Tuesday, May 21, 2013


TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA (Mekagojira no gyakushu, 1975)
Director: Ishirô Honda
Written by: Yukiko Takayama, 
Starring: Katsuhiko Sasaki, Tomoko Ai, Akihiko Hirata, Goro Mutsumi, Toru Kawai, Ise Mori, Katsumi Nimiamoto
Synopsis: Picking up immediately after the events of the last movie, a group of Interpol agents investigate the disappearance of a renowned scientists, while the Simeons work to rebuild an improved Mechagodzilla.

TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA is important in three ways: it brings back original director Ishirô Honda, it marks the end of the fan-coined "Showa Era", and it's really freaking good. I was a little skeptical, as I have been in this last third of the movies, especially given the slightly goofy tone of the last movie. But this is a pretty serious movie, all things considered. In rare form, I was actually invested in the human story, and it added some emotional punch to the kaiju side of the story.

The movie also brings back one of my favorite aspect of the earlier movies, the attention to continuity. The story picks up almost immediately after the events of GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA. The Interpol agents from the last movie are looking for the wreckage of MechaGodzilla in order to find out more about the Simeons who created him, but then they get attacked by a huge underwater creature dubbed Titanosaurus. Apart from King Ghidorah, Titanosaurus has one of the best screams in the whole franchise.

The human sub plot centers around mad scientist Dr. Mafune, who is apparently dead to everyone, but in actuality has begun working with the Simeon leader, Kuronumam, who survived the last movie. They're working on rebuilding and improving on MechaGodzilla in order to destroy and then rebuild the world. The main character is a marine biologist, Akira Ichinose, who is trying to investigate the attack by Titanosaurus. This leads him to meet Dr. Mafune's daughter, Katsura, who Ichinose ends up falling in love with after a minute or so of meeting her. But Katsura ends up becoming a bigger pawn in the war between the humans and the Simeons.

After finding out that Dr. Mafune is alive, we find out that the Simeons are rebuilding a bigger and better Mechagodzilla, so he can team up with Titanosaurus to defeat Godzilla once and for all. It's at this point that the agents find out that Titanosaursus is being controlled by the aliens, and they develop a weapon to counteract the mind control. However,  Katsura reveals herself to not only be working for the Simeons but is also a cyborg. At this point in the movie, the Simeons convince Dr. Mafuna to use Katsura's brain as the final component that will make Mechagodzilla even better. After a rather graphic operation, her mind is used as a remote control for Mechagodzilla. And so we set the stage for the final battle with Godzilla.

What makes it really interesting is that as the last movie of the Showa series, Godzilla does not actually appear much at all. It seems that a lot of the majority of the Honda movies look at Godzilla from a more restrained manner; he's more as a symbol than the fighting action hero. His fight with Titanosaurus, and MechaGodzilla is thankfully a little gratuitous in its explicit violence, but you still get to see Godzilla gets himself beat up. At one point in the movie, he gets bombarded with MechaG's Finger Missiles, and he just falls over. The fight felt pretty brutal and goofy all at the same time.

What struck me as interesting once again was the emotional core of the movie thanks to the human characters. Dr. Mafune is not at all a sympathetic character, but you can tell that he once had ideals and was just eventually beaten down by the world and the institutions he was a part of. I was actually a little bummed to see Katsure sacrifice herself by shooting herself so Mechagodzilla would stop working. I'm not even sure what it was about the characters. The writing wasn't the greatest in terms of character development, but it is a compliment to the actors that they all looked like they were giving it their all.

Looking over the trivia of the movie, it seems that this was one of the lowest grossing movies in the series so far, which is actually a huge shame. Its financial failure was the reason that the franchise laid dormant for the next nine years. As it stands, it's actually a great addition to the canon, and a while not nearly as good of a movie as ALL MONSTERS ATTACK!, the previous Honda movie, this was a fitting tribute for him to end the series, as this would be the last movie he directs.

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