Long before Hollywood tried to reboot Big G—twice—Toho created a reboot in the mid ’80s. This era of the franchise is called the Heisei Series and spans seven films from 1984-1995.
Godzilla movies are easier to find on DVD/Blu-ray as the franchise progresses, since the distribution rights have been owned by fewer companies. Also, these later movies don’t hold nearly as much nostalgia for most fans; the main reason is because only two of these films were released stateside, until 1998 when Tristar released them on home media as a tie-in with the 1998 remake (at least something good came of that, right?) Unfortunately, collecting these isn’t without its pitfalls.
The Return of Godzilla/Godzilla 1985
Like the original Gojira, the first film in this series was massively edited—with new scenes of Raymond Burr reprising his reporter role—when released stateside. The original Japanese version—I hear far superior—has never been officially released in America. To make matters worse, the Americanized version has never been released on DVD or Blu-ray due to legal entanglements. The only way to see it is to either track down one of the numerous out-of-print VHS copies (but finding a copy recorded in SP mode is a chore, trust me) or buy a high-quality bootleg (which I’ve heard do exist). Sorry, G-fans.
Godzilla vs. Biollante
Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
While Godzilla 1985 would remain the only G-film released theatrically in the States for 15 years, Miramax did release this 1989 direct sequel on HBO and video in 1992. Heck, it’s one of the few widescreen VHS tapes I’ve seen. However, after being out-of-print for years, the film was released on DVD and Blu-ray last year. It has dual language tracks, widescreen presentation, and a few special features that seem as though they were taken from a Japanese DVD (including a making-of feature). It’s also available as a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack. You can’t go wrong here.
Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah & Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992) (aka Godzilla and Mothra: Battle for Earth)
Tristar released four of the Heisei films on double layer DVDs in 1999, a year after putting them on low-quality VHS. Unfortunately, the DVD of these two films didn’t take advantage of the new format. The films are presented in poorly-cropped fullscreen, only in English, and have no special features. The kicker is this was the only official release of these films for 15 years, so most G-fans were stuck with it.
Finally, as tie-ins with Gareth Edwards’ epic reboot, Sony released nearly a dozen modern G-films on Blu-ray. These two were once again packaged together in a two-disc set, but this time they are in widescreen and have dual language tracks. Sadly, the only special features included are several of the films’ trailers. It’s still the one to buy, though.
Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II
While this is widely considered to be the best of the Heisei G-films, it’s always had oddball releases. Tristar didn’t distribute it stateside on VHS until 1999, a year after releasing four other Heisei G-films. Unlike the others, it was recorded in high quality SP mode. Then, for whatever reason, it wasn’t released on DVD until 2004, five years after Sony’s other Heisei G-film DVDs. Regardless, it benefited once again by being in widescreen and features dual language tracks, unlike the other DVDs. The only special features are a few non-Godzilla film trailers, though.
Continuing the oddball editions, Sony released this film on Blu-ray earlier this year as a two-disc Blu-ray set with Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla. While I don’t own this one (yet), from what I’ve heard it’s the same as Sony’s other recent G-film Blu-rays: widescreen, dual language tracks, and several trailers (including one where clever editing makes it look like Godzilla fights robots from the Toho sci-fi film Gunhed). G-fans should buy this just to get SpaceGodzilla in Japanese.
Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla
This is easily the redheaded stepchild of the Heisei series, but Tristar got it half-right when they released it on a dual layer DVD with Godzilla vs. Destoroyah. It is in widescreen, but is only in English. No special features are included for either film. It baffles me that they’d only give G-fans half of what they wanted.
Released as a two-disc pack with Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (see above).
Godzilla vs. Destoroyah
Released as a dual layer DVD with Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (see above).
Sony released yet another oddity with these new Blu-rays. This film, the last of the Heisei series, was released as two-pack with Godzilla x Megaguirus, the second entry of the Millennium Series (more on that next week). While I don’t own it yet and the pairing makes no sense, I’ve read it’s an improvement over the DVD release. As usual, it’s in widescreen, has dual language tracks, and includes trailers.
Next Time on the Godzilla DVD Guide: Toho reboots Godzilla again for a new millennium!