Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974) | Sci-Fi Saturdays

by Jovial Jay

In this corner Mechagodzilla, cyborg kaiju from Black Hole Planet 3! And the returning champion, Godzilla–King of the Monsters! It’s a knock-down, drag-out, fight to the finish!

Godzilla continues his box office reign in his 14th film as he battles the titanic Mechagodzilla. It’s kaiju on mecha-kaiju action as multiple titans battle for the fate of Tokyo!

First Impressions

This looks like everyone’s worst nightmares. Godzilla fights Godzilla, but when a mysterious person flips some switches, suddenly Godzilla is fighting a robotic version of himself. With missile finger-tips! It’s a brief enough encounter that the mysterious organization has to postpone their attack on Tokyo. How will Godzilla be able to prevent the attack and save his beloved Tokyo? OK a lot’s changed since we last checked in with him 10 years ago!

Presented below is the trailer for the film.


Sci-Fi Saturdays

Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla

Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla title card.

The Fiction of The Film

In Okinawa, Japan, an Azumi priestess named Nami (Beru-Bera Lin) has a horrifying vision during her performance of a great monster that will destroy the city and kill people. Two brothers, Keisuke and Masahiko Shimizu (Masaaki Daimon & Kazuya Aoyama), who see the performance rush to her aid. The next day Keisuke drops his younger brother Masahiko off at the Gyokusen cave where he discovers a metallic object not-of-this-Earth. Keisuke continues on to work at an excavation site for Expo ‘75 where a mysterious cavern has been unearthed. As reporters try to get past the cordon, Keisuke meets Saeko Kaneshiro (Reiko Tajima), an archaeologist at Shuri University. She identifies the cave paintings in the chamber as being created by ancient Okinawans and the small statue as that of King Caesar, the legendary guardian deity of the Azumi monarch.

At the university Saeko begins translating a prophecy found at the site. She is observed by two mysterious men. One, swarthy with a moustache, the other, a slick smoker with a unique ring. Saeko hops a plane to Tokyo to meet with Professor Wagura (Hiroshi Koizumi) and to get help completing the translation and find out more about the small statue of King Caesar, when she bumps into Keisuke heading there on vacation. They also meet the “ring man” who claims to be a reporter working the story. Outside the plane they see a giant black cloud that appears like the prophecy Saeko has translated: “When a black mountain appears above the clouds, a monster will appear to try and destroy the world. But when the red moon sets and the sun rises in the west, two monsters will appear to save the people.” Keisuke escorts Saeko to Wagura’s house, who it turns out is Keisuke’s Uncle.

Elsewhere, Masahiko takes the mysterious piece of metal he found to Professor Miyajima (Akihiko Hirata) who recognizes it as “space titanium.” During their conversation an earthquake strikes. Miyajima’s daughter, Ikuko (Hiromi Matsushita) says it is the tenth day in a row that these have struck, almost as if a monster is burrowing underground. Back in Tokyo, “moustache man” breaks into Wagura’s house and fights with Keisuke. He flees when he can’t get what he’s after. Outside in the shadows “ring man,” the reporter, watches–intrigued at seeing the statue of King Caesar. Later Mt. Fuji explodes, spewing Godzilla from it. He sounds strange and Wagura and Saeko are afraid he’s the creature from the prophecy. Anguirus, a kaiju that resembles an ankylosaurus dinosaur, attacks Godzilla, ripping off parts of its flesh revealing a shiny metal underneath. “Godzilla” defeats Anguirus, who crawls off, possibly to die. Keisuke discovers another piece of alien metal near the battle site.

Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla

Mechagodzilla, disguised as Godzilla, battle the dinosaur-like Anguirus.

Miyajima, Ikuko, Keisuke and Masahiko follow “Godzilla” to an oil refinery that he proceeds to destroy when the real Godzilla shows up. The first Godzilla drops his illusion and stands revealed as a cyborg Godzilla, called Mechagodzilla. The two titans battle! Miyajima correctly surmises that Mechagodzilla is being controlled by aliens. The robotic kaiju blasts Godzilla into Tokyo Bay with a surge of bloody water, but its own head has been damaged in the battle postponing the attack on Tokyo. Miyajima thinks they will find some additional clues in the Gyokusen cave. The professor, Ikuko and Masahiko explore the caves and are captured by two men in silvery suits. They are taken before Alien Supreme Leader Kuronuma (Gorô Mutsumi), who is the commander of an invasion force from Black Hole Planet 3. He commands Miyajima to repair Mechagodzilla.

Keisuke and Saeko take a cruise ship back to Okinawa where they are again attacked by “moustache man,” who steals the King Caesar statue. He is shot by a shadowy figure (who turns out to be the Reporter, aka Nanbara (Shin Kishida), an Interpol agent) and falls overboard with the statue. But that was a fake statue and Saeko checks into a hotel with the real one while Nanbara and Keisuke head to the caves to rescue the others. They infiltrate the base and save the others from being cooked alive. Avoiding a car bomb planted by the aliens, the group splits up with Masahiko, Nanbara and the Professor returning to destroy the aliens base, and Keisuke, Saeko, and Ikuko heading to the Azumi temple to unleash the weapon promised in the prophecy.

At the temple a second Interpol agent kills two more aliens, who turn into ape-like beings as they die. Putting the small statue in the proper base unlocks a hole in the mountain revealing King Caesar, a dog-lion hybrid kaiju. He still sleeps so Nami, the last princess of the Azumi dynasty, sings to awaken him. King Caesar awakens and goes after Mechagodzilla. They are soon joined by Godzilla who has reinvigorated himself in a lightning storm on Monster Isle. Mechagodzilla’s finger-missiles, force field, and ability to fly makes it seem like they will never stop the cyborg, but Godzilla uses the electricity he absorbed to turn himself into an electromagnet. He draws Mechagodzilla in close and rips his head off. Miyajima uses an electronic disrupting device he created (which is disguised as his smoking pipe) to blow up the aliens control panel. With the base destroyed, Mechagodzilla explodes launching Godzilla into the ocean. King Caesar returns to his slumbering place and the heroes celebrate by returning the small statue to the Azumi Castle.

Two monsters will join forces to save the world.” – Keisuke

Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla

Alien Supreme Leader Kuronuma oversees the battles of his technological terror!

History in the Making

Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla is the 14th film in the Godzilla franchise and the second to last film in the Toho Studios Shōwa era, which ran 15 films through 1975s Terror of Mechagodzilla. After that film, the Godzilla franchise would lay dormant, like a sleeping giant, to be awakened a decade later with The Return of Godzilla, which is the beginning of the Heisei era of kaiju domination. The film continued to push Godzilla and the other monsters into new and exciting battles. As with other Godzilla films, this movie did not reach the United States until early 1977 where it was called Godzilla vs. Bionic Monster. But with the later success of Star Wars, that title was soon changed to Godzilla vs. Cosmic Monster.

Much had changed for the atomic dinosaur in the previous 20 years since his debut in Godzilla (1954). While he started as a danger and invader to Tokyo, he had grown to be a protector and saviour for the town he once threatened. In his numerous films he had fought Anguirus, King Kong, Rodan, Ghidorah, forced to attack the humans by aliens from Planet X, battled the giant lobster Ebirah, realized he had a son, teamed up with all the monsters on Monster Island (twice), battled the smog monster Hedorah, fought Gigan and Megalon, and then battled with Mechagodzilla (also twice). The plots went from thoughtful films about the horrors of war and atomic power to popcorn entertainment with crazy plots that included invading aliens, and of course, giant battling monsters.

Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla not only introduced the metallic cyborg version of Godzilla, but King Caesar as well. The fights become more complex, and sillier at the same time. And while these characters would all appear again later, there was no real thought to any continuity with the films. Godzilla would always appear to have been defeated, as would the villain, only to rise again later when he was needed.

Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla

Professor Miyajima (with his super powered pipe), Masahiko, and Ikuko explore the caves looking for clues on how to stop Mechagodzilla and the aliens.

Genre-fication

This kaiju film sets a high bar for other films to follow. Not only does it increase the monsters, battles, and general insanity for the plot, but it makes use of many other popular sci-fi elements. Godzilla had long been battling aliens, but instead of just being humanoid aliens from a far-distant planet, these particular bad guys were apes in disguise. Far be it from Toho Studios to shy away from copying The Planet of The Apes makeup for their antagonists. It is never explained, however. Just a cool little “extra” that the filmmakers threw into a film that was already filled to the brim with zaniness.

Then, of course, is the centerpiece–Mechagodzilla. He’s made from space titanium, because this is a Saturday matinee film geared towards kids. And that just sounds really cool! The cyborg version of the hero makes use of some technology that had been seen previously in the Japanese television series Giant Robo (also known as Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot in the U.S.). The titular robot of that show had metal armor, flew, and had weapons that included finger-missiles much like Mechagodzilla. His weakness being that even space titanium can be attracted by magnetic forces. And since Godzilla was revived by a lightning storm, he was able to turn himself into a giant electromagnet.

Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla

When killed the aliens revert into an ape-like state. Possibly an influence of the popular “Planet of the Apes” film during this time.

Societal Commentary

As stated earlier, Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla is a very rudimentary film, so full of plot elements that in some cases things make little to no sense. It contains two-dimensional characters and ham-fisted TV style acting. It’s not trying to create a parable about the horrors of atomic energy like the original film, but more or less trying to be a film that is part James Bond, part alien invasion story, and the prerequisite kaju-fighting action. But, that’s okay. Not every sci-film needs to be like 2001: A Space Odyssey or Solaris. Just like every other film doesn’t need to be like Casablanca or Citizen Kane. There’s room for many types of films, and some are just there for entertainment purposes. It may not further the boundaries of sci-fi films, but sometimes you just need to see two giant dinosaurs kicking the crap out of each other!

Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla

Keisuke, Ikuko, and Saeko return the small statue of King Caesar to the Azumi temple, unleashing its power.

The Science in The Fiction

Most of the science of the film is completely laughable. The writers appeared to be making things up on the fly. Professor Miyajima’s pipe is the biggest tease of all. Early on in the film he makes a point to mention that the pipe’s “bowl-metal includes astranopkaron. If you separate it in this way, magnetic waves will develop that destroy the positive and negative electrodes.” What?? That’s totally going to be important later!

The aliens also seem to have forgotten their Mechagodzilla manual when they came to Earth. When the cyborg is damaged in its initial fight with Godzilla, they must use the kidnapped professor to repair its head. Luckily the professor’s knowledge is on par with Black Hole Planet 3 aliens. And the fact that Godzilla can somehow turn into a giant magnet after surviving a lightning storm is ludicrous. But of course, that’s not the point. This is not a serious film, but a fun adventure made for entertaining younger viewers who don’t care about the reality of the situations; just about how cool something looks on the screen.

Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla

King Ceasar and Godzilla fight the giant cyborg Mechgodzilla.

The Final Frontier

Godzilla is of course not dead at the end of the film, and would return dozens of times later. Mechagodzilla would be rebuilt. Anguirus would heal himself and King Caesar would rise from his sleep again. The freedom that these films have when not tethered to a continuity where actions matter is freeing and fun. Who cares if the creature is killed in one film. Just bring him back later in another film. Fans want to see Godzilla fight other monsters and it’s all in good fun!

I wanted to end 1974 on a lighter article about a goofy film. One that was not a dystopian downer, as many of the recent films on Sci-Fi Saturdays have been. Not all films from the early 70s were downers about the destruction of the environment or the planet. There were two other Godzilla films during this time plus a silly sequel to The Blob, an adaptation of the Kurt Vonnegut time travel novel Slaughterhouse Five, the final two films in the original Planet of the Apes series, incredible fantasy sci-fi animation (Fantastic Planet), sexualized female empowerment with Invasion of the Bee Girls, the Woody Allen comedy Sleeper, Michael Crichton’s The Terminal Man, and even a sci-fi porno with Flesh Gordon.

The early 70s set up huge changes to the genre which would continue to expand and flourish in the mid and late 70s. No type of film was immune to being bred with science-fiction. Sci-fi flourished on television, in books, comics, and film like no time before. Sci-Fi Saturdays will continue to look at some of the most influential, popular, and weird sci-fi films for the rest of the decade in future articles.

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