Ninja Busters~ 1984, Paul Kyriazi, USA


Upon first glance, Ninja Busters pretty much just looks like hollow attempt to cash in on the Miami Connection craze, by offering a similar lost film from the same era to the irony-crazed, Alamo Drafthouse flunkies of 2015, but the shocking truth is that Ninja Busters doesn’t actually have a whole hell of a lot in common with the synth-metal tinged, tai kwon do brawl fest that was Miami Connection. Ninja Busters is, in fact, a comedy! And it’s a good one, too!

And don’t get me wrong, I thought Miami Connection was hilarious, but that comedy was entirely accidental. The humor in Ninja Busters is intentional, and its off-putting just how successful this movie is at doing what it actually wants to do. We don’t see that a lot in the deep recesses of Psychotronic film! This is a highly entertaining, surprisingly charming little movie that kept catching me off guard by how hard it DIDN’T suck ass. Ninja Busters actually goes the distance.

THE PLOT~ Chic and Bernie are two bumbling, loveable con men who profess to be masters of the martial arts, but who actually get their ass kicked on the regular, and mostly just want to chase girls. Through happenstance, they enroll in some weird, California dojo (because they want to meet girls), and are slowly accepted by their peers over the course of three years. For a while, it’s all good for our boys, until they manage to piss off a local gangster, who sends his army of deadly ninja to take Chic and Bernie out. This movie is absolutely, 100%, a goofball comedy, but you might be surprised how fast things get fucking awesome in the third act.


So, what’s the deal here?

If we’re being fair, despite the fact that Ninja Busters has thus far failed to make waves quite the way that Miami Connection did when it was rediscovered, this is, in nearly every way possible, a much, much better film. I think it’s natural to compare the two, given the circumstances, but the superiority of Ninja Busters is pretty clear if you make an objective comparison. As fun as it is now, it makes sense that Miami Connection was panned upon its release, that’s a film which draws its considerable power from irony and irony alone, precisely because its actually just a shitty ninja film from the 1980’s. Ninja Busters, however, had even less of an opportunity to shine back in it’s day, and in truth, is was so much more deserving; if this flick had been available on VHS at my corner shop growing up, I would have happily watched it until the cassette fell apart. There’s something special about this movie, deep in its bones it’s just so wholesome and good natured, and I’d say the experience feels more akin to a wacky, upbeat comedy of the 1960’s than the glossy ass pop cinema that had become so much more common in 1984.

Our two leads, Bernie and Chic, have pretty strong chemistry together, as well, though they aren’t the best actors. Actually, much of the acting in Ninja Busters is predictably subpar, but it’s never enough to damage the film’s likability, which is considerable. Sid Campbell (who plays Chic, and who also co-wrote the picture along with William C. Martell) really carries the film, and its too bad we don’t see more of him in other movies. He’s kinda like what you’d have if Ernest P. Worrell had possessed at least a passable knowledge of the martial arts… And yes, that’s exactly as incredible as it sounds. Clearly, this is what my life has been missing all these years.

In a lot of ways, Ninja Busters feels less ambitious than Miami Connection, but that’s okay. The production is adequate, and it’s nice that the movie doesn’t overextend its reach and fall flat on its face like so many other movies from that decade did. Many of the sequences are legitimately funny, the dialogue is actually pretty good, and its remarkably easy to invest in the outcome of the story based on how likable our characters are. Really, likability is this film’s most precious resource, it really comes across that this movie was made with the best intentions; here is a movie that just wants you to laugh and have a good time, and unless you’re Oscar the damn Grouch, that’s probably exactly what you’ll do if you give Ninja Busters an hour and a half of your day.

It’s a shame that Campbell didn’t live to see this film finally be embraced by an audience the way it has since it’s recent rediscovery. Ninja Busters is a remarkable effort that deserved a lot better than it got, and in a world full of 80’s cinema that is celebrated ironically, it’s wonderful to find a film that can be enjoyed because of how good it is. It would be overkill to call Ninja Busters a masterpiece, but I can rest easily saying that I love this film, and I give it a strong recommendation.



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Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 – 1987, Lee Harry, USA


In 1984, director Charles E. Sellier Jr. brought us the hilariously controversial Christmas slasher film Silent Night, Deadly Night, a widely loved holiday horror jem remembered today as one of the best Yuletide bloodbaths known to mankind. This film was sleazy, and somewhat disturbing, but also inarguably entertaining, and it delivered what fans of the genre were looking for in spades. So, what are we to expect from Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2, the direct sequel, released a mere three years later? How about a total piece of bullshit? Here we go, kids!

garb33Eric Freeman, you son of a bitch…

Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 is awful. I mean it, it’s JUST AWFUL. Truthfully, it’s a shame we even know about this movie. Silent Night Deadly Night 2 should have been forgotten instantly, thrown in the garbage, and never spoken of again. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened, and the movie was instead made relevant due to its now Youtube infamous “Garbage Day” sequence, known the world over as one of the 20th Century’s lowest points. Honestly, boys and girls, this fucking movie is disappointment incarnate.

THE PLOT~ Ricky, the little brother of the killer from the first film, is back, and big surprise! He’s criminally insane. As the movie starts, Ricky is confined to a mental institution, and almost the entire film is his therapy session, as he recounts the events of the first movie. Literally, the first 40 minutes of this film is almost nothing but rehased footage from the first movie, narrated by Ricky, which is absolutely unforgivable. After all that, Ricky tells us a little bit about what happened to him after the end of the first movie, which means that we finally get some new freaking footage. Thank goodness. It’s mostly just Ricky killing people while NOT dressed as Santa, which is exactly what you want out of a Christmas horror film, right? Finally, we’re brought back to present day, just in time to see Ricky escape from the mental institution and embark on his own Christmas killing spree, with a whopping ten minutes of movie left. It sucks, and then the movie is over, and you feel so, so very empty inside.

This one is shit. Complete shit, there’s no two ways about it. Firstly, 100% of what happens on screen in Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 can be sorted into one of two categories; first, there’s Category A: Horrible bullshit, and second, there’s Category B: Footage from the first film. There is no Category C. Literally, if what you’re watching doesn’t suck ass, that means it’s already been in a movie before this one. The recycling of footage is so over-the-top here that there’s even a scene in which Ricky and his girlfriend go to the movies… to see the original Silent Night Deadly Night!!! Aye Caramba. And no, it’s not post-modern, it’s fucking lazy. Secondly, what precious little original footage we get is crap anyway. The actor who plays Ricky (Eric Freeman) is just terrible, he delivers his lines with the naturalistic poise of “Macho Man” Randy Savage doing a Jack Nicholson impression. The only times that Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2 doesn’t suck out loud are when it’s funny on accident, but that can all be viewed on Youtube in time saving condensed format. Ordinarily, I’m against piracy in all its forms, but the people behind Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 can go straight to hell.

Plus, WHY, in the sequel to the best Killer Santa movie ever made, do we get a meager ten minutes of Killer Santa footage? Unless we count the footage rehashed from part one, which we don’t, nothing anyone gives a shit about happens in this movie until the very end, and 99% of Ricky’s rampage, meager as it is, is spent with him sauntering around in freaking street clothes. How could this mistake have been made?! That’s like if they made a sequel to E.T., and all it was was footage from the first movie, intercut with information about how helicopters are built. How could you not know what your audience wanted to see?!?!

Garbage day indeed, Eric Freeman.

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Furious~ 1984, Tim Everitt, Tom Sartori, USA


DAMN. Furious has got to be one the most extreme WTF films I’ve ever seen. I have no idea what sort of trama the human brain would need to have endured in order for it to properly process this film’s plot, if it even has one. This this is madly, wildly incoherent.

THE PLOT~ Honestly, I couldn’t tell you. The caption on the DVD case reads: “KARATE HEROES FIGHT ALIENS FOR CONTROL OF THE ASTRAL PLANE.”  Really? Alright. I really didn’t get that out of this, but okay. That’s what it’s about, I guess. Not sure when that happens, but there ya have it.

It’s horribly made, of course, but we have bigger fish to fry. The real story here is that Furious presents you with the most abstract form of narrative ever, and it’s not deliberate. Don’t confuse whatever the fuck is going on here with the intentional surrealism seen in films like El Topo or Eraserhead, Furious is just straight nonsense, and it happened because some people just aren’t cut out for film making. The truth hurts.

Furious_PosterNo one really acts in this movie. They’re just on camera sometimes. There’s a lot of karate, but the story operates on its own internal system of logic, which no living human can decode. There’s almost no dialogue at all, and when there is, it’s often a short phrases, which are then repeated over and over, about a thousand times. For instance, at one point, Master Chan whispers the words “Simon…. Go home.”…  For like, an hour. Once would have been enough, but no… In a movie where almost nothing is said, we get “Simon… Go home.” about one hundred and fifty times. And what is happening while Master Chan repeats the shit out of his line, you ask? Well, Simon stands silent on a beach, looking out to sea, while Master Chan slowly gets further and further away from him, even though he doesn’t actually move. Yeah! Furious is FULL of stuff just like that. This film had to have been directed by people uniquely incapable of understanding just when exactly they had effectively communicated an idea to their audience. The result is that 97% of the movie is so under-explained that there’s literally no logic holding the plot together at all, and the remaining 3% is just relentlessly hammered into your head without mercy. It’s like absolutely nothing I’ve ever seen before.

Want another example? Happy to oblige! Later on in the film, Simon decides to scope out the bad guy’s base of operations, which appears to be an office building located in the middle of nowhere. Upon arrival, he finds a hiding spot near the main entrance, and proceeds to case the joint (some of this is speculation). As he watches the front door, which is flanked by two completely motionless guards, Simon witnesses a man slowly sneak out, walk in a straight line away from the building, and disappear off screen, all the while holding a, white, clucking chicken underneath his right arm…


Then, this exact thing happens again, less than a minute later. Exactly the same thing. And then again. It happens AGAIN, SEVERAL TIMES. Why!?!? What the fuck is going on!?!? Are we supposed to understand this?!?! Is this a glitch in the Matrix?!? Is it a glitch in my own brain!?! Is Furious even a real movie!??!

Untitled-3Fuzzy, because the entire movie is.

So, having just Deja Vu’ed his ass off with the broad-daylight chicken bandit for a solid five minutes, Simon then proceeds to grappling hook his way into the building, where he witnesses even more chicken-related madness. Apparently, the bad guys in Furious are turning people into chickens. Why, I don’t know, but that’s what they’re doing, and in order to accomplish this, they have a wizard with a rad mustache blast their prisoners with fireballs, which, seemingly, transform his victims into chickens. I guess we’re supposed to see this and somehow connect it with the chicken related insanity we saw moments earlier, but please excuse me if I feel like this whole thing could warrant further explanation.


A few scenes later, Simon ends up locked in a mystical Kung Fu battle with this mustachioed wizard man, and we learn that actually, he can just shoot chickens out of his fingertips, too. That’s just part of his fighting style, blasting chickens at people. So, then we’re forced to rethink the earlier scene; was he really turning people into chickens, or was he just shooting them with chickens, and when the chickens hit you, you disappear? Or maybe can he turn you into a chicken AND shoot chickens out of his fingers? Could be both? It’s unclear! Everything is unclear! What the hell is happening?!?! Seconds later, the wizard has one of this fireballs ricocheted at him, and he’s transformed into… a pig! Why a pig? Why not a chicken? Why anything?!  And these are the types of questions that Furious forces to you ask yourself, and if you want any kind of explanation, well… You can just fucking forget about it.

This is the experience that Furious provides, and these are but a few examples. The whole damn movie offers a most bountiful supply of nonsense, and how that makes you feel is really sort of up to you. I found myself more frustrated than anything else, but if you’re looking for a unique experience, then I submit Furious for your consideration. I hope it’s understood that this is in no way meant as an endorsement. Furious49


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Black Devil Doll From Hell ~ 1984, Chester Novell Turner, USA

BlackDevilDollFromHellVHSscanNot to be confused with Black Devil Doll (2007), nor even Devil Doll (1964), Black Devil Doll From Hell is a humble, shot-on-video, exploitation fable directed by Chester Novell Turner and released in 1984. If the statements “I can handle no budget VHS exploitation” and “I don’t mind puppet rape” both apply to you, then there’s really no reason why you haven’t already seen this movie. For the rest of you, you can probably just go about your business and pass on this one.

THE PLOT~ When prudish, virginal, Christian woman Helen finds an ugly ventriloquist doll in an antique store, she finds herself transfixed by it, which is weird. Seeing this, the cashier hits Helen with her standard sales pitch; “That doll is cursed, it is not to be trifled with. If purchased it, it will grant you your heart’s true desire, but beware.” Sounds on the level. So, in a direct contradiction to her firebrand religious convictions, Helen buys the damn thing for reasons no human will ever understand, ever, and takes it home, where she proceeds to just go to sleep like she DOESN’T have a cursed ventriloquist dummy in her fucking house. Predictably, the dummy drops the act once she’s out, and begins to walk about the house freely, just like all ventriloquist dummies do. Here’s where things go all “monkey’s paw” on us; The doll grants your hearts true desire, right? Well, what does every God fearing woman truly want, beneath her well fortified façade of Christian values? Why, some red hot puppet sex, that’s what! So, our Black Devil Doll breaks her off a piece of sweet, hot, puppet lovin’ that she isn’t likely to forget anytime soon, which, initially, is just him raping her. Yep. Pretty bad. And it get’s worse, next, in an uncomfortable and blatantly sexist twist, Helen does a 180 on the whole “consent” biz and decides that she really, really loves sex with ventriloquist dummies after all. It’s like, her favorite. Hold up, though, cuz there’s another drawback waiting in the wings; Turns out the first times always free, but after that, the generosity dries up. Try as she might, Black Devil Doll just doesn’t like her that way anymore, and he soon abandons her altogether. Now irreparably damaged by puppet sex (who hasn’t been there, right?) Helen abandons her religious convictions and embarks on an ever more self-destructive quest to satiable her unquenchable lust for dong. Things don’t end well, and that’s the movie.

Horrendously offensive content aside (for now), Black Devil Doll From Hell is basically a morality play about addiction, but it also deals with the unavoidable folly of repressing your feelings and denying yourself your true desires. It’s sort of insightful, actually; Helen spent her entire life denying herself what she really wanted because of how society told her she was supposed to live, and then she got to be true to herself exactly once, and it basically destroyed her life, because she was so unprepared for it. That’s kinda heavy. Additionally, this movie addresses the many dangers of owning sexy puppets, so there’s a while lot to learn here.

It’s sort of hard to know how to feel about Black Devil Doll From Hell... This is one that has some very positive qualities, as well as some pretty glaringly negative ones. One thing is totally certain, though; as you now know, this movie is dammed offensive. We’ll touch on that more extensively in a little bit, but first, let’s briefly focus on the positive;

Every frame of Black Devil Doll From Hell basically permeates “triumph over adversity.” This is a film that was made with essentially no resources beyond the sheer dedication of Chester Novell Turner and lead actress Shirley L. Jones. It was shot on video, the music all sounds like it was composed using a Casio found in the trunk of an abandoned car, and it’s clear from start to finish that Turner was getting this done essentially on his own. From that angle, there’s a tendency to want to cheer him on, he made a movie with absolutely nothing, and back then, that was a lot harder to do than it is today. It’s also not even that terrible, all things considered, so this accomplishment certainly does deserves some credit. Black Devil Doll From Hell is a movie that exists because sometimes passion and ambition have their way over resources and adversity… We all want to believe in that message.

But here comes the hammer… Black Devil Doll From Hell is basically the one ingredient you would need if you wanted to have the average Millennial frothing at the mouth with complete and inconsolable fury. This thing exists in direct contradiction with the overly P.C. ideals that dominate the zeitgeist here in 2015, and usually, I’m all for that. In this case, however, I feel that I may have to side with the angry mob; Black Devil Doll From Hell is painfully, unforgivably sexist. It’s meant to be taken as a joke, but deep down in it’s bones, Black Devil Doll From Hell is predicated on ideas and beliefs that are damaging, and out of step with modern society

Our doll gives Helen what she truly desires, right? Well, the implication here isn’t JUST that human beings crave physical intimacy. The film also seems to imply that women crave subjugation and abuse as well, that they need a domineering male to control and belittle them. Maybe that’s not what Mr. Turner wanted to say, but that’s the message that comes across, and it’s more than a little damaging for Black Devil Doll From Hell. We can’t really rave about the movie as a technical achievement, and really, likability is the one thing this movie has going for it… So, you could see how not being very likable would be a major problem. The fact is, the strong, sexist content throughout the film essentially nullifies all or most of the goodwill Mr. Turner has earned just by getting the damn thing finished in the first place, and that leaves the film is a pretty sorry position indeed.

Unfortunately, this one is hard to recommend.


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Breakin’ – 1984, Joel Silberg


First of all, please- watch that trailer. Click this. Damn. That’s what we’re dealing with here.

Ever the bold pioneers, Golan-Globus, the same bonkers-ass production house that would later give us Over The Top, the Citizen Cane of competitive arm-wrestling movies, comes cinema’s first and most noteworthy foray into the dog-eat-dog world of street-rat dance-combat; BREAKIN’.

People hated this movie when it came out. I hypothesize that they just could not handle the funk. But let me tell you what, you son of a bitch- we can handle it now.

THE PLOT~ Kelly is a talented young woman with a bright future in the prestigious world of professional dancing, but when her strict-ass Dance instructor makes a pass at her, shes all like ‘No way, bro,” and then she promptly peaces out, at which point she falls in with two ragamuffin break-dancers from the streets named Turbo, and O-Zone. Equal parts inspired and excited by the passion and raw, senseless zazz of these dynamic and probably homeless performers, Kelly joins up with them in hopes of guiding the trio into a successful career in the surprisingly strict world of professional dancing- but is the world ready for poppings and lockings of this magnitude?! Also featuring Shooter McGavin, who is NOT a bad guy in this film! Imagine that!

So, immediately with this movie you’re having an amazing time. It’s visually engaging, the costumes are utterly bananas, and the soundtrack is sorta like what I imagine it would sound like to get locked in Rick James’ closet over the weekend. Some of the names in the credits alone are worth the trip- When you see “Adolfo Shabba-Doo Quinones” and “Michael Boogaloo Shrimp Chambers” in the credits, that’s basically a guarantee that shit’s gonna get cray-cray, and let me tell you, it does; more Moonwalking occurs during the opening credits of this movie than has happened on the surface of the actual moon. It’s intense. This thing is about dancing, first and foremost, and you can count on that being made very clear as the film progresses.

Now, time for absolute transparency; I am not a dancer. I know absolutely nothing about dancing, and I do NOT like dance movies… But I HAVE seen a few, be they your Step Ups, or your Stomp the Yards; and I feel confident when I say that Breakin’ is the best dance movie I have ever seen, and maybe the only one I have actually enjoyed. Credit where credit is due; this shit is full on impressive. Some of this dancing looks impossible, borderline Ray Harryhausen-esque, so maybe some of it has been jazzed up with special effects… I wouldn’t be surprised if there was at least frame rate manipulation, Jackie Chan Style, to help give it that visual pop, but one way or the other, it’s downright cool. Also, if this ISN’T fake, then these people are damn warlocks, and should be treated as superior to the race of Man. Actually, at one point in the film, Turbo DOES dance with an enchanted broom, but I’m totally willing to believe that he can just do that in real life at this point.

In keeping with the 1980’s style-guide for pop and genre movies, Breakin’s aesthetic and technical aspects are mercilessly shinny, which absolutely is appropriate, given the subject matter we’re dealing with. The movie actually looks pretty good for what was likely a pretty small budget, and that’s because Golan-Globus really knew how to get three dollars out of a quarter back in those days. They make it all count, and I think the time has come to emulate some of these magical 80’s tricks into the motion pictures of today…. Because our movies all look like shit now. Why so much steady cam?

However, before anyone thinks I’m submitting this film for admission to The damn Criterion Collection or something; I should point out that Breakin’ is also ridiculous as hell, and I totally acknowledge that. It’s pure 80’s nonsense, complete with training montages, a hillbilly fist fight, “you got served” style dance-off grudge-matches, and the tightest pants I have ever seen on a male in my life. They look like they’re damn painted on by the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue people or something. Honestly, it’s pornographic, these pants.

Casting Breakin’s three lead roles had to have been the single most crucial factor in the success or failure of the film, no question. It actually wouldn’t surprise me if Quinones and Chambers were discovered first, and the script was written with them specifically in mind, because writing a movie like this without talent in place would be risky at best and maddeningly negligent at worst. Finding human beings with screen charisma who could dance this well AND act well enough to carry an entire picture is a task which sounds full on Herculean in nature, so thank goodness for Shabba-Doo and Boogaloo Shrimp, the true saviors of Breakin’, and probably my life, if you get down to it. Lucinda Dickey is an asset to the film as well, but the truth is, she’s the weakest link out of the three. Also, Ice-T is in this movie, too…. Was he the worst rapper of all time, or is that just what rap sounded like in ’84? Rough.

Plot-wise, Breakin’ is silly, cheesy, predictable, and overly sentimental- all things a dance movie should be allowed to be, provided it’s also entertaining, which Breakin’ certainly is. Effectively, this is a feel-good, underdog story about challenging the stodgy old status quo, and the merit in being yourself. It’s a simple, dusty old message, but it’s surprisingly easy to feel good for these guys, because when things finally work out for them, they really do deserve it. For the most part, as long as you don’t go into this determined to have a bad time, Breakin’ is damn effective, and also for sure the greatest movie about challenging the status-quo with the power of dance to have been released in 1984. Oh, shit, Footloose also came out in ’84?!?

It’s more than a little ironic that a movie about being yourself and challenging the outdated status quo failed to succeed in doing so itself when the critics got their talons in it. In the same way that these characters had to struggle to win over their opposition, they’ll have to struggle to win you over, too- for me, it was surprisingly easy to temporary abandon my cynicism and condone such blatant acts of funky tomfoolery. Breakin’ gets my recommendation if you can manage to quiet your inner grump for an hour and a half, and if you happen to enjoy dance movies, holy shit, go watch this.

P.S. Avoid Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo like a pack if wild tigers infected with the black death. It’s such an irredeemable stinker that it will retroactively ruin Breakin’ for you. I’m serious.


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Return of Godzilla/Godzilla 1985!

Return of Godzilla/Godzilla 1985 ~ 1984, Koji Hashimoto (Japan)/1985 R.J. Kizer (USA)


After a nine year break, Toho returns with a full on reboot of the Godzilla franchise that ignores a whopping twenty years worth of movie continuity, which isn’t a problem, because ignoring continuity is something Toho has always been excellent at anyway. This time around, we acknowledge only 1954’s Gojira as cannon, and begin with a brand new storyline which would later become known as the Heisei series. Because we’ve taken thirty or so movies and completely thrown them in the trash, we’ve erased Godzilla’s transformation into the grumbling, heroic Guardian monster he had grown into in his later films, and so the monster we see now is again painted more as a horrible, planet-wide menace that must be destroyed. This movie is super, super grim, and when you look at our last dozen outings with Big G, this couldn’t be a more different experience. At the same time, however, because this is still an accurate continuation of the original Godzilla concept, and because previous films have also proven that there is enough room within the Godzilla format for more than one idea, this dramatic shift in tone does not make Return of Godzilla feel like an illegitimate sequel. It still works just fine.

THE PLOT~ Thirty years after the original Godzilla monster attacked Japan and was subsequently destroyed, a second, identical monster surfaces in the Pacific Ocean and starts smashing boasts and killing people. Japan becomes aware of the situation almost immediately, but chooses to suppress this information for fear of causing unnecessary panic amongst the already tense Global Political Stage. Soon, however, they have no choice, as Godzilla strikes down a Soviet Nuclear Submarine and causes a heated international incident. Assuming that only the United States could have been behind the attack on their submarine, the Soviet Union threatens to escalate this situation to full scale nuclear warfare, and Japan is forced to announce the existence of Godzilla as a means of diffusing the situation. This only brings Japan’s government new pressures from both the Americans and the Russians in regards to how to handle this big green bastard and his boat smashin’ ways, and everybody gets super stressed out. The rest of the picture balances Japan’s war with Godzilla and their deep seeded abhorrence of Nuclear weapons with cold war tensions and international bickering, making this film an effective means of addressing where the Nuclear Discussion had moved to in the mid 1980’s. That feels pretty appropriate, given Godzilla’s atomic bomb history, but we also see a lot of Godzilla thrashing about and being shot at, so don’t worry about spending too much time watching old dudes in suits yell at each other.

In terms of our human characters, we have several, but holy shit, who cares? They’re all fine, I guess, but we don’t really care about them all that much. Be honest, we almost never do.

I think Toho kind of assumed that since the later Godzilla films had become so popular with a younger audience, that these kids had now grown up, and were ready for a Godzilla film more their speed, and that’s fair enough. What Return/1985 does best is that it stays true to the concept behind the original Gojira film, while at the same time making it current to the early 80’s, and that’s cool. It’s all about nuclear war, how devastating it can be, what it means for humanity to now possesses this power, and above all, how we can work to avoid using nuclear weapons ever again. As I said before, I think this is a logical place for this franchise to go, and I think they’ve done it pretty well. The tense atmosphere of the Cold War is certainly captured effectively, and the seriousness with which nuclear warfare, and even Godzilla himself, are handled gives the movie a much less schlocky feel. I think it’s entertaining enough, even without another monster for Godzilla to wail on, but if I’m wrong on that, audiences won’t have long to wait for a return to the Monsters V. Monster format, cuz Godzilla Vs. Biolante is just around the corner.



Like Gojira in 1954, Return of Godzilla was also re-edited for American audiences to include footage of white people, because no one knows what would happen if Americans had to watch a movie without white people in it, and for sure, nobody wants to find out. In the case of the original film, the American version became known as Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and in the case of Return of Godzilla, the American version is called Godzilla 1985. In both cases, the special Caucasian-ified American version features celebrated actor Raymond Burr as a journalist named Steve Martin, but to what degree this new footage is imposed on the original, and what effect that has on the film as a whole, could not be more different in Godzilla 1985 than it was in King of the Monsters. We do lose some of the nuclear paranoia, but we still fair MUCH better this time around.

While still a classic film, Godzilla: King of the Monsters was clearly inferior to it’s Japanese sibling, which already had excellent characters and compelling drama BEFORE we crammed in a bunch of white folks. In that case, the addition of Raymond Burr’s character only distanced the audience from the real story, and that softened the film’s impact a great deal. With Godzilla 1985, though, I don’t think this is the case at all. This time around we still spend ample time in Japan with our original characters, and their stories and relationships are not so badly cheated in the same way. Additionally, Raymond Burr adds a special connection to the first film, even if he wasn’t in Gojira we know he was in King of the Monsters, and his character is very well written and acted this time around. The best thing this Westernized version does, however, is that it expands Godzilla’s presence to a global level much better than the Japanese one does. In this version, the Americans learn about Godzilla much sooner, and we come to learn that they are every bit as stressed out about it as the Japanese are, which really elevates the tension. I may be committing some weird form of Godzilla treason here, but I actually like the American version better for exactly these reasons. And Burr is kicking out the Jams, too.

Regardless of which version you see, however, this is a nice entry in the series, and a great way to jumpstart a new slew of giant, monster clobbering adventures. Many of the effects have not held up well for their age, but they shouldn’t slow you down too much, it’s still plenty enjoyable for the seasoned Toho fan.


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