The Film (4/5)
After ten years of hibernation and a few potential Godzilla movies that were never made along the way, Toho studios once again finally decided to revive their iconic creation, in a reboot/ sequel to the first Godzilla movie from 1954 (Gojira in Japan). In Japan, the movie was called Godzilla 1984 while for United States; an international English dubbed version was called The Return of Godzilla. Yes, this is Godzilla 1985, but the versions presented here do not include scenes of Raymond Burr or Dr. Pepper soda vending machines. Kraken releasing has released Godzilla 1984, “Godzilla 1985” the way the film was originally intended to be seen in its first official home video release in the United States. If you do prefer the heavily edited, butchered US cut that New World Pictures put out, keep your VHS tapes or black market DVDs.
The Return of Godzilla which was the first of the new Heisei series era, ignores ALL of the entire previous Godzilla movies from the Showa era( the Kaiju films from 1954-1975), making this Godzilla movie a sequel (thirty years later mind you) to the very first Godzilla movie. Godzilla, since the sequels are all ignored, is back to being the antagonistic Kaiju as he was in the original movie. Whether he is considered a ‘bad guy” or just a species who is living in a world he doesn’t belong in is open to debate. Godzilla arrives in Japan to feast on nuclear energy and marches on causing destruction as only he can do. It is discovered by scientists that bird chirping sounds attract the great beast, as while absorbing energy from a nuclear reactor, Godzilla is distracted by a flock of birds and follows them. Quickly creating a device that sends out bird chirping signals, the plan is to “send Godzilla home”, by luring him away from Japan and into a volcano that they will cause an eruption. Godzilla heads to Tokyo and just like the first movie in 1954, he devastates the city. Super X, a new military weapon is brought into action to fight Godzilla along other military weapons. Super X does give Godzilla a good battle before ultimately being destroyed bt Godzilla’s atomic heat ray. After causing more destruction, Godzilla hears that “bird chirping” frequency signal which is waiting for him at Mount Mihara. He heads toward where he hears the signals, thus falling into the trap. Godzilla falls into Mount Mihara, which erupts due to bombs exploding inside the volcano. Is Godzilla dead? Of course not!
The Return of Godzilla features, at the time, great state of the art special effects and miniatures, plus the Godzilla suit is just terrific, with great, really impressive details and the most dorsal fins ever seen on his back. They went with a slightly altered roar also including some roaring that was heard back in the original 1954 film. This new roar was later abandoned as the series went on and went back to his more familiar roaring sounds. The cast gives excellent performances; many of you might recall Y˘suke Natsuki( playing Dr. Dr. Hayashida in this movie) from Dagora (Dogora) the Space Monster and Ghidorah the Three Headed Monster. Seeing The Return of Godzilla might be considered a revelation for those who have only seen Godzilla 1985, the Americanized cut starring Raymond Burr. This was the version that I saw in the theater and was given a few VHS releases. To me it’s great to see this movie in its original glory. Some may find it slow moving, but if you get into the cast and story, it’s really well done and paced really well. Godzilla 1985/1984 will always have sentimental value to me, not only because it was the first Godzilla movie I saw in a theater but also was my mother’s favorite Godzilla movie as well; the suit used was also her personal favorite.
The Return of Godzilla gets its long awaited, often requested blu ray debut release in America from Section 23 films’ Kraken Releasing. Using Toho’s HD master, presented in 1:85:1 in 1080p MPEG 4 AVC encode, the results are good, but not outstanding. Most of the Toho HD masters for their Godzilla movies always seem really flat with dull colors and The Return of Godzilla is no exception. This is not an awful presentation; in fact it’s the best The Return of Godzilla has ever looked. The colors aren’t spectacular overall but it’s more than serviceable. Some of the daylight scenes do look great with vivid colors but, again not overwhelming. You can get rid of those crummy bootlegs (unless you do want to keep the Raymond Burr version) and enjoy the movie in HD.
The audio quality for The Return of Godzilla is really good both in English and Japanese language. Godzilla’s roar, the explosions, the dialog no matter what language you listen to it all loud and clear. The Japanese soundtrack does have clear English subtitles. The dubbing on the English track is also perfectly fine.
As with the other Kraken Releasing Godzilla releases, there are just trailers for the Godzilla movies that are with this label (Godzilla vs. Ebirah, Godzilla vs Gigan and Godzilla vs Hedorah). There is also a Japanese theatrical promo for Godzilla 1984. And also as with most of the Godzilla releases on blu ray, there almost seems to be some kind of issue with Toho about having some real supplements for the Godzilla releases. One would think that they are aware that thousands of fans love these movies and would be thrilled to have commentaries by Godzilla insiders, interviews with the cast and crew among other delights learning more about the background of Godzilla.
Godzilla 1984/The Return of Godzilla is one of my favorite Godzilla movies, and I, along with many collectors should be very happy to finally have it in our blu ray collections. While not boasting the most attractive picture quality and lacking any extras that it most likely would if it were given either a Criterion or Shout Factory release, this is still a more than acceptable release. This was the only and remaining Godzilla movie not to have any disc release in the USA, and it’s finally here. Enjoy !