The Criterion’s “wacky C” logo was first spotted attached to various Showa era Godzilla titles on Starz’s streaming service. Because fans had received no prior notice of such a major move – and since the art on each title was rather cheap by Criterion standards (worth noting that Criterion often uses temp art for streaming titles that have not yet received a physical release) – the kaiju fandom mixed their excitement with a bit of caution. But now Criterion, speaking with Godzilla-Movies.com, reveals that indeed they and Janus Films have now obtained the rights to the majority of Toho’s Showa Godzilla films. They also add: “We hope to make them available on other platforms in the future.” They do not specify at this time whether this means Criterion’s streaming service with FilmStruck or future physical media releases.
The titles currently streaming on Starz with a Criterion logo are Godzilla Raids Again, Mothra vs Godzilla, Ghidorah: The Three-Headed Monster, Invasion of Astro Monster, Son of Godzilla, Destroy All Monsters, Godzilla vs. Megalon, Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla, Terror of MechaGodzilla, and the 1954 original Godzilla as well as the Raymond Burr version titled Godzilla: King of the Monsters (both versions of the 1954 film were released by Criterion on DVD & Blu-ray in 2012). In addition to the Godzilla titles, Criterion also now has rights to two other kaiju classics, Rodan and War of the Gargantuas.
Notable Showa era Godzilla movies apparently not included in the Criterion deal are King Kong vs. Godzilla, Godzilla vs. Hedorah, Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster, and Godzilla vs. Gigan. King Kong vs. Godzilla is owned by Universal, who has released the English cut on Blu-ray. The latter three were released on Blu-ray in the States by Kraken Releasing. Fans had long waited to see if Kraken might release more, but they never did. Whether these titles might eventually join the Criterion label remains to be seen.
What’s interesting is who previously held the rights for the Godzilla titles that Criterion got their hands on. The 1954 Godzilla rights have long been held by Classic Media and Criterion licensed the rights for that film from Classic Media for their Blu-ray release (which far outdid the previous Classic Media Blu-ray, it must be said). Classic Media also held the rights and released DVDs for Godzilla Raids Again, Mothra vs. Godzilla, Ghidorah: The Three-Headed Monster, Invasion of Astro Monster, Terror of MechaGodzilla, Rodan, and War of the Gargantuas. (Those DVDs are full of scholarly information for fans and featured both English and Japanese cuts of the films, but could definitely use an upgrade in picture quality.) Classic Media made it clear they were not interested in Blu-ray releases for those films. And since Criterion had seen much success with the 1954 Godzilla, it always seemed like a possibility that they may return to Classic Media for the other Godzilla titles someday.
But the other Showa era Godzilla movies in this deal were previously held by other companies, which signals a strong push on Criterion’s part to put as much of Godzilla under their label as possible. Son of Godzilla and Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla were previously released by Sony on DVD (and have long been OOP). Destroy All Monsters and Godzilla vs. Megalon were previously released on DVD & Blu-ray by Media Blasters (if memory serves, these two were apparently released without Toho’s full approval which caused them to then be pulled from shelves, get special features cut, and released again. It was kind of a mess). Who knows whether Criterion’s interest in the once-upon-a-time Sony titles means they might also be interested in other, later Sony Godzilla titles as well (with the exception of The Return of Godzillaand Godzilla vs. Biollante, Sony licenses all the Heisei and Millennium series Godzilla movies). The Media Blasters Godzilla titles also makes one wonder if Criterion might show interest in previous Media Blasters Toho sci-fi like Varan, Dogora, Frankenstein Conquers the World, or The Mysterians (Criterion producer Curtis Tsui once, perhaps jokingly, expressed interest in The Mysterians in a SciFiJapan interview). This is me – a fan – jumping ahead and getting a bit greedy, though.
For now, we wait to hear the details about Criterion’s plans for these newly acquired Godzilla titles. A ‘phantom web page’ on Criterion’s website for filmmaker Motoyoshi Oda would seem to suggest that a DVD/Blu-ray release for Godzilla Raids Again is a distinct possibility in the not-too-distant future (there is also a phantom web page for Megalon and MechaGodzilla director Jun Fukuda, for what it’s worth). But we’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, you can enjoy all the city smashing entertainment by streaming the titles from Starz.