The return of Godzilla 1984 movie review

Written by Barney Buckley

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Movie Information 

  • Director: Koji Hashimoto, R.J. Kizer
  • Producer: Tomoyuki Tanaka
  • Japanese Release Date: December 15, 1984. Distributed by the Toho Company. Running time 103 minutes.
  • US Release Date: August 23, 1985. Distribution Rights by New World Pictures. Running Time 87 Minutes.
  • Taglines: The Legend Is Reborn! “… And just for the record, 30 years ago they never found any corpse.” Your favorite fire-breathing monster… Like you’ve never seen him before!
  • Alternate Titles: Godzilla 1984, Godzilla 1985, And the Return of Godzilla, Godzilla 1985: The Legend Is Reborn.


Raymond Burr actually stars in G’s return to the screen, instead of being spliced in for the American audience in the original Godzilla. This is the first Godzilla movie to be shown in theaters Stateside for over two decades, and sets a strong tone as the first “new look” films. Unfortunately, it isn’t one of Toho’s better films. Godzilla 1985 ignores all of the previous film history except for the epic first 1956 film. Hailed as the only “true” sequel to Inoshiro Honda’s masterpiece, the plot reveals that the original oxygen destroyer used to kill the monster failed, only disabling the beast. Godzilla reawakens, and makes a b-line for Japan.

To really qualify as a GBM, however, a movie must think that it is good; part of the fun is watching it struggle to be other than it is. The fatal flaw in “Godzilla 1985″ is that it is a bad movie with aspirations of being a good bad movie. My clues in arriving at this conclusion are many. 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: Is so consistently bad that the entire screenplay could be submitted as an example.

What I like Most about the Movie

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 knowledgeable 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. Godzilla himself also undergoes bewildering changes in size. At one point, he’s small enough to peer into the window of a ship; a little later, he’s so tall that he knocks over 60-story buildings. Curiously, his feet, when seen in close up mashing cars and things, always seem to be the same size. Phony profundity: This is Raymond Burr’s department, and it is a thankless task. He is in the movie, I suppose, as the only living link with the 1956 classic (apart from Godzilla, of course). His scenes were apparently all shot in a few days. He wears the same wardrobe and the same expression, and steps forward out of the shadows to utter inanities such as “That will never stop Godzilla” and “Those weapons of war will only anger Godzilla.”

Trivia: [US version]

  • First Godzilla movie in Korea to actually be dubbed in Korean. Before then, most of the Godzilla movies in Korea were still in Japanese with Korean subtitles.
  • Actor Akihiko Hirata, who portrayed Dr. Serizawa in the first Godzilla feature was supposed to have a role in the new update. Unfortunately he had succumbed to throat cancer just before filming.
  • This was not only the last Godzilla film produced during the Showa era in Japan (the reign of Emperor Hirohito; 1926-1989), but also the first film in a new series (later called the “Versus Series” in Japan), a direct sequel to the original film, Gojira (1954). The next film, Gojira tai Biorante (1989), was the first Godzilla film to be filmed in the Heisei era (the reign of Emperor Akihito; 1989-present). This led to some confusion with American Godzilla fans, who called this particular series the “Heisei Series.”
  • This is the first film in the series since the original Gojira (1954) in which Godzilla doesn’t do battle with another monster
  • Dr. Hayashida : When mankind falls into conflict with nature, monsters are born.
  • In the American version when Godzilla blasts the news helicopter with his radioactive fire, the Ghostbusters sign is clearly visible in the background (though backwards) as the choppers falls from the sky just before hits the ground.
  • The original Japanese version, like the 1954 original, did not contain Raymond Burr. Also, in the Japanese version, the Russian submarine officer tries to stop the nuclear weapon that was accidentally launched. This was changed for the US version so that the Russian officer actually launched the weapon.
  • These are the scenes that were cut out or rearranged for the American version:
  • The original opening credits were imposed over a shot of a volcano on Daikoku Island erupting. This is what awakes Godzilla.
  • Goro’s struggle with the sea louse was shortened. The voice of the louse was also changed.
  • A scene of Prof. Hayashida showing Okumura pictures of Godzilla in the hospital was the only reference to the original Godzilla movie in the Japanese version and was cut from the American version.
  • Godzilla’s attack on Tokyo is rearranged somewhat in the American version. First, he appears in Shinjuku as people run from him. This is taken from later in the film when after Godzilla is knocked out, people crowd around him and then the nuke revives him. Also, Godzilla fires his nuclear ray AFTER the Super-X shoots cadmium shells in his mouth in the Japanese version.
  • The scene where Godzilla’s image is reflected by a building (a tribute to Yuji Kaida’s cover art for the Godzilla Legend Chronology 1 CD) is taken out.
  • The end titles are different. In the Japanese version, the credits roll over a shot of the island as the sun rises with the pop song “Godzilla” sung by the Star Sisters (not the Blue Oyster Cult song, it’s more of a love song) plays. The American end credits are the usual running over a black background. Instead of “Godzilla”, a medley of Reijiro Koroku’s score is played.
  • The first run release prints issued by New World Pictures in the U.S. contained the classic Marv Newland short Bambi Meets Godzilla (1969) before the feature. This has frequently caused an incorrect longer running time to be listed for the U.S. version.

Closing Statements

At no time is he involved dramatically in the adventure. In a career that has contained many highs and many lows, this is not one of Raymond Burr’s finest hours. Godzilla is said to be popular in Japan because he touches a nerve: He is a monster created by radioactivity, the destructive heritage of World War II. There have been a lot of Godzilla adventures since the original one in 1956 (my favorite is “Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster”), but this is the first one made by Toho, the studio that launched the series. The message seems to be as bleak as ever: “So long as mankind continues to defy the forces of nature (a narrator intones), we will be visited by catastrophes like hurricanes, tidal waves, and Godzilla.” And, for that matter, as long as Toho continues to heed the call of the marketplace, we will be visited by catastrophes like “Godzilla 1985.

Written by Barney Buckley


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