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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Geharha: The Dark and Long Haired Monster [Blu-ray]

(aka "Chouhatsu Daikaiju Gehara")

 

(Kyotaka Taguchi, 2009)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK)

Blu-ray: NHK

 

Disc:

Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 0:20:20.677

Disc Size: 37,136,223,352 bytes

Feature Size: 6,565,189,632 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.85 Mbps

Chapters: 32

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: September 30th, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio Japanese 2135 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2135 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
Dolby TrueHD Audio Japanese 1587 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1587 kbps / 16-bit (AC3 Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps)
Dolby Digital Audio Japanese 640 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps

 

Subtitles:

English, none

 

Extras:

• Making Of – in HD (62:50)

• Papooo!'s Monster Movie Geharha Special – in HD (48:25)

• Audio Commentary with Writer Jun Miura, Project Supervisor Shinji Higuchi and Director Kiyotaka Taguchi

• Trailer - in HD (1:04)

 

 

The Film: 6
I have to say this one of the strangest Blu-rays that has come across my desk. For starters, Geharha (the title, by the way, does not appear in English anywhere on the cover) has to be one of the most expensive per minute of feature film in this format in existence. The entire feature runs about 19 minutes. As of this writing YesAsia’s price of $54.99 makes that about $3.20 per minute. Perhaps more peculiar is that the Making-Of documentary is three times longer than the feature film. The feature, including its coming attractions and credits, has 32 chapter stops. That’s one about every 40 seconds. Want more: The feature is merely the proposed first in a series of episodes.

And what, pray tell, is this movie that demands such a high premium? Geharha is an honest-to-God Japanese monster movie in the best tradition of the mid-20th century. It's funny and scary in a campy sort of way, with special effects just barely this side of 1960. The monster itself, a huge shaggy gopher-like creature with two small eyes that looks simultaneously menacing and frightened, is a hoot. When was this movie originally made, you ask? 2009! Only in Japan!

 


In researching Geharha, I came across this description at scfijapan that summarizes the story and the context, so here are a few excerpts, with a link to the whole text:

"GEHARHA is an affectionate tribute to the classic Toho monster movies of the 1950s and 60s that liberally mixes comedy and daikaiju action. A fishing boat is attacked at sea by a gigantic, hairy monster. After examining the sole survivor (Kanji Tsuda from GAMERA THE BRAVE) . . . scientific adviser Dr Murakami (Shiro Sano, GODZILLA 2000) suspects the culprit is a “Keukegen spectre”, a shaggy supernatural beast from Japanese folklore. The announcement leads reporter Hideo Akihara (Ken Osawa, SAMURAI FICTION) to a forest shrine dedicated to the Keukegen Geharha, where he finds several worshipers and learns that an ancient seal containing the monster has been broken.

Geharha strikes a number of locations in Ishikawa Prefecture. . . Civilians are evacuated. . . Armed forces attack with tanks and guns. . . And just when all seems lost, a foreign consultant (Mark Chimery) offers a new superweapon to use against Geharh. . . the Gas Vortical Device “Fujin”. The short movie ends with an extended preview for the “next” installment; GEHARHA: MONSTER MARTIAL LAW."

Excerpt of review from scifijapan.com located HERE


The creative team behind Geharha are people with a long list of credentials that include work on the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, the Gamera Trilogy, the Sinking of Japan, 20th Century Boys, The Grudge 2, Godzilla 2000 & Godzilla: Final Wars and Rebirth of Mothra 3.

A comment about the timing of this feature: You will see references to a 21-minute "Director's Cut." The episode on this cut is only about 16:30 minutes, and is seamlessly followed by 1:40 minutes of coming attractions advertising Geharha Martial Law and finally another 2 minutes or so of credits, totaling 20:20. It s entirely possibly that this is the "director's cut" and that it includes both coming attractions and credits.

Image: 9/9   NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

Whatever genre Gerharha is an homage to, the filmmakers have tread a narrow line between old-school production and new techniques. Depending on the situation, Geharha's color, depth of field, focus and contrast look very present day – often sharp as the proverbial tack. In the darker scenes, there appears to be a kind of color noise in out of focus backgrounds. Curiously, this "noise" completely disappears on projection, so if it there, it is readily dispatched. I found no other transfer issues such as edge enhancement, banding, or DNR. Blacks are solid, and there's plenty of detail preserved in bright areas where expected. On the other hand, the monster itself is clothed in shadow and we can only fleetingly make him out, though we can discern a tear at the appropriate moment. With today's technology we could remove any trace of wires or clumsy front projection, we could even generate him entirely in the CG domain - so the only reason to keep Geharha in the dark, so to speak, is that it's tradition – all the funnier, given the advances in technology.

N.B.: an aside re my screen captures, which are taken directly from the Blu-ray and offered with only enough processing to get them into a viewable format. I have included a shot I pulled off an on-line review of the DVD. There is no testament as to how this shot was derived, but the difference in brightness, color and contrast is nothing short of jaw-dropping: the DVD cap looking like an artful rendering of the frame for a poster ad. Even though I haven't seen the DVD, given that it is sourced from the same elements and produced by the same people as the Blu-ray I would be very surprised if the DVD didn't look a great deal like the Blu-ray cap, with less res and detail.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

DVD TOP vs. Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 8/6
I have no reason to believe that the audio isn't faithful to the theatrical intentions. It has a front-directed preponderance of information that opens up into correctly positioned surrounds when needed: from the subtle chirping of forest birds and the howling of the wind, to village drums, monstrous squashing of buildings, glass shattering and the explosions of tank canons. Dialogue is clear, crisp and nicely sized and placed.

 

Operations: 6
The menu is entirely in Japanese, but easy enough to sort out for those who don't read the language. What with 32 chapters, there are only a handful of thumbnails appearing at any one time. The English translation is idiomatic and contains scarcely any spelling or usage errors – in this it is decidedly different from the monster movies of yesteryear.

 

 

Extras: 6
Unfortunately the audio commentary, accessible from the audio options menu or the remote, is in Japanese for which there are no English subtitles, as there are not for any of the extra features. Even so, I found the making-of feature to be more or less self-guiding as we follow the crew from scene to scene, seeing how they set them up, place the actors, and sort out how Geharha will be framed. The interviews from the TV show Papooo! are a kick even without knowing what they are saying. Americans couldn't get away with that degree of hysteria – which is really saying something. Everything on the Bonus list is in clear HD.

 

 

Bottom line: 7
I should mention that the poster is misleading in that Geharha is shown with a glistening hairdo, clearly separating his strands of hair. This doesn't happen in the movie. Image quality is very good and audio is respectable. I shouldn't be surprised if this Blu-ray doesn't become something of a cult favorite and, in the states, a collector's item. It is definitely a popcorn and sake movie to be enjoyed with or without subtitles.

Leonard Norwitz
February 27th, 2010

 

 

 

 

 

Thinking of buying from YesAsia? CLICK HERE and use THIS UPDATED BEAVER PAGE to source their very best...


 

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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