GODZILLA VS MECHAGODZILLA 1974:
An in-depth analysis of one of Godzila’s greatest fight scenes
by Desolation Angel
With all the hoopla surrounding the release of the new Godzilla flick, I thought I’d take a moment to look back at some of what started it all, namely the ‘classic’ Gozilla from the Toho releases of the ’70’s. And while I am a huge fan of all the Godzilla stuff – both the Toho old school, rubber suit versions and the later ’90’s and early 2000’s CGI remakes – the old school ones have a special place in my heart. I remember watching them as a kid on TV, when TV had only 13 channels and cable wasn’t invented yet. Here in the New York Metro area, Channel 11 had “Godzilla Week” where they’d play a Godzilla flick every day for the week. I looked as forward to those weeks as I did Christmas back then…those were the fucking days.
But enough misty watercolor memories. Without a doubt, of all the early Godzilla flicks, the one that jumps out as my favorite is “GODZILLA VS MECHAGODZILLA”, released by Toho in 1974. It was also released and known as “GODZILLA VS THE COSMIC MONSTER” and “GODZILLA VS THE BIONIC MONSTER”. If Mothra was Godzilla’s Apollo Creed, and the flying, three-headed Gidorah was his Clubber Lang, Mechagodzilla was, without a doubt, Godzilla’s version of Ivan Drago
I was going to do a by-the-book, in-depth review and critique of the movie, but there’s literally scores of them already out there, so instead I want to focus on the thing that makes this particular Godzilla flick great – the fight scenes. Let’s take an in-depth, blow-by-blow look at this movie’s epic battle sequences, which remain some of the absolute best in the early Godzilla canon.
Now, although Godzilla originated in the first original movie as a not-so-subtle metaphor for the effects of nuclear war gone awry,the series morphed as it progressed and Godzilla became Earth’s defender against other monsters.The plot of this movie, as with nearly all early Godzilla flicks, is essentially the same when reduced to its lowest common denominator – some evil space aliens plan to take over Earth, starting with Japan, and want to use a monster as their way to do it. Godzilla, of course, is Earth’s only defense. So, in this movie, we have the same space aliens-using-a-monster device, which sets up our preliminary match:
- MECHAGODZILLA VS ANGUIRUS
Anguirus is that stegosaur-like creature who usually helps Godzilla tackle the bad guys, which makes this fight all the more incongruent and thereby a clever plot device. We see what looks like Godzilla, in the countryside near Mt. Fuji, plodding along on his way to Tokyo, but something’s off. His iconic roar is replaced with a metallic squeal. I still remember, as a kid, seing this and thinking “What the fuck?”….well, it’s not Godzilla, its Mechagodzilla (MG) dressed up like Godzilla (GZ) to confuse the people of Japan as to what’s going on. MG comes across a solitary building and decimates it with a big right hand karate-chop. Soon after, Anguirus comes out of the ground, and Anguirus obviously knows this isn’t his homeboy after all. In another plot device used throughout the movie, theres always some protagonists observing the action, providing dialog that serves to clear any confusion (mainly aimed at younger viewers of the franchise). As Anguirus sets to attack MG, still looking like GZ, a man in a car watching says “Something’s wrong….Anguirus shouldn’t attack his friend Godzilla”
lest there be any confusion amongst (younger) viewers as to whats going on on the screen.
Anguirus attacks MG, but is sent flying about a half mile as MG catches him with a kick to the head. Anguirus regroups and shakes the blow off, charging again and this time, manages to scrape a small piece of MG’s fake skin off. We see the metal gleam as our first hint as to what we are dealing with here. Unfortunatley for Anguirus, this seems to royally piss off MG and he attacks unmercifully, and a right kick to the face has Anguirus in a bad way. MG then grabs Anguirus by the tail and starts smashing him up and down in a version of monster-style WWE. If this weren’t enough, MG grabs Anguirus by the jaw and breaks it, complete with gushing blood (the gore being an addition to the movies here, strange for a movie with a PG rating and large child audience). MG then spitefully slams Anguirus’ head to the ground in a final, vicious, insult. Anguirus, bloodied and beaten to a pulp, retreats back into the ground. MG lets out a victory wail and continues his march toward Tokyo.
- MECHAGODZILLA VS GODZILLA, PART 1
We then see MG in an industrial area off Tokyo Harbor. Smoke and fire billow up from everywhere as MG lays waste to everything in sight.He is now shooting an orange ray, instead of the usual powder blue one we know as Godzilla’s nuclear ray, and the sound effect is different than that used when GZ shoots his ray. By now we know this is an imposter, and we settle in for what we really came here for in the first place – to see the real Godzilla fuck shit up.
All of a sudden, the sky goes powder blue like lightning and then, through the roof of a factory building, the real Godzilla rises like a phoenix. We hear the iconic roar for the 1st time. Our handy protagonists, this time in the same car parked nearby quip philosophically “2 Godzillas…What does it mean?”
It means shit’s gonna get hectic, that’s what it means!
Wasting no time, MG shoots his orange ray at GZ twice, but misses wide to the left. GZ rushes in and the two exchange jabs on the inside. GZ throws a haymaker left hook that misses MG, but catches a radio tower instead, setting off myriad explosions, but no damage to MG. GZ gets in close again and throws a huge right elbow to the spot on MG where Anguirus knocked off the fake skin, this time taking off a huge chunk of it. We see close pan shots of metal gleaming, beams, nuts and bolts of the exposed area. It’s like Rocky landing that right hook to Drago’s eye in ROCKY IV, cutting Drago for the first time. Only this time, it’s the opposite. Wheras in Rocky IV Tony screams “You see…he’s not a machine…he’s a man”, Godzilla now sees that MG isn’t a real monster, but a machine that looks like one. On cue, our protagonists in the car, watching the action, say “Now I get it…the one that came out of Mt. Fuji was a cyborg!”
GZ and MG square off again. GZ cocks his head like a confused puppy, trying to wrap his dnosaur brain around the proceedings. He blasts MG with his ray, twice, to the chest. The aliens controlling MG flip some switches in their control room and in a fiery spectacle, MG’s fake skin burns away and we see MG for the first time. Several pan shots show off his weaponry (including missiles for fingers) and sleek chassis menace. You can almost hear GZ say to himself,
MG wastes no time and launches finger missles at GZ, catching him in the left shoulder and sending him down hard. GZ struggles to get up as MG moves in for the kill. MG blasts a laser ray from his eyes at GZ, which misses wide. GZ gets to his feet and simultaneously shoot their rays at each other, the 2 rays colliding and meeting in the middle like a tense ball of energy, like a cosmic, nuclear jam-up. Finally this causes a huge explosion that sends MG down hard and GZ flying backward back into Tokyo Harbor. We get a close up view of the turbulent water as GZ sinks, and then a JAWS like view of dark crimson blood gurgling to the water’s surface. GZ is obviously worse for wear as the first battle ends, but MG is down too, and malfunctioning, so the aliens bring him back to base for repairs before continuing with their plan of destroying Tokyo altogether. It is here we see that MG also has the ability to fly, as he is commanded back to the alien’s base for repair and takes off like a plane.
- MECHAGODZILLA VS GODZILLA: SUPERFIGHT II
We see GZ regrouping on monster island, and if this were a ROCKY movie, this would be the training montage. In a torrential downpour, GZ is struck with lightning over and over, and this is obviously having curative and recuperative effects on him, as he shakes off the damage done in his first encounter with MG. His dorsal fins glow in a radioactive outburst as he is ready again for the rematch with Mechagodzilla…..cue “Gonna fly now”!
The repaired MG is back on his way to Tokyo. In a side plot, another monster called King Cesar(KC), like a big walking lion type creature,is also summoned to defend Japan, so GZ will have some much-needed backup in the rematch.
GZ cuts off MG in the countryside as MG is on his way back to Tokyo. The 2 monsters size each other up, letting out their respective roars, in a monster version of shit talking before the brawl.
“You wanna ring the bell???…ding, DING!”
MG wastes no time and launches some finger missles at GZ, going for the early knockout. GZ, perhaps wisened by the first match, sees this coming and counters, shooting his radioactive ray at MG, and MG counters by flying up into the air. Now flying around, MG nails GZ in the neck with hs eye laser beam, and GZ is back down on the canvas.
Luckily, King Cesar arrives and enters the fray. Although game, KC isn’t really a formidable opponent (as was all GZ’s ‘helpers’)…and he quickly takes a MG eye laser square in the head, which sends him down. GZ tries to capitalize on the distraction and rushes in, but MG lets loose a fusillade of finger missles that sends GZ back down. As he falls, GZ manages to nail MG with his ray in the neck, stunning the cyborg. GZ gets up again, and MG unveils a new weapon in his formidable arsenal; his head starts spinning so fast it creates a visible force field around him. GZ, not knowing what to do, fires his ray at MG but is doesn’t penetrate the force field at all. Frustrated by this, GZ rushes MG and tries to grab him through the force field, but GZ’s paws are scorched in a plume of black smoke when he touches the outer rim of the field and he screams in pain. He goes down once again.
At this point MG goes absoloutley batshit insane and unleashes hell on both GZ and KC, like he said to himself, “OK, enough fucking around, let’s put an end to this shit”. The two monsters are forced to cower next to each other and do a monster version of praying as MG unleashes laser beams from his eyes and chest, missles from his fingers and toes, as he throws everything but the kitchen sink at them and the countryside erupts in Dantesque explosions and fire. Luckily for GZ and KC, most of these shots miss their mark and hit just around them, or they would have both been done for. Maybe MG’s aiming system is off, but when I tell you the fucker unleashes hell on the 2 monsters, he unleashes hell.
When that barrage stops, a clearly punch-drunk, wobbly, and rubber-legged (no pun intended) GZ staggers toward MG, and gets caught square in the neck with an eye laser shot.GZ’s neck and mouth are covered in blood now, and he looks like Stallone in the 15th round against Apollo Creed. It ain’t pretty. A 3rd eye laser beam to the neck opens up GZ’s neck like a fountain, blood spraying from the wound in a shocking display of gore. GZ goes down again, and it’s looking dim. MG blasts GZ in the chest with a handful of finger missles, which protrude from GZ’s skin. GZ looks like he’s out of gas, and if there was a referee, GZ would probably lose the bout on a TKO at this point….
But somehow GZ rises….and somehow, someway, he taps some reserve tank of intestinal fortitude and regroups. The finger missles fly out of his chest, and he begins recharging as he did on monster island, right there in the battlefield. Somehow this causes him to become magnetic, illustrated on the screen as 2 metal power line towers slam to his body. MG tries to fly away, but can’t fight the magnetic force and is drawn toward GZ. In case it weren’t clear enough, we get the pseudo-narration by the main alien:
“So….he’s transformed himself into a magnetic force!!!”
Now, without getting too bogged down by plot events, lets just clarify that something our human protagonists (being held captive by the aliens at the control tower for MG) do helps ruin the control system for MG at about htis point, helping GZ out further. So MG gets pulled to the now magnetic and recharged GZ, who pulls him down and commences to beat the shit out of him. GZ holds MG prone as KC shoulder rams MG repeatedly, in some old school WWE style double team action. Godzilla has enough of this and starts twisting off MG’s head, which he tears completley off. While still holding MG’s decapitated chassis, the cyborg explodes and sends GZ flying back into Tokyo Harbor. He rises from the water and lets out a victory roar, turns, and heads back to monster island to wait for the next time the earth needs saving. Cue the credits.
GODZILLA VS MECHAGODZILLA is perhaps the best of the ‘early’ Godzilla releases. It boats a great score, a complex enough storyline, and better-than-the-usual effects compared to similar Godzilla releases of the era. It introduced gore into the Godzilla canon, which was a new twist, and introduced perhaps Godzilla’s most formidable foe, Mechagodzilla. For all these reasons, the film is worth watching, but in the end, it is it’s great kick-ass fight sequences that keep you coming back. Sometimes you don’t want to be bogged down by metaphor, symbolism, or intricate storylines. Sometimes you just wanna see two monsters go at it and kick the living shit out of each other, with some cool god damn effects along the way, and when that’s your mood, GODZILLA VS MECHAGODZILLA is your flick.
Does it look like two guys in rubber suits? Of course.
And you know what?
I wouldn’t have my early Godzilla served any other way.