The Return of Godzilla

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The Return of Godzilla
Godzilla 1984.jpg
Official Japanese poster
Directed byKoji Hashimoto
Produced byTomoyuki Tanaka
Written byShuichi Nagahara
StarringKen Tanaka
Yasuko Sawaguchi
Yosuke Natsuki
Keiju Kobayashi
Shin Takuma
Music byReijiro Koroku
CinematographyKazutami Hara
Editing byYoshitami Kuroiwa
StudioToho
Distributed byToho
Release dates
  • December 15, 1984 (1984-12-15)
Running time103 minutes
CountryJapan
LanguageJapanese
Russian
English
Box office$11,000,000
 
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The Return of Godzilla
Godzilla 1984.jpg
Official Japanese poster
Directed byKoji Hashimoto
Produced byTomoyuki Tanaka
Written byShuichi Nagahara
StarringKen Tanaka
Yasuko Sawaguchi
Yosuke Natsuki
Keiju Kobayashi
Shin Takuma
Music byReijiro Koroku
CinematographyKazutami Hara
Editing byYoshitami Kuroiwa
StudioToho
Distributed byToho
Release dates
  • December 15, 1984 (1984-12-15)
Running time103 minutes
CountryJapan
LanguageJapanese
Russian
English
Box office$11,000,000

Godzilla (ゴジラ Gojira?), (the films Japanese release title), is a Japanese science fiction kaiju film produced by Toho. Directed by Koji Hashimoto, with special effects by Teruyoshi Nakano, the film starred Ken Tanaka, Yasuko Sawaguchi, and Yosuke Natsuki. The film was released in Japan simply as Godzilla however Toho uses the English title The Return of Godzilla for English-language markets.[1]

The sixteenth film in Toho's Godzilla series, it marked the beginning of a rebooted series of Godzilla films that ignores all the films from 1955's Godzilla Raids Again through 1975's Terror of Mechagodzilla. The film acts as a direct sequel to the original 1954 film Godzilla. Produced as part of Godzilla's 30th anniversary, the film returned the series to the darker themes and mood of some of the early films and returned Godzilla to his destructive antagonistic roots.

The film was released theatrically in the United States in the Summer of 1985 by New World Pictures as Godzilla 1985. The American version of the film featured Hollywood actor Raymond Burr reprising his character Steve Martin, from the film Godzilla, King of the Monsters!.

Plot[edit]

A Japanese fishing vessel is trying to find its way to shore in a horrible storm while near an uninhabited island, when a giant monster appears and attacks the boat. A few days later, reporter Goro Maki finds the vessel intact but deserted. As he explores the vessel, he finds all the crew dead except for one young man called Hiroshi Okumura, who has been badly wounded. Suddenly a giant sea louse attacks but is eventually killed with some difficulty.

In Tokyo, Okumura realizes by looking at pictures that the monster he saw was a new Godzilla. However the news of Godzilla's return is kept secret to avoid panic until Godzilla attacks a second time and destroys a Soviet submarine. However, the Russians believe the attack was orchestrated by the Americans, and a diplomatic crisis ensues which threatens to escalate into war. The Japanese intervene and finally announce that Godzilla was behind the attack. The Japanese arrange a meeting with the Russian and American ambassadors and, after some debate over the issue, Prime Minister Mitamura decides nuclear weapons will not be used on Godzilla even if he were to attack the Japanese mainland, an announcement that the Russians can't come to terms with. The Japanese Self-Defense Forces are put on alert and search for Godzilla.

Soon, Godzilla appears on an island off the coast of Japan, determined to feed off a nuclear power plant there. When Godzilla attacks the facility and feeds off the reactor, he is distracted by a flock of birds, and leaves the facility almost as quickly as he arrived. Okumura and his friends realize that Godzilla reacts to the same signal as birds, and Professor Hayashida decides to use this method to lure Godzilla away from Tokyo. Meanwhile, the Russians have their own plans to counter the threat posed by Godzilla, and a Russian control ship disguised as a freighter in Tokyo Harbor prepares to launch a nuclear missile from one of their orbiting satellites should Godzilla attack.

Godzilla is later sighted at Tokyo Bay, forcing mass evacuations out of the city and a state of emergency is declared. The JASDF attacks Godzilla with Mitsubishi F-1 fighter jets, but their missiles are useless against him. Godzilla then proceeds to the coast, where the waiting army, equipped with tanks, rocket launchers and soldiers armed with Howa Type 64 assault rifles, proceeds to fire on Godzilla, but they are quickly subdued. Meanwhile, one of the crewmembers aboard the damaged Russian vessel tries to deactivate the missile, which is set for a countdown, but fails and succumbs to his injuries. Godzilla then proceeds towards Tokyo's business district, wreaking havoc along the way. There, he is confronted by four laser-armed trucks known as Hyper Laser Cannons, and then the Super X, a piloted VTOL craft constructed in secret to defend Tokyo in case of emergency, in particular a nuclear attack.

Because Godzilla's heart similar to a nuclear reactor, the cadmium shells that are fired into his mouth by the Super X seal and slow down his heart and Godzilla falls down unconscious. Unfortunately, the city is faced with a greater threat when the countdown ends and the Russian missile is launched from the satellite, leaving the Japanese government and people helpless to stop it. However, the Americans intervene and shoot down the missile with one of theirs before it can hit Tokyo. Unfortunately, the atmospheric nuclear blast creates an electrical storm, which revives Godzilla once more.

Godzilla has a final battle with the Super X, eventually damaging the aircraft and forcing it to make an emergency landing where he destroys it by toppling a building on it. Godzilla continues his rampage, until Professor Hayashida is successful with his invention and uses the bird call device to distract him. Godzilla leaves Tokyo and swims across the Japanese sea to volcanic Mt. Mihara, where he notices the signal device. As he walks towards it, he falls into the mouth of the volcano where he is surrounded by detonators, which are activated by Okumura, creating a controlled volcanic eruption that traps Godzilla for good, or does it?

Cast[edit]

North American version

Production[edit]

The screenplay was first written in 1980, but as an entirely different film. Godzilla was to fight a shape-shifting monster named Bagan, and the Super X played a much smaller role. Among the SDF weapons in this script that made it to the big screen were the Water Beetle (an underwater mech) and the Giant Basu (which is equipped with a giant arm to capture submarines).[citation needed]

Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka offered Ishirō Honda a chance to direct this film, but he strongly rejected the offer, because of what came of Godzilla in the 1970s, and his belief that Godzilla should have been permanently laid to rest after Eiji Tsuburaya's death.[citation needed] Also, at this time, he was busy assisting his friend Akira Kurosawa with films he was directing, such as Kagemusha and Ran.

Veteran Godzilla actor Akihiko Hirata, who appeared in several past Godzilla films (best known of his role of Doctor Serizawa from Godzilla) was slated to play Professor Hayashida; however, he had died from throat cancer before production began. Yosuke Natsuki, another veteran, took the role instead. Stuntman Kenpachiro Satsuma (who previously played Hedorah and Gigan in the original Godzilla films) played Godzilla for the first time, as a replacement for another stuntman who backed out at the last minute.

Aside from being heavy, the suit was very dangerous (it was not only built from the outside in, but not made to fit him), and Satsuma lost a lot of weight during filming. This mildly mirrored what Haruo Nakajima went through when he played Godzilla in the original 1954 film. Subsequent Godzilla suits worn by Satsuma were much safer and more comfortable, as they were custom-made to fit him (even though the suits still had some dangers of their own).

The lifelike animatronic Godzilla prop used in close-up shots is the 20-foot (6.1 m) "Cybot Godzilla." It was heavily touted in the publicity department at the time, even though it was not used in the film as extensively as promoted. A full-size replica of Godzilla's foot was also built, albeit all of the scenes in which it is used were removed from the American version (the sole exception being a shot of the foot crushing a row of parked cars during the attack on the nuclear power plant).

Prior to New World Pictures' release of the film, Toho had the film dubbed in Hong Kong. This "Toho international version", titled The Return of Godzilla is uncut and was released in the United Kingdom in the 1990s. So far, this version has not been made available in the United States.

English version[edit]

New World Pictures theatrical poster for the 1985 U.S release of Godzilla 1985.

After acquiring The Return of Godzilla for distribution in North America, New World Pictures changed the title to Godzilla 1985 and radically re-edited the film. Originally, New World reportedly planned to re-write the dialogue in order to turn the film into a tongue-in-cheek comedy (à la What's Up, Tiger Lily?), but this plan was reportedly scrapped because Raymond Burr expressed displeasure at the idea, taking the idea of Godzilla as a nuclear metaphor seriously. The only dialogue left over from that script was "That's quite an urban renewal program they've got going on over there", said by Major McDonahue.

New World's biggest change was in adding around ten minutes of new footage, most of it at The Pentagon, with Raymond Burr reprising his role as Steve Martin from Godzilla, King of the Monsters!.

The poster image was the same as for the Japanese version, but a green tinting was added to Godzilla's charcoal gray skin and the Soviet attack satellite in the upper right corner was removed.

New World's changes were not limited to these scenes. Much of the original version was deleted or altered.

A partial list of the changes:[2]

Shortened
Added
Altered
Deleted

The most controversial change was the scene where the Russian freighter officer Colonel Kashirin valiantly attempts to stop the launch of a nuclear weapon. New World edited the scene (and added a brief shot of Kashirin pressing the launch button) so that now Kashirin deliberately launches the nuclear weapon.

In addition, the theatrical release (and most home video versions) was accompanied by Marv Newland's short cartoon, Bambi Meets Godzilla.

The North American version, with the added Raymond Burr footage, runs 87 minutes, 16 minutes shorter than the Japanese print.

Apart from the end credits (where he is listed as Steven Martin), Raymond Burr's character is never referred to by his full name, only as "Mr. Martin" or simply "Martin", for the entirety of the US version. This was to avoid association with comedian Steve Martin.

The closing narration (spoken by Raymond Burr) is as follows:

Nature has a way sometimes of reminding man of just how small he is. She occasionally throws up the terrible offspring of our pride and carelessness to remind us of how puny we really are in the face of a tornado, an earthquake or a Godzilla. The reckless ambitions of man are often dwarfed by their dangerous consequences. For now, Godzilla, that strangely innocent and tragic monster, has gone to earth. Whether he returns or not or is never again seen by human eyes, the things he has taught us remain.

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

The Return of Godzilla was a reasonable success in Japan, with attendance figures at approximately 3,200,000 and the box office gross being approximately $11 million (the film's budget was $6.25 million).

Godzilla 1985 was not a box office success. Opening on August 23, 1985, in 235 North American theaters, the film grossed $509,502 USD ($2,168 per screen) in its opening weekend, on its way to a lackluster $4,116,395 total gross.[3]

New World's budget breakdown for Godzilla 1985 is as follows: $500,000 to lease the film from Toho, $200,000 for filming the new scenes and other revisions, and $2,500,000 for prints and advertising, adding up to a grand total of approximately $3,200,000.[4] Over time, Godzilla 1985, though not a hit, was partially profitable for New World only with the addition of home video and television syndication (the film debuted on television on May 16, 1986).

When Godzilla 1985 failed at the box office, it was the last Godzilla film produced by Toho to receive any major release in North American theaters until Godzilla 2000 fifteen years later.

Critical reception[edit]

The New World version of the film was almost universally criticized by North American critics. Roger Ebert, who gave the film a mere one star in the Chicago Sun-Times, wrote:

"The filmmakers must have known that the original Godzilla (1956) had many loyal fans all over the world who treasured the absurd dialogue, the bad lip-synching, the unbelievable special effects, the phony profundity. So they have deliberately gone after the same inept feeling in Godzilla 1985. Examples: Dialogue: It is so consistently bad that the entire screenplay could be submitted as an example. My favorite moment occurs when the hero and heroine are clutching each other on a top floor of a skyscraper being torn apart by Godzilla and the professor leaps into the shot, says "What has happened here?" and leaps out again without waiting for an answer. Lip-synching: Especially in the opening shots, there seems to be a subtle effort to exaggerate the bad coordination between what we see and what we hear. All lip-synch is a little off, of course, but this movie seems to be going for condescending laughs from knowledgable filmgoers. Special effects: When Godzilla marches on Tokyo, the buildings are the usual fake miniature models, made out of paint and cardboard. The tipoff is when he rips a wall off a high-rise, and nothing falls out. That's because there is nothing inside."[5]

Ebert kept a copy of the poster in his office for many years and it was clearly visible in the opening of his television program.

Vincent Canby of the New York Times was similarly unimpressed:

"Though special-effects experts in Japan and around the world have vastly improved their craft in the last 30 years, you wouldn't know it from this film. Godzilla, who is supposed to be about 240 feet tall, still looks like a wind-up toy, one that moves like an arthritic toddler with a fondness for walking through teeny-tiny skyscrapers instead of mud puddles. Godzilla 1985 was shot in color but its sensibility is that of the black-and-white Godzilla films of the 1950s. What small story there is contains a chaste romance and lots of references to the lessons to be learned from "this strangely innocent but tragic creature." The point seems to be that Godzilla, being a "living nuclear bomb", something that cannot be destroyed, must rise up from time to time to remind us of the precariousness of our existence. One can learn the same lesson almost any day on almost any New York street corner."[6]

One of the few positive reviews came from Joel Siegel of Good Morning America, who is quoted on New World's newspaper ads as saying, "Hysterical fun...the best Godzilla in thirty years!". However, the Japanese version was received better, mainly by fans.

Awards[edit]

In 1985, the film won the Japan Academy Award for Special Effects.[7] The movie was nominated also for a Stinkers Bad Movie Awards for Worst Picture[8] and also nominated for two Razzie Awards including Worst Supporting Actor for Raymond Burr and Worst New Star for The new computerized Godzilla.[9]

Home video[edit]

Godzilla 1985 has been released on home video several times in the U.S. The first release was by New World in the mid '80s, another by Starmaker video (who had acquired some of New World's library) in the 1992, and again by Anchor Bay in 1997 All home video releases include the Bambi Meets Godzilla animated short with the exception of the Starmaker release.

The international version was released on VHS (dubbed in English) in the UK in 1998. The running time matches that of the Japanese version, and the only notable difference is the English text and dubbing. This version of the film has remained unreleased in both the USA and Canada.

This film was distributed to DVD in Japan, Hong Kong, Germany, Finland, Sweden, Thailand, Spain, Italy and France, but never legitimately in the United States and Canada due to legal issues. Since the release of Godzilla vs. Biollante in 2012, Godzilla 1985 remains the only Godzilla film to not have been legitimately released on DVD in the United States.

Adaptations[edit]

In 1988 Dark Horse Comics released a six-issue limited series, Godzilla, which was an American adaptation of the Japanese manga adaptation of The Return of Godzilla.

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Return of Godzilla (Godzilla 1985) International Trailer on YouTube
  2. ^ Gojira (1984) - Alternate versions Internet Movie Database
  3. ^ Godzilla 1985 Box Office Mojo
  4. ^ The Return of Godzilla - Box Office Report Toho Kingdom Archived 21 November 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Review Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, September 20, 1985
  6. ^ Review Vincent Canby, New York Times
  7. ^ Awards for Godzilla 1985: The Legend Is Reborn at the Internet Movie Database
  8. ^ "1985 8th Hastings Bad Cinema Society Stinkers Awards". Stinkers Bad Movie Awards. Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 17, 2006. Retrieved April 2, 2013. 
  9. ^ Wilson, John (2005). The Official Razzie Movie Guide: Enjoying the Best of Hollywood's Worst. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 0-446-69334-0. 

External links[edit]