8.15.2014

The Toho Master Collection DVDs show masterful attention to detail

TOHO MASTER COLLECTION

In 2006 and 2008, to the delight of legions of daikaiju movie fans, Toho and Classic Media unleashed on the worldwide marketplace the TOHO MASTER COLLECTION DVD series. This impressively produced DVD collection offered fans of the genre nine classic Showa-era giant monster films including both the original Japanese language version with English subtitles and the classic American English dubbed version. And each release was issued in resplendent storybook-style digipak cases with transparent disc trays within and handsome typographic and photographic elements throughout.

GOJIRA / GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS

The first release in the TOHO MASTER COLLECTION was GOJIRA (1954), the film that started the worldwide love affair with the daikaiju flicks of Japan. This edition, as well as the soon-to-be-discussed final release in this series, was a 2-disc set that served as one of two incredibly impressive bookends to the other releases in the series. The DVD on the left side of this set boasted the original Japanese language version of the film, and the second disc featured the 1956 English language release, GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS.

The next six releases in the series featured single-disc presentations of the films GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN (1956), MOTHRA VS GODZILLA (1964), GHIDORAH: THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER (1964), INVASION OF THE ASTRO MONSTER (1965), ALL MONSTERS ATTACK (1969) and TERROR of MECHAGODZILLA (1975), the very last of these being the final film produced before the Godzilla series was retired for nearly a decade. These single disc releases also offered the original Japanese language version with subtitles, and the vintage American English dubs.

TOHO MASTER COLLECTION

In contrast to the first and final editions, both of which were double-sized releases with black varnish storybook covers that accommodated double disc presentations, the middle releases were packaged in slimmer silver foil digipaks. In the center of each cover, situated beneath the titles in similarly stylized fonts, were full-color trading card-sized inset images of the original Japanese movie posters. Layered down the left side of the inset image in the aforementioned font was Gojira's Americanized name. Added to this very dynamic presentation, each cover was affixed with a three-dimensional holographic seal that featured the encircled head of Godzilla, the Toho Studios logo in a smaller circle, and the "Toho Master Collection" header in the outermost circle.

Included as a final flourish that epitomizes the masterful attention to detail usually paid by the Japanese, each release also included a removable card stock obi (literally "sash"), situated at the very bottom of the digipak. These were similar to the traditional obi that are used by the publishing industries of Japan to hold together the pages of manga, magazines and hardbacks on bookshelves and magazine racks. And though the cultural significance of this particular accent may have been lost on most purchasers of this DVD series, it still added another nice visual element to an already distinctive-looking package.

RODAN & WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS
The final release that served as the climatic bookend to this excellent series was the surprising double disc double feature of RODAN (1956) and WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS (1966). Like the six previous releases, the cover of this DVD set featured the original Japanese movie posters of both films with the double-billed titles of both emblazoned across the top. But unlike all the other DVDs in the series, this release did not feature the handsome holographic seal.

Interested late-comers to the TOHO MASTER COLLECTION DVD series should be aware that the series has recently been re-issued--in order take advantage of the heightened interest in the giant monster genre inspired by the 2014 Godzilla film. Instead of the very detailed packaging discussed here, the discs have been issued in normal Amaray "keep cases". If you only care about the films and not so much about presentation, these re-issues are economically priced to sell wherever daikaiju movies are carried. But if you want to have at least one DVD set in your movie library that is worthy of the longest-running film series in history, tracking down copies of the discs in the digipak packaging is a must.

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