If I called these movies “Men In Rubber,” would you promise not to take it the wrong way?
Columbia delivers two “real” Godzilla movies on the same disc. If that’s enough to excite you, continue reading. If the mere thought of watching guys in latex suits destroying cardboard sets annoys you, then move along.
I grew up without the benefit of one of those late night shows that only plays really bad horror flicks. So, even though I was aware of their existence, I never really got to see any of the classic Godzilla movies until I forced my co-workers to endure a Sci-Fi Channel marathon one Saturday at the electronics store where I used to work. The marathon didn’t necessarily make me a fan, as you’ll soon see.
Godzilla Vs. Space Godzilla and Godzilla Vs. Destoroyah aren’t exactly “classic” Godzilla movies. They were released in Japan in 1994 and 1995, respectively. To my knowledge, neither was released theatrically in the United States. They are classics in the sense that they retain the look and feel of the old Godzilla movies. That is, the monsters look like foam rubber suits, there’s heavy use of rear projection, and the special effects have all the polish of an episode of “The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.” (I know, they’re not popular anymore; the closest I get to children’s TV programming is when I catch the tail-end of “Pokémon” on my way to watching “Batman Beyond” on Saturday mornings.) By comparing running times, it appears that the US DVD release avoids trimming the Japanese release (like many other Asian imports), but naturally the dialogue is very badly dubbed.
The plots, as you may expect, are very thin. In Godzilla Vs. Space Godzilla, Godzilla faces a version of itself that…well, I’ll let the official Godzilla database describe it: “G-cells [short for “Godzilla Cells”] from Biollante [a mutant form of Godzilla that appeared in a 1989 film], floating through space, enter a black hole where they absorb cosmic energy and combine with a crystalline life form to create Space Godzilla. Emerging from a white hole, this hybrid beast embarks on a campaign of terror throughout the galaxy.” Godzilla also must face government hunters who want to kill him, telepathic researchers, and a giant robot built by the United Nations that looks like the unpleasant mating of a penguin and that tunnel-drilling thing from Total Recall (it can even drill tunnels, so maybe the look is more than a coincidence). By the end of the movie, Tokyo has been demolished, Godzilla has saved the day, and those who wanted to kill the giant mutant have learned the values of truth, love, and environmental conservation.
Godzilla Vs. Destoroyah is a sequel of sorts to Godzilla Vs. Space Godzilla. If you thought the “scientific” explanation for the existence of Space Godzilla sounded hokey, wait ’til you get a load of this one. The island where Godzilla was found in Godzilla Vs. Space Godzilla has since melted down due to the “pure uranium” it contained. The meltdown caused a reaction in Godzilla, who now glows like a Christmas tree. The only weapon to stop him is “micro-oxygen” — oxygen molecules that have been made smaller. However, micro-oxygen had been used before, and had caused dirt to mutate into unstoppable crablike monsters (that have retractable, smaller mouths that bear a striking resemblance to a certain Alien designed by H.R. Giger). The unstoppable crablike monsters combine (very Power Rangers-style) into Destoroyah. So, the researchers have to stop Destoroyah and keep Godzilla’s overactive nuclear reactor heart from reaching meltdown temperature. The latter is accomplished with the aid of a suspiciously unaerodynamic model…err, I mean aircraft that is equipped with cold lasers and cadmium grenades. By the end of the movie, Tokyo has been demolished, Godzilla has saved the day, and those who wanted to kill the giant mutant have learned the values of truth, love, and environmental conservation.
It’s nice that Columbia packaged two movies on one disc. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much the extent of what’s nice about this DVD. There are no extras whatsoever. The only dialogue option is the badly dubbed English, which is presented in stereo. The stereo track does have nice frequency range, and pans with the action. Both movies are presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic, which matches their original film format. That puzzles me though, because certain scenes looked like they had been severely cropped, such as the title card to Godzilla Vs. Space Godzilla. I didn’t notice any digital defects in the picture, but I’m not saying the picture quality was great. Both movies have the 1970s overexposed look, and overall are very grainy, especially in shots involving miniatures (in other words, during virtually any “special effects” shot during the movies).
I’m sure that someone out there is thinking that I don’t “get” these Godzilla movies. I do. The lame special effects, poor dubbing, and cheesy plots are all part of what make these movies popular. I sure liked them better than the brain-dead multiplex fodder that audiences were forced to endure in the summer of 1998, but I didn’t exactly fall under the movies’ charms.
Columbia could have done two things to make this disc more appealing. One, both movies are short enough that they could have been put on one side of a dual-layered disc. They managed to put two aspect ratios of Blue Streak on a dual-layered disc, plus a Dolby Digital 5.1 track plus a wealth of special features. Ditto for Trimark’s The Big Lebowski. Both of those discs retail for around the same price as this Godzilla double disc. Two, I’d like to see foreign imports include the original dialogue tracks. I was very glad to see Run Lola Run, Life Is Beautiful, and Ghost In The Shell include that feature, but to their credit each of those can be called good movies. Personally (and I’m sure others feel the same way), I’d rather read subtitles that listen to bad dubs. Usually, the subtitles are more accurate to the original language than the dubbed dialogue.
Godzilla fans will undoubtedly like this disc. Everyone else…well, you’d best avoid it like you’d avoid stepping in twenty-six pounds of chewed Bubblelicious.