Godzilla 1985 (1984)

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“Nature has a way sometimes of reminding Man of just how small he is.”

After being dormant for almost a decade, it was decided to bring Godzilla back for a new generation.  After reviewing several scripts, including one in which Godzilla fought a shape-shifting monster called Bagan, the producers decided to take Godzilla all the way back to his roots, looking to the original movie for inspiration.  The mood was much darker, with more emphasis on Godzilla’s rampage and its effect on civilians.  While he does have an extended battle with the Super X aircraft, there is no actual monster for Godzilla to fight.  This is the last time Godzilla would appear in a movie by himself.  The chaos that Godzilla brought was played out against the backdrop of the Cold War, with a dispute about a Russian submarine forming the first part of the movie.  The Japanese title was “The Return of Godzilla”, or just “Godzilla”, and it ignored every movie from the original series save for the original.  It was brought to American shores a year after its release and new scenes were inserted featuring American military men discussing the monster, presenting an American perspective on Godzilla’s attack.  These scenes featured the return of Raymond Burr, reprising the role of Steve Martin the reporter.

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A fishing vessel is navigating a storm, when something breaks out of an island and appears to attack the boat.  A day later, reporter Goro is out sailing and finds the boat, with all the crew killed by a mutant sea louse save for a man named Kenny, who saves Goro from the louse.  The Japanese government discerns that the boat was attacked by Godzilla, whose radioactive properties mutated the sea louse.  The government decides to cover the incident up, and Goro is forbidden from publishing his story.  Later, a Soviet submarine is destroyed off the coast of Japan.  Tensions escalate between the Americans and Russians, and Japan finally reveals that Godzilla has somehow returned.  Both of the superpowers want to use nuclear weapons to destroy Godzilla, but Japan refuses and states they will handle the problem their own way.  Meanwhile, in America, the retired reporter Steve Martin is called in to offer his insight on the situation.  He makes the statement that Godzilla isn’t a creature that can be destroyed, he is more like a force of nature that can only be avoided.  Despite the Japanese refusal to use nuclear weapons, Russia secretly sends a nuclear ship to Japan in disguise, just in case.

Goro visits a nuclear expert named Professor Hayashida, who believes Godzilla is attracted to nuclear power, as he needs it to survive.  Sure enough, Godzilla appears and attacks a nuclear power plant, only to leave after being distracted by a flock of birds.  Hayashida finds that Godzilla’s brain is bird-like, and they may be able to use the sounds to attract him toward a volcano, where a controlled eruption could trap the creature.  Meanwhile, the JSDF reveals the VTOL armored ship Super X, which is equipped with cadmium missiles that could theoretically kill Godzilla.  Godzilla reappears in Tokyo Bay and begins attacking the city.  Super X is dispatched and after a short battle, Godzilla appears to be killed.  However, the chaos in the bay damaged the Soviet ship, and caused the launch of a nuclear missile from space.  The Americans are contacted and a counter-strike is launched.  The missile is destroyed before it hits Tokyo, but the fallout from the blast awakens Godzilla, who attacks and destroys the Super X.  Hayashida finishes his bird call device and uses it to lure Godzilla to Mount Mihara.  Explosives are used to cause an eruption, and Godzilla falls into the volcano and disappears.

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“Godzilla 1985” was definitely a product of its time.  The Cold War was fresh on everyone’s mind, and the effects of Godzilla appearing during the height of it are an interesting take on the idea.  The tone is returned to the more serious mood of the first movie.  While this movie lacks the emotional gut punch of irradiated children, the scenes of people fleeing from the beast seem more unnerving in the modern setting.  A few smaller plotlines run through the city destruction scenes, such as Kenny and his sister attempting to escape the monster, and a vagrant who delights in the leftovers from Godzilla’s rampage.  These little bits serve to add a bit of humanity to the story of a radioactive monster attacking Japan.  Sadly, many of the more politically charged scenes were edited out of the American verison, and the original Japanese version has never been released in America.  New scenes were added featuring American military men commenting on Godzilla’s attack don’t really add much, but the return of Raymond Burr to the role that made him famous is a nice treat.  His closing soliloquy is well delivered, and is apparently better than the song played over the end scene in the original Japanese. This movie was very successful in Japan, and led to a new series of Godzilla movies that ran until 1995.


The Cold War conflict led to an infamous edit in the American version.  In the original, the Russian boat is damaged by Godzilla and the launch of the nuclear missile is started automatically.  A Russian seaman tries to hit the button to stop the launch, but dies before he is successful.  However, in the American version, the scene was edited so that the Russian launches the missile instead, and included a scene of the Russian’s hand hitting the button.

Currently, this is the only Godzilla movie to never be released to DVD in the United States.

There was an electrical malfunction in the spines of the Godzilla suit, and actor Kenpachiro Satsuma was electrocuted several times.

Since Steve Martin was also the name of a popular comedian, so Raymond Burr’s character is always referred to as “Steve” or “Mister Martin”.

The American version was going to be a dubbed over comedy, but Raymond Burr objected, feeling that Godzilla should stand as a warning of nuclear war.

The American theatrical release included the short cartoon “Bambi Meets Godzilla”.

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~ by Chris on May 3, 2014.

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