Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975) [Bob Conn Enterprises]

Class: Staff
Author: Miles Imhoff
Score: (2.5/5)
January 15, 2006 [Review May Contain Spoilers]

I'll admit, if you asked me recently what my least favorite Godzilla movie was, I would have likely given this film as a definite answer. Though Terror of Mechagodzilla was never a huge favorite of mine, I'll admit now that with each viewing, I've warmed up to it a little more. This movie can be fun, as it is comprised of one grand climactic monster brawl and complimented with an excellent soundtrack. Unfortunately, in areas such as character development, this film does lack. The acting is mildly melodramatic, and is only marginally above average for this time period. Since this is a review of the Americanized version of the film, the sloppy editing is also worth mention (or scorn). Nevertheless, I'll admit it isn't the worst Godzilla movie, and it does boast more than a modest fan base.

One year after the disaster that was Mechagodzilla's arrival on Earth, a deep-sea submersible was deployed to search for the mech's remains. What the crew of the Akatsuki didn't expect was the appearance of an enormous dinosaur. The vessel was decimated, and Interpol was left baffled at the unprecedented event. It was discovered that a man by the name of Dr. Shinji Mafune, shunned by his fellow scientists 15 years earlier for his supposedly outlandish theories, actually spoke of a creature similar to that which was reported… a dinosaur by the name of Titanosaurus, whom he claimed to control. Biologist Akira Ichinose's journeyed with Jiro Murakoshi to Mazanura Island, Mafune's last known residence, to investigate. His daughter, Katsura, led them to believe that her father had died some years earlier, but she was obviously hiding something. In fact, Dr. Mafune was alive and well. Aiding the maniacal schemes of the aliens from the black hole system, the twisted old man desired revenge against the scientific community, which dared to ridicule his studies. Mafune's daughter, having suffered unintentional mortal injury from her father's experiments some years earlier, was revived as a cyborg by the aliens some years ago. Indebted to the extra-terrestrial beings, Mafune's services were placed on the table. With Titanosaurus' mind control almost perfected and Mechagodzilla close to full repair, it was apparent that all-out war was in the not-to-distant future...

Ichinose, now confident in the potential of Mafune's theories, began to head an expedition to search for Titanosaurus yet again. Katsura, whose feelings were betraying the vengeance her father and his alien allies craved, begged him not to go. Alas, Katsura was brainwashed into sending Titanosaurus after the submarine, the dinosaur's mind control device implanted in the girl's half-mechanical body. Fortunately, no one was harmed, as super sonic emissions from the vessel greatly weakened the semi-aquatic reptile. This was not the end for the monster however, for Mafune's mad vengeance led him to unleash his weapon once more, in direct disobedience to the orders of the spacemen. Titanosaurus leveled Tokyo, and though a counteroffensive built around the principle of amplified super sonic waves was readied, the machine completely failed. The city would have met its doom, had Godzilla failed to arrive just in time. In the midst of the titanic war, Mafune's home on Mazanura Island was raided, and Katsura was badly injured, having plummeted from a tall cliff. Titanosaurus, confused, retreated into the sea.

The advanced technology of the black hole people once again revived Katsura, and this time, the Mechagodzilla control mechanism was placed inside Katsura in order to effectively create a mobile base. Mafune began to feel hesitant about his dealings in the extermination of his people, and these nerves were only amlified by Ichinose's pleas following his capture. Nevertheless, the alien leader Mugal ordered the release of Mechagodzilla and Titanosaurus on the world once again. The two terrors were unleashed on Tokyo, but Godzilla appeared once more to defeat his enemies. The savage brawl continued into the countryside, where the feral force of the dinosaur and the brutal onslaught of the sadistic machine buried Godzilla under tons of rock and soil. Fortunately, a now completed super sonic wave amplifier was fired from a nearby helicopter, and Titanosaurus began writhing in a fit of spasms. Godzilla rose from the dust, defeated his reptillian foe, and charged head on into a barrage of missiles and beam weaponry. Grasping Mechagodzilla around its cold, metallic neck, Godzilla decapitated his old foe, only to reveal a searing laser turret located between its shoulders. Godzilla would not surrender, and finally, Mechagodzilla was blasted into oblivion!

Meanwhile, Interpol finally raided Mafune's home, and though Katsura was fatally wounded, Ichinose revealed his love for her. Mugal and a handful of his fellow aliens managed to escape via their flying saucers, although one was blasted out of the sky by Godzilla's thermonuclear ray. The remaining craft fled into the cold void of space, as celebration broke out among the humans. The threat from space was finally thwarted, and the hero of the day, Godzilla, could return to his home in peace.

The plot does sound a little weird, but it in actuality, the makeup of the story seems to be a return-to-form for Ishiro Honda. Luckily, Honda's own artistic vision doesn't detract too much from the tale Jun Fukuda started with his own excellent movie one year earlier. Mechagodzilla has the same origins, and the black hole people are still responsible for the invasion (however, it would have been nice to see one of them revert back into their Planet of the Apes form again). In a slight twist this time, Godzilla doesn't have an ally. While the “good-guy” King Caesar was the third fighter in the final fight last time, the “bad-guy” Titanosaurus takes the role of the third monster in the climactic battle of this movie. Possibly, it is an effort to pit Godzilla against overwhelming odds so that he alone is forced to conquer the enemies (well, with help from the humans). This may have backfired however, as Titanosaurus clearly steals the show from the title antagonist. As far as the actual human plot goes, it is rather dark in comparison with the previous Showa entries. It becomes the story of Katsura, a tragic girl-turned-cyborg; Ichinose, the open-minded biologist who fell for the cybernetic girl; Mafune, the vengeful shell of a man trying to protect his daughter; and a dying breed of aliens bent on the forced colonization of Planet Earth. To add to the solemn nature of this movie, Katsura, despite Ichinose and Mafune's efforts, dies in the end. While the plot may pan out a little clumsily, it is still a mild downer; and in this regard, the film lacks a little enjoyment and rewatchability.

Concerning the real people who play these mildly tragic roles, everyone does an average job portraying their characters (slightly above-average for the time). There really aren't any breakaway performances here, and each actor is given the duty (whether pleasant or unpleasant) of perpetuating common cliché's in their roles. Katsuhiko Sasaki becomes yet another deadpan lead. He does show more emotion than the stereotype for this role however, especially in his growing affection for Tomoko Ai's character. Tomoko Ai's zombie-like performance, while her character is brainwashed, is also rather cliché; however, her handling of the hesitant girl, torn between love and her filial respects, is actually pretty successful, and in these moments, she is the best among her fellow actors. Akihiko Hirata, as the mad scientist, is also given a role that just screams “stereotype!”. The I'll-get-them-back-for-what-they've-done-to-me character is just so overdone in cinema that it is basically a mindnumbing component to film now. Hirata does do well with what he's given though, and adds a level of eccentricity that enhances the enjoyment of his performance (although perhaps they could have done better with the wardrobe, as I wonder how many others think, as I do, that he looks just like Colonel Sanders). Then, of course, there is Goro Mutsumi and Toru Ibuki, both who play the lead black hole aliens. Saturday-morning cartoon villain; need I say more? They appear to have fun with their roles, but they are cliché in this respect. I sincerely doubt it is entirely the fault of any of the actors though, as it appears to be partly a matter of how their motives are directed. Unfortunately, besides the above cast, no one else is given a great deal of screen time, nor a great deal of development for that matter. The motives of Tomoe Mari's character are completely unclear (although that may be just a flaw with the American editing) and while Katsumasa Uchida manages to gain one of the top roles, he really isn't utilized to the right extent for the audience to even care. The acting may be average, but it is clear that the development is also pretty lacking here.

To review the effects of Terror of Mechagodzilla, I really have to admit that it isn't anything that we as the audience haven't seen before. The rotoscoping is just about the same as the previous entry, and the pyrotechnics are basically the norm (although Mechagodzilla's final explosion is pretty spectacular). Godzilla's suit, though a little raggedy, is still holding up rather well… and the heroic facial expression the monster has donned since Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973) is still extant (however, there is a short sequence with what appears to be the “Fake Godzilla” suit from the previous movie near the end, the reasoning behind which I'm completely ignorant). Mechagodzilla's suit is the same as the previous year, as well. Titanosaurus's design is fairly interesting, a Gorgo-esque monster that looks fantastic at night. Unfortunately, the sound department may have created a blunder with the creature's unnervingly aggitating cackle. If you've yet to see the movie for the first time, you likely won't be used to the cry, and you may immediately have a less-than-flattering view of the monster.

The soundtrack, while mostly a repetition of the few same themes throughout, brings some great nostalgia to this final movie of the Showa series. Though Masaru Sato's scores for the previous 70's entries were upbeat, bouncy, and very enjoyable, it is always nice to hear the return of Akira Ifukube's style as well. For example, the main theme of the movie is a grand return-to-form for the composer, as the rhythm and tone perfectly fits the strange plot and more importantly, the character of Mechagodzilla. The return of Godzilla's famous theme is also a treat for the kaiju eiga aficionado, as this music has drawn such an indelible connection to the character and the franchise over the years. A few shorter organ pieces are also utilized throughout to great success, as the creepy and eerie nature of these tracks matches the twisted human drama of Mafune and Katsura's past brilliantly. Overall, the music here is another slam-dunk for the maestro of the franchise.

Having yet to view the Japanese verision of this film, I can't really contrast and compare versions at all. However, I can tell that this movie is, as many claim, very butchered. There are certain things that tend to go nowhere, others that end too abruptly, and scene transitions that are too quick and jarring. Nevertheless, the Americanization of this film isn't all that bad, as the dubbing is actually of acceptable quality for this particular time period. Of course, there are problems. Some voices appear out of place, and some dialogue, including Mafune cheering on Titanosaurus, is pretty grin-worthy. As always, subtitles would be prefered (one more reason it would be worthwhile to track the original down).

When it comes right down to it, Terror of Mechagodzilla is probably average as far as Godzilla movies go. It's not great, but it's not poor either. It is still sad to think that, adjusted for inflation, this movie netted the worst profits of any Godzilla film. The television revolution and economic troubles of the times are often blamed as the culprit, but at any rate, it is obvious that the profits (or lack thereof) were likely the main reason that this was the final Godzilla entry for almost a decade. The days of the wacky Showa Timeline had come to a close, but Terror of Mechagodzilla was not a bad way to bring an end to an era. It can be a fun afternoon getaway for any kaiju fan.