Sensing that the market was ripe for giant monsters again, Japan's Toho Studios decided to celebrate the 30th anniversary of its original GOJIRA (1954) with a new, big-budget sequel. Ignoring the previous series of sequels that ended with 1975's TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA, this film finds
Godzilla paying his first visit to Japan since the end of GOJIRA. Unfortunately, the American version is as substantially re-edited as was the 1956 GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS (the American version of GOJIRA), proving that there's a limit to nostalgia.
One hundred miles south of Tokyo, a fishing boat is destroyed in a fierce storm. It is discovered by reporter Goro Maki (Ken Tanaka), who boards it only to find horribly mutilated bodies. He also battles a mutated sea tick, but is saved by Ken Okumura (Shin Takuma), the sole survivor. Ken gives
Goro the scoop of his career: the ship was attacked by Godzilla, the giant monster thought to have been destroyed 30 years earlier. But Goro's story is killed at the request of the Prime Minister, who doesn't want to create a panic until they know what they are dealing with.
Keeping up with his story, Goro interviews genetic biologist Prof. Hayashida (Yosuke Natsuki). When he learns that the professor's assistant, Naoko (Yasuko Sawaguchi), is Ken's sister but doesn't know what happened to him because of the news blackout, he disobeys his orders and tells her Ken is
alive. Godzilla attacks and destroys a Soviet submarine, an incident that almost sparks a nuclear war when the USSR assumes the United States is responsible. Japan is forced to reveal that Godzilla has returned, but refuses to give permission for the US and USSR to use nuclear weapons against
Godzilla on Japanese territory. Monitoring the situation, the Pentagon summons retired journalist Steven Martin (Raymond Burr), the only American to have witnessed Godzilla's original attack.
Godzilla emerges from the sea near a nuclear reactor, from which he soaks up the radioactive power. He follows a flock of birds back to the water. Prof. Hayashida speculates that because dinosaurs are genetically similar to birds, it may be possible to lure Godzilla from place to place with
electronic simulations of bird calls. Godzilla returns to Tokyo and wreaks havoc. After an all-out military attack, he is brought down by an experimental new airplane. However, the captain of a demolished Soviet ship launches a nuclear missile from an orbiting satellite at Tokyo. The Americans
manage to destroy the nuke with a missile of the own just before it reaches Tokyo, but the fallout revives Godzilla again. Prof. Hayashida uses his bird-call device to lure Godzilla to the brink of Mount Mihara, a near-active volcano. Explosives are used to cause the volcano to erupt, and Godzilla
tumbles into its molten center.
The Japanese version of this new GOJIRA ran 103 minutes; the re-edited US release runs 87. Given that it also includes a substantial amount of new scenes, GODZILLA 1985 is probably missing about 30 per cent of its original footage. It shows. Much of the film doesn't make any sense, right from the
beginning on the fishing ship. Just how did those men die? Did the mutant sea tick get them? And where did that come from, anyway? American distributor New World obviously wanted to pare the film down to its monster essentials, though along with a lot of clumsy elisions, they purposely changed the
intent of at least one scene: in the Japanese original, the Soviet missile was launched accidentally. This version makes it look as if it was launched on purpose (though presumably to stop Godzilla rather than to start a nuclear war).
New World would appear to have had a light-hearted approach in mind, given that they preceded their release of the film theatrically and on video with the humorous short "Bambi Meets Godzilla," but the film itself shows no efforts at camp humor. (On the other hand, some of Raymond Burr's dialogue
comes close, as when he pontificates that Godzilla should be dealt with as a force of nature, like a hurricane or a tidal wave: "We must understand him, deal with him, perhaps even try to communicate with him.")
The Japanese footage seems to show more seriousness, and features an improved (and 60 percent taller) Godzilla, but it's still slow going. The dialogue tries to give Godzilla some higher meaning, but it doesn't know what it wants that to be. At least it shows a sense of its own history (reporter
Goro Maki is a character who appeared in several other Godzilla flicks; co-star Yosuke Natsuki previously encountered Godzilla in GHIDRAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER). And its financial success led to a new series of much better Godzilla films, beginning with GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE (1989).
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