Chris Mirjahangir: I'm talking today with Curtis Tsui, who has graciously taken time out of his schedule to talk with us about the upcoming DVD and Blu-ray release of the original Godzilla film by Criterion. Mr. Tsui is the producer of this release and therefore has a lot of input in the final creation that Criterion will distribute.
First, thank you for your time and I would like to jump into things with a little about the backstory and other releases of this film on the market. In particular, Toho released a Blu-ray version of Gojira a couple of years ago but the film clearly did not have the level of quality that it does in this release. How did Criterion acquire different materials for not only Gojira but for Godzilla King of the Monsters for this release?
Curtis Tsui: Toho was great enough to let our technical director Lee Kline supervise a new transfer of the '54 original from their own 35mm fine grain. I happy you approve of the telecine. We definitely want to attract new viewers to the movie, but if the die hard G-fans are pleased then so are we. Godzilla King of the Monsters took some tracking down from different parties, and no one element we looked at was 100% perfect, so we used both a 16mm neg and 35mm fine grain for that one.
Mirjahangir: Considering the fact that this is a massively historic release, why is there no image gallery with images of concept art and set photos along with pre-production photos and movie posters?
Tsui: Because the Classic Media (and subsequently the BFI) edition of Godzilla uses so much preliminary and promotional art in those terrific pieces by Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski, I wanted to avoid attacking the material in the same way. First, they did a great job. Second, those editions are still going to be in print. I bought and own both, so I wanted to go in directions that would allow more video interviews, which we were fortunate enough to be able to do ourselves or license.
Mirjahangir: Why was Godzilla chosen for the "Criterion treatment" and how much work in the restoration process was involved (print transfer/audio cleanup etc)?
Tsui: Well Godzilla was always something that Criterion was interested in, even before I joined the company. You might remember that there were intentions to release the '54 original with some other films on laserdisc back in the day. I guess something fell through at that point, but the company president and CEO never gave up on it and so things finally fell into place for DVD and blu-ray. There were definitely a good number of weeks devoted to both films (Godzilla and Godzilla King of the Monsters) with three digital restoration software packages going into the picture restoration alone. Audio tends to go faster than picture restoration, but that department still had their work cut out for them considering the age of the material.
Mirjahangir: Godzilla has a near 60 year history with millions of fans worldwide and it has been said that this release has had the highest number of pre-order sales in Criterion's history. Were you aware from the beginning of how many fans Godzilla has? What is your take on Godzilla fans?
Tsui: This pre-order figure has been brought up to me so often by outside parties that I finally tried to find out a definitive answer, and I'm sorry to say that the "highest number of pre-order sales in Criterion's history" is a rumor -- although there's no way for us to know if it's a true or untrue supposition. We basically have no figures in yet on pre-order sales for January so noone knows the exact figure as of yet.
However, I was definitely aware of Godzilla's fanbase. Although I absolutely don't consider myself an expert, I have been a fan since seeing Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975) when I was 8 and I leapt at the chance to produce this release when I found out that we managed to get the rights. And without the fans a good amount of things wouldn't have happened on this release, so I'm absolutely thankful for them.
Mirjahangir: In closing, I would like to note that the high resolution images used in this interview are Courtesy: The Criterion Collection
Curtis Tsui has worked for Criterion since 2000, being with the company for much of its time spent releasing DVDs and more recently Blu-rays as well. Tsui has been the producer on many of the company's releases, including several disc releases for Toho movies such as House (1977) and more recently the original Godzilla (1954).
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