Last week we told you that Criterion was working on a new blu-ray release for Ishiro Honda’s classic 1954 giant monster film Gojira, which would also include the 1956 Americanized version of the film, Godzilla, King Of The Monsters. Criterion had hinted that this release would include a newly restored version of Gojira made from from interpositive elements supplied by Toho Studios.
Gojira isn’t the only part of the release getting a restoration. Criterion will also be presenting a new restoration for Godzilla as well.
If you’re wondering what the difference between the two movies, it’s this- When Jewell Enterprises picked up the US distribution rights to Gojira from Japan’s Toho Studios, they hired director Terry O. Morse to shoot several scenes with actor Raymond Burr to cut into the film with the presumed intent of giving American audiences an American character to identify with.
Fast forward to the early 1980s when United Productions of America prepared a telecine transfer of Godzilla, they altered some of the opening and closing credits. It has been this version that has been available on home video and in syndicated television packages ever since.
While restoring some opening and closing credits cards seems like a small thing, Criterion was determined to get the Godzilla back to its original form. In doing so, right after last week’s announcement they reached out to collectors who might have some original 35mm elements to help in the reconstruction of the film. While film collectors can be a notoriously cagey bunch as they don’t want their prints confiscated by a studio which may have a legitimate claim of ownership, Criterion was able to locate a 35mm Fine-Grain Print of Godzilla.
So what is a Fine-Grain print? Technically, it is a print struck from either the camera negative or a duplicate negative using a film that has a low-contrast, extremely fine-grained emulsion. They are not meant for exhibition so much as they are for creating duplicate negatives.
Practically, it means that a transfer from this print will be markedly better than anything that has been available for decades. And that will be before it goes through Criterion’s restoration process.
Although criterion has a reputation as being a home video label that caters to the cineaste, its catalog is actually fairly democratic when it comes to the range of films. At times the label has offered such treats as Shorty Yeaworth’s The Blob, Michael Bay’s The Rock and Armageddon, Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop, Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits and Brazil and Rob Reiner’s This Is Spinal Tap. Certainly, all titles that aren’t necessarily associated with high art, although they all have various important aspects that make them noteworthy enough for inclusion in Criterion’s catalog.
And let’s face it. The original Gojira is an import film, even outside of its giant monster genre. And it is certainly exciting to see that Criterion is giving it the same meticulous attention it gives to the works of Jean-Luc Goddard or Akira Kurosawa.