November 30, 2006

DVD Review: Godzilla vs. Mothra

Two years after Godzilla fended off King Kong (depending on which version you saw) and eight years after Godzilla Raids Again, Toho worked up a new G-suit, brought over a giant moth following her popular outing three years prior and paired them up in what would become an instant Godzilla classic.

Mothra vs. Godzilla is a film that delivers first rate monster fighting, an interesting human tale, and singing little women. It had been such a long time since I had seen this film that I had forgotten just quite how good it was. It is considerably different from the first pair of Godzilla flicks which sought to maintain a much more serious aura throughout. This time there is a healthy dose of humor from the story satirizing the greed that people can possess. There is a nice chunk of monster fighting and miniature real estate destruction, and it also has some great music.

This DVD from Classic Media comes with both the American and original Japanese versions. The first thing I did was pop in the English dubbed take. What I found was a version that was very faithful to the Japanese. The translation and voice acting are both quite excellent, unlike Godzilla Raids Again, there seems to have been a strong focus on telling the story properly in the translation and an attempt in the voice recording to deliver believable performances.

The story picks up in the midst of a typhoon. During the storm, a giant egg is washed ashore. An unscrupulous businessmen, using all of his acumen, decides to charge a fee for tickets so that the public can view the egg and he can make a mint. Little does he know that the egg is not his to do with as he pleases. Tiny twins from Infant Island arrive to request the return of the egg. It belongs to Mothra, the guardian of their home, and the result of nuclear testing which has decimated the island.

While the negotiations regarding the egg continue something else comes into play that will have a siginificant effect on the egg's future. Godzilla was awoken by the violent storm, and sensing a nearby threat makes a beeline through Japan, heading right for the egg. This is Godzilla before he became a child's playmate, here he is an uncaring force of nature, nothing will get in his way. This sets up the confrontation between Mothra, defending her egg, and Godzilla, seeking to pretty much destroy anything.

The battle rages between the two, leading to the eventual demise of the heroic Mothra. However, all is not lost as the egg hatches, revealing two larvae who set out to avenge their mother. That leads to an all out war with the humans getting in on the act trying to take down Godzilla with an electrified net, an interesting failure. Also, in the American version there is a spectacular battle between American ships and the giant monster on a beach, it is a finely executed attack, and one of the finest of the series.

By today's standards the effects look terrible. However, there is a certain charm, an endearing quality, to these man-in-suit monster movies. Japan seems to have locked down the monster movie market, creating some of the best, with Godzilla right at the top. To its credit, Mothra vs. Godzilla has some fine miniature work and some nice composits putting real people into the frame with Godzilla. This movie also features what may be the most iconic look of the monster with his menacing glare, long tail, and large row of scales up his back. So, his face wobbles a bit, I can forgive it.

Audio. Both versions are presented in Dolby Digital stereo, both sound pretty good. Neither one will blow you out of the water, but they are serviceable and do the job well. This is probably the best they have sounded since their initial release.

Video. The two films are presented in different aspect rations with video quality of differing levels. The American version is transferred from a 1.85:1 print that suffers from a decent amount of print damage. Even still, it looks pretty good, colors are a bit washed out, but there is a nice detail level. The ratio makes some of the scenes feel cramped, but it is not awful. The Japanese version is in TOHO-scope, a ratio of 2.35:1. It too, has the washed out colors, but there is virtually no print damage, however it suffers from a slightly lesser detail level than the American version. Despite the not perfect transfers, they are highly watchable and are the best that I have ever seen them.

Extras. They are few, but worthy.
  • Poster Gallery. This is a look at the various posters used over the years, set to a music suite from the film.
  • Biography of Akira Ikufube. This is a nice tribute to the man behind the music. The music that he made for these films is huge, epic, and monstrous, and highly enjoyable even when not watching the movie. This ten minute featurette gives some information on his involvement, and how he was encouraged not to sign on.
  • Commentary. Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski team for this highly informative track. There is a lot discussed, and also includes some archival recordings of people involved in the dub work. This is definitely worthy of spinning up. It only accompanies the American version.

Bottomline. This is a very nice release, one that belongs in any Godzilla fan's collection. The film stands as a shining example of a quality kaiju film. It has a great score, interesting human characters and first rate battles. You're going to like this one.

Highly Recommended.

The DVD is available exclusively through Classic Media. It will be available in retail outlets in the Spring of 2007.


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