Blu-ray: Godzilla - The Showa-Era Films

Order

Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films


English Blu-ray Title (Region A)

Godzilla - The Showa-Era Films, 1954-1975

Sound:

Japanese (1.0 Mono), English (1.0 Mono)

Subtitles:
Length:
Release:
Company
:
Discs:
Aspect Ratio:

English
96/82/97/89/93/94/86/85/89/69/85/89/81/84/83 minutes
2019
Criterion
8
1.37:1 / 2.35:1 Anamorphic

Movies:

Godzilla / Godzilla Raids Again / King Kong vs. Godzilla / Mothra vs. Godzilla / Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster / Invasion of Astro-Monster / Ebirah, Horror of the Deep / Son of Godzilla / Destroy All Monsters / All Monsters Attack / Godzilla vs. Hedorah / Godzilla vs. Gigan / Godzilla vs. Megalon / Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla / Terror of Mechagodzilla

Blu-ray

Extras

  • Menus (English)
  • Chapters (24 - 22 US version/18/13 - 22 US version/18/22/13/18/15/17/12/15/16/13/16/15)
  • Trailers: Godzilla
  • Audio commentary by David Kalat (English)
  • Audio commentary by David Kalat for Godzilla King of the Monsters 1956 (English)
  • Composer Akira Ifukube interview on the 1954 Godzilla (50 minutes)
  • Effects technicians Yoshio Irie and Eizo Kaimai interview on the 1954 Godzilla (30 minutes)
  • Japanese film critic Tadao Sato on the 1954 Godzilla (14 minutes)
  • Actor Akira Takarada on the 1954 Godzilla (13 minutes)
  • Suit actor Haruo Nakajima on the 1954 Godzilla (10 minutes)
  • "The Unluckiest Dragon" illustrated essay (9 minutes)
  • Godzilla photography featurette (9 minutes)
  • Toho Unused Special Effects Complete Collection (58 minutes)
  • My Life in Film: Ishiro Honda (58 minutes)
  • Creating Godzilla's Theme (15 minutes)
  • Man of Many Faces: Bin Furuya (8 minutes)
  • Hand Crafted Artistry: Alex Cox on Godzilla (6 minutes)
  • Launching Jet Jaguar with Tsugutoshi Komada (6 minutes)
  • 11 inches long by 14.5 inches tall art book

Captures


Review

By: Anthony Romero

The entire Showa Godzilla series in one set... in the United States and with the original Japanese versions. The very premise seems mind boggling just a few years ago, but Criterion pulled just the right strings to get it to happen. In the process this marks the first time that the Japanese version of King Kong vs. Godzilla has been available in the United States, let alone from a set that includes all 15 movies.

Achievements aside, though, it became apparent early on, thanks to Criterion being transparent, that this set was going to use sources provided by Toho. Those sources were to be the transfers they previously created for their own Blu-ray releases from 2009-2014. These... lacked in quality, with poor colors and the image being very soft. Essentially they were not good representations of what a high definition transfer should look like. Criterion did note they would try to clean them up, but you can only do so much. What's more the set was only going to offer a few English dubbing tracks. In fact, of the 15 movies only 6 have dubbing tracks and two have the US versions, so 8 total with English options for the audio.

So with expectations lowered, we have a 15 movie set with lacking visuals, solid audio quality for the options present and almost four hours of bonus material, or well over four hours if one counts the commentary tracks. This is found across 8 discs with the breakout as follows:

Disc 1: Godzilla 1954 + Godzilla King of the Monsters 1956 + Godzilla bonus features
Disc 2: Godzilla Raids Again + King Kong vs. Godzilla US version
Disc 3: Mothra vs. Godzilla + Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster + Invasion of Astro-Monster (+English dub)
Disc 4: Ebirah, Horror of the Deep + Son of Godzilla (+English dub) + Destroy All Monsters (+English dub)
Disc 5: All Monsters Attack + Godzilla vs. Hedorah
Disc 6: Godzilla vs. Gigan + Godzilla vs. Megalon (+English dub)
Disc 7: Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (+English dub) + Terror of Mechagodzilla (+English dub)
Disc 8: King Kong vs. Godzilla Japanese version + general bonus features

This review will cover this set movie by movie to give you an idea of what to expect. It will also tackle each extra feature, even those borrowed straight from Criterion's 2011 Godzilla Blu-ray. While the review depth of each title will be a little less the a normal review, no title is going to be skipped. As a result, this is the longest Blu-ray review we have ever done at over 6,000 words. So buckle up as we tackle Criterion's Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films set.


 Video: Star Rating


Starting with the video quality, and the most controversial element of this release, we have subpar quality almost across the board thanks to the materials Criterion has been given. While Criterion has improved the quality of them, with slightly better black levels and better color contrast on a few, it's still not enough. What's more is that the movies are being crammed several to a disc, increasing the level of compression per title. The only stand outs, quality wise, are those that have been released before and reappear in this set: the original Godzilla and the US version of King Kong vs. Godzilla.

So let's cover this movie by movie and first is the original Godzilla, which has a disc all for itself. This is the only disc in the set that has a movie transfer not provided by Toho or Universal. That said, it also borrows the work Criterion already did on their 2011 Blu-ray release. The end result is something that is sharp, has decent black levels and looks fairly good. Unfortunately, it does sport noticeable amounts of source damage. These signs of damage range from scratches to light flickering to a good amount of grain, although the latter is a fair compromise for the sharpness seen here. For this release, there are also some minor signs of compression as well. As for the American version, which features the Toho logo added at the start before the "A Transworld Release" logo, the version presented here is fantastic. The added footage has stellar quality, with great sharpness and low source damage present. It does feature notable grain. though, but otherwise looks really good here outside of some very minor signs of compression. However, the original Japanese source footage on this version suffers from a lot of scratches and other signs of damage.

Both versions of Godzilla are presented in their original aspect ratio of 1.37:1.

Next we have Godzilla Raids Again, which gives a better preview over what the bulk of this set will look like. On the plus side for this particular movie, the print damage is far less in contrast to the 1954 movie. That said, there are still scratches and flickering, giving the movie an uneven look. The frame is slightly unstable at times, which doesn't help with this. Sadly, one of the biggest faults, and will be a reoccurring complaint, lies in the fact that it doesn't look anywhere near as sharp as it should for the Blu-ray format. It's not bad enough to be mistaken for standard definition, but pales in contrast to the 1954 original on the first disc for example.

Godzilla Raids Again is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1.

Following this we have the first color Godzilla movie with King Kong vs. Godzilla... and a record scratch moment as it's the American version. The original Japanese version is found way on disc eight in this set, so we'll start with the American and then cover the Japanese out of order. So for the heavy US edit, the quality is pretty much on par with Universal's King Kong vs. Godzilla blu-ray release. This means a slightly muted color palette with an image that is slightly too dark, but a good level sharpness to the image. That sharpness brings with it a ton of noticeable grain, however. As a side note, this picture looks slightly more yellow on this release than Universal's, although the difference is minor. Now let's cover the Japanese version, found all the way on disc eight with the extras. This marks the first time the Japanese version has been available in most territories, so it's historic in that respect. As for what's found, it's the unrestored version that was common place prior to the new 4K version created for broadcast. For those unfamiliar with the background: in the 1970's, as part of the Toho Champion Festival, the earlier Godzilla films were edited down and re-released. The first of these was King Kong vs. Godzilla, and the most problematic as the original negative master was cut up to create this version. That's resulted in Toho using subpar elements to fill in the missing segments that were edited out. As a result, this is a Frankenstein-like experience that shifts dramatically in quality during particular scenes or even moments within scenes. So what we have here is the unedited parts looking okay, with minimal print damage although featuring a fair amount of grain. The black levels are both good and at time overpowering, especially during the night sequence with the Giant Octopus where it's hard to decipher details. For the colors, they are not vibrant and there is a slight yellow tint. The sharpness is better than the 1955 Godzilla film in this set, but still not quite what the format is capable of. As for the elements from subpar sources, they are awful. They look blurred, with no sharpness at all, and the black levels are very weak. Essentially like a VHS tape that was recording a televised broadcast prior to the 1990's.

Both versions of King Kong vs. Godzilla are presented in their original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, or Toho Scope.

Next we have Mothra vs. Godzilla on disc 3, which starts the unfortunate trend of placing three movies per disc. It's unfortunate that many of the ones getting their first release in the United States on Blu-ray are getting this treatment, while some that had previously been released like Godzilla vs. Gigan get to enjoy being on a disc with only one other movie. Anyway, the picture quality here is very lacking. The image is definitely on the soft side, lacking sharpness in the details. In fact, of the movies in this set, this one appears the "softess" which is real unfortunate. The color is also tinted yellow and lacks any vibrancy. The black levels are at least deep, but also stick out like a sore thumb because the other colors are more muted. On the plus side, source damage is minimal here, aside from grain.

Mothra vs. Godzilla is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

We are up to Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster now. The colors are a bit more vibrant here, although at a cost. Right off the bat the red title bleeds a lot, losing some details showing probably how the increase in vibrancy was achieved. That said, it's better than the muted tones in the prior film and does a better job matching the black levels, which are nice here. It does create some light halo effects around details in the movie at times, though, which is distracting. This can be seen for example when Naoko Shindo is interviewing early in the movie, as her face seems blurred with glow that creeps onto the blue background. The movie does appear sharper than Mothra vs. Godzilla, but that's not saying much and is overall still soft looking. The halo effect, when visible, also detracts from the detail in the frame.

Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

Looking at Invasion of Astro-Monster, one thing to note is that the yellowish hue to the colors is even stronger on this release. The colors are far from vibrant as well, the closest it gets is the red title card. As for the source used, there is a few more scratches and other signs of damage on this, but nothing drastic. The grain level is pretty noticeable throughout, especially due to the level of compression applied which smears this. As for the detail in the frame, the movie looks on the softer side, especially in contrast to the prior film.

Invasion of Astro-Monster is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

Going to disc 4, we now reach Ebirah, Horror of the Deep. This is the second time this title has hit Blu-ray in the United States, as Kraken Releasing had their Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster! Ebirah - Horror of the Deep edition. While Criterion's is different, featuring the original Japanese title and credits versus the ones Sony created 2005, it's still unflattering to compare the two. The earlier Blu-ray was excellent, Kraken Releasing had a product with excellent, vibrant colors while there was minimal grain but with an image that looked very sharp. This release just doesn't measure up at all. What's sad too is that this movie appears in a step in the right direction compared to the previous few video presentations. The colors are more vibrant for example, noticeable right away on the Go-Go dance competition at the start of the movie where the red shirts pop a little. Grain and print damage is also minimal, and the movie even looks a little more sharp too. Despite all this, it's still a far cry from the quality on the Kraken Releasing offering. As a side note, this release has similar damage during the sequence where Mothra is flying away after knocking over Godzilla, hinting that likely Toho used the same source they provided to Sony to make their "version" in 2005.

Ebirah, Horror of the Deep is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

Heading toward Son of Godzilla, this one has the worst discoloration yet. The entire movie in fact has a brownish yellow tint. Reds, greens and other colors are never vibrant. The shame is that the Sony DVD looked so much better, even with the slight purple tint it had. Source wise for this Blu-ray release, there is minimal signs of damage and the grain is actually lower than prior entries, so there is a plus there. As for the image it is on the softer side, similar to the other titles so far.

Son of Godzilla is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Comparing this to the Sony DVD, one sees that the image was cropped on the earlier release, very noticeable during certain sequences like the dinner scene for example. That said, Sony might have done this on purpose as if you compare scenes like the one where Godzilla is slamming a Kamacuras against the ground you can see outside of the set into the lighting above, which isn't visible on the DVD. There is a screen capture of this above to demonstrate, although it is briefly seen.

Next up is Destroy All Monsters, also marking the second time this title has been released on Blu-ray in the US. This time Criterion goes up against Tokyo Shock's Destroy All Monsters... and actually comes out ahead in the video quality department. While there is a yellow tint here, the contrast is set much better. This doesn't mean the colors are vibrant, because they aren't, but they look improved versus the earlier release. The brightness is also wisely turned down here, while the black levels are much better too. As for the source, there is a consistent level of grain through out that is made worse due to the compression applied, but scratches and other aspects are minimal. Sadly, although not surprisingly, the image is on the softer side here. Quality wise, this is at least a step in the right direction and a little below the presentation for Ebirah, Horror of the Deep here.

Destroy All Monsters is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

Disc 5 is up, with only two movies present so hopefully the compression is less overt, especially as the first of those is only 69 minutes long: All Monsters Attack. Speaking of, this marks the first time the 1969 movie has been released on Blu-ray outside of Japan. As it turns out, out of the "new" films in this set (so not the Criterion Godzilla 1954 or the US edition of King Kong vs. Godzilla) this one actually looks the best. The colors pop a little bit more, although are far from vibrant still, and the black levels are nice. The source used is also in great shape, with grain being on the minor side while the level of compression doesn't cause it to smear as much as earlier ones in this set. Heck, even the detail appears better for what is the norm on this set.

All Monsters Attack is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

Moving on we get to Godzilla vs. Hedorah, which also goes up against Kraken Releasing's offering through Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster! Godzilla vs Hedorah. As before, the comparison is not flattering for this new set. For this movie the colors once more take on a slightly yellow tint to them and are not at all vibrant. Compared to the Kraken Releasing edition, which itself had a slightly more muted colorscape compared to the Sony DVD, the clear winner is Kraken Releasing. The starkest difference between the two, though, is the sharpness of the image, as this release is very soft. This becomes quite pronounced when comparing screenshots between the two editions, which feels night and day between them. On the plus side the source used appears to be in good condition, with almost no scratches and a light but consistent level of grain.

Godzilla vs. Hedorah is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

Now it's on to disc 6 and Godzilla vs. Gigan, another title that Kraken Releasing handled with their Godzilla on Monster Island! Godzilla vs. Gigan. In comparing the two, the Kraken Releasing one had some faults of its own with a ton of grain, to the point it became distracting at times. On the plus side, those grain levels are much more manageable here, although they are still apparent. As for the colors, they actually aren't vibrant on either release. That said, this newer set loses out due to a yellow tint, even though it actually makes King Ghidorah look golden here as opposed to how he appears on the Kraken Releasing edition. The real downfall of this newer release, though, is again the softness in the image. The detail in the frame is just really lacking, which becomes quite noticeable when comparing these versions. On the plus side, this is the original Japanese version of the movie, so marks the first time the comic word bubbles appear on screen for Godzilla and Anguirus' conversations in the US.

Godzilla vs. Gigan is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

Following this is Godzilla vs. Megalon, the last movie from this set that had previously been released on Blu-ray in the United States. In this case it's another battle of Criterion versus Tokyo Shock, and once more Criterion's latest comes out ahead. The driving factor is the colors, which pop marginally more here and the yellow tint, while still there, is less overt. Black levels are also much nicer here, and achieved without having to make the film look too dark as well. Noise levels on the movie are also at their lowest so far for this set, a combo of lower grain and likely lower levels of compression to smear them. Still, the chief complaint remains: the movie looks too soft here.

Godzilla vs. Megalon is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

We are now on the final stretch with disc 7 and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. I will admit, this is the first time I have seen the 1974 film in high definition. This coupled with no cropping in the image, versus the TriStar DVD, is much appreciated on aspects like Anguirus during the intro where his snowy surroundings are more noticeable. Sadly, this transfer has all the same scorn that should be familiar by now. Chief among them is that the image is very soft here for high def. The other is the poor colors, which are once more tinted yellow and are not vibrant at all. This particularly stands out compared to the Sony DVD, which had amazing colors on it. The black levels are also very weak here, as the movie in general looks too bright. On the plus side the source, or sources, used appear to have been in great shape with very little damage present. Noise, both from grain levels and compression, is also on the low side, probably the lowest across all 15 films in this set.

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

For the last film we find ourselves at Terror of Mechagodzilla. Visual quality wise, this one is improved over the 1974 film on the disc. The colors, while not vibrant, are far more natural looking without the strong yellow tint that plague most of the video tracks in this set. The black levels and overall brightness level is also handled well here. There is a bit more noise, sadly, thanks to a combo of grain levels and compression. Otherwise, though, the source used appears to be in solid shape or was restored to solid shape. Once more, though, the detail in the frame is soft, not really taking advantage of what the Blu-ray format is capable of.

Terror of Mechagodzilla is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

 

 Audio: Star Rating


15 movies, 21 audio tracks to review. Surprisingly, the quality is fairly consistent across the titles, at least for the Japanese editions. The English ones tend to range in quality a bit more. These are all presented in one channel, LPCM mono too. Each has removable English subtitles associated with them... except for the Japanese version of King Kong vs. Godzilla. For this version the subtitles have been burned in and can't be removed.

Diving in: first on the list is the original Godzilla movie. The audio here is good, being faithful to the source material and lacking notable audio discrepancies like pops or crackles. Clarity in dialogue could be a tad better, though. Emiko Yamane's lines, as she speaks a little softer than her colleagues in the film, are particularly prone although a lot of the dialogue exhibits this. It's not enough to make it so the viewer can't decipher what's being said, although does reveal the age of the source. As for the American version, it suffers from a similar fate where generally the audio is good but clarity is a little low. This is both for the original Japanese audio heard in this version, but also the added dubbing and new English dialogue as well. The musical soundtrack also sounds a little worse for ware here versus the Japanese version too.

Next is Godzilla Raids Again which also has good audio quality for a 1950's film. Clarity isn't always there in the dialogue, but it's better than the original Godzilla movie. The sound effects, in particular the roars, sound really commanding here when one considers it's a mono track. As for discrepancies, no pops or crackles are heard throughout.

Following this is King Kong vs. Godzilla. Covering the American version first, as it appears first in the set, the audio quality is generally good. Clarity in particular sounds nice versus other home video versions. This is noted right off the bat on the opening title, with the rousing main title by Hans Salter that was lifted from the movie The Golden Horde. As before, the track also doesn't feature any overt audio inconsistencies either. As for the Japanese version, the audio quality is pretty stellar on this one. There is solid clarity in the dialogue and the sound effects, from the roars to explosions, pop for a mono track.

Next we have Mothra vs. Godzilla, which has great clarity in the dialogue. The track has no discrepancies to speak of, and Akira Ifukube's music sounds phenomenal. Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster has similar audio quality here. The dialogue has great clarity, as do the sound effects and music. King Ghidorah's destruction of Tokyo sounds amazing here for example, with the commanding music in full effect as the destruction unfolds on screen.

Moving on we reach Invasion of Astro-Monster, the first film in this set with two audio tracks. This includes the Japanese audio and the "international" English dubbing. The quotes are because this is actually the US version's audio, which features the original voice work by actor Nick Adams. However, because that version was very slightly edited, there are brief moments when the audio reverts to Japanese to have the same runtime. Quality wise both are good. There is nice clarity in the dialogue and no overt inconsistencies, outside of one brief moment at the 35 minute mark on the dub version where the soundtrack sounds like it skips. As a side note, the subtitles correspond to the Japanese audio track and there are no closed captions for the English dub.

Heading to disc 4 we get to Ebirah, Horror of the Deep. This one only offers the Japanese audio, despite the international English dubbing being available on the prior Blu-ray release in the US. As for the quality here, it's good, with distinct dialogue and sound effects while featuring no inconsistencies. For Son of Godzilla we go back to having the Japanese audio and international English dubbing, with this one being the actual international dubbing. Quality is okay on these two, which are very similar. Dialogue clarity is okay, but aspects like Masaru Sato's more big band style score sound on the flat side here, lacking the punch heard on CD releases of the soundtrack. On the plus side, there are no overt inconsistencies at least. Destroy All Monsters is next and has a Japanese audio track alongside the international English dub available. Both tracks are similar to each other in audio quality, which is also a step ahead of what was available for Son of Godzilla as Ifukube's music sounds good here while there is nice clarity in the dialogue.

Going to disc 5 we reach All Monsters Attack. Oddly, this movie only has the Japanese audio available despite the original version and the American version being the same length. It's possible the dub's use of Tony Crombie's music in the intro, heard on the Younger Generation CD, is part of the issue... or Toho simply didn't want it to be used. Regardless, the Japanese audio here is about on par with the earlier offerings: the clarity is good and there are no overt inconsistencies in the track. Going to Godzilla vs. Hedorah, the movie has the same story in terms of only offering the Japanese audio. In this case it's possibly related to the Kraken Releasing titles, since that's a common trait for the three that had been previously released that this set doesn't feature the dubs. Anyway, the Japanese audio sounds great here, with good depth and clarity for the mono presentation.

Checking out disc 6 we get to Godzilla vs. Gigan. Once more a Kraken Releasing title and once more only a Japanese audio track. For what's available, though, the quality is stellar for the mono format, with solid clarity in the dialogue and great depth in sound effects, music and more. It's probably the best audio presentation on this set, in fact. For Godzilla vs. Megalon both a Japanese and English international dub track are available. The Japanese track sounds great, with good clarity and no inconsistencies. For the English dub, though, the dialogue sounds rough at times and lacks the clarity heard from the Japanese track.

Moving to disc 7 for the final lap, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla includes both the Japanese and English international dub tracks. Quality on the Japanese audio is great, with good clarity and even the big band style music of composer Sato pops here. Sadly the international dub doesn't fair as well, with the opening credit song in particular sounding very rough and poorly aged. In fact, the music in general tends to suffer on the dub track as it sounds very flat, even considering this is presented in mono. Heading to the final film in the set we reach Terror of Mechagodzilla. This one also has two audio tracks: Japanese audio track and English dub track. The quality of these is similar to the 1974 Mechagodzilla film, with the Japanese audio boasting great clarity and no overt inconsistencies. The English track, however, sounds rough once more, with the clarity lacking at times. Ifukube's soundtrack in particular suffers on this version.

 

 Extras: Star Rating


Moving on to the bonus material, this set has a lot. It's not heavy on original features, almost all of these were sourced elsewhere, but still accounts for hours of supplements to sift through. To cover this we'll hit the extras by disc, starting with the selection previously released for Criterion's stand alone release for the original Godzilla found on disc 1.

First up is the Godzilla audio commentary by David Kalat, author of A Critical History and Filmography of Toho's Godzilla Series. This commentary is excellent, hitting on behind the scenes elements that went into the production as well as giving a taste of what Japanese audiences would have thought of the movie back in the day. Another commentary track by Kalat on this disc is also included for the American version, Godzilla King of the Monsters. This track is also excellent, and kudos deserved for making both completely unique. The information tackles everything from the story behind the American version to also talking about what American cinema was like in 1956, when the American version was released. Overall, both are great and work as good companions to one another.

Next up, still on the first disc, are a collection of interviews with the cast and crew of the original Godzilla. This includes a 50 minute interview with composer Akira Ifukube, a 30 minute interview with model builder Yoshio Irie and Godzilla suit constructor Eizo Kaimai, a 13 minute interview with actor Akira Takarada along with a 10 minute interview with suit actor Haruo Nakajima. In addition a 14 minute interview is also done with film critic Tadao Sato, who goes over the production history and significance of the 1954 movie. All of these are in Japanese and complete with English subtitles.

Following this are two featurettes on the first disc. One, nine minutes, is in English and on the Lucky Dragon boat, which was near the Bikini Atoll during an H-Bomb test. This talks about the horrible fallout that befell the crew, and how this relates to aspects in the original Godzilla. After this is a nine minute short on photography for Godzilla, introduced by later day special effects director Koichi Kawakita. This extra examines the super imposition work from the original movie, such as placing real world foreground objects behind fiery backdrops, to certain effects like the dissolving sequences for the Oxygen Destroyer. This is a great extra, but shows its age a little during the introduction as it was filmed around the time of The Justirisers (2004), based on the poster in the background, and the source was not high definition.

Finally we have a Japanese trailer for the original Godzilla movie. The audio sounds good on this, but the video quality is quite poor as the trailer is presented way too dark here, obscuring a lot of details. Now all of the features mentioned so far were the same ones presented on the 2011 Blu-ray release of Godzilla. So nothing new, for audiences outside Japan, although nothing missing either from that release.

For the other extras, one has to jump to disc 8 in the set. First up we have the Toho Unused Special Effects Complete Collection feature. Created in 1986 for VHS, so it's in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, the feature covers cut scenes from the special effects movies of Toho. This starts with some behind the scenes footage from Zero (1984) and Zero Pilot (1976), before introducing some of the people behind the movies with contemporary footage, at least for the 1980s, which includes Ishiro Honda, Tomoyuki Tanaka and more. It then explains how the giant Toho pool was created, showing footage from The Storm of the Pacific (1960) and Battle of the Japan Sea (1969) for this segment. Other war films, like The Imperial Navy (1981) are also focused on, before diving into the science fiction films. Mothra vs. Godzilla is first on the list, with some cut scenes that are in poor shape but are still great to see. The sound effects are newly added, along with music from Ostinato. This presents an odd scene where you have the 1964 Godzilla with the sound effects of the 1984 Godzilla walking around. Next is cut scenes from Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Invasion of Astro-Monster and Destroy All Monsters, all of which are presented in much better quality. After this we go outside of the Godzilla series for King Kong Escapes (1967), which also has some cut scenes that aren't in the best of shape. Of extra note, Mechani-kong is given Mechagodzilla's theme here from Terror of Mechagodzilla. Next are cut scenes from King Kong vs. Godzilla, Gorath (1962), Submersion of Japan (1973), Godzilla vs. Gigan, Latitude Zero (1969), Dogora (1964), Frankenstein vs. Baragon (1965), The War of the Gargantuas (1966), The Mysterians (1957) and Atragon (1963). The extra also contains bloopers as well, mixed with funny sound effects. The feature then ends with a clip show of random scenes from films, including then recent movies like Bye Bye Jupiter (1984) and The Return of Godzilla (1984).

Quality wise, the audio sounds a little muffled on the Toho Unused Special Effects Complete Collection, especially the behind the scenes segments. For the video, there are notable signs of compression. In particular chrominance crawl: a rainbow like shimmer over fine details. All in all, this is the best extra on the set and should not be missed. The only negative is it really highlights that Toho themselves should revisit the cut scenes in their archives to create something more recent, something in high definition and widescreen that better highlights the cut scenes and behind the scenes footage. Until they do, though, this extra is a must.

Next we have a My Life in Film extra, which clocks in at 58 minutes. Done in 1990, so also 1.33:1 aspect ratio, this feature has director Yoshimitsu Banno, from Godzilla vs. Hedorah, interviewing director Ishiro Honda. The interview covers elements of Honda's background and working on both his famous and early films as well. The extra is in Japanese with removable English subtitles.

After this is a 15 minute extra with composer Akira Ifukube. The composer talks about his background and work on the Godzilla franchise. This includes the themes but also on creating Godzilla's roar. While the title sequence is newer for this, the footage is older, done in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio and showing overt signs of compression.

Moving on we get to the more recent extras that were created for this release, so these are widescreen in high definition. Man of Many Faces: Bin Furuya is a 8 minute extra on the actor's experience in the early Showa films. This includes talking about Mothra vs. Godzilla, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster and Invasion of Astro-Monster. The feature is in Japanese with removable English subtitles. Following this we have the 6 minute short Hand Crafted Artistry: Alex Cox on Godzilla, where director Alex Cox, whose work includes the 1984 Repo Man, talks about his appreciation for the Godzilla movies, in particular the first. The extra is light on any insight on the productions, but fans of the director might enjoy hearing him speak fondly of the King of the Monsters. This feature is in English with no captions. We also have a new interview with Tsugutoshi Komada, suit actor who played Jet Jaguar in Godzilla vs. Megalon. Komada talks about his experience on the film and gives out a number of facts as well, making the extra quite good. The feature is in Japanese with removable English subtitles.

Rounding out the disc based extras are a collection of trailers. These are for the 1960's and 1970's Godzilla films, so missing is Godzilla Raids Again. Quality wise the trailers all look good here, and are complete with removable English subtitles. Of note is that the trailer for King Kong vs. Godzilla is for Toho Champion Festival re-release. Also the trailers for Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster and Son of Godzilla end abruptly, being slightly cut.

For the final bonus feature we go off disc to talk about the "art" book that acts as a case for the eight Blu-ray discs. This thing is mammoth, measuring 14.5 inches in height and almost 11 inches in length. I really didn't comprehend how hard it would be to store this. It's way bigger than my normal Blu-ray shelf would support. Heck, even my shelf with Toho books wouldn't support it, as that space is only 12 inches in height. My eventual solution was clearing an entire shelf and laying it on its side. At 11 inches in length, it still sticks out a little too. So be warned that finding a place to store this is quite a feat. Anyway, size issues aside, the book itself is nice. It starts with a three page introduction by Japan's Favorite Mon-Star author Steve Ryfle. This talks briefly about the history of Godzilla and Toho itself before talking about the Showa series from entry to entry. This is then followed by a section that features new, original artwork for each of the 15 movies. Next to the art is a blurb about the movie, background and production information from The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Godzilla author Ed Godziszewski. These are also very informative for what the space allows. As for the art itself, the style ranges dramatically as each is by a different artist. The Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster and Godzilla vs. Megalon ones in particular are very out there while others like Ebirah, Horror of the Deep, done by artist Simon Gane who worked on the IDW Publishing Godzilla comics, is more straight forward. A few, like Destroy All Monsters and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, are breath taking and it's here that it's nice to have them in almost mini-poster size because the book is so damn large.

 

 Overview: Star Rating


Overall, I came in with lower expectations for this new set and it... met them. In fact, it was pretty much exactly what I was expecting: subpar video tracks as a whole paired with solid audio presentations that are marred only by exclusions of dubbing tracks. The set also has a a large amount of extras to go through, adding value. In fact, the only thing I hadn't expected was my love-hate relationship with the packaging.

So what's the final verdict? In the end I'd say this is a worthy "budget" addition to Godzilla fans' collections. The idea of a budget release from Criterion feels odd, given they normally charge a premium for high grade editions. Some fans might balk at calling this a budget release too given the $100+ price tag, but at the end of the day one is getting 15 movies for that cost. One thing that I will say is that while this is worth getting, it's also worth hanging on to the Kraken Releasing Blu-rays. Those have vastly superior video quality and dub tracks that were left off this release.