Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974) – By Jordan Garren

 This is the first ever Rogue Reviewers Roundtable to be held at Rogue Cinema (which will occur from now on) and we’re kicking it off by focusing our attention on robot films. Being the giant monster film buff that I am, my choice was clear from the start… well…. almost. I nearly dropped this and went with King Kong Escapes (gotta love that Mechanikong), but I decided that my love and devotion would go to the Big-G instead. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla was the fourteenth film in the long-running Godzilla series and once again featured an alien invasion plot (which apparently was the all rage back in the 60’s and 70’s). In this film, a race of human-like aliens called Simians (named so because they turn into apes when wounded or killed) are planning on taking over the Earth because their current planet is slowly but surely being sucked into a black hole.

To carry off this little miracle, they unleash a faux Godzilla upon Japan to pummel the Japanese into submission. The aliens’ fake Godzilla easily fools the Japanese and their defense forces, but Anguirus, Godzilla, and all of us hardcore Godzilla fans weren’t fooled for a second. (Well… maybe a few seconds.) Soon after Anguirus is brutally thrashed by the screeching Godzilla clone, the Big-G shows up and goes toe to toe with his doppelganger. During the battle the imposter is wounded and a glint of metal can be seen beneath its skin. Seeing as how the jig is up, the Simians reveal their greatest technological achievement: Mechagodzilla! (Kind of clunky-looking if you ask me, but it gets the job done.) The two great titans then battle it out briefly in a duel of animated flame weapons. The resulting shockwave from the battle heavily damages both daikaiju, so they both retreat to lick their wounds before Round 2.

In the meantime, there’s a crazy plot going on with the film’s human characters. The important thing to note here is that a scientist, a journalist, a secret agent, and several others are attempting to awaken King Caesar (a.k.a. King Seesah, a.k.a. Kingu Shisa), an Okinawan deity of old, that resembles a giant Pekinese. However, those pesky Simians dog the heroic humans at every turn and even manage to one up us Earthlings before their pride eventually gets the best of them. Getting back to the monster action though, the human cast manages to awaken King Caesar just in time for him to battle Mechagodzilla. The lion-dog king fares pretty well against the aliens war machine, that is until Mechagodzilla starts firing its patented finger-missiles. King Caesar is up against the ropes until Godzilla finally arrives for his showdown with his mechanical double.

Godzilla helps turn the tide of the battle but soon, even the Big-G starts wearing down, that is until he turns himself into a huge magnet! (No, I’m not kidding.) Mechagodzilla tries to escape but Godzilla’s magnetic personality wins out and soon the Big-G and King Caesar are whomping on their nearly helpless foe. Godzilla delivers the coup de gras by tearing off Mechagodzilla’s head. The result of this act is the total self-destruction of Mechagodzilla. Afterwards, Godzilla and King Caesar exchange mailing addresses and phone numbers (to keep in touch), and then they both go their separate ways. Godzilla ventures out to see and heads home to Monster Island, and King Caesar crawls back into his hole and reburies himself until he’s ever needed again. As for those pesky Simians, they return a year later with a newly constructed Mechagodzilla and an amphibious dinosaur called Titanosaurus, but that is a tale for another time.

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla is considered by many to be the last great movie of the Showa series. The odd thing about this particular G-film is that a good chunk of the movie’s running time focuses on the exploits of the human characters and their quest to awaken King Caesar (which also leads to a terribly long musical number that is strangely poetic and catchy). Truthfully, Godzilla and company don’t get very much screen time at all, but that in no way detracts from the film (though it could have helped). To help the audience get through the monster-less parts of the film, we’re given a pretty nifty tale of alien invasion smattered with mystery and intrigue. Will the film’s human protagonists keep the King Caesar statue safe and deliver it to the shrine, allowing a ritual to take place in order to awaken King Caesar to defend Japan, or will the evil Simians steal it, kill our heroes, and conquer the world?! Of course you already know the answer, but it’s still fun to watch things unfold.

Currently, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla is available on Region 1 DVD from Sony Pictures. The film is showcased in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and looks fantastic, especially compared to the pan & scan VHS tapes all of us Godzilla fans grew up with. The audio quality is also very good and is featured in 1.0 Dolby Surround (Where’s the 5.1? Damned if I know!), and you can watch the movie with dubbing or with English subtitles. (i.e. dubtitles) As always, Sony went all out with extras and here you get to view some previews to other Sony coming attractions (Yes, that was sarcasm.), including a trailer for Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.. Now, if you’re a diehard fanatic who needs real subtitles and a little bit more in the way of extras, Video Daikaiju (www.videodaikaiju.com) carries this title. The film is in widescreen and has the original Japanese soundtrack with English subtitles. In the way of extras, the disc should at least include the original Japanese trailer for Godzilla tai Mekagojira. Either way you go, you’ll see the movie as it was meant to be seen and heard which is what this movie deserves!

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Rogue Reviewers Roundtable Topic: The Robotic Menace

Jordan’s Review Site: The B-Movie Film Vault