Category Archives: Japanese Live Action DVD Review

Japanese Live Action DVD Review: Godzilla on Monster Island

Japan’s most famous monster is back on the big screen in Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures’ Godzilla. What better time to revisit some of the original movies starring the giant lizard?

Kraken Releasing has just released the Toho 1972 film Godzilla on Monster Island!: Godzilla Versus Gigan on DVD, and you can read on for the review.

Back Cover Blurb

When alien invaders, plans for a children’s theme park and four giant monsters with six heads between them all collide, the result is the inevitable battle for the fate of the Earth. At least, that’s how it is for Godzilla, who teams up with his former spiky foe Anguirus for a tag team match against two of his greatest adversaries: the legendary three headed King Ghidorah and Gigan, the cyborg hench-monster for insidious insect aliens whose plot to wipe out all human life is cleverly disguised as plans for the construction of a new children’s theme park.

Unfortunately for the bug’s diabolical designs, their secret monster control codes are accidentally discovered by comic book artist Gengo Kotaka, who broadcasts the master tape and brings Team Godzilla into play. It’s not going to be an easy fight, though, as the odds are four heads to two, and King Ghidorah’s one of Godzilla’s toughest opponents. With his cybernetic weaponry Gigan is equally ruthless, and his alien masters are as hard to kill as the cockroaches they resemble. Will Earth’s biggest defenders finally fall? Or will Godzilla, and insecticide, triumph over all? Find out in GODZILLA VS. GIGAN!

Audio:
The audio options are English mono and Japanese mono with English subtitles. I noted no issues with the film audio or subtitles.

Video:
The DVD is presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The video quality varies from satisfactory to different levels of graininess, sometimes with white spotting.

Packaging:
The front cover features a promotional poster for the original film, featuring the monsters Godzilla, Gigan, King Ghidorah, and Anguirus along with the human cast. On the back are a few screen shots and a movie summary. No inserts are included inside the case.

Menu:
Various stills from the film are used for the DVD menu backgrounds. There aren’t many options, so it’s easy to navigate.

Extras:
The only extra included with the DVD is the original Japanese film trailer.

Content

It’s called Godzilla on Monster Island, but the film doesn’t have much to do with Monster Island at all. Only a couple brief scenes take place on Monster Island, which serve mainly as cameos for random Toho monsters that don’t otherwise play any role. The impetus for the plot actually has extraterrestrial origins, and the action, for the most part, takes place in Japan’s Tokyo region (of course).

The story begins with Gengo, an unemployed artist who finally lands a job at World Children’s Land, a theme park in the final stages of construction. However, the World Children’s Land Committee is a rather fishy group. For one, its chairman is a teenage kid who can do extremely complicated math. For another, the Committee’s supposed goal is “perfect peace,” but the main attraction of the park is a monster museum in a thirteen-story tower shaped like Godzilla. So when Gengo encounters Machiko, a young woman who claims her brother’s been kidnapped by the Committee, Gengo helps her investigate, and they soon discover that the Committee’s idea of perfect peace involves using space monsters to destroy mankind.

The plot does capture interest from the onset as our heroes search for Machiko’s missing brother and investigate the true purpose of World Children’s Land. However, the story’s not without its weaknesses. Gengo’s a little too quick to believe Machiko’s story and help her (especially since he already has a girlfriend–one with a black belt in karate), and Machiko’s tape player must have an astounding range for the monsters way out on Monster Island to hear it. But then the giant beasties make their entrance, which is probably what most viewers are after anyway.

It starts off with a kind of false start. Godzilla designates Anguirus as his errand boy to investigate the sounds from Machiko’s tape. So Anguirus swims all the way to Japan only to be repulsed by the SDF. The video alternates between actual footage of men in military vehicles and close-ups of miniatures. The models wouldn’t fool anyone, but they do make you wish you had your own tanks to play with.

Then things really get going when the bad guys summon the space monsters Gigan and King Ghidorah. The screen abounds with 1970s pyrotechnics and smashed model buildings as the two destroy Tokyo. However, the segment does get repetitive with the same flying sequences of King Ghidorah as well as the close-up on Gigan’s belly saw blade. There are also a few scenes that are so cheap they are funny. In one, the monsters demolish a room whose “human” occupants are clearly a pair of cheap children’s dolls.

Of course, it’s up to Godzilla to save the day, and he does so, swimming to Japan to do battle with Anguirus in tow. This fight is more graphic than others in the Godzilla series. During the battle at the World Children’s Land construction site, Gigan wounds Godzilla and Anguirus, splattering their blood everywhere. But even with four monsters crashing about the set, certain shots get recycled over and over, and when Godzilla finally takes King Ghidorah down, viewers must sit through the same body slam three times.

As an aside, Godzilla on Monster Island, like Godzilla Versus the Smog Monster, does carry a message of saving the environment. In fact, some of the water pollution footage in Godzilla Versus the Smog Monster gets recycled in Godzilla on Monster Island. However, the message is much more understated in Godzilla on Monster Island than in its predecessor, and this film definitely does a better job achieving its primary goal: entertainment.

In Summary

If you’re looking for a classic sci-fi movie, Godzilla on Monster Island would definitely fit the bill. With its body snatching aliens, gargantuan reptiles, and miniature sets getting knocked to smithereens, it’s got all the elements of a traditional giant monster flick. There are plot holes, to be sure, but between laser wielding aliens in their 13-story Godzilla Tower and a two-on-two battle of Godzilla and Anguirus versus Gigan and King Ghidorah, Godzilla on Monster Island provides plenty of model-smashing entertainment.

First published at The Fandom Post.

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Japanese Live Action DVD Review: Godzilla vs. the The Sea Monster

Japan’s most famous monster is back on the big screen in Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures’ Godzilla. What better time to revisit some of the original movies starring the giant lizard?

Kraken Releasing has just released the Toho 1966 film Godzilla Versus the Sea Monster: Ebirah – Horror of the Deep! on DVD, and you can read on for the review.

Back Cover Blurb

When Ryota’s brother Yata disappears at sea, the intrepid youth and his friends join forces with a slightly trustworthy bank robber, steal a boat and go after him! Of course, there’s the little problem that Yata may be lost on a mysterious island where the evil terrorist organization Red Bamboo has enslaved natives to make heavy water for nefarious purposes. And that means dealing with the island’s monstrous, 164 feet tall guardian Ebirah, as well as Red Bamboo’s arsenal of super advanced weaponry. On the plus side, help may be at hand in the form of a nubile island girl, two tiny fairies, their giant protector Mothra and the big G himself, the mighty Godzilla. Surviving the results of all that “assistance” may not be guaranteed, but Red Bamboo will never want to tangle with teenagers AND Godzilla at the same time again! Take a South Seas cruise to non-stop mayhem and giant monster destruction with EBIRAH- HORROR OF THE DEEP!

Audio:
The audio options are English mono and Japanese mono with English subtitles. I noted no issues with the film audio or subtitles, but the voice acting of the English-speaking cast has a cartoonish flavor which isn’t necessarily a bad fit for this film.

Video:
The DVD is presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and the images are relatively crisp.

Packaging:
The front cover features a promotional poster for the original film, showcasing the monsters Godzilla, Ebirah, and Mothra along with the human cast. On the back are a few screen shots and a movie summary. No inserts are included inside the case.

Menu:
Various stills from the film are used for the DVD menu backgrounds. There aren’t many options, so it’s easy to navigate.

Extras:
The only extra included with the DVD is the original Japanese film trailer.

Content

The subtitle for this film is Ebirah – Horror of the Deep! But there’s nothing horrific about it. This is partly due to its dated special effects. Modern viewers, even young ones, will likely find Godzilla as played by a guy in a lizard costume and the destruction he wreaks upon miniature sets either cute or funny. But clunky effects aside, the script is hard to take seriously.

It starts off when a young man Yata is lost at sea, and his mother refuses to believe he is dead because a mystic says he’s alive. So her younger son Ryota goes to the city to convince the police to search for his missing brother. But instead of recruiting their aid, he teams up with a couple teenagers he meets at a go-go dance marathon and hijacks a luxury yacht from a safecracker thief. While they’re searching the South Seas for his brother, a giant lobster claw rises out of the water and wrecks them on an island inhabited by the nefarious military group Red Bamboo and the natives they’ve enslaved. It’s a bizarre hodgepodge of goofy teen misadventure, spy flick, and Polynesian cultural act. Oh, and giant monsters. Can’t forget about the monsters.

Although it’s called Godzilla Versus the Sea Monster, the monsters don’t actually show up until halfway through the film. Plus, they are a lot sleepier than I remember. Mothra spends most of the film snoozing on Infant Island as its inhabitants strive to wake her up to rescue their captured kin. When Ryota and his friends stumble upon Godzilla in the island caves, they don’t think he’s even alive. Later, there’s a scene where Godzilla corners the heroine, and all the guys can say is, “We’ll have to wait until [Godzilla] falls asleep.” And the big lizard does actually start dozing off!

However, when the monsters catch sight of one another, the destruction begins, though it’s more laughable than the stuff of nightmares. Godzilla’s first match with Ebirah looks more like a game of catch as they whack a giant rock back and forth. When the Red Bamboo’s Air Force takes off against Godzilla, the big monster looks like he’s doing a dance amid the attacking planes, and there’s even upbeat go-go music in the background to complete the effect.

It’s hardly a terrifying film, but that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable. The random plot and old-school effects give it a campy charm. And while the Infant Islanders’ pseudo-Polynesian dance to Mothra does drag, there’s something fun about watching a guy dressed as a lizard stomp apart a blinking model of a military installation.

In Summary

The plot for Godzilla Versus the Sea Monster is flimsy at best. It’s beyond a stretch how it flings a random group of teens, a safe cracking thief, an enslaved Polynesian group, and a terrorist organization with nuclear weapons onto a tropical island guarded by a giant lobster. But if what you’re after is a kind of WWF featuring guys in old-school monster suits, the second half of Godzilla Versus the Sea Monster won’t disappoint.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Japanese Live Action DVD Review: Godzilla Vs The Smog Monster

Japan’s most famous monster is due to return to the big screen May 16 in Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures’ Godzilla. What better time to revisit some of the original movies starring the giant lizard?

Kraken Releasing has just released the Toho 1971 film Godzilla Versus the Smog Monster: Godzilla Versus Hedorah on DVD, and you can read on for the review.

Back Cover Blurb

Forget about acid rain and global warming! The worst ecological nightmare is actually Hedorah, which starts off small but quickly mutates into a giant flying monster capable of wiping out all life on whatever unfortunate planet it lands on! And since Hedorah grows by consuming the toxic gases and chemicals mankind has spilled into the air and water, in the early 1970s that means that its potential growth is unlimited! Fortunately for the human race, the Earth has an ultimate green defender who doesn’t need to sing protest songs or try to enact new laws to get things done. Because nobody, and nothing, can stop Godzilla when he decides to push an environmental issue, and while Hedorah may be the dirtiest opponent Godzilla has ever faced, his name is going to be mud by the time he’s been stomped into the whole Earth a few dozen times. Get ready for the wildest Godzilla film ever as the social concerns and way out fashions of the seventies collide head on with the ultimate in big monster brawls in GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH!

Audio:
The audio options are English mono and Japanese mono with English subtitles. I noted no issues with the film audio or subtitles.

Video:
The DVD is presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The video is satisfactory for the most part but does get grainy in certain scenes.

Packaging:
The front cover features a promotional poster for the original film, featuring the monsters Godzilla and Hedorah along with the human cast. On the back are a few screen shots and a movie summary. No inserts are included inside the case.

Menu:
Various stills from the film are used for the DVD menu backgrounds. There aren’t many options, so it’s easy to navigate.

Extras:
The only extra included with the DVD is the original Japanese film trailer.

Content

Not every Godzilla movie has a message, but Godzilla Versus the Smog Monster does, and it is: Stop polluting or it will come back to haunt you! In this case, the consequences of environmental destruction are personified by the monster Hedorah.

The film begins as a kind of mystery. Something off the shore of Japan is sinking ships, and a professor studying the fish affected by polluted waters discovers a strange mineral life form. That life form is Hedorah. He starts as a small tadpole-like creature, but a diet of ocean sludge and smog beefs it up to a tentacled-terrestrial monster and finally to its ultimate flying form. Able to emit sulfuric acid mist and disgusting slime, Hedorah wastes no time wreaking havoc on Japan. As the monster disintegrates structures and vaporizes people into piles of bones, the professor’s dilemma quickly goes from what Hedorah is to how to stop him.

The solution, as the professor’s son Ken insists, is Godzilla. Although the little boy deems the giant lizard a hero on the order of Superman, Godzilla’s not exactly at humanity’s beck and call. Still, when Hedorah starts shaking things up, Godzilla appears with the aura of a gangster ready to oust an invader from his turf. Unfortunately, Hedorah’s a tough opponent, one constantly gaining in size, until he’s actually bigger than Godzilla.

Although Hedorah makes a formidable enemy, killing thousands and forcing Godzilla to chase it all over the Japanese countryside, the film actually drags. This is partly because the film gets preachy with its environmental message, inundating viewers with images of polluted waters and belching smoke stacks along with animated sequences of how human (and Hedorah) activities are killing the planet. Probably the most bizarre example of this is when the professor’s younger brother is at a disco club and starts hallucinating that everyone is a fish. While I commend Director Banno’s efforts to increase awareness, it bogs the pace of the film.

When Hedorah finally does go down, it’s the result of a joint effort between human and lizard. It’s interesting to see Godzilla and people working toward a common goal, but the final battle goes overlong. Not only does it include an extraneous hippie disco-party anti-Hedorah protest on the mountain, but Hedorah turns out to be the type of monster that needs to be killed multiple times. So when he (and the film) finally reaches the end, it’s a relief.

In Summary

While I commend Director Banno for his efforts to warn against environmental destruction, the entertainment value of Godzilla Versus the Smog Monster suffers as a result. There are some good action sequences as Godzilla struggles to defeat an enemy capable of squirting his eye with acid, but between the professor’s plodding investigation and excessive images of air and water pollution, the pace gets bogged as if mired in Hedorah’s own sludge.

First published at The Fandom Post.