A few moons ago, Japanese conglomerate Sony bought out Columbia Pictures and its film library. Monster movie fans breathed a sigh of relief. We figured for sure that our days of waiting for the complete and uncut releases of classic Toho monster/science fiction movies was at hand. This was before the advent of DVD, mind you, which should give you a fairly good idea of how wrong we truly were. Finally, more than 20 years after the copyrights on some of these movies were renewed, a few more iconic fantasy films from the Land of the Rising Sun have made their way to DVD in a three-disc set. It’s about damn time, too.
Keeping up with their recent “Icons” series (see Icons Of Adventure or any of the Icons Of Horror entries), Sony Home Entertainment has released Icons Of Sci-Fi: Toho Collection. This set at long last gives us anamorphic widescreen presentations of The H-Man, Battle In Outer Space, and Mothra in both the English language versions that most of us grew up with, as well as their original uncut Japanese versions. Halle-fucking-lujah!
What happens when you make a movie mashing contemporary sci-fi, stylish film noir, and the proverbial social commentary? Well, chances are, you’ll wind up with The H-Man — a slower-than-average-but-still-fun yarn about gangsters, cops, and a mysterious entity that seems to dissolve its victims into nothingness. Boasting an outrageous soundtrack (love our heroine’s American singing voice!) and some memorable special effects, The H-Man is back in the home video limelight after being unavailable for years.
Battle In Outer Space? Don’t mind if I do! Of all the Japanese science fiction movies ever made, nothing quite possesses the fun of a space adventures (for me, at least — although I love the Godzilla flicks, too!). When an unseen alien race begins to wreak havoc on our beloved planet Earth, the nations of the world finally find an excuse to stop warring against each other — and declare war on the aliens. A joint multi-national expedition (hey, who told the Canadian he could launch the spaceships?) sends up two manned rockets to combat the critters (who have temporarily set up camp on the moon) and, hopefully, save humanity.
Lastly in our Japanese movie fest is Mothra. Now, should you have somehow made it this far in your life without so much as hearing the name Mothra, you probably don’t get our very much. In case the latter is true, I shall elucidate the story’s plot for you: it’s about a giant moth. Named Mothra. It flies. Destroys stuff. People die. But Mothra doesn’t start out that way. No, siree — Mothra starts out as a giant caterpillar who crawls. And destroys stuff. And people die. Oh, there are two miniature twin sisters in this that sing. You can’t beat that. Look, just see it, alright?
Once again, I have to commend Sony for the superlative job in presenting another beautiful “Icons” set. All three of these movies have never looked so lovely. Each movie is presented in its original TohoScope ratio of 2.35:1 and boasts well balanced contrasts and colors throughout. As I previously mentioned, all three titles have the option of watching them in their original uncut Japanese language (with optional English subtitles) or in their amusing English-dubbed state. Unfortunately, the English subtitles included on the Japanese versions are the translations from the English versions. Frankly, this was an odd and rather dumb choice — seeing as how there are now subtitles from the English version for people who aren’t talking in the Japanese version (?).
Some of the older “Icons” series seemed to have had better special features. Icons Of Adventure was loaded with ’em, while the Hammer Horror outing only had a few original theatrical trailers. Icons Of Sci-Fi: Toho Collection makes up for the trailers only by giving us informative audio commentaries for the English language versions of Battle In Outer Space and Mothra byauthors Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski.
Alas, Sony took out the trailers in the process (a few promos for other Sony collections are seen, though). They’ll get it right one of these days, I’m sure. But I’m not complaining. I dare not complain, or else it may be another 20 years before we see another batch of classic Toho sci-fi like this.
Keep it up, Sony — please!