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DVD Title
 Icons of Sci-fi: Toho Collection
International Title
 H-Man / Battle in Outer Space / Mothra
Movie Length: 86-79/90/101-90 minutes Original Length: 86/90/101 minutes
Company: Sony Release: 2009
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic: Yes
Region: 1 Discs: 3
  
Language/Sound:
Japanese (2.0 Mono), English (2.0 Mono)
Subtitles:
English
Extras
· Menus (English)
· Chapters (28/28/28)
· Trailers: The Treasure of Columbia Classics, Three Stooges Collection, Ray Harryhausen in Color
· Commentary from Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski for Battle in Outer Space and Mothra (English)
Captures
Review
Anthony Romero

This release from Sony contains three of director Ishiro Honda's science fiction productions that were released from 1958 to 1961. The unifying theme in the set, besides the obvious Toho connection, is that all three were released by Columbia in the US. To commemorate this, both the original Japanese versions and the original Columbia versions are present. The condition varies, but generally the video and audio quality are satisfactory, although the collection suffers in terms of design and extras.


 Video:

There are a total of six video tracks across the three discs, one for each version of the film, so a lot of ground to cover. To start off with, one begins with the first disc in the set which is H-Man. As it turns out, this is far and away the best of the three discs in terms of the video track. The Japanese version looks fairly great. There is grain present, not surprising for a film this age, but not an overpowering level while the movie, outside of the atom bomb intro, is fairly devoid of more overt print damage. The film does looks a little darker than it should, but nothing too bad. In terms of the colors, they are very rich and vibrant. However, it's clear that to achieve this Sony has increased the saturation level a lot, something that will be a running theme across the discs. The end result, while very lush in tones for a film this age, is not always natural looking and even becomes so overt that it almost looks like a colorized black and white production on the very rare occasion. In terms of the English print, it is a fairly well restored version of the US cut. This includes the original Columbia logo at the start and the unique title cards, which are great to see. Most of the footage, though, is widely taken from the already existing Japanese film negative, something that is done for all three films in this set. The result is something that looks a lot better than the US negative they had on hand. The detail paid to this process is also great, as even things like the note that is unique to the English version are intact, meaning that this is not a haphazard effort to recreate the US film as was seen in Tokyo Shock's Frankenstein Conquers the World.

H-Man is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 across the two versions, and is Anamorphic for widescreen TVs.

Second up is the 1959 Battle in Outer Space, which is sadly the worst of the three video tracks. The video contains a lot of grain in both the English and Japanese versions, which are the same running time although having different title cards. The source used in the transfer also has a lot of print damage in terms of scratches and, on very rare occasion, light flickering. The color here is also saturated, causing a look that is vibrant but unnatural and makes the colors bleed on things such as the ending title card where the red makes it hard to even read the characters. On the plus side, the transfer looks fairly devoid of overt digital inconsistencies, which is another running theme across the three video tracks.

Battle in Outer Space is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 across the two versions, and is Anamorphic for widescreen TVs.

Lastly, Mothra's presentation is a slight improvement over Battle in Outer Space's. The video tracks, both of them, do contain a lot of grain, however there isn't much in terms of scratches or more overt print damage. The colors are once again oversatured, appearing vibrant although a little unnatural. There is some brief moments of light flicker, especially during Mothra's flight back to Infant Island, but this is fairly confined. The title cards for the US version of the movie appears to be in really bad shape, discolored with an unstable frame, but at least it's included for people who grew up with this version of the movie.

Mothra is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 across the two versions, and is Anamorphic for widescreen TVs.


 Audio:

Three discs, six audio tracks, two for each film. To start off with, H-Man contains two solid audio tracks for the movie. Each sounds great for a production this age, and is presented in the original mono format. Masaru Sato's very lively and jazzy work comes through quite well on this DVD, and the dialogue is all fairly clear as well. Furthermore, there are removable English subtitles provided for each version of the production, which correctly correspond to the dialogue.

For Battle in Outer Space, the audio quality is good for the Japanese track, containing clear dialogue and a faithful presentation of the original mono format. The English track also fairs well, although doesn't sound quite as clear. It is the original US track too, meaning that Akira Ifukube's music during the Moon battle scene and the ending has been replaced with stock music. As an unfortunate side note, the audio here does suffer a bit from some glitches, or did on my player. First up is that the audio can't be changed once selected. This makes sense for the US version of the movie and Japanese version, since despite having similar runtimes do have different title cards. However, this also applies for the commentary track as well. Furthermore, the subtitles present were for the English dub, regardless of the version selected. This means there are scenes with subtitles and no dialogue and other inconsistencies.

Finally comes Mothra. The Japanese and English tracks, each attached to their respective version of the film, are okay. Like the other tracks, they are featured in mono. They sound a little rough and aged in parts, particularly at moments where the volume swells to a certain level such as during the hurricane wind scenes, but are serviceable. There are removable English subtitles provided for each version, which correctly correspond to the dialogue.


 Extras:

The disc contains two extras in the form of commentary tracks from Japanese film experts Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski. These tracks are attached to the English versions of Battle in Outer Space and Mothra, although in the case of the former can be watched with the Japanese title cards. To be frank, the two commentary tracks are excellent. They contain a lot of information on Japanese cinema while also featuring a fountain of background information on aspects such as the edits from the US cuts and changes from the original story of Mothra. As is, the tracks are probably the best English commentary tracks to be attached to one of Toho's science fiction productions to date. The H-Man disc also contains a few previews, but these are all for other DVD release sets from Sony and not Toho related.

Sadly, the package does falter in some areas, although this turns out to be outside of the DVDs themselves. The shortcomings of the release come about in terms of the cover, the case, and the appearance of the discs themselves. To start from the top, the cover looks fairly dreadful, with an awkward mix of colors with the oddly added purple in the middle of the image. The overall look simply doesn't work, and looks like something one would associate with unlicensed releases. The case the discs are placed in also has its problems, as all three discs are shoved into the same slot. This means that to get out, for example, Mothra one has to remove the first two discs. It's annoying, and there are enough "flap-like" cases produced where it's really disappointing to see something like this. Finally, the discs themselves also look oddly plain, with no cover art at all with just the titles and copyright printed on the front. The end result looks cheap, and almost something that one would expect to see from bootlegs.


 Overview:

Bottom line, the overall release is lacking in some regards, but at the end of the day it's a really great value. Three movies, each with the Japanese and US versions of the movie, for a price that is in the range of a single DVD release. It has its faults, and some things to wish were done better, however it's still somewhat surprising to see these movies, outside of Mothra, released by Sony at all after they had held the rights for so long; furthermore, seeing productions like H-Man finally hitting the DVD format in the States is a treat.