Godzilla: Resurrection – My Own Personal Touch

Last post, I talked about using elements, both physical and conceptual, from the alternate cuts of Godzilla: Resurrection. While this approach greatly streamlined a film that was originally lopsided in its pacing and reinstated many fan-favorite changes made to the international and American cuts, I wanted to go deeper.

While Resurrection is, at its core, a hybrid cut, I quickly hit upon the idea during my analytical viewings of the film and its myriad versions of adding my own cuts and rearrangements, to bring the film closer to a subjective perfection that I always felt it deserved. In short, I wanted to add my own mark upon TROG by further cleaning up the editing, crafting a wholly different beast from other hybrid projects of this nature.

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The majority of my contributions to the editorial feel of Resurrection are undoubtedly cuts. Several scenes in both TROG and G85, while undeniably necessary and worthy of inclusion, could certainly have benefited from a tighter cut. These range the gamut from cutting a subpar line from Okumura when he storms out on Goro after the publication of the photos of he and his sister, to tightening the action pieces of the elevated train attack and the Super X shelling. Even two Pentagon scenes from the American cut received a trimming, one to remove a frankly-incredulous line regarding the Presidential hotline being “down for repairs,” and the other to remove an equally-incredulous line referencing the violation of a UN space treaty–something the US happily does in Resurrection anyway.

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Other changes to the editorial flow include the cutting of Goro’s early phone call to the mainland about the Yahata Maru (unnecessary to the plot), the rearrangement of several scenes of military preparedness for the arrival of Godzilla midway through the picture.

One small change that I am nonetheless proud of, having seen it in action, occurs after Hayashida muses on Godzilla’s relationship with mankind, and what he hopes to accomplish by sending the creature back into the earth through Mt. Mihara. In the original version, this scene immediately cuts to the American and Soviet ambassadors arriving in Tokyo–a clumsy cut in every sense of the word. With no clear demonstration of the passing of time, this rather loud transition from a nighttime monologue to blaring diplomatic music falls with a thud. I knew I had to do something about it.

My solution: insert two shots, one from earlier of the downtown district where Hayashida’s lab resides at night, and a piece of Tokyo stock footage in the daytime. Finding appropriate footage was not easy: the only stock video of Tokyo in the correct era of the 1980s I could find was in very low quality with a large time code burned into it, so I had to settle for modern-day footage and hope the anachronism went unnoticed. In the end, I think I accomplished what I set out to do with it: inserting a more recognizable passage of time that befits the political procedural feel of Hashimoto’s original film.

Another addition of mine, one I’m even more proud of, is more technical-related. In the original cut, the Soviets aren’t the only nation with nukes in space; one shot of an American nuclear missile satellite exists in the Japanese version, and this satellite is loaded for bear compared to its Russian counterpart.

As you can see, however, this shot is unfortunately plastered with another burned-in subtitle. Servanov’s EOST, which was immensely useful for helping me get rid of most of these, was no help here, as the only textless source of this shot came from an alternate take contained on the German DVD release. This take, apart from being in a lower resolution with blown-out contrast, also suffers from its starfield not moving in the first 5-10 frames or so. While it works for his cut in that the international version contained this alternate take, it wouldn’t do for mine.

Into After Effects I went, using the satellite element cut out of a still frame in Photoshop. From there, I added a custom starfield behind the sat, keyframed its motion, and then added a subtle gate weave to the sat itself to emulate the original shot. The result:

Not bad, eh? I think so.

One other change I feel like mentioning here is related to the audio mix. In both the original cut and G85, much of the scenes inside the lab building when Hayashida, Goro, and Naoko are trying to escape the rampage seemed a bit empty. If one watches the scene again, it’s easy to realize that this is because there is no ambient sound of Godzilla and the maser trucks–surely, a battle going on right outside the walls should be audible, especially if it’s shaking the building at times. So, I added in plenty of distant SFX to spruce up the scene. It really adds some tension, I think, and was one aspect my beta-viewers brought up often. I liked the effect so much, that I added some more later on when Tokyo braces for a nuclear explosion: the sound of nuclear attack sirens has now been layered into the film, from the first announcement after Godzilla falls unconscious all the way through to the explosion itself.

However, sometimes my own personal touch isn’t signified by what I add or cut, but what I leave in: several beta-viewers and others online have asked why I kept a crucial aspect of the Super X shelling the same as it was in the original cut, Godzilla uses his atomic ray after being attacked. G85 moved this to before the Super X opened fire, creating a more aggressive and territorial Godzilla that many fans seem to prefer. While that viewpoint has its merits, too many other instances of Godzilla’s hesitation to attack lead me to believe that Hashimoto’s and Nagahara’s intent was to portray Godzilla as more of a curious creature, one fascinated and perplexed by the modern world around him, enough to be more likely to barrel through it, taking hits like they were nothing, than to preemptively strike. It’s a portrayal that reminds me of Legendary’s take on the character, and one I decided in good faith to keep in.

After all, this is one of the major goals of the edit, to preserve the original intents and themes of the filmmakers. While G85 did a lot in streamlining a film saddled with pacing issues, it also wrecked its central message and replaced it with dismissive Americanized corporate entertainment. What I could use from G85 to improve the picture, I did, but this was never bound to be a straight hybrid. The Return of Godzilla deserves way more than that, I believe, and I hope I did it justice.

P.S. I actually just finished the timeline and made my first test render of the smaller MP4 version of the edit, so the final product is not too far off! I’ll be making adjustments based on little hiccups I saw on the test and then it will be time to start work on the subtitles.

Until then, stay tuned for more posts on this edit.

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Godzilla: Resurrection – Using the Alternate Cuts

Let’s face it–if I, or anybody following this project with even the slightest enthusiasm, thought that the original Japanese cut of The Return of Godzilla were perfect in any way, this edit would not be necessary–or even exist. TROG is most certainly one of the best Godzilla films out there, a remarkable piece of critical Japanese art made at the height of the Cold War, but its flaws are readily apparent to even the biggest fans. Numerous shots run a little too long, breaking an ideal pace for its many scenes of tension and suspense; emphasis is placed on sub-par visual effects; several pieces of music are, shall we say, not up to scratch, whilst other sequences lose impact without any music or key sound effects.

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For these reasons, among others, perhaps explains why the alternate cuts of TROG, namely the International Cut prepared by Toho and the New World Pictures-produced Godzilla 1985 are so popular. For every mistake these versions make, they fix several present in the original cut. Perhaps this is also why a hybrid cut of these disparate visions of Godzilla’s first triumphant return is so attractive to fan editors; KingAsylus91 embarked on his own years before, as well as another fan on TohoKingdom. And now, here I am.

While preserving the original Japanese dialogue and Koji Hashimoto’s intent to portray a serious, question-raising kaiju film that was very much in the same spirit as Gojira (1954), Resurrection will also pull from the best changes made to these other versions. After all, it is, at its core, a hybrid cut.

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But which changes to retain? Which to disregard? Here was one of the biggest problems surrounding this fan edit, what to do about these versions. While the previous hybrid cuts were happy to try and meld the American scenes starring Burr into the Japanese version as is, creating a straight-forward mix of the two films, I decided to try something different.

Contrary to popular belief, the biggest changes (in quantity, at least) to G85 had to do with cuts and rearrangements made to existing TROG scenes, not to the added footage. Some of these changes were questionable, but others actually did much to improve both the pace and flow of the picture. It was these changes I decided to retain in at least some capacity.

But what are they? Below is a list, by no means comprehensive, of some of these changes:

  • Maki’s encounter with the Shockilas more closely resembles the G85 version, cut down to remove more laughable shots of the monster prop and to tighten the action of the scene.
  • An establishing shot of Tokyo from the air used later on in TROG has been moved to its earlier G85 position, setting up the return to the city after the sequence aboard the Yahata Maru more clearly.
  • The reveal of the Soviet Nuclear Attack Satellite has been moved to after Kasirin’s deactivation of the weapon, as in G85.
  • Many pieces of the Christopher Young score have been added back to their respective scenes, including Maki’s search of the Yahata Maru, the Soviet Sub sinking, the JSDF dock massing, and Okumura’s near-death under the helicopter.
  • G85 additions of Reijiro Koroku’s score have been reinstated, such as during the lure test and Maki and Naoko’s attempted escape from the lab building during the Super X battle.
  • Some new sound effects added into G85 have been reintroduced, such as the Shockilas cackle, some new Godzilla roars, and the famous “B-mix” Godzilla scream from both G85 and the International Cut.
  • Numerous little cuts, additions, and other alterations, ranging from some rearranging of the JSDF massing at the docks to trims of the life-size Godzilla foot.

But how were these alterations made to Resurrection? While many, most involving simple cuts or editing, were achieved by working directly with the Kraken blu-ray, the added Pentagon scenes and other pieces of alternate audio had to be culled from other sources, namely the G85 and EOST (International Cut) reconstructions by Red Menace and Servanov.

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Red Menace’s G85, while in 1080p resolution, presents the added American scenes in standard definition with added film grain to partially hide this fact. With no other source available, I have resorted to integrating the footage from this release and blending the two sources together with an application of grain to the rest of the picture. The same goes for Servanov’s EOST, which is presented at 720p; this source had to be used to substitute any scenes involving “foreign” (not Japanese) dialogue have been resourced with Servanov’s International Cut reconstruction to remove burned-in Japanese subtitles present on the Kraken print. In the final product, additional grain will be used to better hide the lower resolution. While this will add much noise to the film, my hope is that the film will achieve a certain worn, almost “grindhouse” patina, as though Resurrection has seen much love in the 1980s during its theatrical run but has not been able to benefit from an extensive restoration with digital noise reduction.

In the end, however, this is only half of the veritable cake mix of Resurrection. There are many other changes, much more esoteric and exclusive to my own tastes and rationales, that make up this ambitious fan edit. In my next post, I’ll talk a bit more about them.

Until then, ciao.

Fan Edit Review: Godzilla 1985 Theatrical Version Reconstruction

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Original Film Directed by Koji Hashimoto, R.J. Kizer, Written by Shuichi Nagahara and Lisa Tomei
Fan Edit by Red Menace (a.k.a. OMGItsGodzilla)
Category: Reconstruction

In September of 2016, Godzilla fans in America received what they thought would be the best news they had had since the return of the Big G to theaters two years earlier: the last remaining Godzilla film without a North American release, The Return of Godzilla, finally hit the stores on blu-ray. Months before, however, these same fans learned of an unfortunate footnote to this release–it would not include the popular American recut, Godzilla 1985. To this day, the last official home video of 1985 was the Anchor Bay VHS tape, and to a dedicated Godzilla fan known as Red Menace, this just wouldn’t do.

I’m not going to go too deep into all of the differences between The Return of Godzilla and Godzilla 1985, but suffice to say, there are plenty. The last Godzilla film to be heavily recut with newly-added scenes (and the last to be released theatrically in the States until the Roland Emmerich film), 1985 acts as a sequel to the Americanized version of the first Godzilla film, King of the Monsters. That cut starred the great Raymond Burr as reporter Steve Martin, thrust into the action with some skillful shooting and editing, and the inclusion of a voiceover narration by the character.

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1985 sees Burr return to the role, but this time, he stays far away from the action in several scenes set within the Pentagon, depicting Martin as an adviser to a trio of helpless American military officers watching the kaiju rampage unfold. This makes Red Menace’s job a bit easier than, say, Harmy’s on the Star Wars Despecialized Editions, as this meant only a comparitive handful of shots were needed to be inserted as opposed to a vast number of visual effects integration.

Red Menace achieves this with a popular standard definition capture of 1985 from the premium cable channel MonstersHD in the early 2000s. This does mean the exclusive footage is of a lower resolution than the main Kraken blu-ray rip, but Red manages to smooth out the inconsistencies with overlay of a 35mm film grain element from HolyGrain. The end result does mean that the image is rather thick with noise, but it certainly helps sell the illusion of an older print newly scanned into HD, especially at normal viewing distance. Bitrate is high, approaching blu-ray quality at around 25mbps.

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In addition to these shots, Red Menace also had to recreate a fair share of subtitles, both for location cards and foreign dialogue. Using an Australian VHS rip, they were able to fashion and time nearly-identical subtitles to the theatrical release.

Audio is bit worse-for-wear, however: due to 1985 only ever seeing release with a mono track, the audio is rather tinny and limited. This isn’t a knock against the editor, who surely only had to work with what existed; this is a gripe against New World Pictures. On the reconstruction, the track is in dual mono/stereo configuration, and comes through loud and clear. It seems evident that it was sourced from the MonstersHD broadcast, however, as it contains several subtle differences to the actual theatrical cut (MonstersHD had aired a workprint version, not the released American cut). A bit unfortunate, as this reconstruction cannot be called entirely accurate, but these changes are very minor, and one or two have been fixed. From talking with the editor, I have learned that a future v2.0 is in the works that will address these issues.

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The first of Red Menace’s Godzilla reconstructions serves up a real treat for G-Fans the world over. Finally, a film, or at least a version of it, that was considered to be lost indefinitely to tangled rights issues and null mass demand is now readily available to view by anyone with an internet connection and a bit of space on their computer. It looks pretty damn good for a mix of SD and HD footage, and while the audio does leave one missing the Japanese cut’s 5.1 remix, this is as true to the original American release as it gets, barring that next-to-impossible official release.

HOW TO GET IT:

Simply follow @RedMenaceOfficial on Tumblr, you can find all of their projects there!

Godzilla 1985 is available in several flavors, in both the v1.0 reviewed here and his earlier v0.5 and v0.6 efforts using SD sources, if you’re into seeing a work-in-progress version. 1.0 is available in a lower-bitrate MP4 file for more compact size and a full-quality MKV file. They have also provided two bonus features that can be downloaded separately: a reconstruction of the utterly weird and out-of-place American theme song “I Was Afraid to Love You,” and the original theatrical trailer, restored of course.

Godzilla: Resurrection – The Audio Mix, Pt. 2

It’s about that time for another Resurrection update.

I have finally completed the assembly! The final cut, barring some huge change to come from the feedback I expect to get from upcoming beta-viewings, will be approximately 114 minutes–over ten minutes longer than the original cut, and almost thirty minutes longer the 1985. While there is still much work to be done with color correction, grain addition, and subtitle creation, not only is the main structure of the film now complete, but the audio mix is–again, barring any major changes from the beta-viewings–now a done-deal.

In my last post, I talked at length about the audio, and the extensive process I undertook to both downmix a proper stereo version of the Kraken Releasing blu-ray, and to meld that with the mono sound of 1985 without becoming jarring in the transition. Well, since then, it’s become a bit more extensive.

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One major problem that I had to tackle was Okumura’s near-death under the helicopter about two-thirds into the film. In TROG, this scene played without any music until the end of the scene, where he is finally pulled in along with the lure tape to Koroku’s M32, “The Couple Left Behind.” In 1985, this scene acquired some new, suspenseful music leading into M32, a track that most likely was an unreleased cue from Christopher Young’s Def-Con 4 score. Being unreleased, this posed a major problem: all I had to work with the mono audio from the film itself, which didn’t quite fit with the rest of the soundscape. Despite the best efforts of myself and another helpful Godzilla fan known as Zarm, an isolated version of the track just couldn’t be found.

After much brainstorming, I came up with a solution: using the faux-stereo wav files ripped from Red Menace’s 1985 reconstruction, I edited and moved around the track to eliminate any dialogue that played over it, and then experimented with ExpressFX Delay and channel panning. The end result, while not perfect, was still impressive, to me at least; the ambient helicopter blades seemed to blend into each other, and the track took on more of an authentic stereoscopic feel, enough for me to declare, “good enough.”

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This led to my applying the same technique to several other spots in the film, including two more exclusive Chris Young tracks, and a certain infamous “scream” in the grand finale.

This technique didn’t work everywhere, however: I couldn’t use it for the majority of the 1985 Pentagon scenes because it would wreak havoc with the dialogue. So for those scenes, I tried something else: layering in snippets of background sound effects to complement the added isolated Young tracks, in a further attempt to bump up the mix into a more stereo-sounding beast.

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I even went the extra mile and recreated the G85 arrangement of Koroku’s main theme, using the original soundtrack release; the end result is quite powerful, more so than the mono mix could ever hope to be.

Has this all been worth it? Well, I shall see once I start hearing back from people who watch the edit. But for now, I’m happy with my accomplishment.

 

Godzilla: Resurrection – The Audio Mix

Here I am, back with another Resurrection update!

I’m still in the process of creating the assembly cut, but I’m almost done; the Super X battle is all done, so it should be smooth sailing until I reach the end sequence, where my next great challenge will involve integrating the various sound effects, such as the famous “B mix” scream and Raymond Burr’s narration, into the audio mix, which is what leads to today’s post.

While The Return of Godzilla is readily available in the United States on blu-ray with both English and Japanese 5.1 surround mixes, I have chosen to mix Resurrection in stereo. The reasons for this are two-fold:

  1. Godzilla 1985 has only ever had a mono mix, which is in stereo configuration on the Red Menace reconstruction, so any fan edit that combines both films must match.
  2. My relative inexperience with surround mixes.

Given the ambitious nature of this project compared to some others I have in the pipeline, I decided on the stereo mix as an easier alternative to trying to up-mix the 1985 footage to 5.1. This presented its own set of challenges, however, as simply down-mixing the 5.1 Japanese mix would not be ideal or easy. So, I decided to take a two-tier approach to the audio.

First, after ripping the blu-ray and acquiring Red Menace’s 1985 reconstruction, I used Audio Muxer to extract and convert each video file’s audio track, in three varieties: a lossless stereo .flac track, two lossless mono wav files for the left and right stereo tracks, and lossless mono wavs for each 5.1 track (left, right, back left, back right, center, and LFE). These files were then used to rebuild a new mix, using the flacs as a base. For dialogue scenes, this track was enough, but for more action-packed sequences, I employed the separate wav files in various configurations to both add punch and nuance to the picture, and sometimes even to cover editorial changes made by myself.

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In effect, even in scenes where it appears I made no major changes, the audio has been substantially altered or even rebuilt, as was the case with Steve Martin’s introduction at the end of the Yahatu Maru’s wreck off of Daikoku Island: all audio in this portion of the scene from Godzilla’s roar on has been rebuilt using the isolated Christopher Young music cue and public domain sound effects, whilst before it has been rebuilt from the ripped audio elements listed above. Many other scenes benefit from this reconstruction, including:

  • Any scene with audio elements added in 1985, including the English news voice of Goro’s sailboat radio, the added Shockilas noises, the Christopher Young tracks, and alternate Godzilla roars;
  • Several scenes in TROG that were noticeably missing sound effects, like numerous sequences within Hayashida’s lab building during the Tokyo rampage and the battle with the Super X;
  • Adding the Christopher Young tracks and other sound effects to the added Pentagon scenes to bump up the mono audio

I hope all this work will be appreciated by viewers of the edit when it is released, because boy, is it a lot of work. But it’s all a bit of fun, really.

And a lot of desk chair sweat.

Godzilla: Resurrection – The Philosophy of This Project

It’s been about two months since I started this edit. And what a ride it has been.

I’ve faced difficulty at every turn on this one. First there was the creation of the new prologue, which I restarted several times after becoming fed up with whatever current direction it was taking. And then the ripping process itself, and the creation of the separate audio tracks needed to undertake the new stereo mix. I originally bungled this by neglecting the audio mix entirely, working from compressed mp3 stems. I guess you can you say I’ve got the skills of a novice.

Actually, you can say that. This is my first fan edit.

244979-19776-118733-1-terror-of-godzillaI grew up watching Godzilla 1985 (heretofore known as G85). All throughout those years, I knew I loved the film as one of the best of the Godzilla series, but there was also another thing I owned that always made me wonder about the original cut: the Dark Horse English translation of the manga adaptation, known in the States as Terror of Godzilla. When I first encountered it, I had yet to see G85 or even come to acquire a basic understanding of the Godzilla film continuity, so to me it was just another (cool) Godzilla story. And then I saw G85, and was instantly both confused and intrigued; Terror of Godzilla played almost exactly as this movie, but with a lot of quirky differences. I think it’s safe to say that I was introduced to the concept of alternative versions of films through Terror of Godzilla.

As I grew, TROG became somewhat of a holy grail to me. With its unavailability on the American market and limited presence in even piracy circles, it felt like an eternity before I was finally able to view it in any kind of passable form. When I finally did, it took a few viewings before I finally appreciated it for what it was–a well-structured political procedural film, with its various crises built around the presence of a giant, radioactive monster. Unlike G85, TROG was a brilliant exercise in mounting tension, with each predicament, governmental or natural, flowing from the last organically, providing every character with ample opportunities to define themselves through struggle. Instantly, I could see why this original version was superior to what the American editors had created; all they could see was a monster mash, while Hashimoto was building Godzilla back up into a force of Nature that mankind would have to reckon with.

Still, G85 had a few advantages. There are numerous examples where the pacing of specific scenes are substantially improved by a tighter cut, such as the attack of the Shockilas upon Goro Maki. In TROG, this scene is almost laughable, with an incredibly fake and immobile puppet slowly rolling on the floor towards Goro, who seems to have nothing to fear from this lump of rubber. In G85 however, the scene is shortened by almost a full minute, turning two or three different attacks and dodges between the two combatants into a single, rapid piece of culluloid violence that preserves the shock factor of a giant sea louse suddenly appearing behind our main character.

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Some scenes are also improved with the new score additions by New World Pictures, which were sourced from a film called Def-Con 4. These selections by Christopher Young actually blend very well into the original score by Reijiro Koroku.

But by far, the additions most everyone remembers are the newly-shot Pentagon scenes starring Raymond Burr as the Steve Martin character from King of the Monsters. While not really adding to the plot in any significant way and stuffed with dismissive American Cold War humor, Steve Martin’s presence within them lends the film a sense of continuity with its past, and Burr’s performance is haunting in a handful of scenes.

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Taking all of this into account, one gets the sense that arguments could be made supporting both versions. Which leads me to this edit: while ostensibly a straight hybrid cut, as you will see over the coming weeks, there’s a lot more going on under the surface. Obviously, there’s my new title screen and prologue sequence, but also some of my own interpretations of certain sequences like the Super X shelling or the end sequence of Godzilla falling into Mt. Mihara. These not only serve to provide myself some much-needed editing experience, not only to leave my mark upon one of my favorite Godzilla films, but to hopefully bring it up to the same level, at least in the eyes of American audiences, of some of their favorite pieces of cinema from the period. Films from that decade and immediately prior, like All the President’s Men, Apocalypse Now, The Godfather Trilogy, The Hunt for Red October; all of these films serve as my inspiration on this project.

The end goal will be to create an alternative “export” version, a what-if international cut that posits a collaboration between the American and Japanese creative teams to preserve the original intents of Tanaka, Hashimoto, and Nagahara, with changes to improve the pacing sound design, along with some speculative additions more in tune with the current era, such as the preservation of the Japanese performances through the use of subtitles instead of a dub.

I think more than anything, this is my mantra while crafting Resurrection; not to “fix” the film, but to give it an extra bump or boost, to allow it to stand aesthetically alongside the best of the ’80s sci-fi output as I know it does thematically. In short, I want to “resurrect” The Return of Godzilla, so that it can experience, even if only the eyes of a few dozen, a new apex of popularity.

I know, I sound absolutely crazy. And maybe I am.

But so was Jodorowsky, and he made The Holy Mountain.

Godzilla: Resurrection is now on The Movie Maestro

And thus marks the transfer of Godzilla: Resurrection to The Movie Maestro!

In recent months, I’ve decided on consolidating my professional and amateur projects away from each other, and that is why from now on, any and all material on my fan edits will be hosted here, on The Movie Maestro.

As I’ve stated in the main page for this project, Resurrection is intended to be my vision of a definitive cut of The Return of Godzilla, preserving the political procedural-crossed-with-disaster film that the original Japanese theatrical release was, while including a majority of the American Pentagon footage starring Raymond Burr as Steve Martin. Along the way, I’ll be experimenting with color and contrast grading to improve the rather soft appearance of the print available on US blu-ray, with a general tightening of several noteworthy scenes, and with more avant-garde sequences, like a new prologue montage that will precede the opening credits. Also of note is my decision to create a new stereo mix for the film, one that slightly expands the soundscape of the American scenes while smoothing the auditory transition between them and the 5.1 mix of the Kraken blu-ray.

In a way, my ambition might be a little higher than my reach on this one, as there are a number of more recent films I hope to tackle that, with the advantage of digital intermediates, do not need cross-picture matching work or significant audio remixing done to them, but this is also a learning experience for myself, and I hope it translates into my more original projects down the line.

Continue to check back for more updates as this project progresses!

REVIEW: The Return of Godzilla (1984)

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Directed by Koji Hashimoto
Written by Hideichi Nagahara, Story by Tomoyuki Tanaka
Starring Ken Takaka, Yasuko Sawaguchi, Yôsuke Natsuki, Shin Takuma, Kaiju Kobayashi, Raymond Burr (American Version “Godzilla 1985”)

By 1975, I think it was safe to say that Godzilla had very little bite left, if any. His films played to the youngest of audiences, with such a juvenile and playful tone that none of the worldly, nuclear menace was left. After several box office failures, Godzilla went on a nearly ten-year vacation, in which many attempts were made to reboot the series, with as many different visions as to where it should go. The big guy would have to wait until 1984, but it was a wait well worth it.

While day sailing in the Pacific, reporter Goro Maki (Ken Tanaka) finds a missing fishing vessel, Yahata Maru, and discovers that all the hands have been killed by a giant sea louse except for one. The lone survivor, Okumura (Shin Takuma), then tells the reporter that the ship was attacked by a new Godzilla. Fearing a panic, the Japanese government attempts to cover up the news, failing when a Soviet nuclear submarine is destroyed and the situation puts them and the United States on the brink of nuclear war. Soon Japan and the rest of the world are on red alert as they wait for Godzilla to begin his rampage anew.

Opting for an almost completely clean reboot, producer Tomoyuki Tanaka brought to the table a story which respected not only the allegorical roots of the creature, but the fact the original film just couldn’t be remade in a modern setting. While his original conception pitted Godzilla against yet another monster, screenwriter Hideichi Nagahara thankfully dropped the second kaiju and concentrated on the geopolitical effects of the existence of such a monster. This was quite the revolutionary approach to a kaiju film; while tokusatsu cinema of the ’70s included some epic thrillers, Japan Sinks being one I can recall, kaiju films were purely the realm of the little ones. The Return of Godzilla expertly reverses this dynamic by only acknowledging the original film in its continuity.

Watching The Return of Godzilla, or Godzilla 1985 for you casual G-fans, you really get the sense that it was a Tom Clancy political potboiler before Tom Clancy was a thing. So much of the government procedural is there on the screen, with just enough military action and suspense to sex it up, the film is quite tense where it should be dull. The film starts off with a minor mystery in the form of Okumura and his missing fishing vessel, then swiftly enters the halls of the Japanese government and their desperate attempts to keep Godzilla’s return a secret. While the Prime Minister (Keiju Kobayashi) and his cabinet deal with the broad strokes, Okumura, his sister Naoko (Yasuko Sawaguchi), Maki, and Professor Hayashida (Yôsuke Natsuki, in a role very evocative of Dr. Yamane in the original film) study the monster, hoping to find some way of halting his coming landing.

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The Return of Godzilla fits more as a 70s film than an 80s one, even including a few visual effects shots from the Japanese thriller Prophecies of Nostradamus during Godzilla’s Tokyo rampage. But it’s more than a few homages; TROG carries with it a distinct contempt for the Cold War and its major players, the United States and the Soviet Union. About 30 minutes in, a Soviet submarine is destroyed under mysterious circumstances, triggering a standoff between the superpowers until the Japanese government reluctantly reveals that Godzilla was the culprit. You’d think this would be the end of the hostilities and the beginning of international cooperation, but you’d be wrong. Instead, both nations begin pressuring Japan to allow them to use nuclear weapons against the monster, no matter its location. It’s a uniquely Japanese viewpoint on the stupidity of nuclear brinkmanship that also earns the film a home among American cinema of the decade prior, with its distrust of the American government post-Nixon.

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The film moves nicely from each mini-crisis to the next, both edifying and decrying Japanese bureaucracy in much the same way Shin Godzilla would over 30 years later, while Hayashida provides the story’s philosophical heart. And at the halfway point, we finally get city-stomping Godzilla action. The monster’s new design is positively menacing, from its dead eyes to its sharp fangs. Portrayed mainly with tried-and-true suitmation, the 84Goji, as this design is referred to, is a quantum-leap above it’s predecessors, harkening back to the raw savagery of the original whilst conveying impressive mass. Yes, the special effects appear quite dated today, but look at the film through the lenses of the time and setting of its release, and TROG delivers the epic goods in a way the goofy late-Showa outings couldn’t muster.

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Shortly after its original release, TROG was picked up by New World Pictures for an American exhibition, cutting approximately 30 minutes of the Japanese print and adding ten more of new scenes involving a Pentagon response team viewing the destruction from Washington, joined by Raymond Burr, reprising his role as Steve Martin from Godzilla, King of the Monsters. While Burr is true-to-form, the other actors are comically unneeded and hollow, and the film unfortunately loses its pacifist stance with several changes to the narrative that paints the Soviets as villains. But all is not lost; some editorial changes do much to help the pacing of several sequences, and selections of Christopher Young’s Def-Con 4 score are used to great effect. In short, Godzilla 1985 is a mixed bag, but not entirely without merit.

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The Return of Godzilla, as the first film of the “Heisei” saga, works overtime to reestablish Godzilla’s destructive roots, and wins the day with its interesting fusion of government procedural and monster smash. More than anything, however, TROG will be remembered among fans and newcomers as probably their first introduction to an alternative point of view on the Cold War, one from a nation that would caught in the crossfire of the end of the world.