DVD Rating: ****1/2

Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

Read Anton Bitel's film review of Godzilla

BFI should be applauded for releasing Godzilla in its original Japanese version, infinitely superior to the American recut, and the inclusion of the trailers for both films gives a flavour of their radically different focuses.

There is a fascinating full length commentary by Godzilla authorities Ed Godziszewski, Steve Ryfle and Kent Aitken, who set the film within a historical context and a cinematic tradition, analyse the innovations in its special effects, point out its unconventional portrayal of the scientists as responsible people and indicate which scenes were removed for the American recut. They conclude: "The original Godzilla deserves to be remembered, not as a camp classic from the age of low-budget science fiction movies, but as a bold and rather unambiguous statement against war and the advancement of weapons of mass destruction - and it's also one of the best and most influential monster movies of all time."

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There are two brief featurettes, well documented with film and productions stills. The first, Designing Godzilla (12min), follows the design of special effects director Eiji Tsubaraya's awesome creature from early sketches to sculpted models to different versions of the suit (in what was the first use, necessitated by the constraints of time and budget, of what would later be called Suit-mation). Apparently the suit was so heavy and physically uncomfortable that the two actors who at different times played Godzilla (Haruo Nakajima and Katsumi Tezuka) could only wear it for a few minutes at a time, could only lumber in a straight line and would often pass out during filming. The second featurette, Story Evolution (6min), reconstructs scenes that were storyboarded, but were either never filmed at all, or else ended up on the cutting room floor.

Also included is an excellent gallery of posters, storyboards, sketches and stills - and The Japanese Fishermen (1954), a 10-minute documentary on the real incident that most immediately inspired Godzilla, the accidental irradiation of a crew of Japanese fishermen by fallout from the American H-bomb test in the Pacific. It presents horrific images of victims from Hiroshima (mostly children) that graphically underscore its ultimate message: "Outlaw the bomb."

Reviewed on: 22 Feb 2006
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The original Japanese monster lizard movie - Ban The Bomb!
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Product Code: BFIVD680

Region: 2

Ratio: 1.33:1

Sound: Dolby Digital stereo

Extras: Audio commentary; Designing Godzilla featurette; Story Evolution featurette; The Japanese Fishermen; original Japanese trailer; original US trailer for Godzilla: King Of The Monsters; fully illustrated booklet

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