Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Deep Discount DVD has a good bargain on the Carnosaur collection. This is the three Roger Corman produced "Carnosaur" movies. These are not what you'd call high art, even for giant monster movies, but they're fun and, now, cheap to buy! The films were produced to cash in on the "Jurassic Park" hype. Personally, I love the films. I can't wait to see them again and will write more after I've viewed them.
UPDATE: Carnosaur review here. The Mysterians DVD Review reviews the Mysterians DVD. Overall, they weren't big fans. But apparently, they felt more Mogera would have made it a better film:

It's also a mystery to the film, seemingly defeated within the opening half hour, then making a barely noticeable appearance near the finale, only to be crushed by the armed forces machinery. It feels like it was added at the last moment, and that ends up being a significant piece of trivia. There should have been more scenes involving the robot, especially to break up the war involving a stationary dome.

Of course, most films could benefit from giant monsters and robots. But maybe that's just me.

Friday, July 22, 2005


"Dogora" is now out from Media Blasters. It's the story of jewel thieves and a giant jellyfish desperately in need of carbon.
It's a strange movie. The jewel thief story seems to go on despite what's happening with the giant monster. If I understand the history of the movie correctly, a movie about jewel thieves was melded with the giant monster theme early on so Eiji Tsubaraya and Ishiro Honda could try some new technology of the time.
The new technology doesn't look so new now. The title creature is mainly jellyfish arms hanging from the skies, with only a couple of shots of the entire creature. The creature is matted in to the film - there's no rubber suits here. Unfortunately, some of the special effects near the end of the film - when the monster has been broken up into smaller "space cells" - are downright awful.
Still, the story was fun, if bizarre. Unlike "Varan," I was never bored with this movie. The disc is more basic than most of the Media Blasters releases. It only has the theatrical trailer and a photo gallery. Still, the transfer is excellent and this is the first time this movie has been released in its original Japanese form here. So another good job for Media Blasters.
Next up from the company is "Yog: Monster from Space." No release details are available yet. That's another film I've never seen and includes three giant monsters! I hope it's worth it.
There's also talk of Media Blasters looking to pick up "Atragon." Although it only has a minor giant monster part - Manda! - it's one of my favorite Ishiro Honda films. Let's hope Media Blasters is able to bring a new version here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Varan the Unbelievable

For years I've owned a video tape copy of Varan the Unbelievable put out by Something Weird. It was the U.S. version, starring Myron Healey, and it was awful. I tried watching it about 10 times and managed not to fall asleep about twice. But those images of the monster, Varan, always intrigued me. I wanted to know, what were the secrets of the original film, how had Americanization screwed it up.
Thanks to Media Blasters, now I know. The company's Tokyo Shock division has been putting out some great Japanese films of late, including The Mysterians and one of my favorite films, Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People. Varan is the first giant monster movie in the series (well, Mysterians features a giant robot, Mogera, but is really focused on the alien invasion).
And I've come to find out that Varan is still not a great giant monster movie. The first part of the film, set in the "Tibet of Japan," has some atmospheric looking locations and includes actual danger to the protagonists. But the rest of the film is bogged down in military movements and Varan thrashing around in the water. Even the smashing of buildings near the end isn't all that exciting.
Varan, itself, is a pretty good monster, as long as it stays on four feet. In those scenes, it moves like no other monster in the Toho canon. It seems to move like a cat, slinking back and forth, and often pulls its front two legs up on to a structure or mountain to get a better look at flares shot off by the military. On two legs, which only seems to happen near the end, it's just embarrassing. Varan's arms move side-to-side like the Creature from the Black Lagoon and really, it just doesn't look stable.
Then there's the flying. Completely excised from the American version, Varan flees from his homeland by getting on top of a mountain and spreading flying-squirrel-like wings. It makes the monster seem all the more interesting, but it seems to come out of nowhere and is never used again.
Still, this version is a far better film than the American, and it certainly deserves a look from all dedicated monster fans.
The disc is terrific. You get Japanese language with subtitles on the movie, plus there's a second version of the movie as it was originally edited for television. There's also an audio commentary.
But the best extra I've seen is a short video about the molding of Varan. Keizo Murase, the original molder of Varan, teaches this little course in the making of scales and skin. It makes me want to build my own Varan at home!
Media Blasters isn't finished yet, either. They've got two more giant monster movies lined up, both of which I can't wait to see. The first is Dogora, giant jellyfish that come from the sky. That DVD is out now. The second is Yog, the Monster from Space, which will go under its original American title Space Amoeba. Details on both films can be seen in the HenshinOnline archives.