In the 16th installment of Godzilla Goodness, Witney looks at the last film in the first Godzilla continuity, and a welcome return of his favorite monster, Mechagodzilla. #16: Terror of Mechagodzilla.
Many eras passed with the making of Terror of Mechagodzilla. For one, this will be the final film in the Showa era of Godzilla films (also sometimes called the Toho era), effectively ending all the stories, monsters, and tonal idiosyncrasies we’ve been following since the beginning. This will also be Ishiro Honda’s final Godzilla film (he did the original and most of the sequels), and his last feature altogether. He directed a portion of Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams in 1990, and died in 1993.
Although I have been ecstatic about Mechagodzilla, it seems that most Godzilla fans – at least at the time – did not share my enthusiasm. The kaiju genre was growing increasingly moribund, and by 1975, it was old hat. An innovation like a robot clone of Godzilla was perhaps seen as silly under any circumstances. If a genre is too ubiquitous for too long, it actually doesn’t matter how good the films in it are; fans will begin to reject it by genre alone. It won’t be until we have a lens of history to put it back into perspective that we’ll be able to see how good the late films in the series really are. This has happened to found footage horror movies. It happened to torture porn. It happened to slashers back in the day. However heretical it may be to contemplate, this will eventually happen to superhero films too. I wonder if James Bond will ever be retired altogether. Or if Star Wars will saunter into the night. Or if we’ll ever leave Star Trek alone. But enough doomsaying.
If we were to ring out the Godzilla film on Terror of Mechagodzilla, though, I would be at peace. Terror of Mechagodzilla is pretty wonderful, and is only slightly lesser than its immediate predecessor. It’s largely the same as the last one, and only suffers by repetition. The story: A new race of evil aliens (this time skinless ghouls like in Beneath the Planet of the Apes) has salvages Mechagodzilla from the ocean floor and rebuilt him. He goes on a rampage. The aliens also build a robot of a human woman (played by Tomoko Ai) who falls in love with a Earth man. This will turn tragic, as a chip inside the robot woman will have to be destroyed in order to shut off the aliens’ monster mind-control ray.
The aliens are also controlling a new monster called Titanosaurus, which is, as far as I can tell, just a dinosaur. Here is a question I put to the readers of Nerdist: Are dinosaurs monsters? I always saw killer animals in movies as separate from monsters, and dinosaurs, while extinct, are no more than large lizards who eat people. A killer lion is not a monster. A six-legged lion that’s 30 feet long and can cough up laser beams is. Titanosaurus is a dinosaur with no monstery features other than his size and his uniqueness. Indeed, there is an actual titanosaurus in the history of paleontology. He is not a well-known Toho monster, and this film will be his only appearance. He won’t even show up in Godzilla video games. Although, I have learned that there is Titanosaurus porn. What is wrong with you people?
(Editor’s note: he DID show up in Godzilla video games.)
Godzilla sees that Mechagodzilla is back and will not stand for it. They fight. Titanosaurus is eventually freed from the alien mind-control ray, and Godzilla beats him up too. I asked this once before of King Ghidorah, but isn’t it unethical to blame someone for actions they committed under the direct and overpowering influence of alien mind-control rays? No Godzilla does not think in such gray terms. Godzilla is sure of himself, and kicking a monster’s ass is the best solution to all his ethical problems.
It will be nine years until the next Godzilla film, which is the longest gap in Godzilla history. We’ll also see the birth of the Heisei era.
Up next: The Return of Godzilla (1984)