"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, October 1, 2014

Japanese Satellite Cable Premieres In November


Were original 35mm elements for KING KONG VS. GODZILLA found?

While Toho’s Visual Effects films have been run before on the Nihon Eiga Senmon Channel (Japanese Movie Specialty Channel), and this past spring and summer saw a countdown of every Godzilla title on the Satellite Cable station to usher in the domestic release of Gareth Edwards’ GODZILLA (2014), there was more amazing news dropped on their website this past Wednesday morning in Japan, that will be another great cause for kaiju eiga fans across the globe to rejoice.

For "Unearthed! Treasures of Visual Effects Collection," four films will be broadcast during the Big G’s 60th Anniversary — a cross section of Honda and Tsuburaya’s best, which isn't special in of itself, nor the premiere of new HD transfers, but rather that two of the films will be hailed as celebrations in of themselves. One of them, fans have been hoping on for decades, while the other is a completely mind-boggling surprising announcement, which I never saw coming.

There's more BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE? OMG, gag me with a SPIP!

Here’s the biggest news, first: According to the NESC website, some of the lost negative elements for the full-length theatrical version of KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (1962) have recently been discovered and will be restored for this presentation. There is no word on when or where the source elements were found, but this is extremely good news since the missing material was previously culled from a worn, anamorphic 16mm print (no "new" scenes have been found or will be incorporated into the film).

NESC's website stated that while this broadcast will be the premiere of a new, “High Quality” version of KING KONG VS. GODZILLA, it was also announced that the missing footage of this presentation will be non-HD (the NESC stating it's an “up conversion"), so although viewers will see a complete presentation, they're forewarning that it's not a full HD restoration (which is set for a future date). No other details were revealed; just a comment asking fans to be patient.

Meh. This old movie... again!? Who cares!? It's not even in color!

The second big one was dropped in the same announcement and on the same page — and with even less information divulged: Toho has discovered over three minutes of missing footage from BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE (1959), presumably never seen before! NESC’s website is promoting this as the “Long Version” of the film, boasting a running time of 96 minutes (the running time of the previously released DVD versions run 90 minutes and 13 seconds).

Despite what appears to be a discrepancy in running times (which is to be sorted out, I’m sure), this is the discovery that I’m most excited about, as I absolutely am bonkers for this film. As a kid, it delivered everything the other space pictures promised, but didn’t (or couldn’t deliver on), and in “flaming color and Tohoscope” to boot! Sure, it might not contain any visual effects footage, and it could be just some dialogue scenes, or some exposition that won’t change our lives, but I could care less — I can’t wait!

The Amazing Colossal Frankie swings in his first HD transfer!

Also running will be the US version of GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS (1956), originally released theatrically in Japan in a faux “cinemascope” by masking the top and bottom of the 35mm frame. This HD transfer will be the first broadcast ever on television. Also making its HD premiere will be the original theatrical version of FRANKENSTEIN VS. BARAGON (1965), aka FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD, sans the Giant Octopus shot for the export versions.

All of the films will be aired on the same day, November 24th (sans the original GODZILLA running on November 3rd and November 24th), for one broadcast only! Those with friends in Japan will probably be pressing them for copies of these broadcasts — a great year to be a fan of these films just got better — you can bet that I’ll be looking forward to seeing them as soon as I can!

An important clarification on KING KONG VS. GODZILLA:

There is no "new footage" and there are no "new scenes" being added into the film. If you have seen the Japanese version, then you've seen everything. What was found, were the 35mm source elements, which had previously been considered "lost" after the film was shortened for Toho Champion Festival screenings in the '70s. These missing scenes were replaced (for all subsequent Toho Video releases since the '80s) using a 16mm anamorphic print, and the jump in quality was jarring. So, while the there isn't going to be anything "new", it's going to look a lot better.

(Special thanks to Kevin Pyrtle for keeping me on my toes!)


Battra said...

Fingers crossed that these might show up at next years G-Fest.

St. Paco said...

Pret-ty cool. Especially considering that I just saw Battle in Outer Space for the first time a few weeks ago.406

WaverBoy said...

Excellent news, August. I hope English-friendly remastered Blu-rays of both KKVG and BIOS somehow come into being.