Sky Monster Redone – Whither the wires, Rodan?
Posted January 12, 2013 by Kevin P.
Practically everything is wireless these days – computers, phones… computers… It’s an ongoing trend that seems to have extended even to Toho Co’s famed monster of the skies, Rodan, courtesy of the Blu-ray edition of its feature debut that was released in Japan in September of 2009. This will likely be old news for many of you, but as I just came by the disc myself (it can take some time to find the gumption to drop $60 or more on a single film) I can’t help but throw my two-cents out there.
When Toho initially restored their 1956 classic Rodan (空の大怪獣 ラドン) for broadcast in HD all appears to have been well in the effects department, with the wire work we’re all accustomed to seeing being just as present and accounted for as ever. It was only with the advent of the company’s Blu-ray of the title that one rather notable difference rose to the fore. The gist of the issue is this: When it comes to the complex and sometimes obvious wire work that brought Rodan to life (and nearly cost actor Haruo Nakajima his) much of the prior visible evidence has simply been erased.
As ever, pictures speak louder than words. The scenes leading up to and including the monster’s attack on Fukuoka look to be the primary culprit, as evidenced by the comparison below. The top screenshot is from Classic Media’s DVD of the film, sourced from Toho’s own SD master. Below that is Toho’s Blu-ray.
The whole Fukuoka series of effects appears to have been affected, and while a few wayward glimpses of wires can still be had here and there the majority of the footage has been cleansed of it entirely, to the point that even the loops where the wires attach to the Rodan suit have been eradicated at times. More examples – DVD top, Blu-ray bottom:
While I can understand the temptation to improve upon past works and remove perceived faults, I can’t help but be baffled by Toho’s efforts here, if only because they’ve left every past video edition (at least so far as I’m aware) untouched. More baffling is the fact that the ritual cleansing of wires is not implemented film-wide, and elements besides the monster still show their strings. Case in point is the jet pictured below, found in the same scene from which this article’s opening comparison was taken:
Even the monster itself provides exceptions from time to time, as in this shot from the film’s finale:
Despite the consternation expressed in reviews and comments on the release elsewhere, I don’t find myself outraged about the issue. But perplexed, sure, particularly as to why Toho would even bother. The wire work on Rodan and its occasional obviousness is common knowledge among fans after all, and the company should well have known that efforts to remedy it would only serve to court controversy. Why risk that when the price point of the release alone is already enough to rouse second thoughts?
Wires or no, I was ultimately undeterred in my appreciation of the film in HD. I’m already on my third watch since receiving it earlier today – yes, I love Rodan that much. Still, it’s a damned shame that one of Toho’s stronger Blu-ray releases should have something so stupid as this hanging over its head.