Nerdist and Witney Seibold have arrived at the 18th installment of Godzilla Goodness, and tackle the one Godzilla film that many people were first exposed to. #18: Godzilla 1985.
And just as the original Gojira was drastically re-cut to incorporate footage of Raymond Burr as an American reporter named Steve Martin and released in America under a different title, so too was Toho’s The Return of Godzilla. Raymond Burr, still working in the 1980s, mostly in made-for-TV Perry Mason movies, reprised his role as Steve Martin, and shot extensive new footage for what amounted to be another drastic re-cut of a Japanese classic. In my coverage of The Return of Godzilla, I mentioned that rebranding and remaking was only in its infancy in Japan in 1984. But when that rebrand is rebranded in America, you have a proper bad trend on your hands. Luckily, this would be the last time America would ever muck around with Godzilla.
Except for this one time in 1998. And another time more recently.
The story is the same as The Return of Godzilla: The nuclear beast has awakened again, and wants to suck down nuclear power to survive. I get the sense that in The Return of Godzilla, the title monster was more a metaphor for the dangers of nuclear power, whereas in Godzilla 1985, our hero monster was a very clear analogue for the Cold War. Ronald Reagan was president in 1985, and the threat of nuclear annihilation lingered over American culture like the Sword of Damocles. Since Godzilla 1985 is a clearer war metaphor than The Return of Godzilla, it means that G-1985 more closely resembles the 1954 original.
It’s too bad that Godzilla 1985 is such a bad movie. The American inserts actually deteriorate from the film considerably, lending a weird, clunky broadness that is absent from the Japanese original. The overacting from the American army guys stands out in my head, and Raymond Burr’s somber lookings-on don’t make the film any more hefty.
And, yes, I certainly have to address the product placement. In the American version, Dr. Pepper machines appear in the background of almost every shot, and there are several scenes wherein army guys drink cans of Dr. Pepper very openly in front of one another. It’s perhaps the least subtle form of product placement since the days of Joan Crawford and Pepsi. Indeed, when talking to peers about this particular version, all they seem to recall with clarity was the Dr. Pepper. No mention of the Super X, that the original musician is gone, that Godzilla is now 80 meters tall instead of 50, and certainly no talk of the plot. The product placement gets in the way.
Also: despite the inclusion of a lot of new footage, Godzilla 1985 is also shorter than The Return of Godzilla. Indeed, it seems to me that only the special effects and footage of Godzilla himself were ported over in tact. The rest is a rush-job common to low-budget exploitation houses. If you can find it, see the Japanese version. Don’t even bother with this re-cut, unless you are, like me, a mad completist.
The new Heisei era would quickly turn wonderfully silly (as I mentioned last week) and the films would begin to vacillate in quality, just like in the old days. The most notable change: Godzilla would have to grow in our good graces again. He is, in this new era, a bad guy again.
Up next: Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)