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'Gojira' on Blu-ray not worth the cost


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POSTED: Friday, November 06, 2009

Kaiju films—that segment of Japanese cinema that features actors in giant rubber monster suits laying waste to vast metropolises (or at least small models of such cities, anyway)—have entertained fans around the world for more than a half-century.

The king of all those films is “;Gojira,”; the 1954 classic that unleashed a radiation-tinged giant dinosaurlike beast on Japan.

American fans know this film better as “;Godzilla, King of the Monsters,”; a version released in 1956 that spliced in footage of Raymond Burr as an American reporter covering Godzilla's attack. While the Burr version did its job in introducing Godzilla to film audiences outside Japan, it's also a version that takes a few liberties with director and co-writer Ishiro Honda's original vision, ultimately toning down the film's anti-nuclear weapon message.

Classic Media's recent release of the uncut “;Gojira”; on Blu-ray fixes those sins of omission quite nicely. Uncut, “;Gojira”; remains a powerful allegory of the nuclear age: Nuclear monster emerges from sea; professor insists this new and powerful force be studied, not destroyed; military force intervenes instead, making the situation worse; and a new, more powerful, even more terrible weapon must be developed to stop the menace.

The question is whether the Blu-ray is worth the upgrade from a DVD edition that the publisher released in 2006. High-definition perfectionists will want to snap this up, as this remastered version looks sharp (albeit a bit fuzzy in spots, but well, this is a 55-year-old film).

But for those who buy movies for the special features, hunt down a copy of the DVD instead. The special features on the Blu-ray, including short making-of documentaries on the Godzilla suit and the story-development process, are in standard definition and taken straight from the DVD release.

The “;Gojira”; DVD also comes in a two-pack with “;Godzilla, King of the Monsters,”; making that edition a much better value at a $19.93 suggested retail price than the single-movie Blu-ray at $29.93.