Japanese release title: Revenge of Mechagodzilla
U.S. release date: May, 1978 by Bob Conn Enterprises (a subsidiary of UPA Productions) as The Terror Of Godzilla.
Japanese audience attendance: 970,000
Director: Ishiro Honda
Screenplay: Yukiko Takayama
Sfx: Teruyoshi Nakano
Musical score: Akira Ifukube
U.S. version (edited cinematic version only) available on home video from Paramount’s Gateway video series.
Months after the defeat of Mechagodzilla, a military submarine probes the depths of the Pacific Ocean in search of the robot’s wreckage. Suddenly, however, the undersea vessel is attacked and destroyed by a huge, long-necked, bipedal dinosaur-like creature.
It turns out that the head of Mechagodzilla was already recovered by another contingent of the alien race known as the Simeons, who reconstruct the robotic kaiju, this time allegedly deadlier than before. Towards this end, they also enlist the aid of a disgruntled, nearly insane marine biologist named Dr. Shinzo Mafune [these aliens really enjoy putting the human touch on their killer robots]. About twenty years earlier, Dr. Mafune was disgraced from the scientific community when he announced that he had discovered a gentle aquatic dinosaur mutation, probably created in the same manner as Godzilla, Rodan, Varan, etc., that he named "Titanosaurus" [the reaction to Dr. Mafune's discovery by the scientific community of his world is rather inexplicable; the latter community’s vehemently incredulous response to Dr. Mafune’s claims would be fairly understandable on our own world, where no dai kaiju exist, but not in a reality that already experienced monster rampages on a regular basis since 1955]. After intensive study of Titanosaurus through the years, Dr. Mafune discovered that the creature could be controlled by sonic waves, even to the point of enticing the gentle kaiju to violent acts, such as his earlier attack on the submarine. Since Dr. Mafune desires vengeance against the human race, he is recruited as an ally by the aliens, who are also eager to destroy humanity in order to colonize this world.
However, Interpol is once again aware of the aliens' resurgence [these aliens aren't a very careful lot, are they?], and one of their agents, Akira Ichinose, is sent to investigate Dr. Mafune. As he meets Dr. Mafune’s (incredibly sexy) daughter Katsura, the two develop a romantic attraction to each other. Nevertheless, Interpol learns that Titanosaurus can be repulsed by a certain frequency of sonic waves, and they begin constructing an oscillator, which can repel the beast. However, as the aliens are nearly finished reconstructing Mechagodzilla, Dr. Mafune is eager to impress his allies with his own monster’s power, and against the alien leader Mugar’s wishes, the scientist orders Titanosaurus to attack Tokyo. Although the amphibious kaiju easily defeats the military forces which attack him, Godzilla soon appears and defeats Titanosaurus in battle, driving the creature back to the sea. Mugar only allowed the attack to continue in the hope that Godzilla would kill Titanosaurus in battle, and be so weakened that he would then be easy prey for Mechagodzilla.
When Katsura is later shot and severely injured as she attempts to sabotage Interpol’s new oscillator weapon, the aliens use their advanced surgical procedures to save the girl’s life by transforming her into a cyborg, thus further indebting Dr. Mafune to them. The control device to Mechagodzilla is implanted within her stomach, so that she can initiate the robot’s attacks at will [why the aliens didn't grant this tremendous asset to their leader instead is beyond me, but these aliens never seemed to be overly big on common sense, anyway; if they were, they would have simply found a suitable uninhabited planet to colonize, correct?].
Under the control of Katsura and Dr. Mafune, Mechagodzilla and Titanosaurus are sent to attack Tokyo together, devastating the city in the process, and easily fending off the military’s feeble attacks. Salvation seems on the horizon when Godzilla appears again to rout the menace, but he is ultimately overwhelmed by the combined might of both monsters. However, Interpol intervenes with the repaired oscillator, causing Titanosaurus agonizing pain, which effectively removes the creature from the fight. Before Mechagodzilla can destroy the oscillator, Godzilla recovers and attacks his bionic double, eventually severing the robot’s head once more; this time, however, the robot kaiju continues to fight, projecting electrical beams from his neck!
Meanwhile, Ichinose leads an Interpol attack on the aliens' base, where all of the aliens (including the vicious leader Mugar) and Dr. Mafune are killed. Katsura herself is shot, despite the fact that Ichinose desperately wanted to save her. The injured Katsura finally realizes, through her love for Ichinose, that what she did was wrong, and in order to right her mistake, she valiantly commits honorable suicide (which the Japanese refer to as "seppuku") in order to destroy the control device for Mechagodzilla within her body. As she lay dying, a grieving Ichinose tells her that despite being turned into a cyborg, she dies with the heart and dignity of a human being.
As Mechagodzilla falters from the deactivated control device, Godzilla manages to finish the lethal robot off with his atomic breath. He then attacks Titanosaurus, soundly defeating the once peaceful kaiju, and driving the injured beast back into the sea once more. A grief-stricken Ichinose carries the lifeless body of the redeemed Katsura from the base as he and the other Interpol agents watch the once again triumphant Godzilla return to the ocean.
There is much debate over which of the two Mechagodzilla films in the Showa G-series is the best. Although a poll taken in G-FAN magazine rates the second film as being better (largely through the efforts of editor J.D. Lees, who, like many Western G-fans, is a Titanosaurus fanatic), I must concur with writer Jeff Rovin’s assertion in his book The Encyclopedia of Monsters that this film was "largely inferior to the first one until the climactic battle scene."
For one thing, I absolutely cannot understand the infatuation that G-fans in the West have over Titanosaurus. Granted, as a dinosaur mutation, J.D. Lees has pointed out that the creature resembles the more logical G-foes of the 50’s and 60’s, which were mutations of real animals rather than the bizarre, cartoonish alien beasts who inhabited the other G-films of the 70’s. Also, the creature had a rather unique (some might say uniquely annoying) cry, and the idea of a peaceful kaiju forced to commit violent acts by a demented human was a fairly original concept. Still, the monster wasn’t one of Godzilla’s most formidable foes, his ability to create windstorms by waving his finny tail was rather uninspired, and the creature wouldn’t have stood a chance against the Big G if Mechagodzilla weren’t at his side to back him up during the climactic battle. Further, Mechagodzilla wasn’t depicted nearly as dynamically in this movie as he was in the previous year's Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. In the latter film, the robotic terror displayed his full arsenal of weaponry to spectacular effect, and it took the combined effort of Godzilla and King Seesar to defeat him, and only then after a rigorous battle, and not before the robotic terror drew more blood from Godzilla than any other foe in the past. In the second film, however, Mechagodzilla is said to be more powerful than before, such as having those new exploding missiles added to his arsenal of weaponry, and now he has a kaiju ally of his own while Godzilla is solo this time around. Yet despite these advantages in Mechagodzilla's corner, Godzilla defeats his mechanized double far easier this time than he did before!
Interestingly enough, the script for this film was provided by scribe Yukiko Takayama, who won a story contest Toho held for fans to allow one of their screenplays to be turned into the G-film for 1975 (something they would repeat many years later to obtain the script for the 1989 G-film, the winner being Godzilla vs. Biollante; however, an unfair decision was perhaps rendered in the latter case when you consider the fact that a professional and established screenwriter won the contest). Nevertheless, due to the limited budget Toho afforded the production staff for this movie, the latter crew were unable to film the screenplay exactly as Takayama had scripted it. In the original script, Dr. Mafune found not one giant amphibious monster, but two much smaller creatures whom he called the Titans. The two Titans would fight Godzilla together during the early part of the film, and would physically combine into one single and much larger being to form Titanosaurus during the climactic battle. This transformation motif was excised from the final draft of the script. Additionally, brief stock footage vignettes of King Ghidorah, Rodan, and Manda seen during Katsura's discussion of the "monsters of destruction" were inserted into the movie at the last minute as an obviously cheap way of adding more monsters to the film (see below).
Teruyoshi Nakano displayed both some of his best and his worst sfx work here. Finally, after several years of almost no urban mayhem, we got a complete and wondrous city destruction scene, as this time around the battles didn’t take place in a barren countryside setting to save costs. Nevertheless, some cost cutting was evident, as some stock footage from the previous film was used here to display various weapons from Mechagodzilla’s arsenal, as well as the fact that none of Godzilla’s kaiju allies appeared at his side as an ally this time around [as noted above, we were treated only to brief stock footage clippings of Rodan, King Ghidorah, and Manda, all of whom were categorized together as "the monsters of destruction," though what these three particular kaiju were supposed to have in common to justify being placed into the same category outside of the fact that they all happened to be dai kaiju is anyone's guess; again, this was probably nothing more than a cheap ploy to fit other monster cameos into the movie without having to spend any yen in filming new monster scenes or constructing new monster suits; this same type of ploy has been used more than once in the past, perhaps the most glaring example being Godzilla's Revenge (1969), where extended stock footage vignettes had more screen time than original monster footage]. On a good note, however, Godzilla’s face was altered further (possibly by unintentional shifting of the material used in making the suit) so that his visage was marvelously menacing in appearance, by far the best Godzilla look in any of the 70’s G-films! Nevertheless, viewers still had to endure some silliness here, such as the scenes of Titanosaurus kicking Godzilla around like he was an enormous football. I agree with many other G-fans that these embarrassing scenes should not have been included in the finished product.
In a last ditch effort to rescue the dying series, Toho brought back the talents of director Ishiro Honda and maestro Akira Ifukube, both of whom were not hired since Toho’s golden G-film heyday of the 60’s (though many of Ifukube's great themes from the 1960's made up the entire soundtrack of 1972's Godzilla vs. Gigan). As a result, the human direction was exquisitely adult, with much violent gunplay and death among the humans and aliens, a brief nude scene, no hammy child actors, and a typically good dose of Honda’s characteristic social commentary, this time involving the Japanese motif of self sacrifice for the good of a noble cause, and the notion that love conquers all evil (despite the common criticism that the romantic story between Ichinose and Katsura was poorly carried out). Unfortunately, Honda was hamstrung by several clichés in the script, such as the tired old alien invasion theme, and even the presence of a stereotypical mad scientist-who-hates-the-world-‘cause-they-thought-his-great-discovery-was-full-of-manure (no "Kenny's" this time around, though, so perhaps there really is a God somewhere out there!). Still, like before, the Simeons were depicted as being delightfully vile, and the leader, Mugar, is once even seen whipping guards who had failed in their tasks (!), and it was good to see Goro Mutsu playing an evil alien leader for the second G-film in a row (though he didn't play the same character in both films, but merely the same general role).
A possible major fault of the story, however, occurs when a Simeon's true appearance is revealed as being human but hideous, rather than ape-like as in the previous film, but this revelatory scene was deleted from the American version. It wasn’t explained whether or not the aliens had different races of sentient humanoid beings indigenous to their world, which would have been an interesting idea to develop (John Rocco Roberto and Robert Biondi have suggested that this may have been inspired by the then-recent film Beneath The Planet Of The Apes, which featured a race of hideous human mutants living alongside the series' sentient simian characters). However, an article by J.D. Lees and Jeff Rebner that appeared in G-Fan #49 'revealed' that the Simeons did indeed have a humanoid "sister" race indigenous to their planet, who once bred and used the simians as slave labor, but who have since had the socio-political tables violently turned on them. Thus, the humanoid alien who was unmasked in this film may indeed have been of the humanoid race native to the Simeon's homeworld, and his hideously scarred appearance may have been due to the fact that he spent a life time sadistically tortured into submission by his simian masters [hey, children need discipline or they don't turn out right, eh? *ironic smirk*].
Akira Ifukube also gave us a rousing battle score, worthy of the great musician’s talents. This film was further benefited from the up front financial support of the late Henry G. Saperstein, the head of UPA Productions, and then owner of the Godzilla copyright in America. The presence of Honda and Ifukube allowed this film to recapture some of the glory of the early 60’s, though sadly, the popularity of the Big G had slipped too far by 1975 for even these two men to salvage it.
When this movie was released in America by Bob Conn Enterprises (a subsidiary of UPA Productions, since Cinema Shares had by now folded), the movie was totally mucked up, with no respect whatsoever given to Toho’s intentions of improving the series. The movie, released as “The Terror Of Godzilla,” was given an extremely limited stateside release, no more than two weeks long, with scarcely any advertising, and only delivered to the kiddie matinees. In fact, I never saw the movie in theaters back then, since it evidently never made it up to my home town at all during its very brief 1978 American release. Hence, that was the only G-film from the Showa Series that I didn't actually see on the big screen in the late 70's, and I actually saw it for the first time ever on home video many years later (the late 80's, in fact). I was aware of the film soon after its American release due to its coverage in an issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland that was published at the time, however.
In order to make this more adult oriented movie palatable to American children’s perceived sensibilities, almost all of the violent scenes among the human cast were deleted, as well as the mild profanity and, of course, the brief nude scene showing Katsura’s breasts during her operation (even though the breasts were phony). No murders or any deaths were allowed to be shown (much like the problem of the otherwise realistically excellent DC Comics inspired animated super-hero TV series turned out by Warner Bros. in the past decade, such as Batman Beyond), and Katsura’s heroic suicide scene at the end of the film was eliminated, leaving the viewers with the implication that she and Ichinose may have lived happily ever after. This ruined the dramatic, meaningful ending relating to noble self-sacrifice and atonement that Honda had planned, and as usual, the numerous awful faults of the American versions of these films are often attributed to the incompetence of the Japanese crew who crafted it by various American critics who have reviewed the film. Because the theaters wanted to delete the stock footage scenes from the previous film of Godzilla bleeding profusely from Mechagodzilla’s attack in the prologue sequence, skips in Ifukube’s soundtrack were evident, and the title of the film never even appeared on the screen! The deletions, coupled with the terrible dubbing, left the film very awkward and jarring to view, and goes very far in explaining Toho’s reluctance to deal with American distributors in recent years.
Just a few weeks after the movie’s very uneventful U.S. release, UPA sold the film directly to television. Strangely, however, all of the deleted scenes (minus the brief nude scene, of course) were restored to the TV version, which gave the movie the more accurate title of Terror Of Mechagodzilla. Also, a five minute “History Of Godzilla” prologue was attached at the beginning of the movie, featuring a semi-accurate narration of Godzilla’s history amid stock footage of UPA’s two previous G-film releases, Godzilla vs. Monster Zero and Godzilla’s Revenge (both easily accessible from UPA's video library).
Unfortunately, after 1986, the edited version of this film replaced the nearly complete version on TV for unknown reasons, and this terribly edited edition was also accidentally released by Paramount’s Gateway series to home video. As a result, the current U.S. version should be avoided by G-fans who wish to add this movie to their G-film collection. The Japanese sub-titled version from Video Daikaiju should be purchased instead, unless you are able to find a VHS video cassette of this movie from someone who taped the U.S. version on television before the end of 1986.
As noted above, despite Toho’s last ditch effort to preserve the G-series with the return of Honda and Ifukube, this flick had the lowest attendance record of any other G-film, thus inciting Toho to pull the plug on the series completely, rather than spend any more money or exert any more brain power trying to save the franchise. Despite producer Tomoyuki Tanaka’s desire to produce more G-projects in the 1970's, hard financial times would prompt the company to turn its back on expensive sfx films for many years.
Hence, as described above, despite Tanaka’s desire to keep the series going, it would be nearly ten years before another Godzilla movie was produced. When that finally happened, it would be a totally different continuity, with a revival of the menacing, destructive Godzilla that captivated adult audiences in the past. Thus, Terror Of Mechagodzilla is the final film in the original, Showa Era G-series. After this movie, the heroic version of Godzilla would never again grace the silver screen. Godzilla the friend and hero, who eventually killed the Showa Series, would be supplanted by the return of the “sacred beast of the apocalypse,” albeit not for many years.
[To see some details of the many G-projects proposed in the nine year interim between the end of the Showa Series and the beginning of the Heisei Series, see The In-Between Years of Godzilla section of this site, which can be found here]
For those G-fans who would like to read the extremely hilarious and exceedingly derogatory review of this film, not to mention the brutal tearing apart of the entire lot of us online film critics, penned by the inimitable MonsterHunter, check it out here on his excellent site!
back to the Showa Series list