Peter’s Retro Reviews: Gojira aka The Return of Godzilla (1984)

March 24, 2014

The Return of Godzilla International Posterby Peter Nielsen

The looming presence of Godzilla can’t have escaped anybody these days, can it? I mean, especially since there’s a new movie premiering soon. With that in mind I thought it would be appropriate to visit one of the older Godzilla movies. It would’ve been easy to choose the original black & white one from 1954 or one of the many where he fights another monster, but I actually put a little bit of thought into this…

The one I’ve chosen to review this week was made as a direct sequel to the first one and subsequently ignored the 14 movies which were released in between. It was also the first one, since the original, that didn’t feature another monster for Godzilla to fight. The bad guy in this one is Godzilla himself and he actually looks as if he’s really pissed off! The mood of the movie is darker and more reminiscent of the earlier ones… nothing cartoony or campy about this one, ladies and gentlemen!

The Professor questioning Hiroshi about his encounter.

The Professor questioning Hiroshi about his encounter.

The original title was simply Gojira, but it was released outside of Japan as The Return of Godzilla. In the United States it was released as Godzilla 1985 and was an altered and re-worked version. Some scenes were shortened, some were changed and others were deleted altogether. New World Pictures, who had acquired the North American distribution rights, also added scenes depicting the Pentagon and scenes with Raymond Burr to suit their version of the movie. Raymond Burr of course reprised the role he played in the Americanized version of the first one from 1954.

The version I watched was the original Japanese one which, to my knowledge, has never been officially released in the U.S.

Godzilla is back and he's pissed!

Godzilla is back and he’s pissed!

The movie starts in the middle of the ocean where a fishing boat is lost in a big storm, when all of a sudden a gigantic monster appears and attacks it. The boat is reported as missing, but is discovered drifting, by a reporter, a couple of days later. The reporter, Goro Maki, played by Ken Tanaka, climbs aboard the boat and upon searching it, finds everybody dead… all except for one. When Goro is attacked by some sort of giant sea louse, the young survivor, Hiroshi Okumura, helps to kill it.

Hiroshi, played by Shin Takuma, is understandably a bit shook up by the giant monster attack and is briefly hospitalized. While there, he’s approached by a professor who has suspicions as to what attacked the boat and shows him some old photographs. Hiroshi recognizes the creature in the photos and they realize they have a “new” Godzilla on their hands.

So as not to cause a panic, the Japanese Prime Minister decides that it’s best to keep the identity of the attacker a secret. But when a Soviet submarine is attacked and destroyed, the Russians think the Americans has something to do with it and the Japanese has to come clean and tell the truth. It’s either that or risk that the bickering between the two nations escalates into war.

Ken Tanaka as Goro Maki

Ken Tanaka as Goro Maki

However… now they want to help Japan get rid of Godzilla with the use of nuclear weapons, something that the Japanese Prime Minister isn’t too keen on, but he manages to dissuade them. He instead wants to try and stop Godzilla with more conventional weaponry and also a secret and formidable new weapon called “Super X”. You know those VTOL aircrafts that can take off and land vertically and also hover in midair? Yeah, well… “Super X” is kind of like that… with powerful weapons and added armor.

While this is happening, the professor, Hiroshi, Goro and Hiroshi’s sister Naoko are looking into alternative ways to lure Godzilla away from the city, without too much damage. But, with this being a Godzilla movie we all know that the “no damage scenario” is flushed down the toilet faster than you can say giant mutated lizard monster. So when Godzilla lumbers out of Tokyo Bay he’s met by the army, the air force and later also “Super X”, and Tokyo is soon turned into a chaotic burning battlefield.

Godzilla stomping through a burning Tokyo

Godzilla stomping through a burning Tokyo

The actor donning the Godzilla-suit for this movie was stuntman Kenpachiro Satsuma. He had been in other Godzilla movies before this one, but this was his first time as the titular creature. He would continue to portray him in six more movies, like for instance Godzilla vs. Biollante, Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah and Godzilla vs. Destoroyah.

I actually hadn’t seen this one before, but I must say that I enjoyed it quite a bit. And I mean, why wouldn’t I? It’s a kaiju movie for Pete’s sake! And not only that… it’s a kaiju movie featuring the greatest monster of them all… Godzilla! Oh, and in case you didn’t know? Kaiju literally means “strange creature”, but is more loosely translated to mean “monster”, which in turn means that any movie featuring some kind of monster is a kaiju movie. Hell, even a movie featuring Frankenstein’s monster would be considered a kaiju movie.

And here’s a little piece of trivia for you… Did you know that there were actually plans for a movie where Godzilla was to square off against a giant mutated Frankenstein’s monster? I kid you NOT!! The Toho Film Studios didn’t think that story would make any sense though and the plans were fortunately scrapped!

If you like movies with giant mutated creatures running rampant, leveling city block after city block, look no further! The Return of Godzilla will be right up your alley.  Granted, the movie is a bit slow in places, mainly when they all sit around discussing the best way to destroy Godzilla, but that is all forgotten when he arrives in Tokyo and the final battle starts. It’s complete mayhem, it’s awesome and I love it!

So, my friends, that’s it for me this week. If you have any thoughts on this one or Godzilla movies in general, please tell me in the comment section below!

Until next time…

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