Tuesday, 7 December 2021

Godzilla VS Mechagodzilla

Missile-Toe Monster

Godzilla VS Mechagodzilla
aka Gojira tai Mekagojira
aka Godzilla VS The Bionic Monster
Japan 1974
Directed by Jun Fukuda
Criterion Blu Ray Zone B

Well this one’s a bit if a fun romp. It’s nonsense with a capital G* but Godzilla VS Mechagodzilla, the penultimate film of the Showa Era Godzilla movies highlighted in Criterion’s recent Blu Ray set, is actually one of the better entries from this period. It also looks like it had a better budget than what the Godzilla films had deteriorated to in the last few outings and there’s very little recycled footage (apart from one major piece which I’ll get to in a minute... but it doesn’t last very long).

Okay, so the plot consists of two groups of main protagonists linked by one of each group being the brother of the other. One lot, including a good guy professor, is working on a piece of flat metal found in a cave. His conclusion is that the metal is ‘space titanium’ and so there must be some evil aliens up to no good somewhere (he’s not wrong... astonishingly). Meanwhile, a mini statue of local Okinawan monster deity King Caesar is found in another cavern... except the evil aliens are also after that. Why? Because it’s a key piece in enabling a gazillions of years old prophecy about a big monster arriving to destroy the world and then, when the sun sets in the West, two monsters teaming up to defeat it.

This prophecy is reenforced early in the film when a young girl doing her ritualistic ceremony at the House Of Azumi temple, where King Caesar is supposed to be the symbolic guardian, collapses momentarily when she has a vision of a big monster attacking the city. Now, this vision is the bit of recycled footage I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago, since the monster in the dream seems to be King Ghidorah footage from another film. This is the only time, though, that Ghidorah is seen in this picture because the giant monster which comes in later is something else... so, yeah... this vision makes absolutely no sense and we could really have done without the visual heads up. Thanks a bunch, kaiju writers.

And from hereon in it's all shenanigans afoot. Godzilla surfaces and starts acting like a villain trying to destroy the city. So suddenly he’s a bad guy except... no he’s not. Isn’t it strange that Godzilla’s pal Anguirus is trying to fight Godzilla, getting defeated in a gory combat which sees Anguirus defeated and in retreat? However, it’s not before he knocks a bit of scale off of Godzilla to show a gleaming surface underneath. Then, when another Godzilla joins the fray, at the request of Anguirus, he also gets bashed up pretty badly but... not before he reveals to the world that he was being framed by tearing the outer skin off of the other Godzilla, to the point where it changes into its true self... Mechagodzilla! The Big G does manage to break Mecha-G’s head and the aliens bring it back to their secret base for repairs. Godzilla then finds a big thunderstorm on an island and, in a first since his affinity with electricity was first established 20 years earlier in Gojira (reviewed here), Godzilla charges himself up with the lightning bolts from the storm.

Meanwhile, a gunman has been trying to get the King Caeser statue from an archaeology gal and her friend, the professor’s nephew. When the gunman gets shot in the face for his trouble, half of said face goes through a shimmery transformation to reveal that he’s some kind of space ape. He is defeated by one of the secret Interpol agents who had been acting... just sinisterly enough... to make the audience think that they were the bad guys in this.

While all this stuff is happening, the aliens kidnap the professor and force him to fix Mechagodzilla’s head. It’s at this point I have to ask again, why? Since they invented and built the thing themselves... why would it be that the ‘aliens from Black Hole Planet No 3’ would need an Earth scientist to help them fix their creation. I have no idea what’s going on here anymore. However, as you can imagine, the whole thing leads to a big fight between Mechagodzilla... who has finger rockets, destructive laser vision and who can shoot missiles from his metallic toes... and Godzilla, helped by the long dormant King Caeser, who is revived in a ritual by the lady who had the vision earlier in the film.

Things get bloody in the later combat too, with Godzilla leaking some big jets of red, arterial spray from his neck courtesy of his mechanical counterpart (a monster inspired by Mechani-Kong from King Kong Escapes, reviewed here). Plus there's a nasty moment where Mecha-G shoots multiple hypodermic syringes into Godzilla for... well, for no apparent reason. However, things get resolved when, in a first for the series, The Big G somehow uses his electrical charge to turn himself into a giant electromagnet, to bring Mechagodzilla towards him just before, with King Caesar’s aid, he rips off the robotic antagonist’s head.

There’s a big escape and destroy sequence cross cut with this fight, which also makes use of arterial spray. When the professor and the Interpol man helping him use the professor’s ‘special pipe’ with magical properties of being able to shut down electrical currents to help themselves escape (now days we’d call it something which shuts down things with an EMF pulse) and when the leader of the aliens gets shot, we get black blood spraying out of his neck before he, too, turns into an actor in a bad ape face mask... with extra little sticky out bits jutting out to presumably denote his alien leader status.

And that’s about it. There’s not a great deal of inventive shot design going on in this one and in some of the effects shots, the wires are clearly visible (especially so when watching this in a high definition format). This film also features the very last score that the great Japanese composer Masaru Satô did for a Godzilla film although, I have to say, it’s not one of his best. He does, however, manage to invoke the piece of leitmotif established for Godzilla by composer Akira Ifukube in this in a couple of places by, literally, playing just the first, long held note and then ignoring the other notes because the musical phrase is so well known by this point that you kind of fill in the rest of it in your head. Ifukube himself would actually return for the next and final film in the Showa Era Godzilla film series, a direct sequel to this one.

Godzilla VS Mechagodzilla is a fun if full-on nonsensical film which, in all honesty, utilises a much better looking design for the film’s titular antagonist than the one revealed in this year’s Godzilla VS Kong movie (reviewed here). It’s pacey, action packed and the only real downside is that the director seems to have really discovered the way hand held photography can be used to lend a certain chaotic dynamic to a shot... to the point where it was actually making me feel a little nauseous in one sequence. However, like I said, one of the better of the later Showa Era films and, of course, the Mechagodzilla would also turn up in many films to come. And rightly so... flying, mechanical kaiju are always a welcome addition to any film, in my book.

*So that would be Gnonsense then.

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