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Saturday, June 2, 2007

Ghidorah The Three Headed Monster DVD Review

Video: Since there are two different versions of the film on this DVD, it would follow that we should review the merits of each version on its own. Starting first with the Japanese version, the Japanese version is pretty good, but not perfect as there is still some moderate to light print damage on various parts of the film. This is understandable considering that this film while stored and kept in good condition has never been fully digitally restored. It is not horrible by any means (it seems present during the credits mostly). The colors are strong and vibrant. The scenes in the mountains are excellent examples of how rich and colorful director Ishiro Honda made this picture.

The American version is an interesting beast in terms of video. It seems that Classic Media took a page from the release of Shogun Assassin where the US version was re-created from the ground up using the US version as a guide and the Japanese master as the materials to re-build the US version. It should be noted that the original US credits are here and proper widescreen, which is something I have never seen before in my life (so I am obviously happy about it), even if it is a little rough in terms of print quality. It should be mentioned that the Continental logo does not appear or "THE END" which does appear on certain VHS release (it's a shame since the US version of Invasion of Astro-Monster, has everything present). It does seem that this version correctly follows the US version and is NOT the early work-print that appeared on Canada's CBC earlier in the year. However, we're having someone check just to make sure, but at the moment it seems to follow the US version correctly and that the audio has been re-dubbed correctly. The video quality is the same as the Japanese version and does not seem to suffer from any heavy compression, although the picture is a little soft at times (that could be a choice of the director, but I think it may be due so many features being on one dual layer disc). Still its not a horrible problem and should not dissuade anyone from getting the film. Both versions are also in the correct aspect ratio for the entire film and are properly anamorphically enhanced for widescreen TVs.

Audio: Both films come with Japanese and English mono tracks and both sound clear and free of hiss or damage (with the exception of some small section of the US version, but thankfully it does not last for too long; it is the sequence during the hypnosis). The US version really sounds clean and maybe has had some restoration work done to it. Either way I can say I'm very happy with the presentation of the audio options. The US version is a lot cleaner that any version of it I have ever heard before and a lot of dialogue that I could never hear clearly (such as the hecklers asking if the Princess is a boy or a girl), can now be understand clearly.

Extra: The DVD is pretty nice in regard to the extras. First you get the US version, but I really don't consider it to be any extra as much as the important bookend to the Japanese version, but hey thats just me. First off, for the US version you get an amazing commentary from David Kalat author of A Critical History and Filmography of Toho's Godzilla Series among many other books coupled also with his work for ALL DAY ENTERTAINMENT (which has put out some great trailer compilations and other DVDs). This is a commentary which is fact-filled (talking about the overlapping of productions at the time and an important look at screenwriter Shinichi Sekizawa) and filled with a deep analytical look at the genre. This track is a great listen helped by the fact that David Kalat really loves this movie and is blessed with an amazing enthusiasm that only a handful of commentators have. While you may not like his opinions on dubbing (I do, so I guess I'm lucky) you'll be hardpressed to name a commentary filled with as much love or enthusiasm as this one. David never stops once he starts and you'll be happy for that after listening to this commentary track (which is accessible and synced to the US version). A nice surprise was that Guy Tucker, who recently passed away, is mentioned and quoted from on this and also the Astro-Monster commentary. It is a nice touch and tribute to one of the most unsung heroes of Godzilla and giant Japanese monster research, and who without the knowledge about the genre, we would still be lacking. It is only hoped that more people will discover his work Age of the Gods from this track.

While not an extra it should be mentioned that the full motion menus are amazing and worthy of praise, with excellent use of posters to help create a vibrant and wonderful menu setup.

There is also a nice audio biography (accompanied by pictures) of Eiji Tsuburaya which was written, produced, and narrated by Ed Godziszewski and as can be expected by anyone who has read the works of Ed, it is in-depth (and loaded with rare and unseen photos). This makes one even more excited for the upcoming official English langauge biography of Eiji Tsburaya that August Ragone has coming out from Chronicle Books in November. The extra lasts roughly seven minutes.

There is also a brief poster slideshow which is also nicely annotated explaining each of the posters. This is also the case with the image gallery which is filled with information on the films and accompanies each pictures.

There is also the subbed original Japanese trailer (which can be found under the Japanese versions extra menu). Hopefully in the future, Classic Media can add some of the US trailers for these films. One for this film is actually available on the All Monsters Attack DVD, which is actually from ALL DAY ENTERTAINMENT.

Final Thought: Although the picture could have been cleaned up a little more (a minor complaint), this DVD edition from Classic Media is the best edition out there and pretty much a must buy for anyone who has even the slightest interest in these films.

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