We Mecha great team
Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla is directed by Jun Fukuda and stars Masaaki Daimon, Kazuya Aoyama, Gorō Mutsumi, and Akihiko Hirata. The film was later released in the United States under the titles Godzilla vs. The Bionic Monster and Godzilla vs. The Cosmic Monster.
Who would've guessed that Jun Fukuda, the man responsible for the bottoming out of the Godzilla franchise with Godzilla vs. Megalon and the man forever notorious as the director behind some of the lowest quality Godzilla films, was the one that would raise the series from complete mediocrity? Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla isn't the end of the original Showa Godzilla series, and boy would that have been Toho's worst nightmare had Godzilla gone into cinematic hibernation had his last film been Godzilla vs. Megalon. Instead, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla started the process of the Showa series going out on a positive note, ensuring that Godzilla would not forever be hamstrung by stock footage and stories that are targeted at small children. The Godzilla series would never again experience the unholy depths known only by the likes of Godzilla's Revenge and Godzilla vs. Megalon, but by the mid 1970's, it was only a matter of time before Toho needed to fully accept the fact that their infamous kaiju was losing popularity by the minute, and that it was soon going to be time to give the King of the Monsters a well-deserved rest.
But before Toho sent Godzilla into his 10-year hiatus, they decided to pit him against one of the coolest monsters in the entire kaiju library, the best monster that Toho had conceived since King Ghidorah. Now, Ghidorah is still, and always will be, Godzilla's archrival, but aside from Ghidorah, Mechagodzilla has shaped up to be the one other monster that Godzilla has faced off against time and time again (Godzilla has faced Mothra a few times, but those clashes are offset by the few times that the two monsters have teamed up). A robotic version of Godzilla sounded like a great idea for a new Godzilla villain, which I guess is proof that Jun Fukuda had at least a few creative bones in his body.
So in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, we have ourselves another alien invasion plot.
Wait! Don't go! I promise there's more to it!
Okay, first, let's back up a bit. In the prefecture of Okinawa, an Azumi priestess has a vision of a giant monster destroying a city. Meanwhile, a spelunker named Masahiko Shimizu (Kazuya Aoyama) discovers a strange metal inside a cave, taking it to Professor Miyajima (Akihiko Hirata), who examines the metal and refers to it as space titanium. Shortly afterwards, Masahiko's brother Keisuke (Masaaki Daimon) uncovers a hidden chamber containing ancient artifacts and a mural that states a prophecy: A black mountain will appear above the clouds, and out from it will come a monster of death and destruction; but when the red moon sets and the sun rises in the west, two more monsters will appear to save the world.
A black cloud that looks like a mountain eventually appears in the sky. Godzilla arises from Mount Fuji and begins to destroy everything in sight. Say what, now? Hasn't Godzilla been good to humans in recent years? We immediately see, however, that something is off about this Godzilla: his roar is a shrill, metallic sound, and Anguirus, Godzilla's best friend, shows up to attack. Anguirus knocks off a piece of the Godzilla's skin, revealing some kind of metal hidden underneath. After Anguirus is forced to retreat and Godzilla makes his way to a refinery, a second Godzilla appears, using his atomic breath to fully expose the Godzilla from Mount Fuji as a fake. The fake Godzilla reveals itself to be the cyborg Mechagodzilla, being used as a weapon by apelike aliens of The Third Planet from the Black Hole. The aliens plot to use Mechagodzilla to conquer the world. Godzilla and Mechagodzilla face off; Godzilla is wounded and disappears into the sea, while Mechagodzilla is damaged and is forced to return to the alien base for repairs. As Mechagodzilla undergoes repairs, Keisuke and a woman archaeologist he meets named Saeko (Reiko Tajima) try to uncover the mystery behind a statue they found in the chamber. Saeko believes the statue bears a resemblance to the ancient monster King Caesar.
That's a lot of plot for an 84 minute Godzilla flick that goes by at almost breakneck speed. The human side of the plot plays off like a James Bond-style spy flick, in which our heroes must prevent an evil overlord from acquiring some object he wants, and then later invade the villain's secret base and destroy it, like in Dr. No or The Man with the Golden Gun. Even when there are no monsters on screen, the human scenes are successful in keeping us at least somewhat amused, though they tend to be prolonged enough that you may have to remind yourselves you are indeed watching a movie called Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla and not Planet of the Japanese Apes.
- I almost want to forgive Jun Fukuda for all of his previous Godzilla films, knowing he would be a part of Toho's presentation of Mechagodzilla. Mechagodzilla has a wide arsenal of weapons that makes him a ton of fun to watch: rainbow-colored eye lasers, missiles from his fingers and toes, and the ability to shoot a lightning ray gun from his chest. The monster fights are well-choreographed, with Mechagodzilla punching, kicking, and landing hits in ways that look like they really hurt, such as him breaking Anguirus' jaw and blasting Godzilla in the neck with his eye lasers. It's far more convincing than the playful-looking monster wrestling from Godzilla vs. Gigan and Godzilla vs Megalon, being mostly devoid of the pure goofiness seen in those two films. Also, the high-pitched, screechy sound that is Mechagodzilla's roar definitely sounds like something that could come out of his mouth, something that was abandoned in later versions of Mechagodzilla. The only drawback is that the suit clears shows itself to be made of rubber, bending and twisting in ways that metal clearly can not bend and twist.
- Though Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla does not bear the burden of stock footage, it does have a difficult time trying to hide its low budget. The wires used during several of the monster scenes are clearly visible, and there are also scenes where the aliens get shot, turning them back into their true ape form. The transformation effect for the aliens is one of the worst effects in the entire Godzilla series, looking like an ugly green splotch on the screen instead of something hat could have been a source of inspiration for the effects of the first two Terminator films. One scene gets it real bad: an alien henchman gets strangled, then while the ape transformation is happening, the entire frame freezes, with the strangler in plain sight. This is then followed by a cross fade effect in which the frozen strangler has slightly changed position before the frame unfreezes. Now, this freezing, cross fade tactic is used for all of the other ape transformation scenes, but none of the others have another human character visible in the frame during the cross fade. I don't care that this was 1974; how in the world did Jun Fukuda not see this?! Maybe he did see it, but he had to roll with it because they didn't have enough money to do a re-shoot or to redo the effects.
The low budget doesn't matter that much anyway. This is great stuff, considering what was on display in the past several Godzilla films. The monster action is some of the best of the original series, with Mechagodzilla shaping up to be one of the most kick-ass monster villains to ever be put in a Godzilla film. The human plot doesn't get caught up with petty dialogue that would only serve as a delay until the monsters take over, being dressed up like a miniature spy flick that just so happens to involve aliens. This is all around a solid Godzilla film, one that transcends a lot of the standards set by older kaiju films and one that should please any Godzilla fan. It's easily one of the best films of the original Showa series, as well as one of the best of the entire Godzilla franchise.
Recommend? Yes. This is a must-see for any and all Godzilla fans.
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