This has never been a favorite Godzilla flick of mine. I saw it once back in 1985 on cable, and then again a week before I graduated from high school in 1987 and it’s that latter memory that’s the more vivid one. I think it was Starlog I first heard about Godzilla 1985 (U.S. re-title) and what initially got me excited about this movie was that it was mentioned there were using state of the art animatronic effects this time around. The head and eyes and neck would all move, and they really built that aspect up, but when I saw the movie it was nothing like they said it was going to be. Sure the head was animatronic and you can tell in some scenes, but it doesn’t have the kind of fluidity they said it would. At the time I was disappointed in seeing that.
With a week to go before graduation my English teacher (cannot remember his name anymore, but I can still remember what he looked like) decided there was nothing left he could teach us and asked the class for any ideas how to fill the time. My friend at the time, Paul, blurted out we could watch Godzilla 1985! Unbelievable the teacher agreed and the next day Paul brought in his VHS. We spent almost that whole week watching a little bit of it every day.
For a long while, probably not until I got a computer and started spending time on movie forums I didn’t realize there was another version of this movie, The Return Of Godzilla (1984) (International title)! I eventually came to find out New World Pictures (Roger Corman’s company) bought the movie from Toho and did some tinkering, like re-titling it, cutting some scenes and adding others; 16-minutes total was cut. Most notably the addition of Raymond Burr as reporter Steve Martin, who was also in the American re-edit of the first Godzilla flick, Godzilla. King Of The Monsters (1956). In Corman’s version he reprises his role to tie in this new version with that one. I quite liked that idea. That version is not included on this disc due to legal red tape Toho has yet to unravel. Here’s what Matt Greenfield (Co-Founder/Managing Director of Kraken Releasing, the company putting out this new DVD and blu-ray) had to say about that on SciFi Japan:
“… Greenfield also stated that the Americanized version GODZILLA 1985 will, unfortunately, not be included. “That’s a big part of why it’s taken so long to announce this title. We tried, but unlike the Classic Media [Godzilla/Toho DVD] releases, where the dubs used were controlled by one company, the GODZILLA 1985 situation is a mess,” he explained.
“Between all the changes of ownership and title that have occurred after New World released their version, the fact that you’re dealing with two entirely different production teams belonging to different sets of unions, and the fact that music from another film by a different composer was reused in NW’s dub [GODZILLA 1985 used music from Christopher Young’s soundtrack for the New World Pictures movie DEF-CON 4]… there’s a point where it became clear that it just wasn’t going to happen. And it’s not just that it would cost more than the title could probably make to try and clear all the myriad of issues, but that you’d be on pins and needles waiting for someone to pop up and make a claim over something you’d missed for years afterward.”
I have very little memory of the 1985 version aside from the big action set pieces, so seeing it in it’s original form won’t seem like much of a shock to me. I’m mainly interested to see how I feel about it all these decades later. This film kicks off the Heisei era (1984-1995) of Godzilla movies and I loved all those films, so as a completest concerning that era it would end up going into my collection regardless how I end up ultimately feeling about now.
The Return Of Godzilla ignores all the battles Big G had with every monster(s) after his debut in 1956 and positions itself as a sequel to that movie only, which is odd because Godzilla was killed off at the end of that one. So with history re-written where the hell has he been all this time? Holing up inside a volcano of course, and in 1984 an earthquake finally lets him loose again.
Our main characters are reporter Goro Maki (Ken Tanaka), Hiroshi Okumura (Shin Takuma), his sister Naoko (Yasuko Sawaguchi) and a Professor Hayashida (Yosuke Natsuki). Goro and Hiroshi meet first. The opening of the movie is similar to the opening of War Of The Gargantuas (1966), where a boat is caught in a vicious thunderstorm in the middle of the night. Hiroshi and his fisherman buddies witness the re-emergence of Godzilla. The next day while out to sea Goro stumbles on the derelict boat and discovers a gruesome site. Everyone on board is dead. And I don’t mean dead of natural causes. I mean dead of unnatural causes. I don’t remember this much gruesomeness in the 1985 version, but more than a few bodies are shown in various states of “ugliness,” shall I say. Eventually we learn a giant sea louse was responsible and it’s still on board. If it weren’t for Hiroshi Goro would be messed up like the others.
Back in Tokyo Hiroshi tells the authorities what he saw and they show him pictures of Godzilla from his 1954 rampage (original Japanese release date. Godzilla didn’t hit U.S. shores until 1956). But they keep it quiet and have him sequestered in a police hospital. They don’t want his story getting out. Nor do they want Goro writing about it in the papers. His story is stifled too.
Naoko comes into the picture when Goro feels she should know her brother is alive. Meanwhile he pays a visit to Professor Hayashida whose parents were killed in Big G’s ’54 rampage. All three learn Godzilla isn’t as invincible as they all thought. During an attack on a nuclear power plant he inexplicable gets distracted by a flock of seagulls heading out to sea. After feeding on the nuclear energy he follows and it’s theorized the bird’s homing signal is what did it. So they come up with a plan to lure Godzilla to a volcano, force it to erupt and get him to walk right into it.
Complications, obviously, ensure. Cut from the American movie was a subplot revolving two emissaries, one from America and one from the Soviet Union as they meet with the heads of Japan’s government to discuss using nuclear weapons to blow Godzilla’s ass back to the Stone Age. Japan comes to the conclusion using a nuke really would be the worst idea in the history of worst ideas and decides against it. The Soviets, however, really want to nuke the motherfucker and prepare to do just that in a freighter docked in Japan. But an attack from Godzilla sets off the countdown and from space a nuke is launched. The Americans come to the rescue, though, and launch a counterstrike that intercepts the nuke.
While all this is going Godzilla is stomping through Tokyo, the military is attacking him with their Super-X ship and Hiroshi, Goro and Naoko are trying to get their asses out of a high rise and implement their plan. All this ends with Godzilla taking a nap in the volcano, because we all know an erupting volcano isn’t going to kill the King Of The Monsters.
With the restoration of the cut 16-minutes this version does move at a much slower and deliberate pace. I do recall our shorter American version being more energetic, but I actually liked this cut a lot more. I don’t know, I may reverse that assertion one day when Godzilla 1985 gets a proper blu-ray release here in America and my memory gets fully jogged. We’ll see.
On September 13 Section 23 (a division of Sentai Filmworks) releases The Return Of Godzilla for the first time in the U.S. on separate blu-ray and DVD editions!
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.85:1 high definition widescreen—5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio, 5.1 Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio—English subs
Since Toho is fairly restrictive when it comes to their transfers in the hands of other countries, meaning they won’t allow any distributor here in the U.S. to remaster their movies so this transfer is most likely what Toho has available to the public overseas. Quite frankly a lot of their Godzilla flicks could use a good overhaul, having said that this transfer is better than some I’ve seen (not quite good as others), but I was ultimately pleased with it in the end.
Now there’s a bit of a problem when it comes to the subtitles. Some of them are burned in. It’s the ones that show signs, newspaper headlines, an ID in a wallet, with certain cabinet ministers their names and positions will appear, when the movie switches to key locations we apparently need to know where exactly the scene is playing out, and the lyrics to a song playing on a radio. None of these subs can be taken off the screen. There are other subs, but these are in Japanese and they only appear when the American and Soviet emissaries are speaking English. Those are part of the movie, and could never be removed, the others you should be able to but can’t. The other three Godzilla movies Sentai Filmworks put out does not have this problem. It’s just this movie. Honestly, they did annoy me a little bit, but they go away once Godzilla starts tearing things up in the final act. I can’t say if the DVD has the same problem or not.
I should also note the English subs have been placed directly over the Japanese ones, and since both are white it’s hard to read them, unless you pause the movie.
Extras included . . .
- International Trailer
- Trailers for Sentai’s three other Godzilla flicks.
Barring the “subtitle issue” this really is a solid release and since this international cut is finally making it’s debut here in America, if you’re a Godzilla fan, you really should add it to your collection! Oh, hell, it’s only $10!