More Godzilla on DVD

For decades it was impossible for American fans to see Godzilla films in the original unaltered form (before they were dubbed, re-edited, and sometimes re-shot for U.S. consumption). Thanks to the home video era, that’s changed: last year we reviewed the DVD of 1954’s GODZILLA; and earlier this year we did similar service for GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN and MOTHRA VERSUS GODZILLA. All three of these discs included the American versions of the film plus the original Japanese versions.

Well, now two more titles are about to receive similar treatment: coming out on June 5 will be GHIDORAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER and INVASION OF THE ASTRO-MONSTERS.

Both films feature Godzilla’s greatest opponent, the giant three-headed dragon from outer space. The first is notable for turning the franchise in a decidedly juvnile direction (in one risable but amusing scene, Mothra convinces Godzilla and Rodan to join the fight against the interplanetary invader), but the later is one of the best sci-fi adventure films from the ’60s, with a great performance from American co-star Nick Adams as a heroic astronaut.

INVASION OF THE ASTRO-MONSTERS is better known to American audiences under its U.S. release title, MONSTER ZERO (which was expanded to GODZILLA VS. MONSTER ZERO for previous release on VHS and laserdisc). INVASION OF THE ASTRO MONSTERS is the foreign release version of the film, which Toho Studios had dubbed for distribution to other countries.

I saw a screening of this version of couple years ago, and it is essentially the same movie, with a handful of interestiing oddities: newspaper headlines, signs, and other forms of writing are still in Japanese, despite the English dialogue track, and there is a brief moment when the leader of Planet X lapses into his native language. Most interesting is a brief shot which features the original sound recorded on set, before the film soundtrack was dubbed: Akira Takarada speaks in Japanese to Adams, who responds in English.

By the time these films were made in the mid-1960s the serious doom-and-gloom of the original GODZILLA was long gone, yet these movies are entertaining in their own right, as fanciful (if utterly unbelievable) fantasies. We will check out both discs soon, and let you know what we think.