"There is so much writing in English on Japanese cinema that can't be accepted at face value — not because the writers are careless, but because the differences in culture and language are just too intricate. When I see August Ragone's name on a piece of writing, it gives me permission to place my faith in it completely. Among Japanese fantasy film historians, he's the best working in English." —Tim Lucas, Video Watchdog

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Sony Home Video issuing Toho classics to DVD

Should you shelve your Toho Video R2 DVDs or keep them? Read on.

To quote Dr. Immelman from THE MYSTERIANS, "Good news! Good news!" The intrepid Ian Freidman of the HK Film News DVD blog has scored another exclusive interview with Michael Schlesinger of Sony Home Pictures Entertainment, called Return of the Classics. And while they discuss a lot of exciting news about upcoming releases (please check out the site for the complete interview), there is some exciting official news regarding the Columbia-held titles, THE H-MAN (1958), BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE (1959) and MOTHRA (1961). Here are some excerpts:

IF: "So what is the word on releases of dual US/Japanese versions of MOTHRA, THE H-MAN, and the BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE? The grey market has been filled with wide and subbed copies of the Japanese versions, but the English language version has only appeared on badly duped copies from 16MM, making them a desired inclusion."

MS: "The set is penciled in for ’09. It will contain those three plus REBIRTH OF MOTHRA 3 (1998), which somehow got overlooked for DVD. The intent is to have the uncut versions with Japanese tracks as well as the English dubs. MOTHRA and BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE are done; THE H-MAN is proving to be a bit trickier, but it should be completed in time."

IF: "Many fans have hoped that the actual US versions (in terms of credits and US version has opposed to the dub being placed over the Japanese version) will be released; do you think this will be possible?"

MS: "Probably not, since it would require twice as many discs. Besides, why would anyone want the cut-up versions? You don’t see people buying ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA and then saying, “Aw, crap, I wanted the version that was 90 minutes shorter and re-edited in chronological order by some studio hack.” That’s a rather extreme analogy, but you get my point."

IF: "The reason I ask about the US versions is that Classic Media, put both the US and Japanese versions on one disc, if that's not possible, will the US credit sequences be included perhaps as an extra."

MS: "I'm sure some method will be worked out. We certainly don't expect people to try and read Japanese credits!"

IF: "Since some of the US versions were sequenced different and had different music, how will the dubs sync up with the Japanese tracks (do you have separate music, sound effects, and dialog tracks?"

MS: "That is an issue, and one that's holding up THE H-MAN. Again, much of the Toho business might be better posed to Grover [Crisp Head of Sony’s Restoration]."

While this is really exciting news, and it's about time that these films received a DVD release in North America, I'm a bit hesitant about making "hybrid" versions of the films. If Sony's Godzilla releases are any indication, we are not going to get the original Japanese credit sequences. For example, the original Japanese credit sequence for THE H-MAN is far superior than the US version — and longer — with the credits over a montage of a derelict fishing trawler, ending on the ship's wheel, which eerily seems to be steering without a pilot...

Additionally, again going by their earlier Godzilla releases, we will also not see the original Japanese Toho Scope logos at the start of each film — which will be replaced by a modern English version of the logo. This would be akin to cutting out the Shaw Brothers logo and replacing it with one in CGI. No one complained that the Classic Media DVDs contained the Toho logos or the original Japanese credit sequences (although the did drop the pre-logo "Thanks to the Maritime Safety Agency" card from GODZILLA) — nor has anyone complained of such for any other Toho releases by Media Blasters, Animeigo, Criterion, etc.

Actually, we want to have the original Japanese versions. Complete and uncut. Including logos and credits. Personally, I don't understand the need for creating these hybrids (except for possible television airings). While it may be too early to call foul at this point, we've been waiting for a decent release of these films for so long, that perhaps we're being a a little too nitpicky. For now, we're just going to have to wait and see if this is the case, or it's all much to do about nothing.

In meantime, keep checking back when more news breaks on either this blog or HK Film News DVD. Ian says that he's working on a follow-up interview with the man in charge of these restorations.

Thanks go out to Ian Freidman and Brad Thompson for passing this along to me, and Michael Schlesinger for pushing these releases through — salute!

UPDATE 07/09/08: When the major differences in the U.S. and the Japanese versions were brought to his attention, Michael Schlesinger responded thusly: "After the interview was published, I was informed that THE H-MAN and MOTHRA were not merely shortened but had scenes rearranged and some alternate footage. So yes, it would be best if both versions were included on those two. I'll be bringing this up when the time comes."


Lee Merritt said...

Damn this is great news! Thanks for posting this news August!

Timothy said...


Thanks for the great news! I appreciated your talks at G-Fest this year...particularly the one on Ultraman. Having not watched Ultraman as a kid growing up in the mid-80's, I never really invested any time in the series. After your talk, I decided to order the DVD series and am looking forward to viewing them. Keep up the great work and thanks also for signing your book as well!

Unknown said...

that's great news. i never thought i'd see the day these got official releases. glad to see they are giving them the 5 star treatment and not throwing some garbage together for a quick buck

Rob G. said...

"Besides, why would anyone want the cut-up versions?"

Sometimes I really feel like I'm in a minority, but as much as I love seeing the original Japanese versions, I still really enjoy watching the US versions that I grew up with. I greatly appreciate the discs that Classic put out and I thought that might prove that there are people who want to see the "cut-up" versions. Guess not.

Anonymous said...

Yeah Rob G. I agree with you man its sad cause most people grew up with the american cuts and were not shown the japs versions until later on even myself I am sad to see that Sony has not learned but than again back when they were releasing for the 50th of godzilla they did not even come to take a look at american cuts treated this the same way. I would love hte cut versions dont matter that a studio head did them cause thats what makes any part of a dubbing nad american version entertaining.