The first Godzilla flick I watched was 1998's GODZILLA. Though I often caught bits of the originals on television, I'd never been able to actually sit and watch them for whatever reason. At first, I enjoyed the 1998 version. But my cousin, who was a huge Godzilla fan, told me I needed to watch the originals and that they were far better. I asked for a suggestion; he offered GODZILLA 1985 (the Americanized version of THE RETURN OF GODZILLA). After watching it, I was hooked, and the 1998 version began fading from memory...
Godzilla is back and just as pissed off – and is making a beeline for Tokyo. His destruction of a Russian submarine makes the Russians furious and intent on using nuclear weapons against Godzilla. The Americans are here – with journalist Steve Martin (Raymond Burr) in tow – to make the film marketable in America. However, the Japanese don't need no help against Godzilla as they have a secret weapon: Super-X, an attack plane that blows shit up. Now, Godzilla must contend with this pesky metal fly while trampling Tokyo and its citizens. Will Godzilla succeed in leveling Tokyo? Or will the Japanese utilize legit science to lure Godzilla to yet another grave?
GODZILLA 1985 was billed as a direct sequel to GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS, ignoring all the installments in between. Here, Godzilla returns as the villain and as a metaphor for nuclear weapons. But we don't really give a crap about the metaphorical aspects of Godzilla: we just wanna see The Big G destroy some shit. GODZILLA 1985 delivers on this. He destroys buildings, melts tanks, stomps on pesky humans, and blows shit up with his radioactive breath. The little child in each of us will be going bonkers with glee.
Watching this as an adult, I noticed just how out of place the American-made footage is and it how much it impedes the flow of the movie. Really, the American footage is here for no reason other than marketing purposes. Hell, the only productive thing they do is stop a Russian-launched nuclear missile (this subplot was slightly altered for the American release). Other than that, it's just them tossing about ideas or making lame wisecracks or spouting hammy dialogue – or all three at once! Raymond Burr is here only to shoot down the military's ideas, look intense, and wax poetically about Godzilla. Oh, and to collect a paycheck.
The Japanese footage, on the other hand, flows smoothly and feels natural. While the characters are little more than cardboard cutouts for Godzilla to stomp on, you might actually find yourself caring about one or two of them and hope they survive Godzilla's Tokyo vacation (the one I wanted to survive, sadly, doesn't).
Despite its flaws, GODZILLA 1985 provides solid entertainment guaranteed to make you feel like a kid again. Even as an adult, it still ranks as my favorite Godzilla flick and I'll cherish it forever.
And, finally, THE RETURN OF GODZILLA is making its Blu-ray debut this September thanks to the fine folks at Kraken Releasing. Sadly though, due to legal issues, GODZILLA 1985 won't be coming with it. Still, fans should be excited to finally be able to view the original in all its Big G glory. I know I am. – Evan Romero
Evan Romero is a regular contributor to the pages of ER and spends much of his time reading morally questionable books and watching movies no sane person would touch. He is the vocalist/bassist for the punk band Porno Holocaust (you can find them on Facebook and listen to some demos if you’re inclined). You can read more of his reviews at ReelAtrocities.com or at PopHorror.com. He last wrote about SGT. KABUKIMAN NYPD for Troma Tuesday.
GODZILLA 1985 is available from Amazon and THE RETURN OF GODZILLA is available for pre-order.