the same. To be blunt, the presentation is mixed throughout the movie's duration. For example, sometimes the color are spot on, with a vivid spectrum and very rich tones, such as the final battle where the deep, raw-like red of Frankenstein's gum line becomes apparent. Other times, though, the color is a little off, either discolored slightly yellow in hue or magenta. As a whole, though, the color spectrum is a fairly well handled aspect of the release. In terms of the shape of the print used, this also tends to vary through the course of the movie, with some scenes having loads of grain and others with hardly any. Other print damage is apparent on occasion, particularly during some scene transitions, although never enough to really detract from the viewing experience. Overall, it's a fairly commendable looking presentation, and certainly one that can be appreciated for the majority of the movie's duration.

Before moving on, it's probably worth explaining what exactly the "International" version is, as it's never really explained on the DVD itself. Essentially, this is the original cut of the film that was presented to the US distributors, with the Giant Octopus ending attached as was requested. However, this ending was never used in the US version anyway, as the distributors instead opted for the original finale.

Next up is the Japanese cut (denoted as "theatrical" here), which has about the same quality as its "International" counterpart. The similarities between the two video tracks shouldn't be surprising given that the same source was used for both. Unfortunately, the original ending, starting at the 81 minute mark, looks fairly poor on this release, for whatever reason. This includes a more muted color presentation while details are notably reduced as the image is overly soft. The frame also appears to be slightly cropped compared to the "International" version. In fact, the disparity between the two during their respective endings is night and day, such as this scene off the "international" cut and the same one off the Japanese version. Thankfully, this only effects the ending of the film, leaving the majority of the feature looking fairly spot on, although it's still disappointing to see such a large dip in quality for the movie's climax.

To move on to the "US" version, there are, sadly, going to most likely be a lot of complaints in this respect from purists hoping to get an untouched version of the American Intentional (AIP) cut. To put it plainly: although AIP's original opening titles are included, the rest of the video track is actually just the Japanese cut already found on this set with the dubbed track overlapped. This causes problems with the scenes where the US version had different or additional footage, as the music in these sequences skips while the audio is jumbled around to match the onscreen Japanese cut. Thankfully, these moments are so few that it doesn't detract much from the overall experience. Unfortunately, new onscreen English title sequences were also created for this version, such as here, with less than stellar results.

Finally, to compare the three video tracks, here is an image comparison of the different versions: Japanese, "International", US. As is apparent, they are pretty much identical in terms of quality. If one gets in close enough, though, it can be noted that the "International" has the most detail while the US has the least, which is due to compression. The difference is so minute, though, that it's only worth mentioning for curiosities sake.

Frankenstein vs. Baragon is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 across all three versions, and is Anamorphic for widescreen TVs.


 Audio:

This two disc set contains a wealth of audio tracks across the pair of DVDs, including both a mono and 5.1 surround mix for each version of the film. In terms of the Japanese presentations, which includes the denoted "theatrical" and "international" versions, the 5.1 mix is superb. The new mixes add in some nice speaker distinction while not overdoing the alterations to the original mono presentation. Thankfully, the film's mono track is also included for purists, and sounds fantastic as it's devoid of discrepancies such as audio pops or crackles.

In terms of the US version, unfortunately the disc gets a couple mixed marks here. As previously mentioned, the audio tends to skip around around during the few segments where new or alternate footage was included in the US version, due to the fact that the Japanese cut is being used for the presentation. Otherwise, though, the mono track for the dub is a fairly good representation of the original source. The 5.1 mix, however, doesn't fare so well. The music on this track sounds distorted during several sequences in order to try and add range to the movie's audio, creating a fairly cumbersome listening experience during some scenes. This audio track is also recorded at a much higher audio level compared to the other audio found on the set, making for an occasional shock when switching between tracks.

The audio can be accompanied with, removable, English subtitles. The subtitles only appear for the non-English speaking parts in the film, though.


 Extras:

Given the two disc treatment, it's not surprising that Tokyo Shock has packed Frankenstein Conquers the World with tons of extra content. The star attraction here is an audio commentary by special effects cinematographer Sadamasa Arikawa, who regrettably passed away two years ago in 2005; thankfully, his reflections on the film were recorded by Toho when they initially released this film to region 2 DVD in 2001, which is what's available here. Complete with English subtitles, the audio track, which accompanies the "International" version of the film, presents a wealth of information on the production during the course of the movie. The commentary touches on some pretty interesting topics, although sometimes only briefly, such as the scrapped Frankenstein vs. the Human Vapour concept. Overall, anyone with more than a passing interest in the film should probably set aside some time to hear the track from start to finish.

Another notable extra on this disc is five minutes of deleted scenes. The first minute and a half of this footage is comprised of what could be described as "bloopers", as footage of tanks malfunctioning during the forest raid are shown. The rest of the feature focuses on the altered scenes for the US version, which should be fairly important to viewers as these sequences aren't included with the dubbed version here. An isolated version of the alternate ending with the Giant Octopus, cited as "Extra International Footage", is also available with the extras.

As expected from Tokyo Shock, this disc includes a good supply of trailers, including ones for previously released movies such as Matango (1963) and two trailers for Frankenstein vs. Baragon, including a special announcement "teaser". Rounding out the supplemental material is a incredibly expansive image gallery, which includes: lobby cards (Japan/Germany/US/Mexico), the manga adaptation, theatrical pamphlet, posters (US/Japan), production stills, US publicity material, region 2 DVD package, toys and the Laserdisc package.

As a final note, in terms of the chapters, these are only available for the "International" and US versions of the film, not the original Japanese cut.


 Overview:

Bottom line, there are some mixed things to note about this DVD set, but it's really a fantastic package all in all. Tokyo Shock certainly had its work cut out with this particular release, considering that the commentary track was attached to a version of the film containing the Giant Octopus ending. This means they either had to include it front start to finish or drop the commentary track, and thankfully they went above and beyond to make sure it was still included, despite forcing this to become a two disc set. The state of the US version is of course a little disheartening, considering only the opening titles "survived", but the condition of the "international" cut makes this more than easy to look over and more than merits the package's overall high marks.