After a long absence, it’s time to get back to our loveable monster legend Godzilla with Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974). After some pretty rough films in the early 70s, the franchise was showing signs of fatigue. It needed a shot in the arm and it got just that with the introduction of a mechanical Godzilla and a new creature called King Caesar.
The plot is typical of Godzilla films from this area. You have essentially two storylines that meet somewhere in the middle with the ultimate Godzilla battle taking center stage by the last 30 minutes of the movie. Here, we have an ancient statue in Okinawa being unearthed and tied into prophecies of a great monster rising to destroy the world. The statue is that of King Caesar, guardian of Okinawa. As various signs of impending doom begin to appear, we’re following two groups of individuals that include Professor Miyajima (Akihiko Hirata) and his daughter, various government agents and a mysterious group of aliens with plans of conquest. Their plan revolves around Mechagodzilla, a giant robotic version of Godzilla that resembles the real Godzilla at first thanks to a fake skin. Mechagodzilla plans to kill the revived King Caesar until the real Godzilla shows up. The usual three-way battle follows including a surprisingly bloody sequence between Godzilla and King Caesar where Godzilla attempts to rip off Caesar’s jaw. In the end, Godzilla and King Caesar join forces to defeat Mechagodzilla and stop the aliens from conquering Earth.
This was a lot of fun as it was a change of pace from some of the bad films of the early 70s. Not surprisingly, many consider it the best of the 70s Godzilla movies. It has a fairly cohesive plot, good action sequences and a great soundtrack during the battles. The original script went through many rewrites and included, at various times, Mothra and King Barugan, amongst others. In the end, we were dealt the new King Caesar and a minor appearance of Anguirus. King Caesar’s design is definitely a product of the mid-70s but accurate when considering it’s supposed to be from Japanese mythology. However, it’s not my favorite kaiju design though.
The movie was only a moderate success in Japan but an improvement over previous films. It wasn’t released in the United States until three years later. By that time, The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman were big hits on American television. So, Cinema Shares International, who had the distribution rights, retitled the movie Godzilla vs. the Bionic Monster, in an obvious attempt to capitalize on the Bionic mania. However, one week into release, Universal Studios filed a lawsuit against Cinema Shares International, claiming copyright infringement on their two television shows. The movie was retitled Godzilla vs. The Cosmic Monster. Whatever the title, I really enjoyed this entry. It had been many years since I watched it and I was pleasantly surprised how fresh it seems when compared to some of the other entries of the 70s.
The movie was released on DVD but is now out-of-print. Copies on Amazon are running about $55, so you might want to check around on eBay or local used DVD shops for something cheaper. Also, be careful you are getting the 1974 version as this was redone twice, in 1993 and again in 2002. Meanwhile, check out a trailer as you hunt for a copy.
Next time, Godzilla is back in the final entry of the original series, Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975).