DVD Review: Media Blaster's DESTROY ALL MONSTERS

Special Thanks to Lee Merritt, proprietor of Monsterland Forums for making this review possible.

This has been a great year for Godzilla fans. IDW doing three different lines of comic books, a good bit of DVD news, new board games, and a good bit of other stuff. The hottest topic would be the Media Blasters releases of DESTOROY ALL MONSTERS and GODZILLA VS. MEGALON. With DESTROY ALL MONSTERS being the less anticipated release, a good bit was still to be proven with it.
To set up a precedence, let’s go back to what James Ballard said when talking about the R2 DVD, which he gave 5/5 stars.

"As you would expect, Toho's domestic DVD release of "Destroy All Monsters" is once again a pinnacle in the line of kaiju releases. The video quite frankly looks like it could have been shot yesterday. As far as I could tell there was absolutely no print damage, bar some very tiny specks of dust in once scene, and no signs of digital artifacts. On occasion there is some light grain, but really only noticeable under close inspection. The film remains consistently sharp with lush and vivid colors. The film is presented in it's original widescreen ratio, and is enhanced for widescreen TV's."

With such a fine print used by Toho for their R2 DVD, and knowing that what Media Blasters has presented to us is the HD print which was a basic restoration of the film, should it be the perfect print? Considering that I own the DVD and now the blu-ray, I’d say this looks as great as it is going to look on DVD. Is there a general softness? Yes. Is the color platte not as vibrant as what one would assume? Yes. That is to be expected. Due to Toho's restoration being just a general clean up, colors are not going to be as vibrant as what it could have been back in '68 (it has been mentioend on the net that a better colored print of the film is out there somewhere). But this is the best this film is going to look on DVD unless Toho finds a full restoration neccessary, which is not the case.

In comparing with the ADV DVD, you can see a lot of what was wrong with the ADV print. The coloring of certain things is maybe better on the ADV DVD, such as the sky in the clip above but other than that, the ADV DVD has one of the worst problems with rainbows a film could have, with the moment something in the frame shows itself as white, rainbows appear. Another problem would be the lack of color correction, which you see the real colors here with the Media Blasters DVD.

There are three audio tracks to the film, which the choices for the tracks are those which would be most relevant to American viewers. One Japanese track (2.0 and 4.1) and two English tracks (international and AIP).

Both Japanese and International tracks are on here and are flawless. They sound like any other audio tracks. Sure, it doesn’t stand out (though it may if you are watching this with a great set of earphones, which pretty much keep the sound waves up close to your ear drums therefore the dissipation of the sound waves isn’t a factor), but there isn’t problems really.

A big source of debate for this debate seems to be about the inclusion of the AIP dub, which should have been a great, great thing. For completists, the inclusion of both the international and AIP dubs makes the set feel more complete. Problem is that a cranking sound a long with some digital noise appears on the track (mostly in the beginning). You can tell that this is a problem that they tried to fix with the sections at the beginning being patched up via audio from another track, but the problems doesn’t last all that long. Still, a little imperfection could go a long way for some aficionados. Talk of an alternate source has been spread around, but that it couldn’t be used due to Toho granting permission to only use specific sources of materials for releases - one has to wonder what about other sources makes Toho not want to permit their participation (probably a matter of money).

Special Features:

In an interesting turn for the better, Media Blasters has chosen to do something a bit differently - the handling of special features. For past Toho titles, Media Blasters just copies what was on the R2 DVD releases. This time around, special features were brought onto the release which are not on the R2 DVD - a choice likely made because of the fact these are Godzilla films. Truth be told, Media Blasters is all too modest, for what is described on the back of their DVD cover for the film is truly an understatement.

The main attraction is the audio commentary by Steve Ryfle and Godziszewski. Plugging their book here and there, they do stay on topic of the film and having been doing research for their book, it helps a lot. A lot of details and trivia revolving around the film were made freshly known to me, such as the actor of a stage play being treated to seeing the kaiju and an actress from the film. The only downside would be that there are a couple of parts of the commentary where Ed and Steve’s voice could sound a bit more dynamic, making the commentary sound more enjoyable to the ears. Other than that, they do the same good word they did with the films they commented on for Classic Media.

Follow the yellow Japanese Characters

The DVD is filled to the brim with a bunch of trailers, with space being saved by compiling whole trailers into one video track. Least of which is the trailers for other Tokyo Shock/Media Blasters films including GODZILLA VS. MEGALON, DEATH KAPPA, FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD, and (the brutally awesome) RIKI OH: THE STORY OF RICKY. Instead of having a page in which you can choose to watch each trailer separately, they are strung together like a little movie, though you can press the skip button on your remote to go to a specific trailer. Same thing is the matter with the "Promo Reel", which is the American trailer (in worse condition than what you can find on youtube), the Japanese, and French trailers for the films followed by four American radio spots. Also saving space by making it an easter egg rather start a new page for listing special features is the 8mm reel clips which feature AIP stuff on them. Not bad. So, let’s count that down - 4 non-DAM trailers, 3 DAM trailers, 4 Radio Spots, and 8mm movies. That’s 12 things right there.

The other special features consist of photo galleries - one being of posters for the film and another being for concept art and such. Both are great, though there is a case or two of repetition with the poster gallery. Regardless, both are great and it would be interesting to see these things on the blu-ray. In the meanwhile, the poster gallery just doesn’t show posters, but also theatrical programs (2 from 1972, 1 from 1968). It is a rather thorough gallery which non-Japanese readers can enjoy. It is great. It is even interesting to see stuff like Gappa being on DAM posters (like how Yonggary was on some German photobistura for GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH and a VHS for KING KONG VS. GODZILLA). But, the DVD gallery bit I felt was a bit much. But it’s inclusion on here I hope will mean that such a thing will be included on the GODZILLA VS. MEGALON DVD for the number of bootleg VHS tapes that film has endured is nothing less than legendary and would make a great gallery for the historian in all of us.

If there was one thing missing from the film - one single thing - it is not the inclusion of the international and AIP credit sequences (Which the blu-ray has and those who already have the ADV DVD and a connection or two already have), but something simple - really simple seeing how the cover for the tape that this was on was on the DVD gallery bit - the alternate and extended takes from the 1980’s Toho SFX Tape. That would have been some of the easiest things to put on the DVD. There is about 10-15 minutes of material, not much. But, at least we got some stuff which defiantly trumps any Japanese release.

If this is a sample of things to come, I cannot say that I am not happy for what Megalon will bring. Great audio and visual content with a great bit of special features - particularly the concept art and story board galleries and the trailers/tv spots which are most interesting if only to get a glimpse at what the generation before us could have felt when they would watch these films at the cinemas nationwide in lieu of chance exhibitions at art house theatres. A great release which everyone should own. For an American release of a foreign film which is not being released by a big company, this is a spectacular release.



Citizen Hyung Rae and the Death of Younggu-Art

The 1,000 words photos tell would show that like most buisness transactions, there is more than meets the eye.

For some of us, we like bad movies. Bad movies can be entertaining. Thus, even though it would be a small one, there was an audience for films like 2001 YONGGARY and D-WAR: DRAGON WARS. For those who are American, you might even have a taste for THE LAST GODFATHER, the only English-language entry of Shim Hyung Rae’s Younggu series.

Sadly, we might have seen the death of his brand of Korean cinema, meaning the possibility of no D-WAR 2, which some wanted to see. If you check, the official website has been shut down (the main Younggu-Art side along with the official D-WAR and 2001 YONGGARY sites).

Late October, it was reported that 43 employees of Shim Hung Rae’s company - Younggu-Art - were suing him for $790,000 in non-paid wages. It was to be paid with money received from the auctioning of the 1,655 square meter building which housed the company. The building was sold by Hyundai Swiss Mutual Savings Bank, (Younggu-Arts’ collateral security holder) and was bought by a developer - the only bidder. 3 month’s wages and 3 years severance pays would be paid through the profit made from the auction, with the rest going towards Shim‘s debts. Turns out Shim had borrowed 1.1 billion won against his company, something confirmed by the Financial Supervisory Service. This could be one of many tales of company funds being used inappropriately. Stories of gambling addiction revealed by former employees aren’t making things better.

Turns out that this is not the actual death of Younggu-Art. That happened back in 2009.

Back on July 19, 2009, Shim said he was shutting the firm down - claiming to be $36 million dollars (41 billion Korean Kwon by today‘s exchange rate) in debt. That isn’t the worse of his troubles. In May of 2009, Hyundai Savings Bank filed complaints in regards to 4 billion won in loans/interest. Four months later, a high court made it that Shim had to pay 2.5 billion won. The case is pending at the supreme court. In separate auctions, Shim’s two homes (one being a Hyundai apartment in Apgujeong-dong and another being a Tower Palace apartment in Dogok-dong) are being sold. One of them is 244 square meters in land area.

Shim’s fate just might be sealed when it came up that Shim was being investigated for illegal firearm remodeling. Even darker, claims have been made of Shim’s trying to influence political and business colleges via prostitution including what the Korean Herald said, "high-profile figures and young women" and even going as far as to deny investors refunds of investments back in Oct. 2009 with an illegally customized gas spray gun.

As of October 30, Shim Hyung Rae has been banned from leaving the country of South Korea. All allegations against Shim are said to have taken place from 2008-2011, the years in which Shim made THE LAST GODFATHER (Which failed at the box office in Korea and America) and was still producing MEMORY OF BREAD. Be watching, for SciFiJapan’s Korean correspondent Kim Song-Ho is to be writing a more in-depth article on this.

This is a sad day.