Calculate your chances...negative...negative...negative!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Why the Donnie & Marie Star Wars Special is the most Awesome Star Wars show ever.

It's funny. For a while I've been looking for this particular Star Wars related clip and last night I discovered it was right there under my nose the whole time. (It was hidden on the Return of the Ewok DVD I had acquired a while ago.) Anyway, I'm pleased to say it maybe even surpassed my expectations and is at least as good as the Holiday Special (at a fraction of the running time) and possibly even better.

Let me break down some of the many reasons why:

- Inspired casting. Donnie and Marie as Luke and Leia was a bit obvious, but how about Kris Kristofferson as Han Solo? Red Foxx as Obi Wan? Paul Lynde as whoever the character was Peter Cushing played in the first Star Wars movie. You heard me. PAUL LYNDE.

- Han Solo sings Sly & the Family Stone's "I Wanna Take You Higher." Unless Lucas digitally added that to a "special edition," I don't recall that happening in any of the movies.

- Singing and dancing stormtroopers. Mel Brooks, eat your heart out.

- Vader has a batallion of ice skating girls for no apparent reason.

- This is more curious than greatness, but apparently Han flys an Apolo rocket and Vader pilots the Millenium Falcon. Huh?

- I think this script would have been rejected by the makers of the "Turkish" Star Wars for not making any sense.

Trust me, there's more. Check it for yourself (for as long as YouTube allows this to live):

Part 1:

Part 2:

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Free Zone Halloween Extravaganza! With mp3s!

As promised, here's my part of the 2006 Free Zone Halloween Extravaganza! Enjoy!

Hour 1, Songs that remind me of Halloween:

The Raving Vampire Part 1 - Souls Unlimited
Rockness Monster - Akimbo
Monsters I've Met - Shel Silverstein
Sukie In The Graveyard - Belle & Sebastian
Mr. Hyde - The Coachwhips
I Was A Teenage Werewolf - The Cramps
The Mask - Dangerdoom (f. Ghostface)
Voodoo Soul Stew - The Daktaris
Ghost Train - Elvis Costello & The Attractions
Satan Is Real/Straight to Hell - Hank III
The Ghost - I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness
Children With Horns - If Thousands
Meathook - Jawbox
Cowboys and Aliens - Kitchens of Distinction
Psycko - Laika and the Cosmonauts
Hunted By A Freak - Mogwai
You Have Killed Me - Morrissey
Psychic Vampire - The Wipers

Hour 2, Halloween favorites and other creepy stuff:

There Is A Haunted House In Town - The Wonderland Singers
The Whip - The Vampires
The Monster Mash - Bobby 'Boris' Pickett
Suspicion - Alfred Hitchcock
The Shreik of Agony - Bob McFadden and Dor
The Wrists Twist - Frankie Stein and his Ghouls
Spirits, Monsters, Witches - Gershon Kingsley & Peter Waldron
Excerpt From A Christian Perspective on Halloween - Mike Warnke
Black Mass - Mort Garson
Little Green Riding Hood - The Children of the Night
Phantom of the A Go-Go - Don Hinson and the Rigomorticians
Creatures - Frankenstein and the All-Star Monster Band
Vampire Bat - Wesley Willis
Frankenstein - Boris Karloff
Random Horror Music and Sounds
Godzilla - Blue Oyster Cult
Godzilla Genealogy Bop - Mystery Science Theater 3000

(Big thanks to Scar Stuff for a lot of these tracks. Saved me a lot of time converting old records and introduced me to some new stuff.)

Hour 3, Giant Monsters Stomp Tokyo:

Godzilla Approaches and Main Title - Godzilla (1954)
Japanese Army March I - Godzilla (1954)
Tokyo In Flames and Ending - Godzilla (1954)
Main Theme - King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)
Mothra's Song - Mothra
Main Title - Godzilla vs. Mothra (1964)
Main Theme - Monster Zero (1965)
Young Go Go - Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster (1966)
Godzilla vs. Kumonga - Son of Godzilla (1967)
Monster March - Godzilla's Revenge (1969)
Give Back Sun - Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971)
Godzilla March - Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)
Gojira and Jet Jaguar Punch Punch Punch - Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973)
Car Chase - Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973)
Miyarabi's Prayer - Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)
Main Title - Terror of Mechgodzilla (1975)
Gamera March - Gamera vs. Viras

(Huge thanks to X-Y-Z Cosmonaut for providing most of these tracks.)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Mystery Smell: Solved!

There's only three of you that are going to care, but you know that funky smell that a majority of the dollar DVDs have? Anyone else wonder what that's all about?

Recycled DVD cases.

You're welcome.

From back when I actually liked computers

I'll always head over to Platypuscomix site as there's some great "child of the 80s" stuff happening there, but I gotta say the Applepalooza feature really takes me back. I can't count the hours I wasted playing that same version of Spy Hunter on our old Apple ][c. (BTW, IIRC you have to get the rocket launcher to shoot down the helicopter, which requires playing a near perfect game.) Pooyan was another fave.

Check it out here:

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Free Zone Halloween Show

Alright. I did my Halloween show last night and frankly I'm proud to say it's killer. I'm going to try something I've thought about for a while. I'll post mp3s of the show after it airs. I'm going to do this via Rapidshare and I'll have each hour as a seperate file.

I always have a lot of people ask me about doing this, so we'll see how it works out. Obviously, this is a lot easier to do when the show is prerecorded as I'm not taping the shows off the air anymore. (That was a pain.)

Years from now, I'll probably be glad I have two plus spindles of old Free Zone shows. :)

Anyway, keep watching the skies...err...this space and I'll probably have the shows and playlist posted this weekend for your downloading enjoyment.

And be sure to listen to Tim D. on Saturday night, if you have the chance. An extra hour of daylight savings time Free Zone excitement there. :)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I'm still here.

Things have been crazy busy and crazy stressful. I won't get into all that.

I did want to drop a heads up that you should really check out the Free Zone this Friday night. I'm still semi-retired, but I'm putting together a hell of a halloween show this year, including an hour of nothing but Godzilla music.

As always, the show is on 88.7 FM WICR midnight to 3am Friday and Saturday (technically Saturday and Sunday morning, but you get the idea.)

To my out of state readers, if you want to check it out, check the WICR home page and you should get a popup for streaming. (Good luck, it's norotiously flaky.)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Science Fiction Double Feature

I didn't feel like going out Saturday night, but I felt like killing a few brain cells in a non-chemical related manner. So, I cooked up a fantastic (if I do say so myself) double bill of post-Star Wars coattail riders. Just in case you weren't around then, Star Wars inspired a ton of movies trying to cash in during the late 70s. Most of these are pretty bad, but they are usually amusing to watch.

First up, I went with Message From Space, a 1978 Toei production with an international cast. Not a lot of star power here, though we get Vic Morrow as a boozy ex-army guy, the chick who played Sister Street Fighter in the Princell Leia spot and Sonny Chiba doing another cameo where he appears late in the movies, does a little swordfighting and is disguised so much, you can barely tell it's him.

Message From Space plays like a Japanese fantasy movie that happens to take place in space. The planet Jillucia has been taken over, so the elder throws these walnuts...err..."Liabe seeds" into space to find the people who will save their planet. His daughter Esmeralida (who is Sister Street Fighter) is sent to find them and avoid the bad guys, yada, yada, yada.

Of course the walnuts seeds find a standard issue "ragtag bunch of misfits" who have to come together and save the world. A lot happens in this movie and frankly it's difficult to get a grasp on everything. (This seems to be a standard feature of a lot of Japanese fantasy film I've seen.)

Here's what you really need to know: the story is cribbed from Seven Samurai, the ending is pure Star Wars, there's a "funny" robot sidekick (think Twiki with less charm) and the bad guys all look like metallic silver witches. The effects in this film aren't bad. They're not as good as Star Wars, but they're leagues better than, say, Fugitive Alien.

Next up, I went with a classic, Luigi Cozzi's immortal Starcrash. I hadn't seen this one before, and frankly was a bit skeptical about if it would live up to the hype. Well, let me tell you, it does.

Space smuggler Stella Star is out running space police with her humanoid(?) sidekick Akton when they come across a ship that had been attacked. They stop to check for survivors, and are pinched by the cop and his robot partner. After a day in hard labor (where Stella stages a prison break that results in the deaths of many other prisoners,) Stella and Akton are called upon by the Emperor to find a missing scout ship that was spying on the bad guy and just happened to have the Emperor's only son on it.

This flim follows the episodic serial formula kind of like Star Wars where they get in a scrape, they get out of it, then another one, then they get out of that, etc., etc. There isn't so much plot development as there is a goal and one thing after another on the way to attaining it.

Starcrash is a wonderful slpat of technicolor vomit on the screen. Who knew outerspace looked like a disco? Everything in this movie is a bright primary color, even the stars in outer space.

Not only is this fun to look at, but Cozzi tried damn near every effect avaliable at the time short of CGI. I mean, there's even stop motion animation in here, which I know isn't cheap or easy. Sure, the models look like random parts glued together and spray painted in stripes, but you can tell he was really trying to get it right.

And dig the John Barry (James Bond) soundtrack. Christopher Plummer as the Emperor? And David Hasslehoff??? (OK, maybe not Hasslehoff.)

There's a lot I love about Starcrash, but I think my two favorite things were Joe Spinell as the popeyed baddie Count Zarth Arn and his evil ship that looked like a giant palm with the fingers curling inward for an attack. Stella Star's spacekini wasn't bad either.

If you want to see Message From Space, you have few options right now. It's not officially out on DVD here or in Japan. It was out on VHS and it's not too difficult to find a DVD of that. Starcrash is out in both an official and "public domain" version. The official version is anamorphic at the correct aspect ratio while the PD is cropped and retitled Female Space Invaders. However, the color on the official version is very dull from all the screen shots and reviews I've seen. I went with the PD version. The panning & scanning isn't too bad and the colors are approporately loud (plus the disc is about a quarter what the official one costs. Personally, I feel having the colors right for Starcrash is most important, but your mileage may vary.

Fun double feature. Maybe I try a couple other Star Wars wanna bees this weekend.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Review: Yongary Monster From the Deep (Alpha)

Being a fan of Gamera means you often times catch some flack about how cheesy the movies are. I'd argue part of Gamera's charm is the fact that the films are so darn cheesy. But, let me tell you this, if you're lactose intolerant, stay far away from Yongary. It's a whole week's worth of dairy in one serving.

Meet Yongary. He's our new exchange monster from Korea (though, according to legend, he has some Japanese blood in him too.) As you can see, he kind of looks like someone took Godzilla's body, stuck Gamera's head on it and then put a rhino's tusk on the nose just for fun. Admittedly, suitamation in 1967 (the year kaiju broke) was on the down swing quality wise, and the Yongary suit looks at least as good as that year's model of Godzilla and Gamera suits.

Much like the cobbled together suit, this movie is also cobbled together. If you take the bulk of Godzilla (the movie) and graft on the Kenny from Gamera, you've got Yongary's basic plot. And this is the first kaiju movie that I think was written by a ten year old Kenny, as there's just little going on here that makes much sense.

A mysterious earthquake is moving across Korea as a result of Chinese nuclear tests. It turns out the earthquake is actually Yongary who can borough through the ground. Yongary emerges to drink some gasoline and stomp some buildings. Ichio (our Kenny) observes Yongary itching after coming in contact with some sort of ammonia compound. Our hero dump a ton of the ammonia on the monster, causing severe rectal bleeding (you think I'm making this up?) and a disturbingly realistic death scene while Icho waxes reflexive on "did we really have to kill him?"

The End.

Now, I can't catalog all the things just plain wrong with this film, so let me just list a few:

- Ichio seem to be the only person to have a name in this film
- Everyone is an unlikely mixture of two rare things (like the Prime Minister's son and the country's top scientist)
- Korea is developing an itching ray for reasons never explained
- Yongary's death scene is very disturbing
- Civilians (including children) are allowed on highly dangerous military missions

You get the drift.

Ichio in this film is downright sadistic. We're introduced to the itching ray early in the film as he uses it to pull a prank. When he's caught and informed he almost caused his victims to scratch to death, he responds with "yeah, but you gotta admit it was funny."

Later, Ichio sneaks out to get a better look at Yongary. You think he's going out there to make friends with the monster, but no. He's brought the itching ray again! While he's sending the monster in to a fit, he takes delight in the fact that it looks like he's dancing. (A rock version of a Korean folk song starts playing. Words can not describe how bizarre it is.)

Finally, Ichio sits there watching Yongary's painful death shakes with a big shit eating grin on his face. Why he pulls the last minute introspection bit, I don't know. It really seems half hearted and despite what he's saying, he doesn't seem too broken up to see the monster die.

Then there's Yongary's stunning special effects. You don't need to look closely to notice things like a flame thrower nozzle in Yongary's head or an extra wheel balancing a cut in half jeep. It seems cardboard boxes were used extensively in this film representing everything from bricks to models of buildings. There's also horrible matte shots and the worst blue screen effect I've ever seen.

Alpha has taken their disc from the old pan and scan VHS. It doesn't look bad and since this is a pretty horrible movie that everyone assumes is public domain, I doubt this is ever going to get a better DVD release. This movie isn't for the purists anyway.

It's been a while since a movie gave me this many unintentional laughs. Well worth the $5 or whatever this disc will set you back.

Here's box art from a couple of super 8 digest versions of this movie. As with all the pictures in this review, I've shamelessly lifted these from other sites. (Thanks Stomy Tokyo, DVD Drive-In, Shill Media...)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Review: Voyage Into Space

Voyage Into Space was a movie AIP assembled from five episodes of Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot. Sokko was a very silly show where a group called Unicorn is defending the Earth against to Gargoyle gang led by the evil Guillotine. Unicorn's star agent is ten year old Johnny Sokko who, due to being in the right place at the right time, controls a giant robot called...err...Giant Robo.

Sokko controls Giant Robo with his wrist watch transmitter. This robot, who looks a little like King Tut, is apparently indestructible. He can fly, shoot missiles out of his fingers and lasers out of hit eyes. This is pretty convenient as Gargoyle keeps bringing new monsters down upon the Earth and only Giant Robo can defeat them.

Sokko is like the Uber-Kenny. Minutes after seeing Giant Robo for the first time, he knows all about it and knows how to control it completely. In true Kenny fashion, he becomes the proxy savior of the planet. One has to wonder how all the Unicorn agents who were working their way up paying dues have to feel about some snot nose kid coming along and because he just happens to have a robot, he becomes top agent.

There are a few things I'm curious about though. For one thing, I never understood why Unicorn always seems so reluctant to have Johnny call in Giant Robo. I mean, that always seems to be the option that saves the day, so why not just cut to the chase and bring in the Robo? (Yes, I know, the show would be about five minutes long otherwise.)

I also have to wonder why AIP called this Voyage Into Space considering there is no voyage and the whole thing takes place on Earth.

Budgets are low, stories are implausible and footage is recycled. Still, this is great fun if you dig seeing men in rubber suits wrestling around. These episodes work pretty well in movie form and I'm not sure for me anyway I'd really need to own all 26 episodes on disc.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Terror of Tinytown's Big Adventure

On his new spoken world album In The Grip of Official Treason, Jello Biafra uses the Terror of Tinytown as an allegory for the Iraq war.

Wow. I didn't see that coming.

In the changer

It seems like the only time I get to listen to music for fun anymore is when I'm driving. Maybe that's why I find myself making so many gas wasting trips out for nothing in particular. It also seems like this is a year for me where I'm rediscovering heavy music.

The CD that has really floored me so far this year is the new one from Envy, Insomniac Doze. I've long thought Japan has some of the most interesting bands in the world, and this disc is no exception. Envy combines the progressive hardcore of Neurosis with the loud/soft dynamics of Mono and the end result is an album that is as beautiful as it is brutal.

I'm also really digging the new one from Mastodon. It's called Blood Mountain and is pretty progressive metal. Mastodon have long been recommended to me as a band I'd like, but I never heard them until now. This is what I'd imagine music majors making a metal record would sound like, though it never gets wanky or gratuitous. I'm convinced listening to this disc makes my own drumming more interesting, so that's a plus too.

Though you couldn't exactly call it progressive, Slayer's new disc Christ Illusion also features some impressive drumming courtesy of Dave Lombardo, who is back in the fold to reunite the classic Slayer lineup. And it's hard to call this album anything but classic Slayer. It's not breaking any new ground, but at this point in their career, who expects them to? Sometimes it's just great to hear an awesome band doing what they do best.

And here's an oldie I've been up on: The Deftones White Pony. I wasn't keen on much of the nu-metal thing, or whatever you want to call it, but when a friend played this for me back when it came out, I had to admit it was damn good. I recently scored a copy of this for $1, so that was pretty sweet. I don't know how the rest of their catalog stacks up, but this disc is some classic moody angst music.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Review: No Blade Of Grass (WTF-film)

It's astonishing to me the multitude of ways fiction writers have come up with to end the world. No Blade of Grass is based on a book I haven't read, so I can't tell you how close it comes to that. The film version, however, plays a bit like Panic in the Year Zero, with famine caused by a grass/grain destroying virus being the culprit this time.

Nigel Davenport is tipped off by his daughter's government scientist boyfriend that London is about to go under martial law so they high tail it out of there to find his brother's farm in the country. Apparently being in the country has made the farm immune to the virus. The country almost instantly slides into kill or be killed mode and along the way they pick up a slightly unhinged weapons expert and damn near the entire population of a small village and fight bikers, army and farmers.

There's not a whole lot of set up to the story. The movie starts as the family gets the call to pack up and go and the previous year is detailed in a few flashbacks. While this is going on, we also get a few flash forwards to some terrible scene about to happen. In fact, almost anytime a character in the movie says something optimistic, scary organ chords break in and a clip of something violent yet to happen pops up flashing tinted red.

The flash forwards are interesting and keep you disoriented and on edge. Otherwise, there's not a whole lot happening here to build tension. Everything in this movie happens so nonchalantly, the electricity that a world sliding into anarchy would have never happens. There's also a love triangle that starts and fizzles out and there's the requisite environmental warning message interspersed periodically throughout the film.

I wonder how the book is because there are some good ideas here. It just seems like the movie gets it wrong somehow. It's not a bad film, and if you're into the apocalyptic environmental disaster thing, you'll probably want to catch this. I just don't know how much I could recommend others look for this rather obscure film.

WTF presents another reconstructed version on this disc. A majority of the film is from a widescreen print that looks pretty good, a little artifacting aside. There are a few more gristly scenes cut back into the print from what appears to be an Italian VHS source. I'm guessing the widescreen source was a cable showing, possible TCM as this is an MGM film. I'm thinking cable because of what was cut out (some nudity and a rape scene) and a few instances of language that are blocked out. The VHS shots are pan and scan and in the one scene with dialogue, it goes to Italian. It's a minor annoyance, better than not having the scenes in there.

Other than that, there's an image gallery on the disc and this time around, that's it. No complaints, just not the usual bounty of extras WTF puts on their discs. If you can't wait for TCM to show it again, or you want it unedited (even with an aspect ratio and language change,) this is a nice disc to own. Not the best movie I've ever viewed, but it was decent enough and it fits in with the WTF collection quite nicely.

And this is the last of my WTF reviews, at least until they put out a new disc. To sum up, I don't know who is behind these releases, but it's obvious it's someone with a love of film. There's more going on here than your standard bootleg. I look forward to whatever they put out in ther future.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Review: Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds (WTF-film)

Environmental conditions have caused fossilized dinosaur eggs to hatch. The dinosaur terrorizes a small town near Mt. Fuji. Our hero rushes to the scene hoping to find the dino and reap financial rewards, but eventually seeks it as a way of finishing his father's (who was also a scientist and predicted such things) work. He finds the dino and it fights with a prehistoric bird. His girlfriend screams a lot. Fuji erupts and kills the prehistoric creatures and our hero and his girlfriend narrowly escape.

I wanted Legend of Dinosaurs to be good, but it just wasn't. The story, which combines elements of various Godzilla films, the Loche Ness Monster legends and even a pinch of Jaws, was just boring. The monsters were stiff and uninteresting. The characters sucked. Etc., etc.

There are three things of note about this film. In spite of this feeling like typical kiddie fare, it's actually pretty bloody in spots. A girl is ripped in half and a dinosaur has his eye gouged out. Plus there's a breif bit of nudity.

The second thing, and the one redeeming quality of this film, is the totally out of place cop show jazz/funk soundtrack. I really expected to see some Ford LTDs chasing through San Fransisco when the music got going. There's some great music in here, aside from the cowboy band (and all the horribly out of time clapping.)

Finally, this was the last film featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 before it left it's local market and headed to the Comedy Channel. This was another of the infamous Sandy Frank's syndicated TV edits with terrible dubbing and vile panning and scanning.

WTF presents essentially the region 2 disc with subtitles, new menus and an isolated music track. The video quality is alright, better than the pan & scan version but nothing you're going to show off your HD TV with. I really have no complaints with the disc, I just don't consider it an essential purchase unless you're a kaiju completist.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

If I seem a little busy...

this is why.

It's going to be our last show with bassist #4 (or 5?) Carrie Sloo. Apparently Californie is the place she ought to be.

We're coming down to "cram time" as It's getting close to show time and due to a multitude of reasons, we haven't had the practice time we usually get. Our last show was several notches less than good and I don't think any of us would like to replicate that.

So, if the reviews and rants seem to have dried up for a while, I'm probably behind the drums.

And if you're in Indy next Friday, stop by and say hi.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Review: Godzilla il rei de mostri (WTF-film)

If you've been following along on my blog, I'm sure you're aware that I own a lot of obscure videos. I think of all the off the beaten path stuff I've come across, this has to be one of the most obscure and strange things I own. In fact, about the only information I've found about just what the heck it is comes from the source I got it from, WTF-film.

And this disc really made me go WTF.

Let me tell you what I know about Godzilla il rei de mostri, aka Cozzilla. In 1977, director Luigi Cozzi (Starcrash, Contamination) decided to bring his favorite movie back to Italian theaters. However, he decided to go one better and create his personal version of his favorite movie to put back in theaters. Thus, what we have here was born.

Starting with Godzilla, King of the Monsters (the US version of the first Godzilla film with Raymond Burr,) Cozzi decided to play up the whole Godzilla as an allegory for nuclear war angle. A prologue was created with World War II footage. War footage was spliced into effect scenes, which were completely re-edited.

To top things off, the entire film was color tinted using a process he called Spectrorama 70. The soundtrack was also remixed into a Sensurround like process. The end result apparently ran about a half hour longer than it's source material, though the version featured here is about 88 minutes. Apparently this is a broadcast version of the film.

Like most things Luigi Cozzi did, this seems to have the best of intentions behind it but is just so wrong headed, it's almost amazing. Though the US Godzilla, King of the Monsters does down play Godzilla being a product of Hiroshima (after all, the US dropped the bomb in the first place,) Cozzi absolutely hits you over the head with it. Again and again, WWII stock footage interrupts effect scenes and spoils the pacing in an already edited (and compromised) version of this film.

The colorization is like blobs of yellow, red and blue are placed on your TV. The effect is totally garish and weird. Characters end up having blue faces against a yellow sky.

Unlike all the other discs I got from WTF-film, this one doesn't have artwork or even a menu. I think it's safe to say this is a work in progress because according to their website, they're working on a recreation of this film.

I suppose that's a good thing because this disc is really difficult to watch. The video master used for this disc looks several generations removed from the film and has severe damage during Godzilla's attack on Tokyo. Everything is smeary and blurry. Given the rarity of this film, it's doubtful a better version is going to turn up.

It's also worth mentioning that this disc is in Italian and is not subtitled. Probably not that big of a deal, as I'm sure only people who have Godzilla memorized are going to seek this out anyway.

And that brings me to the bottom line. I really can't recommend this disc to anyone but the most curious, hardcore Godzilla fan. Cozzilla is an interesting curiousity, but watching a poor quality video of a crudely colorized and bizarrely edited version of Godzilla is probably not going to appeal to many people.

More thoughts on Prophecies of Nostradamus

Since writing my initial review of Prophecies of Nostradamus: Ultimate Edition, I've had some time to watch the rest of the collection and check out the commentary track for the Japanese version. Although I really liked this movie on first pass, I have to say, PON has grown on me with subsequent viewings. I still don't think I can go so far as to say this is a great motion picture but I think this is quickly on it's way to being one of my favorites.

This movie is hypnotic. I never thought someone's horrific vision of the end of the world could be so hauntingly beautiful, but it is here. There's a strange beauty in the images of this film that stay with you after the film is over.

I still think the ending is kind of a flame out ending. Like the filmmakers had painted themselves into a corner and a "things are bad, but let's do something to make them better" ending was about their only option. I also have to admit, the film needed some ray of hope, if not a happy ending proper, to leave the audience feeling something more than total despair.

One of the more interesting things about this film is Toho's self-imposed banned status on it. When I watched this movie the first time, I couldn't understand quite what was so offensive about it. Then, when I was listening to the commentary track, I was reminded of how in Japan radiation survivors are treated with a great deal of reverence. In Prophecies of Nostradamus, survivors of fallout are shown as cannibalistic zombies and later, completely mutated creatures. Given that frame of reference, it's easy to understand what had people so upset.

I find it peculiar that in spite of (or perhaps, because of) all the controversy, this was Japan's top grossing picture for 1974. It's also interesting that unlike many other films where the controversy dissipates over time, this film still seems to be too hot to handle. It was last shown on Japanese TV (and I'm assuming this was a cut down showing) in 1980 and Toho's attempt to release this movie on VHS in the mid 80s was squelched by protest. (I'm guessing the uncut version of this film that has made it into the bootleg market originates from this aborted home video release.)

Because the radiation survivor scenes caused so much uproar in Japan, I assumed those would be excised from the other cuts of the film. Not so. In fact, it's the story elements, especially parts with Dr. Nishiyama's family, that got the worst of the scissors. The prologue, which establishes Nishiyama as a descendent of Nostradamus to explain why the guy knows so much about his prophecies, is also clipped from all other versions as is the Prime Minister's optimistic speech at the end.

There are a few other little cuts here and there. A repeating shot in the slug sequence is wisely axed, but for the most part anything dealing with effects is left alone.

In my initial review, I pegged most of the story elements as existing to pace the action. While I still feel this is a large part of what they do, I realize in seeing the International cut where a lot of them are removed that they also serve to give the film humanity. These sequences basically connect the disasters to Dr. Nishiyama and show why this guy would be so concerned with saving the world when the odds seem so hopeless. These scenes are the pretty much what Nishiyama is fighting for and without them he seems to be an environmental avenger for no particular reason.

I'm not going to go scene by scene into what's different, but I do want to quickly run down a few things that changed from version to version. As I mentioned, all cuts other than the Japanese axe the opening prologue and the prime minister's bit at the end. At 90 minutes, the international cut takes a lot of the story elements out too. There's still enough that you get the drift of what's going on, but there are a lot of things that make more sence in the uncut version as they are explained better.

The French cut is the shortest version of the four in this set. It clocks in at about 74 minutes! (Keep in mind, the original uncut is 114.) This version is based on the international cut, but entirely chops out about three more scenes in the early part of the movie (the scene with Akira's father, Akira and Mariko's love scene and the lecture scene) and oddly enough reinserts one of them (Akira's father) much later in the film (between the smog mirror scene and Mariko telling Akira she's pregnant.) The placement of this scene is absolutely bizarre and I couldn't begin to speculate the reason for the change.

The Last Days of Planet Earth is probably the version most people in the US have seen, if they've seen this at all. It's based on the international version mostly, though it does kind of have a prologue of it's own and there are some little bits here and there that didn't appear in the international cut. Mainly, this version is notorious for an intrusive narrator explaining things that the movie explained in the uncut version and some pretty bad looking insert shots when English text was needed. It's also heavly panned and scanned though it does have the best color of any of the versions on this set. (Curiously, about half of Last Days is optically reversed. What's up with that?)

It's a shame that the commentary track WTF added to the uncut film is so hard on the ears (imagine a transistor radio, in a tin can, streamed over the internet and mixed in with the film's soundtrack.) The guy, whoever he is, knows a ton about this movie. Well worth suffering through the low audio quality for.

I'd also like to mention that there are Easter Eggs on discs three and four of this set. They are more promotional material and a pair of reconstructed trailers. The trailers are curious. I wonder how they knew what the original trailers looked like to remake them?

Well, I think I've written enough about this film for right now. This is a pretty amazing release of a pretty amazing movie. Hopefully, someday Toho will release a real version, but even then, I doubt they will come close to the care and attention to detail this release has.

PROTIP: don't put your Cabbage Patch Kids in the microwave.