With Garth Edwards’ blockbuster Godzilla reboot to be released on DVD and Blu-Ray September 16, many of you may be interested in watching and/or collecting Big G’s original Japanese adventures; that’s 28 films in total. Unfortunately, unlike other long-running franchises like the James Bond series, these films aren’t all owned by the same distributor. Toho, the studio that created Godzilla, has divvied out the rights to several U.S. companies over the years, which makes collecting these films a bit difficult.
Never fear! I’m a longtime G-fan who’s spent many years collecting these films. I will be your guide into the world of Godzilla DVDs. There are lots of bootlegs out there. Accept no substitutes!
With Godzilla becoming more popular, more titles may be re-released in the future, so this guide may soon become outdated.
I’m excluding both of the American remakes: the 1998 version is hated, and the 2014 version will be easy to find. I also will exclude other Toho monster films like Rodan and Mothra and focus on just Godzilla.
This guide will be split into four parts: parts one and two will focus on the original Showa series (1954-1975), part three will be on the Heisei series (1984-1995), and part four will be on the Millennium series (1999-2004).
Here we go!
Showa Series, Part 1 (1954-1968)
Gojira/Godzilla, King of the Monsters
This was one of the first ever G-films released on DVD, but good luck finding it. Simitar went out of business in the early 2000s. Unless you’re a hardcore collector, this and the other Godzilla DVDs it released aren’t worth tracking down. This one includes only the Americanized version of the film and not at the proper “original aspect ratio.” The special features are scarce: mostly limited to trailers for other G-films created by Simitar, a trivia game, and a cheesy documentary. The DVDs also has encoding issues.
A barebones release with the Americanized version of the film in full-screen. No special features and boring cover art. Don’t bother unless you’re a cheapskate.
Finally, after years of demand and waiting, G-fans got an official release. Classic Media’s DVD includes both versions of the film presented in their proper aspect ratios. It features several retrospective making-of documentaries and commentaries on both versions. Unfortunately, the Blu-Ray edition Classic Media released later includes only the original Japanese version and no special features. Regardless, the DVD is a must-have.
Gojira was added to the prestigious Criterion Collection in 2011 with this Blu-Ray. It includes both versions of the films in nearly identical presentations as the Classic Media discs. However, what may convince you to buy it is the completely new special features, including new commentaries and an interview with cast and crew members. This one is harder to find, though, since Criterion has only limited print runs for their releases. It’s worth it, though.
Godzilla Raids Again
Arguably the rarest of the G-films, Godzilla Raids Again was out of print on VHS for years until the mid-2000s when it was released on DVD by Classic Media. It includes both the original and U.S. versions of the film and a handful of special features, including a humorous commentary.
King Kong vs. Godzilla
This barebones disc was also one of the earliest Godzilla DVDs. Long out of print, it features nothing but a full-screen presentation of the U.S. version of the film and some production notes. Admittedly, the cover is amusing since it’s obvious it was created in PhotoShop using images of the creatures from other movies. It’s not worth finding.
Universal owns the rights to all of King Kong’s films, so it released a superior DVD several years ago and then re-released it on Blu-Ray recently (though I hear this is rushed job and inferior to the DVD). The film is in widescreen, but again, it includes only the dubbed version and has no special features. Unless there’s a future release that includes the original Japanese version in widescreen, this is the one you want.
Mothra vs. Godzilla (aka Godzilla vs. Mothra and Godzilla vs. the Thing)
Simitar made worthy efforts with these early DVDs, but they don’t stand up to the test of time. This includes only the dubbed version of the film, though it is in widescreen. It has the same special features as King of the Monsters minus the documentary. Long out of print.
Yet another cheap release from Sony with uncreative cover art, full-screen presentation, no Japanese version, and no special features. Skip it.
This is the one to own. While Classic Media’s other releases aren’t as prestigious as Gojira, they still gave fans what they always wanted. It includes both versions of the film plus a commentary, a slideshow, and a biography on Godzilla music composer Akira Ifukube. Buy this one.
Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (aka Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster)
After being long out of print on VHS for years, Classic Media released this noteworthy entry in the series on DVD in the mid-2000s. This is the first appearance of Godzilla’s archenemy Ghidorah and marks Big G’s shift to heroism. Like other Classic Media releases, it includes both versions of the film, a commentary, and a few other special features. Snag it!
Invasion of Astro-Monster (aka Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, Monster Zero)
Nothing new to say about this one. It’s the same as Simitar’s other releases other than it features a different film. However, I’ll mention that I think Simitar’s DVDs have weird cover art. Out of print and not worth the time.
Can’t say much new here, either, but Classic Media actually did it right. Both versions of the films, a commentary, and a few other nice special features. It’s amusing to watch the Japanese version of this since American actor Nick Adams is dubbed in Japanese! Also, kudos for using the original Japanese posters as the cover art. Highly recommended.
Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (aka Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster)
After being a staple on VHS, Sony released this cheesy entry on DVD in the mid-2000s. The cool thing is this is the original Japanese cut of the film and can be watched in the original language or a new English dub. No special features other than a handful of trailers for other Sony films, though.
If you’d rather have the film on Blu-ray, Kraken Releasing has that for you. It’s pretty much the same as the Sony DVD except it has the film’s original Japanese trailer instead of unrelated trailers.
Son of Godzilla
While Sony never gave their releases the star treatment Classic Media did, they were still a step up. Like Ebirah, this 2004 disc features widescreen presentation and dual language tracks. The only supplements are trailers for other Sony films released at the time.
Destroy All Monsters
This fan-favorite is the Avengers of Toho’s kaiju films. A TV staple for years, it was never officially released to home media until 1998, courtesy of ADV Films. Unfortunately, while it featured anime-like cover art and widescreen presentation, the disc contained only the English dubbed version of the film. Seriously, it doesn’t even have a menu! Complicating matters is the fact that ADV went out of business in the mid-2000s, so this disc is out of print.
ADV re-released this film on DVD in 2004 to celebrate Big G’s 50th anniversary. Sadly, it’s the same as the first disc except with a different cover. However, they did include a soundtrack CD, which might make this out of print disc worth finding.
A few years ago, Media Blasters delighted fans by releasing Destroy All Monsters on Blu-ray (and DVD) under its Tokyo Shock imprint. Unlike ADV’s releases, it has a menu, dual language tracks, and a few special features, including a commentary. This is also the Japanese edit of the film, so fans can see the original opening credits. Unfortunately, Toho got overprotective and uppity with this release since the the special features weren’t approved, so this disc is now out of print and goes for a hefty price. It’s worth it, though. However, if you’re budget-conscious, Media Blasters recently re-released it without special features. (Why do you have to a bunch of haters, Toho?)
Next time on the Godzilla DVD guide:
Godzilla vs…the ’70s!