Monday, January 14, 2013

GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE (Blu-ray)

"Godzilla and Biollante aren't monsters. It's the unscrupulous scientists who create them that are monsters!"

Budget label Echo Bridge Entertainment, continuing to exploit their acquisition of the Miramax film library, has recently brought the 1989 kaiju clash, GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE, to DVD and Blu-ray. This eagerly-awaited video event not only marks the first domestic digital release of the film, but also brings U.S. fans of Toho Studios' titanic saurian one step closer to being able to own all of the Big G's cinematic output on disc.

Geneticist Dr. Shiragami (Kôji Takahashi) has created a new hybrid life form, combining the genetic material of his deceased daughter, a rose bush and Godzilla. The resulting creation, Biollante, begins to mutate, growing to gargantuan proportions. Although a young, government-employed telepath, Miki Saegusa (Megumi Odaka) insists that the creature is peaceful, the monstrous plant seems to be summoning Godzilla, who had been last seen (in GODZILLA 1985), tumbling into an active volcano. Soon, the legendary lizard is crawling out of his volcanic tomb and trudging across Japan, heading for Osaka and the thorny rose monster. While the titans move toward their inevitable clash, various factions - including the Japanese government, Middle Eastern spies and organized crime - battle over Dr. Shiragami's discoveries...

Following the Big G's resurrection in 1985, the densely-plotted GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE established the franchise's creative direction for the Nineties, with a new continuity (including recurring human characters, like Ms. Odaka's "Miki," who would return in the next five installments), vastly improved special effects, and a more adult sensibility. While the centerpiece of the film (and its sequels) is still guys in monster suits slugging it out and exchanging animated ray blasts, the human characters are more carefully delineated, and the screenplay at least attempts to present deeper themes. In the case of BIOLLANTE, the story harkens back to the original, 1954 GODZILLA's discomfort with the rapid escalation of science and technology, substituting genetic engineering for nuclear power.

The special effects are extraordinarily well-done, especially for the late 80s. Though still primarily practical, relying upon stuntmen in rubber suits and detailed miniatures, the monster scenes are exceptionally well-lit and shot, resulting in considerable dramatic effect. The film also employs some limited, early CGI. The only thing in the film that isn't above average is Kôichi Sugiyama's odd musical score, which never really meshes with the tone of the movie.

Originally release in the U.S. on VHS and laserdisc by HBO Video (under license from Miramax, who acquired U.S. distribution rights from Toho) in 1992, in nice (for the time), letterboxed, English-dubbed editions, the new Blu-ray from Echo Bridge is a notable improvement in both visual and audio departments. GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE sports a very satisfactory, 1.85:1 1080p HD widescreen transfer from a pristine print. Picture quality is good, if not exactly stunning, with a slightly dim image and muted color palette. Still, it looks a lot better than previous editions, and the HD transfer does bring out some previously unseen details and textures. Surprisingly, Echo Bridge offers both 5.1 DTS and 2.0 DTS Japanese language tracks, and a solid, 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono English audio option. Subtitles are available in two varieties: English translation of the original Japanese dialogue and a SDH English transcription of the English dub. Also unexpected on a budget release, Echo Bridge includes a couple of supplemental features: a "Making Of" featurette and a look at the film's creature design. The DVD edition contains identical features, in standard-def.

Now, only the 1984 GODZILLA (known in the U.S. as GODZILLA 1985) remains unavailable on domestic DVD.

Echo Bridge's GODZILLA VS BIOLLANTE Blu-ray is highly recommended. It's an important film in the franchise, and has been rarely seen in the U.S. With a suggested retail of less than $10, there's no excuse for kaiju fans not to pick it up.

BUYGodzilla vs. Biollante [Blu-ray]