Friday, May 2, 2014

TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA (1975): 30 Days of Godzilla

DAY 16


aka. Terror of Godzilla

Here we are folks. We've truly reached the end of an era. Godzilla returns to once again fight his diabolical doppleganger Mechagodzilla, but this is the last time we'll see this particular version of Godzilla. Terror of Mechagodzilla is the 15th and final film in the original series, and it all comes full circle with Ishiro Honda, the original Gojira director, returning to take Godzilla movies back to their darker roots.

Despite glaring lapses in continuity, Terror of Mechagodzilla is presented as a direct sequel to Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. The film opens with an Interpol-operated submarine searching for the remains of Mechagodzilla when it is attacked and destroyed by Titanosaurus, a giant aquatic dinosaur. With the help of marine biologist Akira Ichinose (Katsuhiko Sasaki), Interpol agents attempt to track down the creature. What the heroes do not realize, however, is that Titanosaurus is under the control of the vengeful and allegedly deceased Dr. Shinzô Mafune (Akihiko Hirata) who is allied with the aliens from Black Hole Planet 3. In order to get revenge on the world that spurned his research a decade prior, Mafune has agreed to help the aliens rebuild Mechagodzilla to destroy Godzilla and Tokyo. Further complicating matters, Ichinose and Mafune's daughter (Tomoko Ai) begin to fall in love, but her heart belongs to another. Literally. She's a friggin' cyborg implanted with Mechagodzilla's control mechanism! As this bizarre story of robot women and the star-crossed marine biologists who love them plays out alongside the main Interpol investigation, Godzilla is surprisingly absent. It takes almost 50 minutes for Godzilla to show up, but when he does he takes on Mechagodzilla and Titanosaurus by himself in a spectacular climactic brawl. Godzilla throws down with some of his most physical fighting in years. With a little help from his human friends, Godzilla proves in this -- his last outing in the original series -- that he remains King of the Monsters.

A Three-Way of Titanic Terror
In contrast with the goofiness of Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (not to mention the last five years of Godzilla films), Terror of Mechagodzilla has a much darker and violent tone. Director Ishiro Honda somehow manages to convey grim drama and pathos in this cockamamie tale of robots, cyborgs, aliens, dinosaurs, and super sonic lasers. It helps a great deal that the design of Titanosaurus reflects a more realistic take on dinosaur biology than the recent trend toward outlandish monsters like Megalon and Gigan. Even the monster fights, which are still choreographed with the same WWF wrestling style that had taken over the Godzilla franchise a decade prior, are tempered with more scenes of violent urban destruction and primal suit-acting. Original Gojira composer Akira Ifukube also returns to give Godzilla a properly ominous and apocalyptic score that puts Masaru Sato's previous funk-filled popscores to shame.

Remember the Titans(aurus)
All in all, Godzilla may still be depicted as a kid-friendly hero, but Terror of Mechagodzilla gives Godzilla a great platform on which to retire. Terror of Mechagodzilla is a fusion of both classic and 1970s Godzilla tropes, with a much needed rejection of camp silliness.


Terror of Mechagodzilla was considered a bomb at the box office. It was the least-attended Godzilla movie in the franchise's history, selling less than 1 million tickets in Japan. Even when it finally came to America in 1978, there just wasn't an theatrical audience for Toho's brand of big screen monster mayhem anymore. From 1954 to 1975, Godzilla terrified and titillated audiences as a monster and a hero, but a slumping 1970's economy, the worsening energy crisis, and the dominance of sci-fi on TV forced Godzilla deep into hibernation. But if we've learned anything about the King of the Monsters, Godzilla doesn't sleep for long. In 1984, Toho would revive their flagship monster in an all new reboot of the Godzilla series. Tomorrow we begin our examination of the reboot series with its first installment: THE RETURN OF GODZILLA aka. GODZILLA 1985

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