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Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla - Review

(a.k.a. Godzilla vs. The Cosmic Monster and Godzilla vs. the Bionic Monster)

A Review by Mike Bogue

2½ Stars - Pretty Good

Japanese release: March 21, 1974

American release: March 1977 (theatrically released by Cinema Shares)





Direction: Jun Fukuda

Screenplay: Hiroyasu Yamamura (a.k.a. Yamaura) and Jun Fukuda

Music: Masaru Sato

Special Effects: Teruyoshi Nakano

Producer: Tomoyuki Tanaka




Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla Still. Some have described the 1970’s as Godzilla’s dog days.  Others sharply disagree. For example, Tim Burton has been rumored to favor Godzilla’s seventies entries over the Big G’s fifties and sixties epics.

Whatever side you fall on, there’s no question that during the seventies, the budgets for Godzilla movies dwindled at a rate rivaling that of The Incredible Shrinking Man. The effects were also more rushed, the stories less satisfactory.  Add to that the final triumph of “monster humor” as not just an occasional aside, but as the dominant mode for many of the monster battles, and you have a set of movies that send purists fleeing for a DVD of Godzilla vs. The Thing.

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (a.k.a. Godzilla vs. The Cosmic Monster) is the second best of Godzy’s seventies entries – and much better than the three movies that preceded it.  In this one, Godzilla battles Mechagodzilla, a mechanical double created by evil aliens who transform into seedy-looking apes when they die.  The lead alien is outrageously sinister and snide, the heroes sufficiently stalwart, the heroines pretty but little more than window dressing.  (What’s new?)

At first, Mechagodzilla is disguised as the real Godzilla, and under this false identity, it attacks Angilas.  Bogus G pries Angilas’s jaws apart, leaving the spiny-backed monster’s mouth a bloody mess.  Later, during a spectacular display of fiery destruction at a shoreline refinery, the real Godzilla appears, and Bogus G reveals itself to be a robotic doppelganger.  After a fierce clash of opposing ray beams, the resulting explosion throws Godzilla into the sea; the King of the Monster’s blood bubbles up ominously from the water.

Meanwhile, King Seesar, the protector of Okinawa, is awakened by an irritating song that seems to go on and on (apparently Seesar is hard of hearing – or maybe he’s just a music critic).  The growling monster (voice courtesy of Toho Kong) plows into MechaG.  The real Godzilla soon arrives, and a two against one battle commences with MechaG blasting The Big G and Seezy with a blinding barrage of ray beams and finger missiles.  I don’t suppose I need to tell you who wins in the end.

King Seesar was a nice idea – the monster’s statue is clearly leonine and Asiatic.  But the suitmation incarnation is found wanting; it appears as though brown fur has been somewhat hap-hazardly glued to the scrappy kaiju.  The ears are distinctly dog-like -- somewhat reminiscent of Baragon’s -- and when they stick straight up, they look as though Fido has just heard his master calling.

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla Still.

Unfortunately, Godzilla’s costume is the same abomination used in the previous Godzilla vs. Megalon.  With its simplistic features, goggle eyes, and muppet-like face, this Godzilla invokes all the primal terror of an Elmo doll.

That’s too bad, because this movie sports some nice visual ideas which, despite Godzilla’s low-grade appearance, mostly work.  One fine scene features lighting bolts energizing a weakened Godzilla on a storm-swept night, Godzilla’s body glowing electric blue as he literally recharges.  Also, his fight with MechaG at the seaside refinery reaps fair results, and Teruyoshi Nakano’s pyrotechnics are wonderfully effective as a series of awesome explosions rocks the refinery.

Fans of urban destruction will be disappointed, however.  Pretty much all we see in this vein is Bogus G (alias MechaG) trashing a lone high-rise, although it’s an okay scene.

As for the direction, well, it’s several degrees short of the original Gojira – or even Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster.  Still, director Jun Fukuda (who is said to have never liked his Godzilla films) turns in a satisfactory enough monster opus.

To its credit, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla dispenses with stock footage, special effects director Teruyoshi Nakano providing only originally shot visuals.  Many of them fare well.  The monster battles are entertaining, and the sprinkling of monster humor is so light that “serious” Godzilla fans will find little to complain about.  Minor details are nice, such as the mist surrounding the hibernating King Seesar’s mountain lair.

As usual, Masaru Sato’s film score provides both agreeable and inappropriate music cues.  I admit Sato has never been one of my favorite kaiju eiga composers, but here his music sometimes sounds as though it were composed for a 1940’s movie.  Especially unsuitable are some of his monster battle concoctions.  For example, at the dockside refinery, Godzilla and MechaG spar to what sounds like the theme for a 1950’s Grade-B crime melodrama.

On the other hand, Sato’s King Seesar theme pleases with its simple but catchy run of delicately-played notes.

As for the ape-like black hole aliens, their attack plan seems questionable, at best.  First, they send MechaG out as Bogus G to cause havoc in the Japanese countryside.  Why they don’t just send MechaG forth in his true robotic guise is unexplained.  Later, the leader alien laments that they will have to postpone their plans of having MechaG attack Tokyo.  That’s it?  That’s their plan for taking over the world?  Something tells me they need a few pointers on battle strategy from Karl von Clausewitz.

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla Still.

Still, Mechagodzilla (apparently patterned after King Kong Escapes’ Mechani-Kong) was an inspired and even natural foe for the Big G in 1974.  Sure, by now the concept has long since lost its luster, but at the time, it gleamed as brightly as Godzilla’s atomic ray.  In fact, many of this movie’s story ideas held great promise.  With a bigger budget, sharper script, better monster costumes, and cleaner special effects, this film probably could have held its own with some of Godzilla’s best Showa series entries.

The film’s current widescreen DVD from Columbia TriStar treats the movie well.  The images are sharp, the color vibrant, and as always, it’s nice to hear the original Japanese voices (for which English subtitles are provided).

As is, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla is a fairly entertaining example of disco era Big G.  At least Godzilla was “Stayin’ Alive.”



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