Matt Greenfield

Anthony Romero: I'm talking with Matt Greenfield, a long time champion of releasing Toho and other Japanese films inside the United States. This particular interview is centered around the recent announcement that Kraken Releasing with Section23 Films is publishing a DVD and Blu-ray release of The Return of Godzilla (1984).

First off, for those unfamiliar with your work, you have been very involved in this space for a number of years. You were a co-founder of A.D.Vision which released a large number of Toho films in the United States that included Destroy All Monsters (1968), Yamato Takeru (1994 - as Orochi the Eight-Headed Dragon), GunHed (1989) and also the Toho distributed Heisei Gamera films, such as Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995). Can you describe a bit about yourself and your background in this space?

Matt Greenfield: I've been doing this professionally for 25 years, so that's a lot to squeeze down. Suffice it to say that I've been a huge fan of monster movies, special effects and animation for most of my life, and in the early 1980s I discovered that, if you had the right contacts, it was possible to purchase videos and other products directly from Japan. That opened a whole new world and led to a rather severe Japanese laserdisc addiction and a rapidly expanding collection of anime and tokusatsu films. This was in the pre-internet days and anime was something that most people in the U.S. had never even heard of, let alone built a sizable horde, and I soon found myself drafted into running what would become Houston's largest anime club, as well as writing for fan publications, helping run video rooms at cons and so on. Obviously I wasn't the only person who found all this stuff fascinating, and I realized that the right person with the right product knowledge could probably turn this odd hobby into a nice little business. That path led to my meeting John Ledford, who had similar ideas and had been importing Japanese video games, and in 1992 we formed A.D.Vision/ADV Films, which quickly became one of the major players in the then embryonic anime market.

In the beginning, ADV's business model was focused entirely around releasing anime in Japanese with English subtitles. However, while we were far more successful than I'd dared hope for, it soon became clear that if we REALLY wanted to expand our market, we were going to have to start dubbing our titles into English as well. The problem was that there weren't many companies that were dubbing anime back then, and most of what was dubbed wasn't regarded well by a lot of fans. After talking to a number of companies, it became clear that if we were going to get the kind of work we wanted, we were going to have to make a really long term commitment and build our own studios and talent pool. So, since I had a background in film and theater, I got tasked with building a dubbing studio and spent most of the next fifteen years locked in an (acoustically) padded room writing and directing ADR.

Gamera: Guardian of the UniverseAt the same time, the companies we were dealing with in Japan also frequently handled live action films. ADV's very first title, Devil Hunter Yohko (1990), had been produced and distributed by Toho, for example. We didn't make the jump for the first few years, however, as we were overwhelmed just keeping up with the demand for anime. But when Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995) came out in Japan, we knew we had to have it. Suddenly we had the rights to one of the greatest kaiju films of all time and I had the dream job of writing and directing the dub. I even fulfilled my ambition being in a Kaiju movie by voicing the first poor guy who gets eaten by Gyaos and a bunch of the other victims. Needless to say, Gamera turned out to be a big hit for us, and even ran on premium channels like Showtime and The Movie Channel. That led to our releasing a number of other Japanese live action films, as well as handling home video distribution for Jim Henson's Farscape, Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda, Mutant X, Beastmaster and animated series from other companies like Mainframe's Reboot & Weird-ohs, and DIC's Sailor Moon. To be honest, it's hard to remember which ones came in which order, as we'd gotten so busy by that point that we had multiple production lines running and would have dozens of titles in negotiation at the same time.

What I do remember quite well, though, was when Sony announced that they were going to produce an American Godzilla® film. Amazingly, no one had picked up the home video rights to Destroy All Monsters (1968) yet, which had been my all-time favorite kaiju epic growing up. (I've long wondered if the only reason it hadn't been grabbed up by a major distributor was that it didn't have the word Godzilla® in the title.) It was a really straightforward release: just Toho's English Dub on VHS and later DVD. We did push for a Japanese language version with English subtitles and widescreen, but only ended up getting the latter. Ironically, DAM would be the only actual Godzilla® film we handled at ADV, but we did manage to get a number of the Toho soundtrack rights for U.S. compact disc. And since we also handled Gamera 2[: Advent of Legion] (1996) & Gamera 3[: Revenge of Iris] (1999), the Daimajin Trilogy, the Yokai Monsters series, Yamato Takeru (1994), Gunhed (1989), and even the very strange North Korean kaiju epic Pulgasari, I can't really complain. Add in doing the dubs for a lot of major anime titles – Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gantz, Noir, Excel Saga, Rahxephon, Macross and I really find it kind of amazing how many incredible and iconic shows I've managed to be involved with over the years. In the end, though, all I've been doing is picking up the kind of shows I've enjoyed since I was a kid and making them more available to people with similar tastes.

Godzilla vs. HedorahSo, when I started up the Maiden Japan and Switchblade Pictures labels a few years back, it was probably inevitable that I was also going to end up distributing Kaiju films again. And when Legendary started talking about a new American Godzilla® film and Toho told me that Godzilla® vs. Hedorah™ (1971) was available, it was just kismet. ADV had a label for live action films called Rubbersuit Pictures and I wanted something equally memorable for our first three kaiju releases, and thus Kraken Releasing was born.

Romero: As a fan yourself of the kaiju genre, can you go into how you first got started into following Japanese giant monster films and in particular the Godzilla franchise?

Greenfield: Okay… we're literally going to go back a half century to the first time I ever saw Godzilla. I was around 5 years old and a friend's older brother had just bought the Aurora model kit with that incredible James Bama artwork. It made a huge impression on me, enough that I vividly recall an epic dream about Godzilla® stomping over my school, but it would be another five years before I finally got to see Godzilla® on film. This was before cable TV and VCRs, when your chances of seeing a particular film were completely dependent on whether a broadcast TV station in your area had a copy of it in their library or if it happened to show up at a local movie theater. And if it happened to be on when you couldn't catch it, that was just your bad luck and you had to wait forever for the film to come back around. I think a big part of why I ended up becoming such a collector and ultimately ended up in film distribution had to do with the frustration I felt back then. Of knowing that there were these amazing shows out there, somewhere, but never really knowing if I'd ever get a chance to actually see them.

Fortunately, my Godzilla® drought finally ended in a big way when I was ten. I was a NASA brat, and after five years in Albuquerque and Alamogordo, New Mexico, where the science fiction and horror pickings had been fairly lean, we moved to the Washington DC area. Since the Washington and Baltimore TV stations' areas of coverage overlapped in the part of the Maryland suburbs where we lived, we got a double helping of network affiliates. Better yet, each city also had several highly competitive independent channels whose programming consisted almost entirely of movies and reruns, including several competing Creature Feature type shows. Suddenly there were monster movies everywhere. In just the first week, while we were still staying in a hotel waiting for our townhouse to be ready, I finally saw the original Godzilla® (1954) as well as Gamera vs. Guiron (under the U.S Release title of Attack of the Monsters). I hadn't even known Gamera had existed, but rocket powered giant turtles, dinosaurs with knives for heads and cute Japanese girls who eat brains? What kind of geniuses came up with this stuff? And it just kept getting better. One of the very first shows I watched in our new home was King Kong vs. Godzilla® (1962) and I even got my first big screen kaiju experience a few months later when King Kong Escapes (1967) ran at a "kiddie matinee" that was clearly being run by someone who was a major SF/Horror geek… how else to explain that the same run also included When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, Captain Sinbad, and Hammer's in-no-way-appropriate for kids Curse of the Mummy's Tomb?

Godzilla vs. MegalonSadly, though, "Godzilla® vs. the Smog Monster" never played at a theater near me, so my first Godzilla® theatrical experience ended up being Godzilla® vs. Megalon (1973). It was great to finally see the Big G at something close to life size, but missing Hedorah™ in the theater was the beginning of many more disappointments for my Godzillaholism. Godzilla® vs. Gigan (1972) got skipped for theatrical release, and while I saw TV ads for "Godzilla® vs. the Bionic Monster", both it and Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975) were no shows as well. Fortunately the tide finally started to turn with the Home Video boom. By the time "Godzilla® 1985" hit the U.S., I'd moved to Houston and was heavily involved with importing laserdiscs, so a Japanese pressing of The Return of Godzilla® (1984) quickly joined my collection. That was the first time I'd ever been able to look at both versions of the same kaiju film at the same time, and while I could appreciate some of the things that had been done with G85, it seemed a bit unfair that U.S. fans weren't going to be able to see the original, uncut version that Japanese audiences had enjoyed. Someday, I thought, someone's really going to have to do something about that…

Romero: Well, with that in mind, I now want to dive right into what's on everyone's mind, and that is the upcoming release of The Return of Godzilla (1984). I imagine it's no secret how hotly anticipated this is by fans, a 34 page speculation thread about its release exists on our forums as proof. Godzilla fans are a pretty passionate bunch, though, and it's been known that Toho was sitting on the rights for the 1984 film waiting for some old contractual agreements to resolve. So this has been a long time in the making. Can you describe how Kraken Releasing ended up acquiring the rights in the end? Was it a long process?

The Return of GodzillaGreenfield: I guess I've gotten a bit jaded about the whole acquisition process, where the rule is that it takes as long as it takes. As a comparison, Kraken's sister label Maiden Japan is about to release Den-noh Coil, which I first started making inquiries on back in 2007, and I've just wrapped the deal on another property after nearly four years of lawyers going back and forth. So, from my point of view, the acquisition of The Return of Godzilla® (1984) was really straightforward. Toho's known about my interest in their classic films for many years, and we've had a good relationship on the films we've licensed in the past. We've known roughly when these rights were going to clear for a while now, so once they did, there were a couple of offers and counteroffers and then we had it.

Romero: Kraken Releasing already has three Godzilla titles under their belt. The video quality on some of them, especially Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966), are arguably the best seen on Blu-ray for the character. How do you expect the video quality for The Return of Godzilla (1984) to stack up to these and are you able to disclose the source you will be using?

Greenfield: Our masters came from Toho, but I should point out that that's where we got the masters for our previous releases as well. The important thing is that we've got a great production team, with a lot of experience in film restoration and mastering, and these guys love the chance to stretch their muscles on something that isn't animated. I imagine that most folks should be pretty happy with how it looks and sounds.

Romero: It's mentioned that the film will include an English dubbed version. Will this be the International dubbing that was done back around the film's release, or will this be a new dubbed track?

Greenfield: It's the international track. At least, it's the dialog tracks that are in the international track, but we received them as separate elements and it won't be the exact same mix you've heard before.

Romero: Would it also be possible to know what type of audio to expect on the release? In Japan, there have been 5.1 surround releases, 2.0 channel stereo releases and also a mono release, which contains the famous "death cry" when Godzilla falls into the volcano at the end.

Greenfield: Actually, they're still working on it and as I've been knee deep in directing the dub for the English language version of Den-noh Coil, I haven't had time to sit in on it as much as I would like. We're working on 5.1 versions of both tracks, but we've got the 2.0 versions as a fallback.

Romero: The press release made it sound like it will not be included with this release, but is there any chance the Godzilla 1985 version might be part of this release? If not, is there any chance we might see it released separately at a later date? Godzilla 1985 tends to be one of the more well regarded US edits of the Godzilla films, which our staff has highlighted a few of the positive changes it made, regardless of the fact that the Japanese cut is universally regarded as the superior one.

The Return of GodzillaGreenfield: No, there won't be any G85. We tried, but there are just so many problems involved with that version. There was a time when film distributors could buy all rights to a title, in perpetuity, and then do anything they wanted with it. That's why the U.S. has What's Up, Tiger Lily [Key of Keys (1965)] and not full English releases of the International Secret Police films. But times have changed and both the companies and the entertainment companies are getting a lot more vigilant as the film business has transitioned from a number of smaller national markets that existed in comparative isolation to a much more globalized model. Once you start rearranging scenes and adding new actors, additional music, etc., things start to get out of control, and G1985 is one of those scenarios.

Romero: Has a title been decided upon for the new release? The past three entries by Kraken Releasing used a combination of the original US title and the International title. Will The Return of Godzilla (1984) use the same approach?

Greenfield: Yes. One of our philosophies behind our pricing and marketing has always been to assume that there are a lot of people out there who are casual Godzilla® fans. We try to keep the prices low for impulse buying and our packaging tries to include the official name that the hardcore fans know as well as the one that the nostalgia buyer is likely to remember. That's a little tricky this time around, as what we're releasing isn't the exact same film as Godzilla® 1985, so we've gotten as close as we can by combining the original Japanese title and the date.

The Return of Godzilla

Romero: Are there currently any plans for any extras to be included on the release? I know the prior titles from Kraken Releasing were light in this area, although they did feature trailers.

Greenfield: At the moment the plan is just the trailers.

Romero: This will be Kraken Releasing's 4th Godzilla title. Are there any plans to produce more, such as Son of Godzilla (1967) or Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974) which neither has been released after they went out of print from Sony some years back.

Greenfield: We'd love to do more and Kraken is already working on some other live action projects that should make genre fans very happy.

Romero: Has Kraken Releasing explored going after other Toho titles outside of the Godzilla franchise? While most of these were released to DVD at one time, many have had their rights lapse and some have never been made available on Blu-ray, such as Frankenstein vs. Baragon (1965).

Greenfield: Absolutely. There have actually been a few titles that we've been talking about that we haven't done simply because HD materials… and sometimes even DVD quality materials… don't exist yet. That's a big factor, as it's really hard to get retailers to make a large buy in on a release of an older title these days if there isn't a Blu-ray option. And without a big buy in, the retail cost of the DVDs has to go up. There are some shows that I'd love to do that I can't imagine enough people being willing to buy to make it worth the cost of the license, let alone the price to create HD materials. I sometimes wonder if we should set up a Kickstarter for some of the really obscure stuff like, say, Buruuba, just to see if anyone besides me would actually be willing to pay for it.

Romero: In closing, would like to thank Mr. Greenfield for speaking with us today and also for his continued efforts to see this film released to market, as I know it's hotly anticipated by Godzilla fans.


Interview: Matt Greenfield (2016)


Matt Greenfield is a producer who has long been involved in helping to release Japanese productions in the United States. A co-founder of A.D. Vision and now a co-founder of Kraken Releasing, Greenfield continues to bring Japanese films to home video outside of the country, such as with The Return of Godzilla (1984).

Date: 05/27/2016
Interviewer: Anthony Romero


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