Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975) [Bob Conn Enterprises]

Class: Staff
Author: Alexander Smith
Score: (4.5/5)
April 20th, 2007 [Review May Contain Spoilers]

This is one of the darkest Godzilla movies since the original. With Ishiro Honda stepping back up to the plate, it harkened back in some ways to the original film. The tone was grim and the special effects were some of Teruyoshi Nakano's best. One of the best Showa films, without a shadow of a doubt.

The ape aliens have returned with a fiery vendetta! Not only that, they've found someone who hates humanity as much as they do. That someone is Dr. Mafune (played by Akihiko Hirata), a mad scientist who hates humanity for rejecting his outlandish claims. Meanwhile, a submarine in the Pacific is attacked by a aquatic dinosaur (named "Titanosaurus") while searching for Mechagodzilla's remains. Mafune's cyborg daughter, Katsura, is used by the aliens and Mafune as a remote to summon Titanosaurus on a monstrous rampage. Titanosaurus is assaulted by Godzilla, and though the aquatic reptile puts up a good fight, Katsura is nearly killed in the process, and the Simeon scientists are forced to implant a control device into Katsura. This device now allows Katsura to control the newly-revived Mechagodzilla as well. Titanosaurus is released on a path of destruction once more, and Mechagodzilla is sent in to help. Godzilla arrives, and in the ensuing battle, Titanosaurus and Mechagodzilla are nearly victorious, until the crimson dinosaur's weakness is discovered. Titanosaurus is bombarded with sonic pulses, as Godzilla keeps Mechagodzilla on the ropes, tearing his head off much like he had one year earlier. However, from underneath the cold, metal cranium protudes a deadly rotating energy weapon. Godzilla is almost mortally wounded, until Katsura snaps back to reality and realizes Mechagodzilla can only be stopped if she is killed. In an act of self sacrifice, Katsura shoots herself. Mechagodzilla is disabled, and Godzilla finally destroys his mechanical counterpart. With a final atomic ray, Godzilla kills Titanosaurus and returns to the ocean, into the unknown. The aliens are defeated, but so is a wonderful woman.

Honda's human direction returns to the serious social commentary of the early 60's. Self-sacrifice for the greater good is a central theme. The human direction is grim in tone, but stereotypical: the greedy mad scientist who wants to get back at the world for what "they" have done to him. Other than that, the direction is fairly good. I am so glad Honda stepped back into the helm.

The special effects are the best of the 70's Showa series. The miniature work alone should've won Teruyoshi Nakano an award. The buildings are very detailed, some even surpassing the fantastic Diet Building model in the original 1954 classic. The pyrotechnics are flashy and amazing, especially the final explosion of Mechagodzilla. The fiery inferno practically fills the screen. Lots of eye candy rotoscoping here, however nowhere near as detailed as the previous film's. The monster designs are great, with Mechagodzilla's appearance still a very convincing illusion. Titanosaurus looks quite dinosaurian and menacing. The sheen given off by the scales of Titanosaurus gives him a very glossy look. Godzilla's suit looks menacing and feral, but still a tad bit comical. Godzilla's narrowed eyes give him an angry vibe that floats throughout the movie. Good SFX all around.

Ah, music. I was relieved that Maestro Akira Ifukube returned after having to sit through two terrible Riichiro Manabe scores and a couple of so-so Masaru Sato scores. The tonal quality is very dark and somber, like the movie's tone. Nowhere in here will you find a totally upbeat, Destroy all Monsters (1968)-style SDF march type track. All of the tunes are very low key and slowly paced. Mechagodzilla's theme is certainly my favorite Monster March of all time. The tune matches the menace and formidability of Mechagodzilla well. Titanosaurus's theme is another highlight. A shrill and trilling element (much like it's cry) is mixed in with a somber string ensemble.

This is a great film, and certainly the best of the 70's. I'd recommend it to Honda aficionados, Godzilla fans, and general monster movie lovers alike!