I usually try not post too much straight video coverage here at once, but this is something of a special occasion. I managed to snag Kraken Releasing’s trio of upcoming Godzilla blu-rays a full month ahead of their street date thanks to the good folks at RightStuf.com, and thought I’d share the joy. I’ll be reviewing each of the films individually as time allows, but will keep my comments as brief as I can here. For those who like what they see, the discs are available through these links – Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster / Ebirah: Horror of the Deep, Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster / Godzilla vs. Hedorah, and Godzilla vs. Gigan / Godzilla on Monster Island – and can be pre-ordered through the other usual outlets as well (Amazon, etc.).
The technical specs across all three discs are pretty much identical. Each film gets a single layer BD25 and only the original theatrical trailer (with optional subtitles) as an extra. The packaging is quite misleading in this respect, using the word “Extras” on the back of each instead of specifically listing what’s on the discs. You get the film plus trailer – that’s it. Transfers for each are at the appropriate ‘Scope ratio, and each film receives a serviceable if middling Mpeg-4 AVC encode at an average bitrate of 23.5 Mbps. While I’d have preferred more robust encodes (none of these discs is close to hitting capacity) I didn’t notice any obvious instances of artifacting.
As for the transfers themselves, this is a bit of a surprise. I was expecting Toho’s own HD masters (a la Media Blaster’s Destroy All Monsters and Godzilla vs. Megalon), with the original Japanese titles and supers in place, but what Kraken Releasing were provided look to be exactly the same materials from which Sony minted their DVDs all those years back. Titles are in English (film-sourced for The Smog Monster, and video-generated for Gigan and The Sea Monster), and as with the earlier DVDs some of the English supers for The Smog Monster as well as the Japanese dialog bubbles in Gigan are absent. Otherwise the screenshots give a good idea of what to expect. The Sea Monster looks the best, with a relatively smooth appearance and subtle grain, and excellent color, contrast, and detail. The Smog Monster and especially Gigan can appear a bit harsher in their textures (akin to the Universal Kong blu-rays I just covered), but still improve quite drastically over past editions with regards to clarity and detail. These all look very good in playback, and perhaps better than many were expecting.
Audio options are identical across all three titles – original Japanese and (International) English dub, each robustly encoded in 2.0 monophonic DTS-HD MA. I’ve only listened to The Smog Monster and The Sea Monster in any extensive way, but those tracks sounded very good. As is typically the case, the scores for these films improve the most from the move to a less compressed format. Optional English subtitles translate both the spoken Japanese dialogue and the incidental Japanese text that crops up from time to time (with the text bubbles also missing, the monster dialog in Godzilla vs. Gigan is not subtitled). Those concerned about the prospect of dubtitles should know that some of the lines certainly match up, but that many do not, and some scenes play very differently between the dubs and the subtitles (a good example is when the Nebula M alien monologues about his planet in Godzilla vs. Gigan) – this is the case on all three films. Each disc is locked to Region A, as confirmed with my Region B secondary deck, so importers in Europe and elsewhere should take note.
For the low price point Kraken Releasing is asking ($14.98 SRP, with most retailers selling them for less) these are an easy recommendation, even if they’re far from the definitive editions fans crave. They look good, they sound good, and I imagine most will be pleased.
Screenshots were made by my usual method – they were captured as uncompressed .png in Totem Movie Player and compressed to .jpg at a quality setting of 93%. No filtering has been applied.
Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster
Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster
Godzilla vs. Gigan