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Godzilla 1985 is a 1985 kaiju film directed by R. J. Kizer and Koji Hashimoto. The film is a heavily re-edited American adaptation of the original Japanese film The Return of Godzilla, which was produced and distributed by Toho Studios in 1984. In addition to the film being re-cut, re-titled, and dubbed in English, Godzilla 1985 featured additional footage produced by New World Pictures, with Raymond Burr reprising his role as American journalist Steve Martin from the 1956 film Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, which itself was a heavily re-edited American adaptation of the 1954 Japanese film Godzilla.
Theatrical release poster
|Story by||Tomoyuki Tanaka|
|Distributed by||New World Pictures|
|Box office||$4.12 million|
Both the New World Pictures and Toho versions serve as direct sequels to the original 1954 Godzilla, with Godzilla 1985 also serving as a sequel to Godzilla, King of the Monsters!. The same adaptation techniques used to produce Godzilla, King of the Monsters! were implemented with Godzilla 1985, with the original Japanese footage being dubbed and edited together with the American footage. The film retains the original musical score by Reijiro Koroku, while also integrating portions of the score for the 1985 Canadian film Def-Con 4, composed by Christopher Young.
Godzilla 1985 was met with mostly unfavorable reviews upon its release in the United States. Like Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, much of the nuclear and political overtones featured in the original Japanese film were removed from the American version. Godzilla 1985 was the last Godzilla film produced by Toho to be distributed theatrically in the United States until the release of Godzilla 2000. (Godzilla was released in 1998, but that film is unrelated to this.)
The Japanese fishing vessel Yahata Maru is trying to find its way to shore in a horrible storm while near an uninhabited island, when a giant monster from the island attacks the boat. A day later, reporter Goro Maki finds the vessel intact, along with its sole survivor Hiroshi "Kenny" Okumura.
In Tokyo, the Japanese Prime Minister is informed of the attack and the potential return of Godzilla; he orders that Godzilla's involvement be kept secret. Maki's report is not published by his newspaper as a "national security matter" over concerns about mass panic and is told to go talk to Goto. Goto informs him their hands are tied as it is related to his article but not to abandon it; seek out bio-physicist Hayashida instead. Maki finds Naoko, Okamura's sister working as a lab assistant to Hayashida and informs her that her brother is safe, against the government's orders. She rushes to the hospital.
Godzilla attacks a second time and destroys a Soviet submarine. At the Pentagon, General Goodhoe is informed of the attack on the Soviet submarine. The Russians believe the attack was orchestrated by the Americans and the situation threatens to escalate into war. In Tokyo, the Prime Minister is informed of the submarine attack and is shown evidence that Godzilla was responsible. The media blackout is lifted and the Americans are absolved of blame. The Japanese arrange a meeting with the Soviet and American ambassadors and, after some debate over the issue, Prime Minister Mitamura decides nuclear weapons will not be allowed in Japanese territory even if Godzilla was to attack the Japanese mainland. The Americans balk at this, while the Soviets are in full agreement. However, a Soviet Navy officer covertly prepares a nuclear satellite, claiming Moscow has ordered this.
Soon, Godzilla appears on an island off the coast of Japan and attacks a nuclear power plant. After removing the nuclear reactor and feeding off the radiation, Godzilla suddenly drops the reactor and walks off after a flock of birds pass by. The Japan Self-Defense Forces deploy their forces in wait for a possible attack by Godzilla at Tokyo Bay. General Kakura of the JSDF briefs the Japanese cabinet about a top-secret weapon known as the "Super-X attack plane" that can be used against Godzilla. A special heat-resistant and armoured plane, the Super-X is a last-ditch weapon to defend the capital.
Through the use of "ultrasonic images", Hayashida determines that Godzilla's brain is bird-like, only mutated. Hayashida realizes that Godzilla has a conditioned response to birds chirping and suggests that they could duplicate the sound electronically and Godzilla might follow. Hayashida assists the Japanese emergency task force in a plan to coax Godzilla into Mt. Mihara's volcano by emitting the bird sound frequency in the hope Godzilla will follow it into the volcano. The Prime Minister authorizes both the JSDF plan and the plan to use the volcano against Godzilla.
Steve Martin is brought into the Pentagon to assist the Americans against Godzilla. Godzilla is later sighted at Tokyo Bay, forcing mass evacuations out of the city. The JASDF attacks Godzilla but to no avail. Godzilla proceeds to attack Tokyo and the JSDF launch the Super-X. In the attack, Godzilla sinks a Soviet merchant ship which was in actuality an intelligence collection vessel. Before dying of his injuries, the captain launches the nuclear missile.
The Pentagon prepares to assist the Japanese but Martin cautions that weapons will only confuse and antagonize Godzilla further. Hayashida uses the bird signaling device on Godzilla, which works initially, but before it can be tested further, Godzilla is attacked again by the JSDF. The Super-X arrives shortly after and defeats Godzilla with cadmium missiles. The Americans believe that Godzilla is dead, but Martin is not sure. At that moment, the Soviet missile is detected by the Americans as it draws closer to Japan. When Washington warns that this warhead will be akin to the Hiroshima bombing multiplied by 50, Mitamura permits the Americans to make an interception attempt.
Hayashida and his signaling equipment are evacuated and sent to Mt. Mihara. The Americans launch a counter-missile and successfully intercept the Soviet missile, however, the nuclear atmosphere from the blast reawakens Godzilla and it destroys the Super-X. Hayashida relaunches the signal and lures Godzilla into the mouth of Mt. Mihara. Using explosive bombs to cause the mountain to erupt, Godzilla becomes imprisoned after falling into the volcano.
- Raymond Burr as Steve Martin
- Ken Tanaka as Goro Maki
- Yasuko Sawaguchi as Naoko Okumura
- Yosuke Natsuki as Professor Makoto Hayashida
- Keiju Kobayashi as Prime Minister Seiki Mitamura
- Shin Takuma as Hiroshi "Kenny" Okumura
- Eitaro Ozawa as Minister of Finance Kanzaki
- Hiroshi Koizumi as Professor Minami
- Mizuho Suzuki as Minister of Foreign Affairs Seiichi Emori
- Taketoshi Naito as Chief Cabinet Secretary Takegami
- Yoshifumi Tajima as Minister of the Environment Hidaka
- Warren J. Kemmerling as General Goodhoe
- James Hess as Colonel Raschen
- Travis Swords as Major McDonough
- Crawford Binion as Lt Oswald
- Justin Gocke as Kyle Martin
- Tony Plana as Goro Maki (voice)
- Paul Wilson as Professor Hayashida (voice)
- Andy Goldberg as Hiroshi (aka Kenny) Okumura (voice)
- Lara Cody as Naoko Okumura (voice)
- Gregory Snegoff as Newscaster/Pilot/Government Official (voice)
- Kenpachiro Satsuma as Godzilla
In early 1985, the trade papers reported that Toho was asking for several million dollars for the North American distribution rights, and that discussions had taken place with MGM/United Artists and other studios. At one point, a Toho spokesman complained that the best offer ponied up (by an unnamed Hollywood studio) was in the $2 million range. It is doubtful that he was telling the truth, for the bidding war, such as it was, didn't last long, and Toho wound up getting far less money. By May, the new Godzilla film had been passed over by the majors and fallen instead into the hands of New World Pictures, the modern-day equivalent of the kind of low-budget, exploitation movie producers and distributors that gobbled up Godzilla movies.
After acquiring The Return of Godzilla for distribution in North America, New World changed the title to Godzilla 1985 and radically re-edited the film. Originally, New World reportedly planned to rewrite 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 Burr reprising his role as Steve Martin from Godzilla, King of the Monsters!. Filming of the new footage was done at the Raleigh Studios in Los Angeles. The "war room" was a large montage of the war room from The Philadelphia Experiment, another film from the same studio.
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. Here is a partial list of the changes:
- Godzilla roars and the crew fell, whereas the audience sees Steve Martin after Godzilla roars.
- Goro's fight with the giant sea louse; the louse's voice was changed.
- The scene where Naoko learns her brother is alive; Goro snaps pictures of them reunited, which angers Naoko because she realizes he only helped her in order to get the scoop.
- The meeting between the Japanese prime minister and the Russian and American ambassadors. Also deleted was a scene following the meeting in which the prime minister explains to his aides how he was able to reach a consensus with both sides. Furthermore, in the Americanized version, this scene appears before Godzilla's attack on the nuclear power plant, whereas in the Japanese version, the scene appears after Godzilla's attack.
- Part of Christopher Young's score from Def Con 4 in several scenes (including Godzilla's attack on the Soviet submarine, the scene where the SDF armored division arrives in Tokyo Bay, and Okumura's near-death experience during the helicopter extraction in Tokyo).
- Stock footage from Godzilla, King Of The Monsters was added as the Americans are talking about Godzilla's first appearance but mention that the attack happened in 1956 rather than 1954. (This was probably done due to the fact of Godzilla, King Of The Monsters's release year of 1956).
- After the Super-X hits Godzilla with cadmium missiles, it lets out its Showa era roar before collapsing. This was not heard in "Return".
- The scene in which the vagabond helps himself to the food in a deserted restaurant (due to Godzilla's arrival in Tokyo) was edited. In this scene, the distant sound of Godzilla's footsteps was added to the US version.
- Almost all of Godzilla's rampage through Tokyo. Scenes of a crowd fleeing Godzilla that appeared later in the Japanese version were moved to an earlier point in the movie (and corresponding footage of them gathering around Godzilla after it is knocked out by the Super X was removed), the Super X fight was re-arranged (in the Japanese version, Godzilla fires its atomic ray at the Super X after being hit with cadmium missiles, not before), and various other scenes of destruction were either placed in a different order or deleted completely.
- Godzilla's first attack on the nuclear power plant. The security guard who first sees Godzilla, is heard screaming as Godzilla walks overhead, implying he is stepped on by Godzilla, whereas no such scream is heard in Return.
- Okumura's first name is changed to Kenny.
- Godzilla's attack on the nuclear power plant is earlier in the story, before the discussion of the Super X and the defense of Tokyo, the opposite order of Return.
- In the original film, the Americans are shown to be just as helpless as the Soviets when facing up against Godzilla, whereas in this version, they are given a far more heroic role, with great emphasis being placed on their launch of a nuclear missile to destroy a 'deliberately launched' Soviet missile, which was launched by accident in the original film.
- All shots which employed a life-size replica of Godzilla's foot (mostly seen near the end); only one shot of the big foot crushing parked cars during the nuclear power plant scene was kept.
- A shot of an American nuclear missile satellite in space.
- Hayashada and Naoko making a wave generator.
- Professor Hayashida showing Okumura photographs of Godzilla's 1954 attack and later discussing the mutant sea louse with an aide at the police hospital.
- Goro calling his editor from an island.
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; possibly due to the fact that the Cold War was ongoing during the release of the film.
The North American version, with the added Raymond Burr footage, runs 87 minutes, 16 minutes shorter than the Japanese version.
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.
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. 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).
It was the last Godzilla film produced by Toho to receive any major release in North American theaters until Godzilla 2000 fifteen years later.
"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[sic] 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."
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.
"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."
The film was nominated for a Stinkers Bad Movie Award for Worst Picture and was also nominated for two Razzie Awards, including Worst Supporting Actor for Raymond Burr and Worst New Star for the new computerized Godzilla.
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Godzilla 1985 has been released in the United States several times on VHS. The first was by New World in the mid-1980s, the second by Starmaker (under license by R&G Video) in 1992, and the third by Anchor Bay Entertainment in 1997. All VHS home video releases include the Bambi Meets Godzilla animated short. While The Return of Godzilla has been released on DVD and Blu-ray by Kraken Releasing, with an additional dubbed version for the international market, Godzilla 1985 has not been released on either format.
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