"Lost for a Generation..."
The tag line on the back of the box doesn't mince words, and although it talks about the gap between Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975) and the first 1980's Godzilla film it could very well be talking about how long fans have had to wait to get the film released again on home video in the US. In fact, it's been almost 20 years since Anchor Bay Entertainment released their 1997 edition of the VHS.
Now this edition marks the debut of the Japanese cut in the United States. Old school fans of Godzilla, myself included, will mourn the loss of the Godzilla 1985 version of the film. As noted in our May interview with Matt Greenfield, producer on this release, we knew this was coming. In fact, due to rights issues with aspects like the added themes from composer Christopher Young, who is now a very famous soundtrack composer, it's unlikely Toho or anyone will publish that version of the film again (if some company wants to prove that statement wrong, though, I will gladly eat my words).
That said, this disc offers a good, although not great, presentation of the original version of the 1984 movie. This includes okay video quality combined with a more refined audio presentation. It's topped off, though, with a sparse selection of extras, although does compensate with a very low retail price.
The disc uses, more or less, the same source found on Toho's 2009 Blu-ray: Godzilla  (Toho). In fact, when doing side-by-side comparisons of screen captures I didn't notice a difference between the two. Both even have the same very brief dip in quality around the 10 minute mark when they are at Goro Maki's home office and flair up in on screen noise shows up.
Consequently, the same complaints could be said of both. The biggest of these is that the video looks notably soft, lacking the true sense of detail that one should see on the Blu-ray format. Colors are also slightly muted with a darker tone, although this actually plays well with the whole gothic feeling of the film. On the plus side, the copy of the film used to create this release is in good condition, with hardly any signs of damage outside of the previously mentioned segment about 10 minutes in.
As a side note, the disc uses the original Japanese version of the film. Consequently, there are burned in Japanese subtitles for the scenes where the characters speak English or Russian, even when selecting the dubbed version which makes the puzzling choice to dub over the Russian actors.
The Return of Godzilla is presented in its
original aspect ratios of 1.85:1. As a side note, for those comparing the quality between this and the Toho Blu-ray from the screen captures I took for the reviews, please note that I used different programs to take the screenshots for each of them. As a result, the aspect ratio is a little different for some reason. That said, when I did comparisons for this review I took brand new screen captures to make sure I was doing a fair comparison, although they were not uploaded to the site.
This Blu-ray disc contains two audio tracks. The first is a 5.1 surround mix of the Japanese track, which was created back in 2002. The surround expansion is okay for this track, as it makes use of the additional range with elements like Godzilla sounding like he is slightly more directional in his location in respects to the camera. This is at its most obvious when Godzilla is walking over the bunker where the Prime Minister is, as the foot falls have great direction to them.
The second audio track is the International English dub, which is presented as a 5.1 surround mix. Although released in some markets, this audio track had been on the rarer side. While I had heard clips from the track before, this was my first time listening to the full thing from start to finish. With such an experience under my belt, it's easy to see why New World Pictures opted to create a new dub track rather than use this. Overall, the line delivery is poor. It often lacks emotion or is plagued by overly slow pacing. I want to say it stands out as being worse than other dubs of its era, but likely part of that is mixed with nostalgia for the other performances. Regardless, some listeners might enjoy spotting familiar voice actors from other International dub tracks. This includes the lead, done by John Culkin, who also dubbed Terasawa in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991) or the Prime Minister whose voice actor, Barry Haigh, also did dubbing duties on Prophecies of Nostradamus (1974) for Toshio Kurosawa's character. While the dubbing quality is low, the audio quality on this track is good, comparable to the Japanese track. In fact, it's nice that the audio levels are parallel as well, making changing between the tracks an option without having to adjust the volume level.
As a final note, the Blu-ray contains two "removable" English subtitle track. The first subtitles just on screen text and is associated with the English dub. The second subtitle set translates both the text and dialogue and is associated with the Japanese audio track. Now I mention "removable" in quotes as the tracks are hard to toggle between. I was able to both remove and change between them easily on my computer. However, when I watched it on my older Sony Blu-ray player I kept getting an "action prohibited" message when trying to change the subtitles or audio tracks mid play. The only solution was to open the popup menu and switch between the English (associated with the text only subtitles) and Japanese version (associated with the dialogue and text subtitles). So milage may vary on switching between these based on your player.
Supplemental content wise, the disc is lite on extras. It does contain the original Japanese trailer for The Return of Godzilla, along with the Japanese trailers for the three earlier titles from Kraken Releasing: Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966), Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971) and Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972). All three include two sets of subtitles. The first subtitle track translates just on screen text while the second does text and dialogue. Like the subtitles on the main feature, some players will not be able to toggle between the available tracks, with the default being dialogue and text translated. The quality on all four trailers is good, although not imperfect as there are a few signs of damage via scratches.
In terms of menus, Kraken Releasing selected an excellent production still for this. It's overall much more appealing looking than Toho's version on their Blu-ray. However, while the choice of image is strong, the choice of music is puzzling. Rather than go for the defacto choice of Reijiro Koroku's main title, Kraken Releasing instead opted for the already out of place end title song by The Star Sisters.
While nothing stellar, and weaker than their Showa releases due to the video track being softer, the disc has a good middle of the road video presentation and a good audio presentation. This combined with the fact that the Blu-ray is a tremendous value at its retail price is sure to make a lot of Godzilla fans happy who have been unable to see the film due to its long tenure of unavailability in the United States.