Recently, Criterion surprised all of us in the evening a couple of days ago when we found their official page for their release of the first Godzilla film, a film they leased out from Classic Media (who released their own 2 disc version of it). So, what do we make of this news? The news of what special features will be part of the set coupled with a release date which is very, very close by (January 2012)? Well, let’s see…
This isn’t the first time that Kalat has done a Godzilla commentary though. He was employed by Classic Media to do the audio commentary for GHIDORAH, THE THREE HEADED MONSTER. Reviews criticized him for going off topic (no matter how informational he may be) and making simple errors in the form of generalizations. But he did make an impression as being quite enthusiastic about his work, thus he is regarded by some as a favorite.
Luckily, we can see to an extent what he is going to talk about in the commentary by viewing his book. For those who do not own his book, refer to it here:
Next, and this is easily the most important feature on the set, will be newly filmed interviews, particularly with effects technicians Yoshio Irie and Eizo Kaimai. This is most interesting, and one has to wonder about these individuals. When doing an IMDB search, we see that Eizo Kaimai was a person who had worked on Honda’s THE H-MAN while Yoshio Irie (unless there are two of them and IMDB doesn’t have a profile of an older Irie) is a fairly new guy, having worked on titles such as 2008’s ICHI... or so you would have thought! Thanks to Brett Homenick bringing this to my attention, turns out Irie is no stranger to interviews, including one which was done with some of the fore-fathers of the G-FAN/Kaiju Fan fanzines.
Next which caught my eye was the "New interview with Japanese-film critic Tadao Sato". This is a new name, at least to me anyway. According to Wikipedia, Tadao "is a prominent Japanese film critic and film theorist. Satō has published more than 30 books on film, and is one of the foremost scholars and historians addressing Japanese film, though little of his work has been translated for publication abroad." This is something which I am really interested in because - most for - the fact that the cultural barrier between America and Japan is such that there is a good bit more American audiences who are going to buy this title can learn. An interesting bit of which is a Japanese view of Godzilla which some claim was only around when GMK (2001) was made that Godzilla was a representation of souls lost in the Pacific theatre of WWII. However, writers like Norio Akasaka wrote that Godzilla was a, "representation of the spirits of soldiers who died in the South Pacific durring the Second World War… after coming from the South Pacific to destroy of the Ginza and the Diet building, Godzilla stops suddenly in front of the Imperial Palace, then turns his head right and heads back out to sea with this look of painful sadness on his face", and Akasaka would go on to compare Godzilla to a story by the famous Yukio Mishima (who Paul Schrader made a film about) which critique’s Japan’s moral after the world. More of this kind of material would be nice to hear, hopefully adding freshness to the usual "Godzilla is an allegory for the bomb" which long time fans may be all too used to.
You got William Tsutsui who works at a university in Texas... then you got Gred Pflugfelder who works at the New York-based Columbia University. Now, giving the set something which the British Film Institute product had which the Classic Media release didn’t have was a feature on the Fukuryu Maru AKA the Lucky Dragon No. 5. However, instead of recycling the BFI feature, Criterion decided to have Greg Pflugfelder(Director of the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture at Columbia University) do a feature titled THE UNLUCKIEST DRAGON (which sounds like a twisted version of a film children would watch) based on the Lucky Dragon No. 5 incident which was one of the three main inspirations for GODZILLA. He's notable for having done a Godzila exhibit back in 2004 in New York. Here is a link to his page: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/weai/faculty/pflugfelder.html
The last interesting thing is an essay done by J. Hoberman. A critic who works right now as a senior critic for THE VILLAGE VOICE, this BA and MFA-holding film critics might just be the most interesting person giving a kind of contribution as far as non-Asian contributors are concerned for Hoberman is 63 years old - he was eight years old when GKOTM was released into American theatres, 11 when GIGANTIS, THE FIRE MONSTER was released, so on, so forth. He might just have insight which is most interesting being older than Godzilla himself!
There are other special features on the set. Newly done subtitles which will hopefully give us the most accurate translation of the film since the legendary 1980’s bootleg tape, an interview with Akira Ifukube most likely ported from the R2 DVD set, and a mysterious featurette on the film’s photographic effects which I don’t know what to make of it right now (could be something newly produced or something which Criterion has loaned from Toho or maybe Classic Media?).
Can this be the definitive release of GODZILLA? When comparing it to the other releases, it might be film and special features wise. We’ll just have to wait and see.