Saturday, September 6, 2008

Smashing


The compulsion to watch giant monsters trample Japan is, in my life, a chronic malady that I've long since learned to live with. From the day I first saw Godzilla, King of the Monsters, somewhere around age four, I've been hooked, and while my enthusiasm for daikaiju movies waxes and wanes somewhat, it never wanes very far. Thanks be to ye godz, the majority of Toho's monster flicks are available domestically on DVD—both English and Japanese versions—so these past few weeks, it has been necessary to plug in some of them. Last night, I even broke down and watched Gamera's first outing, Gammera, the Invincible (the American version, starring Brian Donlevy, Albert Dekker, and Dick O'Neill, just to be different).

One of the best bits of news I've recently received is that my all-time favorite, non-Godzilla daikaiju movie, War of the Gargantuas, is scheduled for DVD release by Classic Media next month—on a double-feature with the original Rodan. The DVD is supposed to include both the original Japanese and U.S. release versions, which in the case of Rodan is most welcome, since the original Japanese version is markedly superior to the 1957 King Brothers U.S. release. War of the Gargantuas is one of the rare cases in which the U.S. release trumps the original Japanese, the main reason being that it contains additional special effects scenes (including the infamous scene of Gaira, the green one, spitting out the clothes of the woman he just et at Haneda airport, which was excised from the Japanese version). While some might disagree, I also find Akira Ifukube's battle march, which plays endlessly during the military's attack on Gaira, monotonous to the point of tedium. The U.S. version replaces it with some stock action music (which actually works well) and a few passages from Ifukube's superior score to Destroy All Monsters.

It's no exaggeration to say that my first viewing of War of the Gargantuas, which came to town on a double-bill with Monster Zero, in 1970, was one of the pivotal moments of my youth. A good DVD release has been a long time coming, and I kinda can't wait.

2 comments:

Stewart Sternberg said...

Your passion for this worries me. Deeply.

I have always been intrigued by the culture that is enthralled by these films. I've watched them myself, but never with this intensity.

Still, they are great fun. And those two little women who sing for Mothra...ooh la la

Mark Rainey said...

To some extent, daikaiju and the Cthulhu mythos stimulate the same set of nerves; probably the more misanthropic ones, but they're stimulated all the same. Which can't be bad, right?