Wednesday, June 4, 2014

GODZILLA ON MONSTER ISLAND (Blu-ray)

With Hollywood's new take on the King of the Monsters still raking in cash at the box office, fans and newbies alike will likely be searching out the earlier, classic Godzilla films on home video. Fortunately, Kraken Releasing has just unleashed three vintage G-flicks on Blu-ray, including 1972's monster mash, GODZILLA ON MONSTER ISLAND (a/k/a GODZILLA VS GIGAN).

In this 70s series entry, an aspiring manga cartoonist accidentally uncovers a plot by extraterrestrial villains to conquer the Earth by means of two terrible space monsters: the legendary King Ghidorah and the bizarre, buzzsaw-bellied, hook-handed Gigan. Fortunately, the cartoonist and his friends don't have to battle the aliens alone, as Godzilla and his former foe-turned-ally, Anguirus, arrive from Monster Island in time to tag team the titanic invaders in an epic behemoth beatdown.

Directed by Jun Fukuda (SON OF GODZILLA), GODZILLA VS GIGAN is a return to form (and formula) following the previous year's offbeat and excessive GODZILLA VS THE SMOG MONSTER. The story - and budget - is smaller, the tone is lighter, and the movie recycles lots of stock footage destruction from previous films (basically any shot of King Ghidorah attacking Tokyo). There's a lot to enjoy, though: the aliens are hiding out in a children's theme park, complete with a Godzilla-shaped tower, the new monster, Gigan, has a unique and odd design (later entries would establish that Gigan is some sort of cyborg), and the human characters are mostly appealing and intentionally amusing.

Kraken Releasing has brought GODZILLA ON MONSTER ISLAND (it's U.S. title) to HD in America for the first time, with a very pleasing 2.35:1 widescreen transfer from a near-pristine source. Colors are bright and stable, details are good, and there are only a few infrequent speckles and pops on the print. As with the other two Kraken releases, the original Japanese soundtrack and English dub are available in DTS-HD Master Audio Mono. The only supplemental feature is the original Japanese theatrical trailer, presented in high-def.

Not the best of the Big G's adventures, MONSTER ISLAND is still a fun kaiju romp, and worth checking out. Definitely recommended for diehard G-fans, who will want to upgrade their standard-definition DVDs to Blu-ray.