Stomping on 'Godzilla' Horrors: Reissues of 5 sci-fi classics are a monstrous disappointment; Film


One of the best things about the original Godzilla movies was that they were never too hi-tech. Not matter how breathtaking the special effects in the new "Godzilla" may be, all that digital razzle-dazzle doesn't compare to the spectacle of a guy in a lizard suit stomping model tanks and buildings.

So when Simitar Entertainment released five Godzilla classics last month on DVD -- "Godzilla, King of the Monsters," "Godzilla vs. Mothra," "Godzilla's Revenge," "Godzilla vs. Monster Zero" and "Terror of Mechagodzilla" -- fans of the big green guy couldn't help but be excited. After all, the DVD versions -- priced at $19.95 -- promised both letterboxed and pan-and-scan pictures, five-channel surround sound, and extras ranging from an interactive quiz to screensavers for your computer.

Unfortunately, the videos themselves are even shabbier than the original special effects. Not only did Simitar use less-than-pristine prints (there are actually holes in the picture during "Godzilla vs. Mothra"), but the sound is painfully distorted at times (some of the rampage scenes in "King of the Monsters" is almost unlistenable). Moreover, Mac and DOS users will be disappointed to learn that the screensavers are usable only with Windows '95.

A pity. Although it would probably be expecting too much to have hoped for the original, Japanese version of "Godzilla" (minus Raymond Burr and with 20 minutes restored to the story), these reissues are an insult. There are some kinds of cheapness even Godzilla fans won't put up with.

@ It's summer, which means an onslaught of movies that replace dialogue with sound effects and characters with big explosions. Luckily, the Orpheum in Fells Point offers respite. On Monday, a delectable Preston Sturges double feature occupies the city's most intimate theater. "Sullivan's Travels" is Sturges' Hollywood satire starring Joel McCrea as a disillusioned filmmaker who lights out for the hinterland in search of truth and meaning -- with the incomparably sultry Veronica Lake at his side.

In "The Lady Eve," Barbara Stanwyck stars as a wily con woman who seduces Henry Fonda during a trans-Atlantic cruise. It's difficult to name a filmmaker with Sturges' flair for crowded, chattering comedy; his touch was as light as it was deadly. These two 1941 films mark the highlight of a career that included such classics as "The Great McGinty," "Palm Beach Story" and "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek."

Killer B's

The Charles Theatre continues its B Movies series on Saturday with a screening of "The Killing," Stanley Kubrick's 1956 film starring Sterling Hayden as an ex-convict who sets out to steal $2 million from a racetrack.

Edgy and tense, B-noir at its rawest, "The Killing" is a rarely seen example of the narrative experimentation and incisive editing that would characterize Kubrick's best work. "The Killing" will be shown at 11: 30 a.m. on Saturday, and again on Monday at 7: 30 p.m. For more information call 410/727-FILM.

'Wild' to 'Wilde'

Cinema Sundays is going strong this year, having presented early screenings and discussions of films like "Wild Man Blues," "Character" and "Fireworks." On Sunday the series will feature "Wilde," starring the wonderful Stephen Fry as Oscar Wilde, the writer and bon vivant who took Britain and America by storm at the turn of the century. Film teacher and writer Mike Giuliano will lead the discussion after the screening. Memberships for the four remaining programs is $45 ($35 for renewals); if seating allows, individual seats will be sold for $15. (Membership includes several benefits, including restaurant, shopping and theater discounts.) "Wilde" is scheduled to open in Baltimore on June 5. The Cinema Sundays program will begin at 10: 30 a.m. at the Charles Theatre; the box office opens at 9: 45 a.m. For more information call 410/366-8675.

First, there's 'Flamingos'

Baltimore's Queer Film and Video Festival will kick off on June 4th with an appearance of "Pink Flamingos" star Mink Stole at "Cafe Lavender," an evening of poetry, prose and film at Club Charles. Mink also appears in the festival's opening night film, "Leather Jacket Love Story," which will be shown at the Charles Theatre. The film's screenwriter, Rondo Mieczkowski, will be in attendance at the screening with star, Christopher Bradley. The festival, which will continue through June 11, will also feature Baltimore premieres of Cheryl Dunyea's "The Watermelon Woman" and the acclaimed documentary "Paul Monette: Brink of Summer's End." Screenings will take place at the Orpheum, Charles and Maryland Institute, College of Art. For more information or to purchase $30 festival passes, call the festival hot line at 410/433-1395.

Pub Date: 5/22/98

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