For the most part, the highly respected, top-tier home video house The Criterion Collection has steered clear of cult and genre movies. Oh sure, they've occasionally dipped their toes in the water ("Naked Lunch," "Hausu," The Nikkatsu Noir box, Monsters & Madmen box, among some others) but their staple releases have been auteur-driven, arthouse or foreign film releases. But monster movie buffs take note -- the granddaddy of them all is getting stamped with the wacky C.
First, a bit of background. As blogger August Ragone noted on his blog recently, the clues to the Criterion Collection's release of "Godzilla" have been appearing for a while now. Earlier this summer, Criterion's Hulu page offered free viewings of the Americanized "Godzilla! King Of The Monsters" which was soon followed by the uncut Japanese version with subtitles. Both then disappeared as mysteriously as they appeared, but folks over at Criterion continued to tease when they hit Facebook with a picture of a battered film canister with some Japanese writing on it. It didn't take the internet long to figure out it said "Dupe Posi(tive): GODZILLA. Reel 2 of 10 Reels. Toho Company, Ltd." Fans of the film flew into a frenzy wondering which version Criterion might be releasing as for the most part -- at least in North America -- "Godzilla" has survived in a edited version. Well, no more. Twitch reached out to August Ragone who has even more news and fans, take heart -- "Godzilla" will be stomping onto your screen in a brand new, completely unedited transfer.
The long and short of it is that the Criterion Collection put out a call to film collectors to try and locate the original 35mm elements of the film and according to August Ragone, what they have found is a 35 mm fine-grain print. Essentially, it's just one step down from a print made directly from the camera negative which in short means two things: firstly, "Godzilla" is going to look better than it has ever looked before and secondly, this release will restore the film to its original Japanese edit. Here's what August had to say about the missing scenes:
What was deleted? UPA's transfer is missing the original "Jewell Enterprises" logo at the top of the film (printed over Toho's sunburst logo), seen in early television versions (before UPA's acquisition), a starring and directed by card after the opening title, and the original -- and full -- ending credits sequence, which appeared between the fade out and "The End" title card. While Classic Media's release reinstates the original ending credits sequence (taken from a 16mm print owned by a private collector), it was placed after the "The End" title card. But, the other two deletions remained absent.
With the film now in the hands of Criterion, the big question remaining is what kind of special features this thing will get. Undoubtedly, this will be far from a bare-bones release and it will be interesting to see what else Criterion digs out of the Toho archives to supplement the film, but either way, this one is gonna be a monster (pun intended). No word yet on a street date but depending on how much restoration work needs to be done, late 2012 seems like a solid guess for now.