Godzilla Double Feature DVD Review

As I sit here, stuffed full from a monster Thanksgiving meal, I feel it is only appropriate to review a couple of monster movies. Ok, the correlation between Godzilla and Thanksgiving isn't exactly obvious, but bear with me here. Anyway, these 2 films have been somewhat treated with the rightful respect they deserve with some issue that there is really is no excuse for. This 2-sided disc comes from the fine people over at Tri-Star, the same fine people who completely desecrated the Godzilla legend by letting the Dean Devlin giant iguana film through to production. These are the last 2 films from the "Heisei" series of Godzilla films which started back in 1985. Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla is arguably the weakest entry into the series, but the supposed final chapter of the series (which everyone knew was false) Godzilla vs. Destroyah, is a great entry that harkens back to the original 1954 monster classic.
SpaceGodzilla centers around a plan to try an control Godzilla via a mind control apparatus with the help of psychic Miki Segusa (Megumi Odaka). The entire plan goes completely awry when Space Godzilla shows up (a combination of Godzilla cells that were sent through a black hole by Mothra in an earlier film and then shot back out...don't ask). SG entraps Godzilla's son (an even sadder version than the 60's Minya) and sends Godzilla on a rampage. The ensuing battle involves not only Godzilla and his space counterpart, but the JSDF's newest hunk of metal, Mogera. Godzilla vs. Destroyah (not a typo) is an entirely different film. The film centers around Godzilla who's having some serious chest pain. His eerie orange-glowing chest alerts the government who are soon to discover that Godzilla will completely melt down, taking the majority of the planet with him. Things get worse. A group of scientists working with micro-oxygen discover that the first weapon used to destroy Godzilla in 1954, the oxygen destroyer, has created something not even Godzilla himself can handle, Destroyah. Taking on various forms, Destroyah is the ultimate Godzilla foe, the doomsday beast that series has pretty much been building itself up to since it's inception. SpaceGodzilla not only suffers from one of the most asinine plots in the entire history of the Godzilla movies, but the certain segments are simply embarrassing to watch, even for a die-hard Godzilla fan. A scene in which Mogera attempts to take out SG in space is filled with foam asteroids and strings that are apparent in nearly every frame. This glaring lack of care hasn't been seen since the dark days of the 70's. Destroyah on the other hand is an absolute classic in the long running Japanese series. The death of the giant beast is nearly depressing and the action sequences are spectacular. Very few of the effects are shoddy and it manages to keep itself serious throughout. Note that the end credits have been cut from the Japanese versions which featured a nice little tribute to the big guy. Both films are presented in their original widescreen aspect ratio's, a rarity for a US home release of a Godzilla film. SpaceGodzilla looks a bit better than it's counterpart as it's filled with some great daytime sequences with tons of color, but there's a great argument to be made for the glowing Godzilla suit in Destroyah which will challenge even the best HDTV. Very little grain is apparent except in some of the matte shots (which are prevalent throughout the Hesei series) and the black levels are just that: black. The sound on the other hand is butchered. Presented in only Dolby Digital 2.0, the lack of rear sound is inexcusable. Each of the movies featured it during their Japanese theatrical runs so this makes it an even more baffling decision. Bass is nice and deep, but the lack of the real soundtrack is unforgivable. On to the extras....oh wait, there are none. Ok, there is an original Japanese trailer for each film, but this is hardly sufficient. It would've been a godsend to have the original Japanese audio with subtitles but we only have the dubbing, which as just about everyone knows, degrades these films into the realm of unintentional camp. The laserdisc releases of these movies on the other side of the world featured tons of behind the scenes stuff, but US audiences got the axe. This disc came out early in 2000 along with another double pack, Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah and Godzilla vs. Mothra: Battle for the Earth. Baffling as it is, these films are only available in full screen, cropping the image to a nearly unwatchable pan and scan. That disc also features the original trailers, but these are in widescreen. Go figure. Anyway, it's getting a bit harder to track these discs at a decent price down and it's a great way to get psyched up for the upcoming release of 2 of the newest Godzilla films (Godzilla vs. Megaguirus and Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidora: All Out Monster Attack) on US DVD early in 2004. If you have any interest in Godzilla films at all, this is a decent disc and it's probably the best we'll ever see these films on an official US disc.

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