"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

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

3 Classics Being Readied for the Big G's 60th!


Toho International poster for GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER.

Houston-based Section23 Films is on a roll... the aggressive company formed out of the ashes of ADV Films, with its various niche labels, including Sentai Filmworks (tackling classic anime titles such as GATCHAMAN and CASSHAN), are moving into the realm of live action films and tokusatsu eiga (Japanese Visual Effects films) with their newest label, Kraken Releasing — focusing on titles for mainstream audiences. Their first target: Godzilla. Just in time for the 60th Anniversary, Kraken has announced that they have licensed three very disparate Godzilla titles for DVD and BD (Blu-ray) release — their press release (dated January 21, 2014) only discusses the titles acquired: EBIRAH, HORROR OF THE DEEP, GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH and GODZILLA VS. GIGAN. No further details — print sources, special features, street dates, MSRP, etc. — were made available.

Classic collage still from GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER (1966).

Here's their press release: 1967 may have been the Summer of Love, but 2014 will be the Summer of Godzilla, and Kraken Releasing is spreading the kaiju (giant monster) goodness with the first US Blu-ray release of three classic films featuring the world's most famous giant reptile. Also available on DVD, and including both the English dubbed and original Japanese versions with English subtitles, these are three of the big G's wildest adventures ever and showcase why, sixty years after his atomic birth at Japan's Toho Studios, Godzilla is still one of the biggest names in the entertainment industry!

Original Polish release poster for GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH (1971).

The fun begins as 1971's GODZILLA VS. HEODRAH, released theatrically in the US in 1972 as GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER, pits Godzilla against the forces of pollution in the form of a constantly mutating, acid-spewing behemoth from outer space. With eye-popping 1970's “mod” costumes, hairstyles and psychedelic visuals that include conventional cel animation alongside the special effects by Teruyoshi Nakano, GODZILLA VS. HEODRAH director Yoshimitsu Banno's ecologically focused take on the world's greatest monster is easily one of the most unique films in the series and required viewing for any giant monster fan or cult film enthusiast.

Keiko Mari and Toshio Shibamoto in GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH (1971).

What happens when three major movie monsters slam dance in the South Seas? The answer is 1966's EBIRAH, HORROR OF THE DEEP  originally released in the US in 1968 under the title GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER. Pairing Godzilla and another of Toho's most popular kaiju, the giant moth Mothra, against a wide variety of adversaries, including the titular sea monster, giant birds and a mysterious terrorist organization, the wet and wild widescreen spectacular was directed by Jun Fukuda.

Original Japanese release poster for GODZILLA VS. GIGAN (1972).

Finally, 1972's GODZILLA VS. GIGAN ups the giant monster ante once again with a series of tag team battles featuring four classic kaiju. Released theatrically in the United States in 1977 as GODZILLA ON MONSTER ISLAND and again directed by Jun Fukuda with special effects by Teruyoshi Nakano, the film unites Godzilla and spiny ally Anguirus against two of the series' most popular opponents: the three headed monster King Ghidorah and the new alien cyborg Gigan.

The redoubtable Yuriko Hishimi in GODZILLA VS. GIGAN (1972).

At this time, all we can ascertain from their press release is the order the films will be released, with HEDORAH streeting first — that is, unless all three will street simultaneously. Looking at these titles begs the question, were these conscious picks by Kraken — or were the other films unavailable because they were already licensed? We do know that Classic Media still has all of theirs (and that they sub-licensed GODZILLA and GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS to the Criterion Collection). So, what's in store for the remaining Godzilla titles on DVD/BD during the 60th Anniversary, especially with the obvious opportunity to capitalize on the massive hype surrounding the upcoming Legendary Pictures-Warner Bros epic? For that, true believers, we must escape into the future; into that dimension we have never seen. Join me for more details as they develop!

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