In case you haven't noticed, we are now down to ONE Godzilla film of the twenty-eight that lacks an official release in the U.S.A., and that is GODZILLA 1985. I was happy that BIOLLANTE came out first--and shocked--but it's too bad that the legalities of it didn't allow for a 2-pack or mini box-set of both films in one go.
Now, onto the disc itself. As with most official releases, there's good and bad news, and really the bad news will be received differently, depending on how "particular" the collector is. Firstly, if you are the least bit interested, this release is a must-own. Secondly, the price--$8 for the Blu-Ray and $5 for the DVD on Amazon? Are you kidding me? That's amazing.
After the excitement of DESTROY ALL MONSTERS and MEGALON, I went with the Blu-Ray, but honestly, after viewing it, I concluded that it really didn't matter, and I almost wish I had gotten the DVD version. The picture quality is fine, but it has that 1989 softness to it, and I doubt one format would be any better than the other. Another problem is the English dub, which is always a problem with these releases, because if there is a source available at all (and often there isn't), it's a reel-to-reel tape that's sat in a janitor closet for decades, and usually in bad shape. Here, the word is "muffled." So much so that, after watching the film, I switched over to the two Japanese audio tracks available (stereo and 5.1), and was shocked at the clarity. Also, this is one of those lackluster "International" dubs that Toho is famous for, where English-speakers were pulled off the street and offered a Big Mac for their time, and contains the term (as has been noted elsewhere) "Godziller" which kept cracking us up. (This is the same dub as what was on cable and home video, by the way.) But, if you don't want to have to continuously read subtitles to the younger Children in the room, this is the choice for you--although I will warn you, I had forgotten that there was as much swearing in the film as there was...and it's also comical in its over-the-top delivery.
As to the film itself, you gotta give them credit for the plot, which is pretty ingenious, though a bit convoluted, and difficult to follow for the kids in the room, since there are two different factions of enemy agents involved, and the action jumps all over the place. The "new" Godzilla design is debuted here, which would continue through the 90's to "Destroyah," and thank goodness for that, because the GODZILLA 1985 suit was just comical (indeed, when they use stock footage during the opening credits, linking the film to "1985," they keep using angles that don't show the face). Also, the longest-running continual character of Miki Segusa is introduced, and she also stayed around for the duration of the Heisei series. So, it's important to view the film as a launch into new territory, with a new generation of filmmakers. Also, don't throw away your old BIOLLANTE VHS, because this is a Japanese print--no English titles or credits here. I understand this, but I wish that both could have been included on the disc; at least the titles sequences, because I think the old-fashioned font of the "GODZILLA vs. BIOLLANTE" title screen is pretty necessary.
But the biggest problem with BIOLLANTE is that there simply isn't enough Biollante in it. What there is, is masterfully done, and holds up well; better than the rest of the effects in the film, even. It's just a long journey to get to the ending payoff, and that fight is waaaay too short.
That said, the MAKING OF BIOLLANTE documentary is the best item on the disc, and it's worth the price of admission by itself. This 50-minute special is fully subtitled, and contains every deleted scene you have seen or read about, and one brief one that isn't even listed at Toho Kingdom's website. The documentary glosses over nothing, and shows you the successes AND failures of making the film. Just to see the famous "big pool" at Toho (now long gone) being used about got me choked up.
I almost hate to make this a footnote, because this may even be a bigger deal! Never in my lifetime did I think we would get ULTRASEVEN released on DVD, in any format. I'm not even going to ask what mystical forces the DVD gods had to use to align the planets on this one; I'm just going to take it and run.
Yes, the greatest of the classic Ultra series has been officially released, in its six discs of uncut glory, with Japanese audio and newly-created subtitles. Supposedly, the Canadian TNT-dub was not completely available, and has been partially lost.....but who cares. That's the sort of thing to get from third-party fan-DVD sellers anyway. This is the real thing.
Now, it doesn't mean you don't need both--the infamous "banned" episode isn't on this official set, and was included in the TNT run, so go figure. (It's called "Crystallized Corpuscles" there, by the way.)
So, this isn't a totally "perfect" set--in fact, I was watching one episode last night where, near the end, the action suddenly skipped back about ten seconds, and then caught up with itself, which was bizarre (perhaps a film break)--but it's the one that we are going to get in our lifetimes, and I am thankful for it. The booklet by August Ragone is excellent reading, too. There are no extras, and no Blu-Ray, and we need neither! It's also available at Amazon, and could be the greatest Christmas present you receive this year.