RECENTLY RATED MOVIES #28: GOJIRA

True to form, I am spending every spare moment (which would be those where I am either not with Jen or engaging in writing projects) making my way through a monstrous stack of DVDs and an equally impressive lineup of flicks on my DVR. Many of these saved films came from a surprising source: The Sundance Channel, where a late night program of Japanese, Korean and Hong Kong horror movies, titled in typical "hip" marketing style as Asia Extreme, has provided me with a most interesting though slightly disturbing look into another world. My discovery of the show is mere timely fortuitousness; I can get any of these movies easily enough through Netflix, but since I am only registered to rent four titles at once, this means it takes a bit to get near certain titles on my list. The Korean titles are definitely the ones with which I am having the most trouble philosophically, particularly where the rights of prostitutes and the abandonment of teenage daughters who stumble into prostitution are concerned. These film make the Koreans seem about as obsessed with women of easy virtue as the Japanese seem to be with wig-bedecked girl ghosts and kaiju-suited union actors. I know its most likely not the case, but it is very easy to type a culture from the films that make it across their borders. I know that there has been a flood of Korean films lately that aren't of the horror or prostitute-torture-and-rape genre, and some that have been praised to a high degree, and I look forward to seeing what else the country has to offer in the way of cinema. I am certain much of it is very rich and expansive in tone and deserving of a deeper peek. Eventually, I may reach these films in my queue.

But not until well after October. This month, as always, consists of a concentration of matters macabre, and this effort will be aided by the arrival of a couple of prime DVD releases, of which I shall post more information in the next couple days once I actually view the damned things. Of prime importance to me, though, has been the release to DVD about a fortnight ago of the original Japanese version of the first official kaiju flick, which was redubbed and recut with additional Raymond Burr footage into an haphazard amalgamation known as Godzilla, King of the Monsters. While I have seen the Americanized version about three dozen times throughout my life, the Japanese version titled Gojira, which features a half-hour of previously unseen footage (at least, unseen in this deprived country) has eluded me to this point.

Watching the real film for the first time was an incredible revelation. Unlike the multitude of ever-cheesier (though fun) followups, the original film was filmed in black and white, and features a philosophical viewpoint nearly as dark as the film's atmosphere. Deftly filmed and remarkably subtle shots of the monster's footprints left in its aftermath help serve up a ever-growing sense of doom until the monster finally appears, and with each subsequent appearance of the creature, the ferocity of its attacks grow ever more intense, until Tokyo is left looking like Hiroshima after the A-bomb. This is precisely the point. That Gojira is revived by hydrogen bomb testing (and by the Americans no less, though the filmmakers seem to hold a complacent Japanese populace largely to blame as well) is a dramatic stab at guerrilla politics that allows this superior effort to rise at least the size of three Gojiras above the rest of the kaiju pack.

And while, surprisingly, I am not really a fan of DVD commentaries, except in very rare instances, the spate of information provided by the pair of Godzilla fanboys on the extra track is actually unbelievably rich in detail and depth. Additionally, while you don't want to do the whole cover-judging cliche, this DVD comes wrapped in what I consider to be one of the most attractive package designs that I have seen thus far for a DVD. Since it displays merely the grimacing image of a monstrous black-and-white Godzilla, this is no small feat. An additional bonus is that two more Godzilla films, the rushed sequel Godzilla Raids Again and the quite enjoyable monster mash Mothra Vs. Godzilla are being released in the same pristine format in about three weeks. Part of the Toho Master Collection, the DVDs, like Gojira, will feature both the Japanese and American release versions of the films and will have commentaries, likely from the same two overly informed geeks. Outside of seeing the original films in their theatrical heyday, has there ever been a better time to be a Godzilla freak?

Oh, and, if you haven't, go see The Illusionist. A film this delightful needs an audience.

The List: The Illusionist (2006) - 8; Crank (2006) - 5; Huo Yuan Jia [Jet Li's Fearless] (2006) - 7; Murders In the Rue Morgue (1932, TCM) - 6; Honogurai mizu no sok [Dark Water (2002, Sundance) - 7; Nabbeun namja [Bad Guy] (2001, Sundance) - 6; Samaria (Samaritan Girl) (2004, Sundance) - 6; Gojira (1954, DVD) - 7; Ju-On (2000, DVD) - 7; Dr. Cyclops (1940, TCM) - 6; Kyuketsuki Gokemidoro [Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell] (1968, TCM) - 7; Paycheck (2003, DVD) - 5; Un Flic (1971, DVD) - 8; Finding Neverland (2004, DVD) - 7; Dead or Alive: Hanzaisha (1999, DVD) - 6; Shogun Assassin (1980, DVD) - 7.

Comments

I'm deeply upset that I haven't picked up the Gojira disc yet. I keep eyeing it but other things always get in the way. Like food, or car repairs. Ah well, christmas is coming.
ak_hepcat said…
I picked it up and immediately thought of you. Of course, i also knew that you'd have it in your hands the momement it was available. I did think of calling you as I was in the checkout line, though.

Next time i'll do that, i think.

Gojira!

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