U.S. release date: March, 1977 by Cinema Shares International as Godzilla vs. The Cosmic Monster (originally to be released as Godzilla vs. The Bionic Monster; see below).
Japanese audience attendance: 1,330,000
Director: Jun Fukuda
Screenplay: Hiroyasu Yamaura and Jun Fukuda
Sfx: Teruyoshi Nakano
Musical score: Masaru Sato
Two U.S. versions are available on home video: the edited, cinematic version as “Godzilla vs. The Cosmic Monster” by Goodtimes Home Video and the complete, international version as Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla by Star Maker Video.
As a young priestess of the fabled Azumi people indigenous to Okinawa performs a pleasant ritualistic dance, she is suddenly besieged by horrible visions of an unidentified monster destroying her land; the visions are so abrupt and unsettling that she faints.
Meanwhile, an archeologist named Hideto Miyajima is exploring an Okinawan cave when he finds a small statue of the monster god King Caesar (a.k.a., "King Seesar"), a legendary defender of the island. Above the statue is a written prophecy that, when deciphered, reads that a monster will soon attack Okinawa, only to be opposed by King Caesar, though salvation will only be found with the appearance of a third monster. Miyajima is then beset by a series of assaults by an armed group of individuals who attempt to steal the statue. Each time they do so, however, Miyajima is saved by an Interpol agent later identified as Nambura, who is following the gang.
Soon afterwards, a strange object flies out of a nearby volcano, to explode (offscreen) and reveal Godzilla to be inside. Strangely, however, the Kaiju King’s characteristic roar has been replaced by an unfamiliar one. Godzilla then goes on a destructive trek through the Okinawan countryside, when his ally Anguirus suddenly appears from underground right underneath him. Also uncharacteristically, Anguirus attacks Godzilla, but is severely thrashed and cruelly maimed by his former friend. The injured Anguirus then scampers away, while Godzilla continues his trek through Okinawa.
As Godzilla reaches an oil refinery, he begins destroying it, though mysteriously, his atomic breath appears a fiery yellow rather than its usual bluish-white. Just then, a second Godzilla rises from the sea, this one with the familiar roar, and with his normal hued radioactive beam; the first Godzilla to appear was obviously a fake. The two Godzilla’s clashed, with the bogus one gradually getting his phony skin seared off, revealing a metallic surface beneath. Deciding that the time had come to reveal the true nature of the bogus Godzilla, a mysterious group of controllers hit a switch that completely removes the fake skin from the G-impostor, revealing...Mechagodzilla.
As the real Godzilla continues the attack on his bionic double, he is severely injured and forced to retreat back into the sea, turning the water red due to his injuries. However, Mechagodzilla also malfunctions unexpectedly, and his controllers are forced to call him back to their base hidden in the mountains.
Later, when a subsequent assault on Miyajima occurs on a cruise ship, one of the gang is grazed on the face by a bullet, courtesy of Nambura, and his human disguise partially melts away to reveal an ape-like appearance (he even grunts incoherently like an ape when he loses most of his disguise). Taking the statue and fleeing with it, the strange being leaps off of the ship with the statue in hand, apparently to his death. However, it would turn out that this statue was a fake used to distract the gang.
In the meantime, the still injured Godzilla rises on a small island to absorb the electricity of a thunderstorm raging above him in order to more quickly heal his wounds.
Finally getting acquainted, Miyajima learns the truth from Nambura. The gang turns out to be a race of advanced alien simians (thus being referred to as the "Simeons" by G-fans) from a planet existing in a star system that is about to be sucked into a black hole, prompting them to attempt to conquer the Earth for colonization (though, of course, it was never revealed why they couldn't simply locate a suitable world uninhabited by a sentient species, but I guess we weren't supposed to think about that). Since the alien-busting Godzilla is believed to be the only real opposition to their plans of conquest [I suppose they are unaware of how the Earth Defense Force was formed by all the nations on the planet to defeat another advanced race of alien invaders without the assistance of a kaiju protector almost 20 years earlier, as seen in The Mysterians (1957)], the aliens, a group of ultra-intelligent simians, have constructed Mechagodzilla as their secret weapon after careful study of the original Godzilla. They have been attempting to steal the statue of King Caesar since the object possesses the power, in the hands of the Azumi people, to awaken the real monster god, thus constituting an additional threat [it's rather interesting how these scientifically motivated aliens are so mystically aware, as you would think an emphasis on atheistic scientific materialism would dominate their ideology, as they show no signs whatsoever of being a spiritual race].
However, to repair Mechagodzilla’s malfunctioning circuitry, the Simeons must secure the aid of a renowned human scientist named Prof. Wagura, and they compel him to help them in their nefarious plans after he and his daughter Nami are taken captive (I suppose they must have left all of their own engineers and technologists at home). After the bionic kaiju is repaired, the aliens attempt to betray Prof. Wagura, his daughter, and the captured Miyajima, but they all manage to escape. Bringing the statue to the Azumi priestess Keisuke Shimizu, she places the statue in the exact place and time where it will project a beam of solar radiation into a mountain to reveal a sleeping King Caesar, a heroic supernatural dai kaiju who resembles a bipedal lion with lizard-like legs and a third eye in the middle of his forehead. The Simeons then send the repaired Mechagodzilla to destroy the sleeping monster, but Keisuke quickly performs a traditional Okinawan song that revives King Caesar. The leonine kaiju battles Mechagodzilla fiercely, although he is ultimately outmatched by the titanium robot’s power. Just as King Caesar appears on the verge of defeat, a fully healed Godzilla rises from the sea again, and he joins Okinawa’s legendary protector against his malevolent mechanical double. Mechagodzilla soon unleashes his entire arsenal of weaponry on his two foes, including his finger projectiles, which easily penetrate even Godzilla’s skin, drawing more blood from the Kaiju King than any of his previous foe's ever managed.
Utilizing his own electromagnetic energy potential in a heretofore unknown manner, Godzilla first repels the projectiles from his body, and then reverses the polarity, effectively transforming himself into a living magnet. Mechagodzilla attempts to fly away with his foot jets, but Godzilla’s magnetic pull proves too great, and the bionic monster soon finds himself magnetized to his adversary. As Mechagodzilla is held fast to Godzilla, King Caesar pummels the titanium terror mercilessly. Finally, Godzilla rips Mechagodzilla’s head from its body, completely defeating the alien menace in process. At the same time, Nambura and a group of Interpol agents invade the alien base, killing several of the soldiers there (after which their human disguises melt away, revealing their simian appearances beneath) and ultimately destroys the entire base (with an exploding smoke pipe!), ending yet another alien invasion [hmm...it's rather sad that these aliens are advanced enough to traverse outer space in warp drive capable vessels and build a powerful device like Mechagodzilla, filled with extremely powerful energy projection weaponry, yet they were unable to arm themselves with life sign detecting sensors, personal force fields, or even smaller scale versions of Mechagodzilla's weapons, such as the phasers seen in the Star Trek franchise of TV series and movies, which should have enabled them to make short work of the technologically inferior Interpol agents, let alone being detected and caught unawares by them...the Earth of this universe is quite lucky that the various alien races who continually tried to conquer it were all such flaming incompetents].
Godzilla then hurls the Mechagodzilla wreckage into the sea. As King Caesar returns to his centuries-old slumber, Godzilla returns to the ocean. The statue of King Caesar is placed back in the Azumi palace, until such time as the protector of Okinawa is needed again.
Due to the very disappointing box office performance of 1973's Godzilla vs. Megalon, and because 1974 was Godzilla’s 20th anniversary, Toho decided to go out of their way a bit to make this film much better than the other G-films of the 70’s. A higher budget, a more adult oriented script, an excellent, worthy adversary for the Kaiju King, and very little stock footage amounted to what many G-fans consider the best of the otherwise lackluster 1970’s Godzilla movies.
Veteran Godzilla director Jun Fukuda gave us a good albeit uncomplicated direction of the human cast, with no child actors in sight. Perhaps the script would have been better if not for playing out the same, tired old theme of ultimately incompetent alien invaders using giant monsters in addition to their advanced technology to conquer Earth because their own planet was dying (and thus forcing G-fans to scratch their heads over the lack of logic related to such proceedings in the first place). Unlike the Nebulans of Godzilla vs. Gigan, however, the Simeons were truly malevolent and sadistic, particularly the alien leader Kuronuma (obviously an alias), played elegantly by the talented Japanese actor Goro Mutsu, who would be asked back for the alien leader role in the next film. The scenes of the aliens’ disguises melting off to reveal their ape-like features was nicely done, and the Simeons were obviously inspired by the popular Planet Of The Apes film series then ongoing in America. In fact, information about the Simeons presented in an article by J.D. Lees and Jeff Rebner, which appeared in G-FAN #49, told of an origin that was not too different from those aforementioned sentient simians of that aforementioned popular American film series. The intelligent, genetically engineered simians were evidently once used as slave labor by a previously dominant humanoid race also native to their world, only to eventually stage a vicious revolutionary coup that reversed the master/slave role, with the simians proving even more brutal and dictatorial than the humanoids (in fact, there is evidence that at least one of the humanoid aliens, who were possibly forced into military service by the simians and tortured into subservience at an early age, appears alongside the simians in the next G-film, Terror of Mechagodzilla, which is a direct sequel to this film, and features the return of the Simeons, the only alien race to take on Godzilla in the Showa Series twice).
Maestro Masaru Sato was back to score this film, and his theme music for Mechagodzilla was fabulous, one of my all-time favorite Toho Monster Marches. The music conveyed Mechagodzilla’s formidability with great depth, and it was quite unlike any of the great Akira Ifukube’s trademarked themes, not to mention a profound relief after having to sit through Riichiro Manabe’s cruddy soundtracks for the last few films. Teruyoshi Nakano delivered his best sfx work ever in this film, from the wonderful battle at the oil refinery to the awesome display of Mechagodzilla’s full arsenal unleashed on Godzilla and King Caesar. The Mechagodzilla design was sleek and powerful looking. Although the awful G-suit from the previous film was used here, the face was altered slightly so that it didn’t look quite so “cute” anymore. King Caesar was based on a real figure from Okinawan mythology, and is one of my personal favorite kaiju, though many G-fans on both sides of the Pacific didn’t take to the character, supposedly due to his cartoony appearance and lack of formidable abilities outside of his naturally great ferocity (his sole special power was the ability to absorb energy beams projected at him in his right eye, and re-direct them at his adversary through his left eye; we never did find out what the hell that third eye was for).
Despite the film’s high points, there were some faults in the production. Although Godzilla doesn’t act anywhere near as clownish here as he did in the last film, he was still knee deep in his benevolent protector days, and his behavior was still often humanlike, such as the silly scene where he snaps his fingers in an “aw, shucks” gesture after missing Mechagodzilla with his atomic breath, and we were still bereft of a major city destruction sequence here, except for the fine oil refinery scene. Also, Godzilla’s creative use of his power in turning himself into a living magnet is often criticized as ridiculous by serious G-fans, although I thought the scene was very effective (we also learn in this film that Godzilla can replenish his energy with electricity from a thunderstorm in a pinch).
Nevertheless, Mechagodzilla proved to be the Big G’s most popular and deadliest foe since King Ghidora, and as a result, screen attendance was up considerably from the last G-film. Encouraged by the much more affirmative response here, Toho decided to have Mechagodzilla return in the next G-film (which would turn out to be the final entry in the Showa Series).
When Cinema Shares released the movie in the U.S. in 1977, a year after their release of Godzilla vs. Megalon (and several months before their release of Godzilla vs. Gigan as “Godzilla On Monster Island”), they unfortunately didn’t give this film the decent stateside release or great advertising campaign they gave the previous, greatly inferior G-film. The movie was instead given a limited stateside release, which was mostly relegated to kiddie matinees. In order to give the film a “G” rating despite the more adult tone, very bloody violence, and mild profanity in the movie (it was initially given a "PG" rating for these reasons), local theaters cut out many of these offensive scenes for release [the version I saw at the theater way back with my grandparents retained the ghastly scene of Anguirus getting his jaw ripped apart by the disguised Mechagodzilla, which I thought was simultaneously cool and absolutely revolting...most of this scene is missing from the edited version you will see on the periodic G-marathons shown on the Sci-Fi Channel].
Originally intending to release the film as “Godzilla vs. The Bionic Monster” in order to exploit the then popular pair of interrelated television series from Universal known as The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, Cinema Shares was threatened with litigation by the more financially powerful Universal Studios, prompting them to hastily change the American film title to “Godzilla vs. The Cosmic Monster.” The edited version of this film, with the Cinema Shares release title, is available on video by Goodtimes Home Video (just like “Godzilla On Monster Island”), and should be avoided by serious G-fans. Fortunately, New World Video acquired a beautiful, unedited but English dubbed international print, and released it to home video with its proper film title of Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. This version has since been picked up by Star Maker Video, and is currently available from them, often in a set along with New World’s unedited versions of Godzilla vs. Gigan and Godzilla vs. Megalon.
It should be noted here that “Godzilla vs. The Cosmic Monster” and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla are different titles of the same film. The former title represents the edited version of the movie, whereas the latter title signifies that the film is the uncut international version. If you do not want to purchase the sub-titled Japanese version from Video Daikaiju, and are willing to tolerate poor international style dubbing, then by all means buy the Star Maker versions of these films.
An excellent remake of this movie was done by Toho for the Heisei Era G-series in 1993, although the plot of the film and the origin of Mechagodzilla were completely different from the 1974 version, and is covered elsewhere on this site. Yet another alternate reality version of Mechagodzilla was pitted against the King of the Kaiju on the big screen in 2002 and again a year later in 2003, during the course of the Millenium G-series.
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