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.

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New Fan Edit – Godzilla: Resurrection

The time has come, folks! Time for me to embark on my own fan edit!

For my first project, I’ll be tackling a fanmix of The Return of Godzilla and its Americanized recut, Godzilla 1985. While the original Japanese version of the film is still the definitive one, I’ve always held a soft spot in my heart for Raymond Burr’s scenes in 1985, and had always wondered what the final film would have been like had he been present in the Japanese cut.

This re-edit seeks to accomplish just that, while also streamlining the slower pacing of the original cut with suggestions from 1985 to combine the best of both worlds. The film will still be highly critical of both the United States and the Soviet Union, and will work to marginalize the more humorous aspects of the added Pentagon scenes. Finally, this cut will feature a brand new opening to the film, one that seeks to definitely tie the new Godzilla to the original beast in an eerie and unforgettable way.

To read more about the project, please visit my official page on it here, and keep your eyes peeled for a trailer on YouTube and Vimeo, coming soon. Until then, enjoy my custom poster!

Godzilla Resurrection - Coming Soon Poster

Godzilla: Resurrection will be available for viewing and download this fall.

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.