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Enter the Crypt as John "The Unimonster" Stevenson and his merry band of ghouls rants and raves about the current state of Horror, as well as reviews Movies, Books, DVD's and more, both old and new.

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03 July, 2010

R.I.P., Hauzy

Over the years, it’s sad to say that I’ve gotten used to writing tributes to those who have touched my life in some way, then passed on, leaving behind those who remember, and miss, and mourn. Usually it is someone known to me only through grainy images in black & white film, or in the dusty, yellowed pages of a beloved magazine. Occasionally it is someone that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting face-to-face, a few moments of connection at a Convention or two. Perhaps it might even have been a friend of a friend, someone whose loss is more keenly felt because of the pain it causes someone about whom I care. Joseph Lincoln Hauze was none of these—Joe “Hauzy” Hauze was my friend, and his absence will hurt, deeply.


To those who frequent the world of the Yahoo Horror groups, Hauzy was a well-known and welcome fellow traveler. A devoted fan of Horror Films, he loved the Japanese Kaijû, and the movies of Troma. He was in many of the same groups as I, and he could always be counted upon to take an active role in discussing the movies that he enjoyed so much.

It seemed everyone knew Hauzy—and everyone who knew him, liked him. He loved to have impromptu trivia challenges in the groups, and whoever won (and often, everyone that played along) would soon get a box from “Santa Hauzy” containing some goodies—usually DVD’s, but you were never quite sure what would arrive. Sometimes, he’d just decide that he had too much stuff, and a random friend would find a surprise package in their mail soon after.

Recently, Hauzy was doing something else he loved—riding his motorcycle near his Pennsylvania home—when he was involved in an accident. Though he initially made it through surgery, complications arose, and on Monday, 21 June 2010, our friend and fellow monster-fan passed away.

As the news of his death began to spread through the groups that Hauzy was so much a part of, feelings of shock and disbelief quickly changed to grief and remembrance. In the message traffic of virtually every group of which I’m a member, one subject line seemed to dominate—“R.I.P., Hauzy.” How one individual, known personally to very few of us, could have such a huge impact across such a diverse spectrum of his fellow fans, is amazing—and more than a little thought-provoking.

All of us have gotten used to the concept of “friend” as someone you don’t really know, not a close friend in the traditional sense of the word, just someone who’s in your sphere of interest. Ted or Janet may be your “friends” simply because they asked to be, and you clicked the “Confirm” button.

But events such as these remind us of what true friendship is, and that, on the other end of that internet connection is a real person, one with whom we share a common bond—even if it is of such inconsequential matters as a love of monster movies. That real person leaves behind a family that mourns and grieves for him now, a family whose lives are irrevocably altered by his loss. As we, Hauzy’s on-line friends, remember his life and mourns its end, let us not forget those who feel this loss so much more deeply and personally.

So long, Hauzy… and wherever you are, something tells me there’s a Godzilla movie playing.

Lost but Found: Peter Jackson’s Recreation of the “Spider-Pit”

Between its initial release and the mid-1950’s, KING KONG underwent several cuts designed either to make the film conform to changing moral standards or to fit artificial time constraints. Most of the cuts came from the 1938 re-release of the film, and were mandated by the Hayes Office. Many of these cuts were restored when an intact print was found in Great Britain in the early ‘70’s.


However, there was one sequence that was cut prior to the film’s general release, and this sequence does appear to be gone forever. This is the famous “Spider Pit” scene, which showed what happened to several of the crew of the Venture after Kong tossed the log into the chasm. There seems to be no doubt that this scene was shot; notes from director Merian C. Cooper state that he removed it himself following poor audience reaction in test screenings. Fans and historians have searched for decades for this missing footage, to no avail. If, as it would seem, the sequence were cut from the negative prior to most of the prints being manufactured, then there simply may not be any footage to find.

However, thanks to the efforts of KING KONG remake director Peter Jackson, we have the next best thing. He and his special effects crew at the WETA Workshop set out to reconstruct this lost scene, and they did it the old-fashioned way, with 1932 cameras identical to the ones Willis “Obie” O’Brien used to shoot the original sequence, and with painstakingly recreated animation models. They not only filmed it, they filmed how they did it, and included it on the original KING KONG Collector’s Edition DVD.

As I stated in my review of the KK33 Collector’s Edition, this was a labor of love on the part of Jackson, a life-long Kongophile. It had to have been; I’m sure that more money was spent on reproducing the few minutes of missing footage than was spent filming the original movie. Certainly, the time spent resurrecting long-forgotten techniques and obsolete equipment represented a significant allocation of resources, even for someone of Jackson’s means. Was it worth it?

As those involved in the project stated, their intention was never to “complete” the original KING KONG. They simply wanted to know what the missing sequence would have looked like, based on what information still survives about the scene. They began with a still that does survive, showing at least two crewmen standing alive in the pit, as a monstrous spider approaches. Using that as a jumping-off point, they used Obie’s sketches for the film, many from Jackson’s own collection, to recreate the various pit monsters.

As this was going on, Jackson and a small group of directors and screenwriters, including Frank Darabont, examined the original movie frame-by-frame, matching the filmed sequences to the shooting script for the film. In doing this, they made a significant discovery.

Many fans have wondered why, when the crew of the Venture began crossing the log-bridge, only to find Kong blocking the route, they didn’t just back up to the other side. Jackson and team found that, along with the pit sequence, footage was removed showing the crew being chased by a Styracosaurus onto the log, to be trapped there and flung to their deaths in the pit below. They decided to recreate this as well, and Jackson had an item in his collection that was particularly helpful in that: The original animation model of the Styracosaurus.

Originally built for use in O’Brien’s planned-but-never-filmed CREATION, it was resurrected for KING KONG, but its scenes were left on the cutting room floor. It did finally get its shot at stardom, however, when it was used in 1933’s SON OF KONG. With its foam rubber body rotting away, it was of course impossible to use for filming the recreation, but the animators were very curious to see how it had been constructed. Unable to see the armature (the model’s poseable skeleton…) underneath the layers of rotting rubber, they did the next best thing: They took it to a local hospital for a full series of X-rays. (In an interesting side note, those of you who have the recent DVD tribute to Forry Ackerman, THE SCI-FI BOYS, look closely at one of the scenes of Forry giving a tour of the Ackermansion in the ‘70’s… there, in the background, sitting quietly on the shelf, is our friend the Styracosaurus, rotted rubber and all!)

This level of commitment and dedication was shown throughout the filming of the recreation, from using period photographic equipment to sampling Fay Wray’s unforgettable scream to use for constructing the various creature howls and roars. I may be in danger of redundancy, but you can feel the emotional attachment this group of filmmakers has for this classic movie.

So, after all this effort, was the finished product worth it? Yes, I think so. Is it what Cooper and Obie originally shot? No, but it’s probably close, damn close. And for me, as far as this is concerned, close is close enough.



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1957—Horror’s Greatest Year

[Ed. Note:  This is a reprint of an article I wrote several years ago, as such, some references may be out of date.]


As with almost everything else under the sun, the cinema’s love affair with Horror movies runs in cycles, sometimes good, sometimes bad. Currently, I feel that we’ve been in a very “up” cycle for several years, with no real sign of a downturn yet.


There have been other “up” cycles, of course… The early thirties, Hollywood’s “Golden Age” of Horror; the early forties, the heyday of Universal’s franchise horror; the late sixties-early seventies, as two dying venues, the Drive-In and the Grindhouse converged to funnel grittingly realistic, spectacularly gory, deliciously exploitative fare directly to eager movie-goers. But in terms of a single year, one 12-month period when the Horror gods truly smiled, I don’t think there’s ever been one as good as 1957.

There are those who would argue that 1931 was the greatest year for Horror. They would have a valid argument that it was certainly the most significant, with the premiere of Browning’s DRACULA in February; the greatest Horror Film of all, James Whale’s FRANKENSTEIN, in November; and Rueben Mamoulian’s definitive version of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, which opened on New Year’s Eve 1931.

Others might lean towards 1968, when one low-budget movie became the demarcation line to show when Modern Horror began. George Romero’s landmark NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was, without a doubt, a seminal moment in the history of the Horror cinema, but it was far from the only one that year. From Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, to Polanski’s ROSEMARY’S BABY, there’s no doubt that 1968 was a tremendously important year for Horror.

But in terms of sheer volume and enjoyability, it’s difficult to deny 1957 its place in the Horror Hall of Fame. Here’s just a partial listing of the titles that premiered that year: 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH; THE BLACK SCORPION; THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN; THE DEADLY MANTIS; I WAS A TEEN-AGE WEREWOLF; and THE MONOLITH MONSTERS. Are these great movies? No, not for the most part. But they’re fun movies; the kind of movies that kids my age grew up watching on the various Hosted Horror shows that were hallmarks of our youth.

20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH? A Ray Harryhausen triumph of Special Effects Animation, it stands perhaps as his third best work, eclipsed only by THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS and JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS.

THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN must certainly be considered one of the most significant films of the 1950’s, as the one that began Hammer Films climb to the top, as well as serving to introduce American audiences to Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, the greatest Horror Icons of their generation.

Though not as popular or as well received as some other Giant Bug movies, such as THEM! or TARANTULA, THE DEADLY MANTIS is in my opinion the best of them all. It has all the elements that make the Sci-Fi horrors of the 1950’s so much fun… The monster, one of the best looking creature designs of the period; decent acting; strong heroes; good plot; the “American people bonding together in times of adversity” attitude; and the generous use of stock footage. All of these factors combine to make one of the most enjoyable movies of the ‘50’s.

And of course, I WAS A TEEN-AGE WEREWOLF (along with it’s less well-known companion piece I WAS A TEEN-AGE FRANKENSTEIN…) was the movie that established American Independent Productions, the brainchild of producers Samuel Z. Arkoff and James Nicholson, as a major player in genre films of the ‘50’s, ‘60’s, and early ‘70’s. It also launched the career of Michael “Little Joe Cartwright” Landon.

All of these movies have two things in common… they are some of the most fondly remembered classics of that era, and they all premiered in 1957. Why was this year such a remarkable one for Genre films?

We were a prosperous, happy nation in 1957. We had just re-elected a popular President; we were at peace; the Baby Boom was well underway; more people than ever before owned their own homes, sent their kids to college, started their own businesses.

However, there was an undercurrent of dread all the same… fear of Atomic War, which seemed a constant presence in the American psyche of the time. The same people who had finally purchased a home of their own soon were improving on it, with a bomb shelter in the basement or backyard. Along with readin’, ‘ritin’, and ‘rithmetic, schoolchildren were also learning to “Duck and Cover…” at the first sign of a thermonuclear flash. And Iodine tablets, to prevent uptake of radioactive isotopes in the event of fallout, soon found their way into American medicine cabinets, right next to the aspirins and Bromo-Seltzer. This level of, well… not paranoia, for after all there was a real, distinct possibility of such an event… perhaps awareness might be the best way to describe it, had to be reflected in the popular culture and art of the time. Moreover, nowhere was it better represented than in the Horror & Sci-Fi films so popular at this time.

Perhaps this convergence of prosperity, contentment, and the overhanging sense of impending peril combined to create a perfect climate for these movies. Perhaps the public was just in the right mood for some simple scares. Or perhaps the pendulum of cinematic trends was just swinging back in the direction of Genre movies, after reaching a low point in the years immediately following the end of World War II.

But, as we begin to celebrate the fiftieth anniversaries of these wonderful films, we can be grateful that, for whatever the reason, 1957 remains one of the greatest years in Horror.






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My Favorite Kaijû

Though Kaijû, or the Giant Monsters of Japanese cinema, aren’t everyone’s cup of sakê, I just can’t get enough of them. Fortunately, my love of Toho Studio’s city-stomping creations is an honest one, dating back to a childhood spent watching Godzilla, Mothra, Ghidorah, and the rest rampaging across Japan, causing more destruction than a Phish concert. Of all the great monsters imported from Japan, however, one has always been my personal favorite, even more so than the undisputed King of Kaijû, Godzilla. That monster is Rodan, and 2006 marked the 50th anniversary of his debut.
I can’t really say what makes Rodan my favorite. Looking like a gigantic Pterodactyl, able to fly so fast that his supersonic wake can shatter skyscrapers, he just seemed so very… cool to a nine or ten-year old MonsterKid. He didn’t need to stomp cities into the ground, he just flew over, and the cities fell. No muss, no fuss, just total destruction.

I think another reason Rodan held such appeal for me is that all my friends were either Godzilla or Gamera fans, and I’ve always hated following the crowd. A natural iconoclast, I needed a favorite that was different from everyone else’s, something that stood out. Ghidorah was too evil; besides, he was always getting his ass kicked. Mothra was just too much of a girl’s kind of Kaijû. Rodan was just right.

His debut feature, SORA NO DAIKAIJÛ RADON ~aka~ RODAN, [see my review of the Sony DVD of the film below…] is one of the best of the Showa series movies, those Kaijû films made by Toho from 1954 to 1985. And Rodan was one of the most popular monsters during the Showa period, appearing in no fewer than eight Toho films, though some of his appearances were through the use of stock footage, a common cost-cutting measure employed by the studio. Often cast as an ally of Godzilla, it was easy to root him on, as he and Godzilla would deal with whatever alien-controlled Kaijû was sent to ravage the Japanese homeland this time out.

One of the best movies of this period was 1968’s KAIJÛ SÔSHINGEKI ~aka~ DESTROY ALL MONSTERS. It was also a typical mid-Showa Kaijû Eiga (literally, Monster Movie…), featuring Aliens working behind the scenes, controlling the various Monsters, using them as weapons as they sought to conquer the Earth. Invariably, Godzilla, along with either Mothra or Rodan, would revolt against the alien overlords, defeating the hostile Kaijû, and foiling the alien’s plans. This was a common theme in all three eras of Kaijû Eiga; in fact, the most recent film, and the final film in the Millennium series, GOJIRA: FAINARU UÔZU ~aka~ GODZILLA: FINAL WARS, is little more than a remake of KAIJÛ SÔSHINGEKI.

Rodan had a significant role in this, his fourth film. Though he was originally dispatched to destroy Moscow, Russia, he was freed from the alien mind control device and, along with Godzilla, Mothra, and Manda defeated first the Kilaaks, then the creature resurrected to combat the Kaijû, King Ghidorah.

Movies like DESTROY ALL MONSTERS were what summers were for when I was young. Spending the morning at the “Kiddee Show” at the local theater, me, my little brother, and our friends fueling our imaginations with decade-old Kaijû classics; then heading over to the neighborhood park in the afternoon. In the early ‘70’s, litigation had not yet replaced baseball as the national pastime, and children were still allowed to assume a modicum of risk when playing outside. The local park had an enormous ‘Jungle Gym’ type structure built in the shape of a rocket ship, one which would become our Kaijû-fighting spacecruiser after one of these Monster Matinees. Sure, it was built out of iron, resting on a massive slab of concrete, but I don’t recall one of us ever getting more than a cut or bruise playing on it. I do recall, however, hours spent talking about these monsters, arguing over which was the best, pretending that we were battling them, just being fans… just being kids.

The 1970’s weren’t kind to Rodan; though he appeared in three more Showa films (CHIKYÛ KOGEKI MEIREI: GOJIRA TAI GAIGAN ~aka~ GODZILLA vs. GIGAN, (1972); GOJIRA TAI MEGARO ~aka~ GODZILLA VS. MEGALON, (1973); and MEKAGOJIRA NO GYAKUSHU ~aka~ TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA, (1975)…) his appearances were limited to reused stock footage.

Tokyo was safe from the Kaijû for an entire decade following TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA, until the Heisei era began with GOJIRA ~aka~ GODZILLA 1985. Gone was the concept of Godzilla, as well as the other Kaijû, as Japan’s protectors; he was back, and he was bad. But it would be 1993 before Rodan made his lone Heisei appearance, in GOJIRA VS MEKAGOJIRA ~aka~ GODZILLA vs. MECHAGODZILLA II. But what the Heisei-era lacked in quantity was more than made up in quality, as he was revealed to be a “brother” of Baby Godzilla, died, was resurrected as Fire Rodan, and finally gave up his life force to save Godzilla. Heisei Kaijû films were nothing if not imaginative.

Rodan has made one more appearance thus far, in the aforementioned GODZILLA: FINAL WARS, the final film in the Millennium series which began with GOJIRA NI-SEN MIRENIAMU ~aka~ GODZILLA 2000 (1999). Though his role in GFW wasn’t as important as his fans no doubt desired, it was great to see him in action one more time, as he attacked New York City with gusto.

Recently we’ve celebrated the 50th anniversary of his screen debut. Have we seen the last of Rodan, Godzilla, Mothra, and the rest? Possible… but I won’t bet on it. Because if there’s one thing that we fans of Kaijû understand, it’s this:

You just can’t keep a good monster down.





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DVD Review: THEM!

Title: THEM!

Year of Release—Film: 1954

Year of Release—DVD: 2002

DVD Label: Warner Home Video





THEM! is the grand-daddy of Giant Bug movies, and is easily the best of this sub-genre of 1950’s Sci-Fi/Horror. Directed by Gordon Douglas and starring James Arness, James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, and Joan Weldon, this was Warner’s biggest money-maker for 1954, as well as an Oscar-nominee for Best Special Effects.

Though the Atomic-Mutated-Monster theme seems hackneyed today, in the early fifties it was all brand new, frightening, and exciting. After all, the world had entered the Atomic age only nine years prior to the movie’s release, and it really was on the leading edge of the Mutated Beast trend.

Not only is THEM one of the first, it’s by far the best. The acting is far above-par for films of this type, with excellent performances from Arness, Whitmore, and Gwenn. James Whitmore is especially impressive as the laconic, determined State Trooper Ben Peterson, out to avenge the death of his partner due to the ants. The story is strong and well-written, with a plot that makes sense and is remarkably uncontrived. The hunt for the ants progresses in a logical, sensible manner, free of the mass of red herrings common in films of this sort. While the dialogue is typical 1950’s Hollywood, (“Golly-Gosh-Darn, Peggy, that’s a giant ant!”… [no, that’s not an actual quote!—JS]) it’s no worse than usual, and not nearly as bad as some.

This movie has few weaknesses, though Joan Weldon’s acting ability certainly qualifies. She’s the typical Universal Starlet of the ‘40’s and ‘50’s… paid $250 a week to look good, say her lines, and scream on cue. Also, the resolution of the movie seems anticlimactic to me. While the battle in the sewers is exciting, I wanted more of it… maybe a battle through the streets of Los Angeles. What there was was good. It just wasn’t enough.

One thing you can say about Warner Home Video… they know how to put out a quality DVD. Whether for a newly released blockbuster, or a classic from their vaults, WHV always turns out a top-quality offering and the DVD for THEM! is no exception.

They started with an absolutely beautiful print of the film, and added subtitles, a full scene selection menu, and packaged it up nicely.

The only complaint I have on the disc, and this is common to Warner Home Video releases, is their use of their proprietary “Snap Case.” This case, constructed largely of cardboard, is cheaper than the “Keep Case” that is the standard for most manufacturers, offers nowhere near the protection for the disc, and is just a general annoyance to me. Still, that’s a very minor negative in a disc full of positives.

For a fifty-six year old movie, Warner really got it right on the Special Features for this baby. While there are not a large number of them, the quality of the offerings really shines. There’s a “Behind-the-Scenes” look at how the Ants were operated, a photo gallery of on-the-set and publicity stills, a cast biography section, as well as a text history of the “Big Bug” films of the ‘50’s through the ‘90’s.

While the history is interesting, the ant footage is great, and a thrill for fans of the movie, such as yours truly. All the special features are tremendously well-done, and my only complaint is that there isn’t more of them.

If asked to pick one film to define the decade of the ‘50’s, I’d be hard-pressed to find a better choice than THEM. It succeeds on virtually every level, and gave birth to an entire genre of Horror & Sci-Fi films.

I can’t imagine anyone who’s a fan of the 1950’s B-Movie Drive-In type of movie to not want this one in their collection. While the $20 list price is higher than what I consider “Impulse Buy” range, you can always find it cheaper. Besides, this one is too important to pass up, even at full price. You have to have this one… take my word for it!





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DVD Reviews: GOJIRA / GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS 2-Disc Collector’s Set

Title: GOJIRA / GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS 2-Disc Collector’s Set


Year of Release—Film: 1954

Year of Release—DVD: 2006

DVD Label: Sony / Classic Media

GOJIRA—(1954)

For fifty years, American audiences have known only one version of the definitive Japanese Monster Movie, GOJIRA; the edited-for-American distribution version entitled GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS. Though VHS tapes of the original Japanese edit, while hard to find, were available here, for most of us the version that had been pieced together with footage of Raymond Burr was the only GODZILLA to which we had access. That all changed earlier this month with the release of Classic Media’s gorgeous 2-disc GOJIRA Collector’s Set.

Those of you who think you know this movie really must see the original. Everything that serves to detract from the quality of the Hollywood version is gone, and we can see just how much was cut, both to tone down the serious message of the Japanese film, and to make room for the spliced-in scenes. This movie, which for all the excitement and affection it engenders has always seemed a weakly-plotted mish-mash driven only by action, now stands revealed in its unadulterated form as a thoughtful, literate film, nearly twenty minutes longer than the U.S. edit.

Moments that wound up on a cutting-room floor in Hollywood help to convey the original intent of the film’s creators: Gojira isn’t just some honked-off dinosaur out for a meal. He is the very incarnation of the hell Japan brought down upon itself during World War II, including the embodiment of Japan’s ultimate nightmare, the Atomic Bomb. In a telling line of dialogue that failed to make it into the Hollywood edit, a young couple is discussing finding a shelter if Gojira should attack Tokyo. Another man, hearing this, comments “Not the shelters again… that really stinks!” Memories of the war were still fresh in the collective Japanese conscious, and comment similar to this throughout the film, while having tremendous relevance for Japanese audiences of the mid-‘50’s, would have been problematic at best for audiences in the U.S.

I’ve waited a lifetime to see this version of one of my favorite films, only to discover that they are two different movies entirely. But I certainly wasn’t disappointed, and now have an even deeper appreciation for the Big G.

GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS—(1956)

I reviewed this movie once already during Kaijû Month here at CreatureScape, and there isn’t much I can say to alter my original opinions of this film. It remains one of my favorites, and has been for most of my life.

The one thing that I can add to that assessment is that, as much as I do love this version, to deny that it is vastly inferior to the original GOJIRA would be intellectually dishonest; having them together for direct comparison only serves to highlight those inferiorities. The thoughtful, deliberate pacing and intelligent scripting of the original is completely lost here, as a 98-minute film is condensed into less than 80 minutes, eliminating most of the plot and virtually all of the character development.

Still, this is the version I first saw decades ago as a young MonsterKid, and it was impressive enough, even in its heavily-altered form, to inspire a life-long love of Kaijû movies. It’s nowhere near as good as the original… but that still makes it better than any other giant monster movie of its era.

This 2-disc set is beautifully packaged in a stout Digipak case like the ones used for the Universal Legacy Collections. If anything, the graphic design is nicer than that for the Universal sets, and far superior to the standard artwork used for most of the Toho films released to DVD, much more subdued and somber, fitting the mood of the films inside.

In keeping with Japanese packaging standards, the whole is surrounded by a belly-band containing the DVD specifications, making a very attractive package indeed.

The two discs contained within all this beautiful packaging are certainly worthy of the advance press, though I can’t help thinking that they could be better. The print used for the GOJIRA transfer looked great to me, though I have seen complaints about it being an inferior print. Frankly, I think such complaints are typical videophile snobbery. The transfer is far superior to any print of GODZILLA that I’ve previously seen, and that’s good enough to satisfy me. I’m not sure how much you can expect from fifty-year old celluloid. And as for the GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS transfer, while it is much better than any I’ve seen before, doesn’t quite match the quality of the GOJIRA print. Perhaps this is due to the original masters not being equal in quality. Still, the transfer is superior to any I’ve seen before.

The one flaw that is present is the audio quality on GODZILLA. I understand that they are working with aging recordings, but still, some effort could’ve been made to clean the tracks up for this release. Barring that, at least provide subtitles for GODZILLA. (GOJIRA, with the original Japanese audio, is already subtitled…)

On the whole, this is a beautiful set, and is just one more in a list of terrific releases of classic Horror and Sci-Fi films that we’ve been blessed with over the past few years. It’s a trend I hope to see continue. Fortunately, Classic Media has two additional releases scheduled for November that will follow this format: GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN and GODZILLA vs. MOTHRA.

In terms of special features on these discs, there’s not a lot present that really impresses. What’s there is good, but this isn’t a set that people will buy because of the extras.

The GOJIRA disc has the lion’s share of extras, with two featurettes; one on the story development, and one on the design of the first Goji-suits. Both of these are sparse and cheap-looking, composed primarily of still photographs and voice-over narration. Still, they are fascinating glimpses at the genesis of the king of kaijû, and are worth watching.

The commentaries on each film, well done by Steve Ryfle and Ed Godiziszewski, are interesting and informative, avoiding becoming pedantic and lecturing. They even manage to slip a rather obvious “Brokeback Mountain” reference in during one of Raymond Burr’s GODZILLA scenes.

The only real extra on the GODZILLA disc, other than the commentary, is the original trailer for the U.S. release.

Overall, while these extras do add to the set, they’re not why you want to buy this DVD. The opportunity to finally own the original GOJIRA, uncut and unedited, is all the “special feature” you need for that.

As I said earlier, I’ve waited a lifetime to see the original GOJIRA, and I was not disappointed. My affection for GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS, the version I grew up with, hasn’t changed. I still love it despite all its flaws and faults. But it is badly flawed, and that can’t be ignored. Now you can see, in direct comparison, just how good the original was, and why, even adulterated the way it was, it still had the power to enthrall generations.





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DVD Review: SORA NO DAIKAIJÛ RADON ~aka~ RODAN

Title: SORA NO DAIKAIJÛ RADON ~aka~ RODAN


Year of Release—Film: 1956

Year of Release—DVD: 2002

DVD Label: Sony


One of the best Showa-era Kaijû films, Rodan is my personal favorite of the horde of monsters unleashed by Japan’s Toho Studios in the 1950’s and ‘60’s; and with a competent plot, good acting, and better than usual effects, his screen debut beats all but the original GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS in terms of quality, without the preachy, heavy-handedness of the earlier film. The result is a thoroughly enjoyable movie, one that still carries a message, to be sure, but it doesn’t try to beat you over the head with it.

Mysterious happenings at a coal mine in Kyushu have the workers on edge, and fights are breaking out between the stressed miners. The mine is being driven deeper than ever before, and one evening the departing shift realizes that two men are missing. They soon find one of the men dead, floating in a flooded-out section of tunnel. However, when they turn him over, it’s obvious that the miner didn’t drown; his body has been horribly mutilated.

Though the authorities assume that the missing man, Goro, is responsible for the death of the miner, his friend (and the fiancé of Goro’s sister Kiyo…) Shigeru refuses to believe that. He’s soon proven right as a group of monstrous beetle-like creatures known as meganulons attack the mining town. The army soon arrives to battle the giant insects, only to discover there’s a far more deadly foe rising from the bowels of the earth, in the form of a pair of massive pteranodons called Rodans.

The first Kaijû film shot in color, Ishirô Honda’s second Kaijû epic managed to avoid the heavy editing that saw forty minutes excised from GOJIRA, to be replaced with footage featuring a pre-‘Perry Mason’ Raymond Burr for the American version. Instead, there was a brief prologue attached that served to connect the appearance of the monsters to Atomic testing.

The acting in these early Kaijû films was far superior to what would become the norm in the late ‘60’s—early ‘70’s, and the movies overall were much better. This one certainly is.

Like the disc for GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS, this is a bare-bones offering without even subtitles, though the film is closed-captioned. The print used for the transfer is clean and sharp enough, though it would be nice to see a thorough remastering done to the film. Not a spectacular DVD, but I guess you can chalk this one up to a case of “You get what you pay for…”, and for this, that’s not much.

As with the other discs in this Ultimate Godzilla set from Sony, there are none. Oh, they’ve put the audio menu here, that allows you to pick from Mono or Stereo tracks, as well as a promo clip for a Kaijû-themed Gamecube game. First, I don’t consider Sound to be a Special Feature, and second, neither is a commercial for something I don’t have, never will, and couldn’t use if I did. The Unimonster, ever three paces behind the cutting edge, still hasn’t upgraded from the PSOne, and is sorry he ever let go of his NES Console. (I’m really jonesing for some Super Mario Brothers…)

Though there isn’t anything on the disc other than the film to recommend it, in this case that’s enough… especially in light of it’s list price, which is around $8. If you buy the Box Set, it’s even cheaper.

As I said before, Rodan is my favorite Kaijû, beating out even the Great Grumpy One himself, albeit narrowly. I definitely have no qualms about giving his debut feature my highest recommendation. Don’t waste time… grab it now.





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The Unimonster's Crypt Presents-The Junkyardfilms.com's Moldie Oldie Movie of the Month: THEY CRAWL

Title: THEY CRAWL




Year of Release—Film: 2001



Detective Gina O'Bannion (Tamara Davies), a tough as nails LA cop, is assigned by Captain Righetti (Bennet Guillory) to work on the Trillion murders case. It seems several bodies have been found with severe burn marks and punctures and missing all their internal organs. The Trillion Cult's MO is human disembowelment. Hindering Det. O'Bannion's work is her fellow detective, Det. Hardy (William Keane) who steals her ideas and presents them as his own. Aiding Det. O'Bannon is Ted Gage, who is currently waiting military court marshal for punching an officer. Ted Gage's brother is one of the murder victims. Little do they know that the true culprits behind these strange murders is one man, Lazarus (Brandon Karrer) and his band of mind-controlled killer cockroaches!

As the body count increases, the crusading duo discovers a secret government plot involving encrypted emails from a mysterious source that also involves two students of a local community college and Tiny Frakes (Mickey Rourke), a Trillion cult member. After recovering some encrypted emails from his dead brother's computer, Ted goes to fellow student Shane Torian (Scott Rinker) for help in breaking the encryption code and they discover it's a blueprint for a giant cockroach! Confused, Ted approaches Prof. Jurgen (Dennis Boutsikaris), who tells Ted he will try to find some information on the mysterious Lazarus.

Meanwhile, Det. O'Bannion is investigating the strange death of an exterminator (Tim Thomerson) who is discovered burned and disemboweled and whose body has been moved post-mortem. Tiny bits of uncooked rice are caught in the folds of his clothes. Was it the Trillion Cult? Det. Hardy thinks so, pointing out the cult's mark on the ceiling above the body. Unnoticed, a single cockroach crawls up his pant leg.

The Prof calls Ted and tells him he can find Lazarus at a street address he provides and Ted with Det. O'Bannion in tow, go to the address but their back-up police car beats them there and the two cops are blown to bits when the open the house's front door. This odd coincidence lands Ted in lock-up and Det. O'Bannion is chewed out by her Captain, who threatens to suspend her. However, he explains that he needs all of his officers on the street until the killer or killers are found! A Press conference is called and as the Captain soothes a ruffled Press corps, Det. Hardy begins thrashing around and collapses dead on the floor, a single cockroach crawls out of his ear.

The test results are in and Det. O'Bannion and Ted discover that the uncooked rice is from a wharf warehouse in San Pedro. The exterminator had been there on the day his body was discovered! Finely, a clue to what may have caused his death! The detecting duo along with the LA coroner Glen (Ken Lerner) dash to the warehouse to discover a man loading large boxes into a truck. Telling the loading dock worker they will have to inspect the boxes, they are told they must first get permission from the warehouse foreman inside. Upon entering the building, they discover Prof. Jurgen bound and gagged. As Det. O'Bannion and Ted assist the Prof., Lazarus walks in and points a gun at Coronor Glen's head, demanding that Ted and the Detective stop what they are doing and surrender their guns. Lazarus tells the captured foursome that he IS TRILLION and that he and his 60 trillion cockroaches will rule the World! Then, he shoots Coroner Glen in the head and demands that Ted and Det. O'Bannion get into a large crate filled with live cockroaches. Disgusted, Ted kicks a hole in the side of the crate and thousands of cockroaches spill.

Ted grabs his surrendered gun, Det. O'Bannion grabs hers and all three enter into gunplay. However, they are all terrible shots and never once hit their intended targets. Lazarus makes good his escape in the half-loaded truck with Ted clinging to the side. Det. O'Bannion again attempts to rescue Prof Jurgen but finds him covered and devoured by thousands of cockroaches. The cockroaches turn on her and, despite her shooting at them repeatedly, swarm over her body. Ted, having stopped Lazarus' escape, runs to help Det. O'Bannion but it is too late! Or is it! Lazarus runs into the warehouse and is shot repeatedly by the detective who has somehow hoisted herself up on a chain-fall. As Ted helps the detective down, all the cockroaches begin to mingle and form a massive single cockroach! Det. O'Bannion tries to shoot the monster roach to no avail. Ted gets the escape truck and, holding down the gas pedal with a rod, aiming it at the giant roach, lets it run smack into it, sending it to insect heaven! Ted and the detective embrace! The End.

While reading the imdb reviewer's comments, I was struck by how many of them practically begged the reader to drink while watching this movie. Unfortunately, I did not listen. Tamera Davies plays her role of the tough-as-nails lead detective like someone who has had a personality by-pass. William Keane as Det Hardy needs anger management classes! Daniel Cosgrove can't decide between angst and anger so plays both interchangeably at a moment's notice. Although the box lists Mickey Rourke in a starring role, he's in this all of two or three minutes and plays his role like someone after a quick paycheck. The only actor in this who did a half-way decent acting job was Timothy Roberts as the card shark. He deserved to be in this movie more than his five-minute role. While the explosions and car crashes were excellent, the CGI on the cockroaches would have made the SYFY channel proud! As they swarmed across the floors and walls, they resembled a moving mass of a gray or brown oily substance...without individual form. And, for a movie that advertises hoards of invading cockroaches, there was only one real, live roach in the whole movie!

So, readers, I guess it's true. Some movies require imbibing large quantities of alcohol just to make it through. So, if you must watch THEY CRAWL, despite my warning, lay in some liquid refreshments. You won't be sorry!

MSTJunkie






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