Kaiju Kingdom’s Chris Eaton tackles the all out brawl with Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla in our next TokuNet Film Club. As Supreme Commander, Kuronuma says, “Damn, Godzilla. You’re mistaken if you think your powers are a match for MechaGodzilla.”
On the island of Okinawa, a young Azumi priestess has vision of a horrible future in which monsters lay waste to the world. Meanwhile, a man exploring a local cave finds a metal not of this Earth. Along with the metal is a mural with a prophecy:
When a black mountain appears above the clouds, a huge monster will arise and try to destroy the world; but then, when the red moon sets and the sun rises in the west, two more shall appear to save humanity.
Discovered next to this mural is a small statue bearing the resemblance of an Azumi guardian beast: King Caesar. When a weather phenomenon resembling a mountain in the sky appears, the first half of the prophecy comes to fruition. Godzilla emerges from Mount Fuji and starts laying waste to the surrounding area.
Humanity is stunned to find that Godzilla has returned to his evil ways, to the point that even his long time ally, Angurius, arrives to challenge him. Godzilla proves to be too much for Angurius, who is beaten within an inch of his life and forced to retreat; but not before wounding Godzilla, revealing a sliver streak under his skin.
As night falls, Godzilla continues his rampage into the grounds of a local refinery. It’s here that he’s met with a new challenger: another Godzilla! The world is shocked to see that two Godzillas exist. As the newly arrived Godzilla blasts away at the one that came out of Mt Fuji, the truth is revealed. It is no Godzilla, but an alien super weapon called, MechaGodzilla. Proving to much for one another, both titans flee from battle to lick their respective wounds.
As for MechaGodzilla’s creators, they turn out to be ape like beings from a planet that’s currently being sucked into a black hole, reveal their plans to take over Earth as their new home. They intend to use MechaGodzilla and gain control of the legendary King Caesar to wipe humanity out of existence. Their plan to gain King Caesar fails and the beast awakens when the second half of the prophecy begins, leading to showdown between MechaGodzilla and the two monsters that shall save humanity: King Caesar and Godzilla.
1974 was the 20th anniversary of the Godzilla original film. At the time, Toho had been slowly whittling the series down to the bare bones as TV shows like Ultraman had taken a huge proverbial bite out of the box office. It didn’t help that with budget cuts, the quality of the films also dipped greatly.
But, an anniversary is an anniversary.
Considering that Godzilla had made it this far, Toho decided to put a little money back into the series for the 14th installment.
To keep their well oiled machine rolling, Toho decided to have Jun Fukuda continue his run as director of the series. MechaGodzilla was his third film in a row, with Godzilla vs. Gigan and Godzilla vs. Megalon being the previous two. Besides Fukuda, who would also help pen the screenplay with Hiroyasu Yamamura, Teruyoshi Nakano would also return for his forth outing as Special Effects Director. Rounding out the creative staff, Masaru Sato would re-team with long time collaborator Fukuda for one last outing with Godzilla.
As for the film itself, Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla is perhaps one of the very best in the series. It is a bit of a kitchen sink film, but it didn’t feel weighed down by everything jammed in it. Fast paced and heavy on action, it is the very definition of what a “fun” Godzilla film should be.
With a higher budget, not only do we get a new foe in MechaGodzilla, but a new ally in King Caesar. Both of these characters are brought to life magnificently by the art of “suitmation”. On one hand, you have MechaGodzilla becoming an instant classic and the second time Toho would create a robotic doppelganger–the first being MechaniKong. Clearly Godzilla in look, but given a fantastic armored look that classic robots have lost today. Bright sliver, he stands out in both the day and night scenes. A roar that sounds like a combination of an air hose and scraping metal and an unbelievable arsenal of weapons, he would become one of the most deadliest of foes Godzilla would face. MechaGodzilla would actually become so iconic that the character would be revived not once, but twice, years later in the modern series. The original to this day remains its deadliest incarnation.
Then there’s King Caesar. Based on the Shisa, a dog lion from Okinawa mythology, Caesar is a rare combination of what some folks call a “hair suit” and a traditional kaiju. Hair suits are usually ape like suits that actors would wear that are as the name suggests, covered in hair. Caesar combines qualities of both hair and scale texture, and is remarkably nimble in effect.
The combat scenes involving the character are fast paste and incredibly agile. Not to mention his most defining characteristic: the ears. Like a dog, they perk and flop through out his screen time. Seeing as you can’t get a ton of facial expression from the suits, little trademarks like this add layers of character.
Monsters aside, there’s a marvelous kinetic energy to this film. The human drama is a combination of reaction to the monster fights combined with secret agent action against alien ape men. Meanwhile, the monster battles are top notch. From the first battle in the film, between a disguised MechaGodzilla and Anguirus to the final 2-on-1 fight, the film never lets up in the physicality, especially when set to Sato’s amazing score. Dums and horns blaring as King Caesar slams into MechaGodzilla as Godzilla attacks from behind. This is the definition of what kaiju fights should be.
On top of the physical action, this film is also usually bloody for a Godzilla film. Beginning with the Anguirus fight on disguised MechaGodzilla, the little guy gets pummeled to a pulp by fake Godzilla and has his jaw broken with a geyser of blood erupting from it. Normally, the level of blood in Godzilla films is minimal to none. During the final fight, MechaGodzilla’s arsenal proves to be enough to dominate both Godzilla and King Caesar. When a volley of finger missiles leaving Godzilla caked in crimson before he turns himself into a living magnet. It’s way to crazy to explain through text, but it does involve lighting. The competing Gamera films at the time doubled down on the blood letting, making one wonder if perhaps this was not a response to those movies.
In the end, however, it wasn’t enough in the original box office. Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla would be the second-to-last of the Showa era films.
None the less, it would cement itself as a classic. MechaGodzilla would go on to become one of Godzilla’s most iconic villains, appearing in three more films in the modern era. Even Godzilla Final Wars director Ryuhei Kitamura cited it as his personal favorite, and drawing inspiration from the action in the film when he shot Final Wars.
It’s sad to me, that no one else in my recent memory has recaptured the magic this film possesses because it’s certainly, fun as hell.