" If my mother was alive she’d cut your balls off. "
— Harry Belafonte, Kansas City

MRQE Top Critic

Force Majeure

Little fights turn into big fights when couples use their emotions as weapons —Marty Mapes (review...)

An avalanche is a Force Majeure

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While viewing these vintage classics, I was put in mind of the old one-line gag about “Gorgonzola! — the Cheese Monster” and I concluded that this joke is more than a pun. Let me explain. Cheese, as most of Asia will tell you, is spoiled milk and milk is itself of questionable taste and value east of India. The same criticism of “spoiled thing of no use” can be leveled at most of the Godzilla franchise of which these two films are sterling examples. Of course I’m not including the one that started it all, Godzilla (or “Gojira” to the fully informed) which is a darned good film and monster classic that can stand toe to claw with King Kong any day. No, these movies are of the later, fully ripened rubber-suit-monster type. Not just simply monster movies but a genre of questionable taste taken to all new heights... or depths depending on your point of view.

As with any fine and/or ripe cheese, how much you like it is a matter of acquired and cultivated taste. For some folks there aren’t enough hours in the day nor days in the month to get to the place where you’ll ever acquire it.

The Good Old Days

Godzilla, Rohdan and Mothra team up to battle King Ghidora
Godzilla, Rohdan and Mothra team up to battle King Ghidora

I think the pro-Godzilla sensibility also requires a very particular and exacting environment to be nurtured (both in Japan and the USA ) that simply does not exist any longer. In Japan, the audiences were kids’ Saturday afternoon matinees and in the States it was in the now extinct drive-in and late-night-TV “Creature Features” venues. Staying up late on a Friday or Saturday night to watch a double bill of these campy and inexplicably exotic Japanese films was a treat that is now lost in a time of any video content on demand at any time.

It’s not clear whether the uninitiated will be drawn to this kind of entertainment by these DVDs... but then again why the first audience was hooked is baffling too.

Monster Mash

By the time the very baroque golden-winged, three-headed, King Ghidora arrived on the scene of the monster-ravaged Toho home islands, Japanese audiences were accustomed to seeing comic action from the Big Guy himself and a conga line of gigantic opponents.

Indeed, two previous rivals of Godzilla, Rohdan and Mothra, team up with him to battle King Ghidora in Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster and again it’s Godzilla and Rohdan (Mothra takes a break) taking on King Ghidora in Invasion of Astro Monster. The ensuing mayhem on intricate model cities is all to the rigidly proscribed dance of a smash and crash tango. The only surprise is the turning of the silliness knob up another notch.

Worth the Admission

The turning of the silliness knob up another notch
The turning of the silliness knob up another notch

These two films are part of a larger package of DVDs put out by Classic Media for Toho Co., Ltd. and aimed at the hard-core Gojira fan but are quite accessible to the gajin Godzilla novice as well. The real selling point to both of these DVDs is that they include full versions of both the original Japanese release and it’s later Americanized version. The differences are entertainment in and of themselves and to this American, raised on the TV versions, the original Japanese editions are a real treat. That alone made them worth watching.

Additionally, there are first rate commentaries accompanying both American versions that will make you a powerhouse of Gojira knowledge. Best of all, in both the commentaries there is a lot of attention paid to the people behind the model cities and inside the rubber suits. The commentaries too are worth the price of admission. David Kalat gives a frenetic and breathtakingly data-packed narration to Ghidorah. Stuart Galbraith IV’s commentary for Godzilla vs. Monster Zero doesn’t skimp on the details either. Both men make reasoned cases for serious appreciation of the genre and Kalat has an interesting and enthusiastic argument in favor of the English-dubbed versions.

What we have in both of these DVDs are whole packages that are greater than the sum of their parts. Good work, Classic Media! For a good time watch either one of them or better yet, sit back and make a double feature of it next Friday night.

Picture and Sound

For being “remastered’, these are pretty noisy prints... not as bad as your typical drive-in, but still.... The sound is good and it’s a treat to hear the full original score on the Japanese versions.

How to Use this DVD

Chances are you’re going to be already in the Godzilla gang to even consider watching one of these babies. But as noted above, the big draw is the full Japanese versions and commentaries on the English language versions. I watched the Japanese ones first, but you might enjoy hearing the commentaries first.