Godzilla on DVD bus

1956 original and sequels out soon

SAN DIEGO, Calif. “Godzilla” it’s got you in its grip and won’t let up? Check out the radioactive lizard’s debut in the 1956 original and its many sequels. Terrence Malick’s star crammed “The Thin Red Line” still tops your Christmas wish list? Why wait? Do some advance scouting with the grim, underappreciated 1964 original, starring Jack Warden and Keir Dullea.

Simitar Entertainment Inc. — the Minneapolis company that got a jump on the Jackie Chan craze with U.S. rights to 14 Chan titles — continues to prove you don’t have to be based in Hollywood to sew up lucrative video/DVD distribution deals.

For its latest coup, Simitar scanned production charts and, after identifying what sounded like high profile remakes, leapt on the rights to a pair of neglected originals.

“Sometimes you have to bet the farm,” explains Simitar prez Ed Goetz, whose company handles everything from “Eva Braun, Her Life With Hitler” to how to tapes on country line dancing. “As soon as we heard ‘Thin Red Line’ was going to be remade, we tracked down the original last fall and acquired the rights.”

Goetz’s search led to San Diego and 85-year-old producer screenwriter Philip Yordan, who holds the rights to “Thin Red Line” and a number of other marginal titles (“Horror Express,” “Custer of the West,” “Krakatoa, East of Java”).

After a tour of Yordan’s memorabilia crammed library home to his 1954 Oscar for “Broken Lance,” Goetz struck a “package deal” for 10 films for five years.

It was, Goetz freely admits, “a gamble.”

“We didn’t know if the remake (with Sean Penn, Nick Nolte and George Clooney) would ever be made,” he says. “I bought it without seeing it; the deal was contingent on approval from our lab.”

Simitar began negotiating with UPA for five Godzilla titles last October. The deal for U.S. and Canadian rights was inked in January, and “Godzilla, King of the Monsters,” “Godzilla vs. Mothra” and three sequels were released on DVD — with trailer galleries and Godzilla trivia quizzes — on May 5. “We estimated we’d need 300,000 units,” says Goetz. “We shipped 700,000.”

The original “Godzilla,” with Raymond Burr’s reporter in crude cutaways, is now Simitar’s top-selling disc and video. According to VideoScan, for the week ending May 10, the DVD ranked No. 21 (between “Apollo 13” and “The English Patient”), and the video ranked No. 33 (in front of “Pretty Woman”).

Pretty swank company for a bargain-basement beastie.

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