After the 1975 film, THE TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA failed at the box offices in Japan, Toho put the Godzilla series on hold. There had been plans to bring back Godzilla in the late 1970s and early 1980s with at least four scrapped Godzilla projects; finally in 1984 Toho brought their iconic monster back to the screen with GODZILLA 1984 aka THE RETURN OF GODZILLA.
The movie was more or less a reboot, a thirty-years-later sequel to the original and first Kaiju film from 1954 GOJIRA (called GODZILLA KING OF THE MONSTERS in the US) and marked the beginning of the new Godzilla era, called the Heisei series. Godzilla, no longer the defending the Earth, is back to his evil, destructive ways. Technically speaking in ‘reel’ life, this is not the same Godzilla who saved us from Megalon and King Ghidorah! This film completely ignores all of the other Godzilla movies from the original Showa series, except for the first Godzilla movie. After a volcano erupts near a finish vessel setting Godzilla free, the monster goes on a rampage, destroying a Soviet submarine, taking the energy of a nuclear reactor and stomping his way in Tokyo’s business district, and smashing everything in path. The Japanese cabinet, refusing to use nuclear weapons (despite the pressure from the Soviet Government) have built a machine that they feel will beat Godzilla: Super X. Indeed Super X gives Godzilla a good tussle, even knocking out the monster with cadmium shells. The soviets still intend to and do launch a nuclear missile which is thankful intercepted by another missile sent by the United States. The nuclear missile explodes in space and the nuclear fallout wakes up Godzilla who then uses his atomic breath to defeat Super X.
During the occurrence when Godzilla is feeding on the nuclear power plant, a flock of birds gets his attention and follows them. This does not go unnoticed by Professor Makoto Hayashida (Yôsuke Natsuki, DAGORA THE SPACE MONSTER (aka DOGORA), GHIDORAH THE THREE HEADED MONSTER) who feels the birds sent a signal to Godzilla which attracted him. Hayashida proposes to the Japanese Cabinet that they create a homing device, with the same bird signal to lure Godzilla away from Tokyo and to Mt. Mihara where he would be dumped in the volcano, start a volcanic eruption and be rid of once and for all. The plan works as devised and Godzilla is sent to its apparent death…well obviously not as Godzilla movies are still being made to this day.
THE RETURN OF GODZILLA at least to this reviewer was a very enjoyable film; Godzilla looked as good as ever, with a great-looking suit with the largest amount of dorsal fins on his back to this point. The special effects were handled by Teruyoshi Nakano, who did many of the Godzilla films during the Showa era. The miniatures were also looking really good and more detailed than ever. The film assembled a cast that gave fine performances. Accompanying Professor Hayashida to end the threat of Godzilla are reporter Goro Maki (Ken Tanaka, THE UNBROKEN), Hiroshi Okumura (Shin Takuma, GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA), his sister Naoko Okumura (Yasuko Sawaguchi, GODZILLA VS BIOLLANTE) and Japan’s Prime Minister Mitamura (veteran actor Keiju Kobayashi, TIDAL WAVE). Wearing the Godzilla suit for this movie and for the entire Heisei series was Kenpachiro Satsuma. He could be referred to as a monster suit veteran, having also worn the suits for Hedorah and Gigan in those early 1970s respective films, GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH and GODZILLA VS GIGAN.
Section 23 Films, under the Kraken Releasing banner, have finally released THE RETURN OF GODZILLA to home video for the first time ever in the United States. Now fans can say that all the Godzilla movies have now gotten a disc release, be it Blu-ray or DVD. The film had been requested for many years on both internet forums and to DVD labels via Facebook.
Those who thought that this release would include the New World pictures version, titled GODZILLA 1985, I will mention it does NOT contain that particular cut of the movie. The New World release is a heavily butchered version with scenes removed left and right, and replaced with new scenes featuring American thesp Raymond Burr (PERRY MASON), Dr. Pepper vending machines on the sets (remember those Godzilla/Dr. Pepper commercials?) among other things, basically ruining the original Japanese version. Since of course Raymond Burr did appear in the American release of GOJIRA, GODZILLA KING OF THE MONSTERS, it may have seemed appropriate to American producers to have him “return” thirty years later. In the first Godzilla film, Burr was reporter Steve Martin, but by the year 1985 there was an iconic comedian with that very name, and he was simply called Mr. Martin in GODZILLA 1985. Due to rights issues and other hurdles that prevent it from getting its own DVD or Blu-ray release, that version still remains in limbo and only available on long out-of-print VHS and laserdisc.
Kraken Releasing’s release of THE RETURN OF GODZILLA presents the movie the way that it was meant to be seen. This contains both the original Japanese version (with English subtitles) and the international English language version, which is still the original, unaltered version of the movie, just dubbed in English. Using Toho’s HD master, THE RETURN OF GODZILLA from Kraken Releasing is shown in its original aspect ratio of 1:85:1 in 1080p with an MPEG 4 AVC encode, and the results are good, but not really all that breathtaking. Most of the Toho HD masters for their Godzilla movies always seem really lacking with dull colors and THE RETURN OF GODZILLA is no exception. The colors aren’t spectacular overall but the picture quality is more than serviceable. Some of the daylight scenes do look great with vivid colors but, again not spectacular. It is safe to say that you can get rid of those crummy black market bootlegs of THE RETURN OF GODZILLA and own an official release of the film. The audio used for THE RETURN OF GODZILLA, which is English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Japanese: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is also more than serviceable, as Godzilla’s roar, the explosions, and the dialog are all loud and clear. The Japanese soundtrack does have easy-to-read 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 which are GODZILLA VS THE SEA MONSTER, GODZILLA VS HEDORAH AND GODZILLA VS GIGAN. There is also a Japanese theatrical promo for THE RETURN OF GODZILLA.
Okay, this may not be a Criterion-esque release that many had hoped for, but THE RETURN OF GODZILLA has finally debuted on home video in North America and it available through most online retailers for a very reasonable price, ranging anywhere $9.99 to $14.99. The release is basically good, with suitable audio and video quality, and basically minimal extras. There are certainly some fans that are disappointed that the New World “Raymond Burr version” isn’t included, but at least you can see the film the way it was actually meant to be seen and also in HD. (David Steigman)
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