With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Friday, April 18, 2014

GODZILLA returns!

Rialto Pictures
Rialto Pictures
Godzilla: The Japanese Original
Directed by Ishirô Honda
Japan, 1954, 96 minutes

Yes, that's right, Godzilla is back. Not Godzilla, King of the Monsters, the 80 minute, 1956 U.S. travesty with substantial cuts from the original and additional footage featuring Raymond Burr, but a new restoration of Ishirô Honda’s complete, uncut original landmark kaiju eiga (monster movie). Featuring new subtitles by Bruce Goldstein and Michie Yamakawa, Godzilla: The Japanese Original will play at Film Forum, at 209 West Houston Street, in New York starting today, Friday, April 18 through Thursday, April 24 to commemorate the picture’s 60th anniversary. Showtimes daily at 1:15, 3:15, 5:15, 7:30, & 9:45. Godzilla: The Japanese Original will subsequently roll out in other U.S. cities in May, July and August. For a complete list of cities, theaters and opening dates, click here.

I am sure that I saw Godzilla, King of the Monsters as an eight year old back in 1956, with additional viewings on TV over the years. I only got to see the original Japanese version when it was released awhile back on a very good two-disc DVD edition from Classic Media that featured both versions of the film. Subsequently, The Criterion Collection also put out a two-disc edition that included both versions.

So I was very excited when I got to see this new restoration at a press screening at Film Forum, and overall it was a wonderful experience. Truth be told, a few shots on the first boat that sinks seemed to be a bit on the dark side, which I verified by watching both the Classic Media and Criterion DVDs. (The darkness may have had something to do with the movie being a digital projection.) Other than that, the imaging was first-rate, as were the subtitles. And part of me did wish that I was watching it on one of the large theater screens of my youth. But except for The Ziegfeld Theater and a few other dinosaurs (no pun intended), multiplex-sized screens are now the norm.

Still, it was wonderful to sit in a dark theater and watch the big guy wreck havoc on Tokyo once again. The original version is very powerful, even with the obvious miniatures, the use of toy models, and the occasionally visible wires. One thing that I've come to appreciate -- at least to some degree -- is what it must have been like for Japanese audiences to watch the film in 1954, roughly nine years after the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were all but obliterated by the two atomic bombs that were dropped on them, leading to the end of World War II.  Certain buildings Godzilla destroys would have been readily recognizable to them, whereas they're just buildings to Western eyes. And i can't begin to describe the incredible feeling I had when Akira Ifukube's Godzilla theme came blaring out of the theater's audio system. Let's just say I applauded enthusiastically.

This original, uncut restoration of Godzilla is the way to see this seminal film, and a theatrical setting is the place in which to do it. While watching either the Classic Media or Criterion DVDs in your living room is a wonderful thing to be able to do, seeing Godzilla: The Japanese Original at Film Forum or one of the other theaters where it will be playing is hands down the way to go.

A Toho Film / A Rialto Pictures Release

Other Godzilla news:

- Legendary Pictures’ remake of Godzilla, starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen and Bryan Cranston, opens nationwide on May 16.

- This summer Kraken Releasing will be putting out three Godzilla features: 1971’s Godzilla® vs.Hedorah™ (released theatrically in the U.S in 1972 as Godzilla® vs. the Smog Monster), 1966’s Ebirah™, Horror of the Deep (originally released in the U.S. in 1968 under the title Godzilla® Vs. The Sea Monster) and 1972’s Godzilla® vs. Gigan™ (released in the U.S. in 1977 as Godzilla® on Monster Island). Each title will be available on Blu-ray and DVD and will include both the English dubbed and original Japanese soundtrack with English subtitles.