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New on Disc: 'Godzilla' and more …

23 Jan, 2012 By: Mike Clark


Street 1/24
Criterion, Sci-Fi, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Akira Takarada, Momoko Kochi, Takashi Shimura.
Though no one will ever categorize the vintage Toho library holdings as a cache of pristine print sources, the fact is that the new Criterion DVD of 1954’s Gojira (which launched the by now all-but-eternal “Godzilla” franchise without necessarily intending to) looks and sounds even better than the Blu-ray version of it that Classic Media put out in 2009. So let’s get this not insignificant point established right up front — even if the real fun from this release is in learning about Gojira’s production and its re-editing into the most commercially successful Japanese import that had reached U.S. shores at the time — as, of all possibilities, one of screen history’s stranger Raymond Burr showcases.

This latter and largely English-dubbed version, which became the source of much school playground discussion when I was in the third grade, was titled Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Directed by the era’s well-known “film doctor” Terry O. Morse (who was often called upon to reconstruct and save the life of ailing productions), it is included in full here as a bonus feature, which effectively makes this Criterion release a two-fer.

The fun of watching director Ishiro Honda’s original comes in being able to appreciate it as a more solemn (even mournful) Godzilla pic, one that is not quite as sensationalistic as the American re-edit.

Extras: The Criterion extras here touch upon the special effects, actor reminiscences and the effective score — plus an interview with film critic Tadao Sato. Film historian David Kalat offers commentaries for both versions of the film, though the Morse-Burr cut (which he likes and defends) offers more opportunities for voiceover revelry.
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The Last Hunt

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Western, $19.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Robert Taylor, Stewart Granger, Lloyd Nolan, Debra Paget.
In this Richard Brooks Western released two years before the end of his MGM run, Robert Taylor played one of the few bad guys of his career. I’ve known or read of more than a couple of people who think The Last Hunt contains Taylor’s best performance, and I’d probably concur. Swashbuckler Stewart Granger plays a former Dakota buffalo hunter wary of resuming his old trade, who gets nudged into doing so by a cattleman hopeful (Taylor) whose stock is stampeded by an already endangered species.
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Frontline: The Anthrax Files

PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD, NR.
The material forming the basis for this documentary led to editorials calling for investigations into the FBI’s wobbly case against the late army scientist Dr. Bruce Ivins. But whether you’ve determined for yourself that Ivins didn’t — or actually did — send anthrax-filled letters to government officials in 2001, this multilayered cautionary tale shows how a mere accusation of having done “A” can cause a lot of hitherto well-concealed “Bs” to become a part of the public record to abject embarrassment and despair. This was a major tragedy with huge national security ramifications — yet it’s this documentary’s portrayal of a personality disintegrated (Ivins is portrayed as a sometimes very jolly, funny guy) that gives it the extra kick that a lot of viewers may not expect going into a film with this kind of title.
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