Since I wrote this entry, I've had the chance to finish the DVD. Well, almost - I don't think I need to check out the Japanese 5.1 track since a) I have a regular old school TV, and b) I have already watched the movie four times. I would assume that, for me, 5.1 would be like 2.0, only much louder. So take that into consideration as you read the rest of my report.
First, an observation that may be exclusive to me. Has anyone else had an issue where the disc was not "recognized" by the player? This has happened on every single first attempt I've made with the DVD. However, it always plays on the second attempt. This has occurred both when I ejected the disc and tried again and when I just pressed the Open/Close buttons in rapid succession without removing the disc. My DVD player is pretty old, and prone to being eccentric with discs at times. It is entirely plausible to me that this is an issue with my equipment more than the DVD itself, but I thought it merited mentioning.
All right, so MB deserves accolades for having five separate audio tracks on a Godzilla DVD: the aforementioned Japanese 5.1, Japanese 2.0, two different English dubs (relax, more on this in a bit), and a commentary track. The commentary, by Ed Godziszewski and Steve Ryfle, is quite informative and mostly well-executed. There are a couple of gaffes in it (I'll let you find them), and I think they are unduly harsh when discussing the "International" version. But more on that when we discuss it proper in a paragraph. My biggest complaint is the way that certain quotes from filmmakers are integrated into the commentary. We are introduced to some segments as being excerpts from taped interviews. We briefly hear the beginning (very low), and then a translation is read to us. The problem is that the use of the excerpts is superfluous since they are mostly inaudible. I realize that translation is an issue here, but if the tapes are to be used, it would be preferable to subtitle them so we can hear them. If you're going to talk over them, why bother utilizing them at all?
The default track on the DVD is the English dub prepared by William Ross and his Frontier Enterprises - the so-called International version. This is interesting considering the beating it takes on the commentary track. But, is it that inferior? Well, actually, I would argue that it is not. Most viewers do not care about the quality of the English dubbing; they just want the movie in English. In that respect, the work of Ross and company is perfectly serviceable. The U.S. dub is probably more artistically successful, and has better actors, but dubbing is an inexact science at best. I do not think the average person would notice or care about the differences. Frankly, the mystique of the U.S. dubs owes more to nostalgia than their being wildly better, and I say this as someone who DOES prefer them in most instances!
Ross and company acquit themselves adequately. No one would mistake their dubbing for a work of genius, but they usually get the point across. I watched this dub with the subtitles for the Japanese version, and in instances where the translations diverged, I found the dub script phrasing to be more interesting than the subtitle phrasing at least 50% of the time. Considering how often those scripts get hammered, I think that's pretty good! Things do go off the rails a bit more as the movie wears on, though. The sequence where the dubbing crew is obviously totally at sea is the usage of all the technical terms pertaining to the Moon (probably an addition to the script by director Ishiro Honda). Things like "Cassini crater" and "Montes Alpes" clearly confused them, and they just winged it, leading to at least one reference to "Mount Cassini" slipping into the dialogue. Overall, though, I think their dub is acceptable.
As mentioned in my first post on this disc, the AIP dub was a big selling point. I am happy to report that it is largely fine after a shaky beginning that likely owes to damage in the source print. But honestly, I have NEVER SEEN a copy of the AIP version that wasn't missing at least some minor piece. Yes, the sound is lower than any other track, and yes, there is background noise. Guess what? If you want this dub track, you'll just have to deal with it. At this late date, I would imagine you'd be hard-pressed to find any print that is in pristine shape, and it's not like we'll be gaining access to the original elements.
It is a great dubbing track, with interesting voices throughout. Hal Linden voices the hero, and definitely gives original lead Akira Kubo a run for his money. And I would just like to put this out there right now - narrator Norman Rose was not only clearly blessed with a better voice and delivery than the International version narrator, but I would also rate him higher than the Japanese narrator. He hits the right note on every single word.
Oh, you wanna know about the Japanese track? Very good! The subtitles are well-done, with very few of the missteps that have characterized previous attempts at subtitling such films. I do have a couple of quibbles, and those nitpicks will get a little airtime. One, while "Bonin Islands" is technically correct, I question its use in the one context where EVERYONE refers to that island chain as "Ogasawara". Second, when the board in the defense HQ reads in English "District 14", etc., why would you use Roman numerals in the subtitles? Referring to "District 8" as "area VIII" manages to be simultaneously lazy and too complicated. Still, in the grand scheme of things, these are minor issues compared to the almost startlingly literate and accurate subtitles. Heck, I even learned some things! (Why did Rodan let the SY-3 escape? Because they left the atmosphere, that's why.) After enduring years of sloppy subtitles with misspellings, bad grammar, and full-blown errors, I am always delighted to report when a company does a good job.
(Aside: My "favorite" subtitling head-scratcher came in one of those fan-made efforts when there were repeated references to a "cyborg refrigeration unit". Since there were no cyborgs in the movie that I noticed, and I couldn't figure out why they'd need to be refrigerated if there were, this left me stumped for a little while. Only later did I dope out that the translator had mistaken 細胞 - saibou - for "cyborg". "Saibou" means "cell" in the biology sense, so a cell refrigeration unit makes more sense than a place for cyborgs to cool off.)
The picture quality is excellent, derived from the Japanese print rather than the International print. It does have the somewhat muted color that characterizes Toho's efforts at film preservation, and a cursory check revealed that this particular film has not been released as part of their new masters on Blu-Ray over in Japan. It could probably be improved, but still far and away superior to what we've dealt with in the past.
I discussed the extras in our first post on this subject, and that hasn't been altered. I should probably add that there are also trailers for other Media Blasters/Tokyo Shock releases. Among them is the upcoming GODZILLA VS. MEGALON, though the original Japanese trailer isn't subtitled to explicitly promote that release. Strange, I thought. I understand the Blu-Ray has a handful of exclusive extras, including the English language main titles for the International version. I may end up getting that release too, just for the goodies.
Heck, this is a great release, and one I am happy to own. I mean, isn't it nice to have a DESTROY ALL MONSTERS DVD with an on-screen menu? With chapters? The old DVD was practically obsolete when it was issued, so this is a welcome replacement.