Ishiro Honda Gojira

2004 was the 50th anniversary of the original Godzilla’s release and in its honour, a restored version of the film played in select cities in North America. For many Godzilla aficionados this was their first opportunity to see his debut in its original form, save a laser disc released in the mid-’90s. With that pricey phase in home entertainment long gone, Gojira is finally widely available in a handsome two-disc DVD edition. The first disc contains the original Japanese version and is truthfully the only disc of the two that matters. It’s more of a dark, anti-war allegory and cautionary tale for the atomic age, as opposed to merely the smash ’em up monster movie that presides over popular culture. Obviously, the climactic destruction of Tokyo is central to that lingering image, but since director Honda’s idea was to portray Godzilla as a physical manifestation of the atomic bomb, there’s a whole other level to this monster classic. It may not be as fun as later "sequels,” the effects may be primitive and the acting a tad melodramatic, but the film still stands the test of time much better than similar movies from the period and certainly over the ultra-slick Hollywood remake from 1998. The second disc features the North American theatrical cut, which edited out many of the contentious elements and added Raymond Burr as an American reporter on the scene. While nowhere near as good as the Japanese cut, it is what most Godzilla fans in North America grew up with and is amusing to watch alongside the original. Also included are audio commentaries by Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski, featurettes on the construction of the Godzilla suit and the story development, as well as the original trailers for both the Japanese and American theatrical releases. (Sony Music)