Defeat is not an option. The invaders return. With help.
TOMG is an interesting, often overlooked entry in the Showa Series, especially considering it is the last of an era. A good film despite some rather common flaws – this film introduced one of my favorite kaiju, Titanosaurus. The following review is an excellent breakdown/opinion of our ever reliable KFN contributor, KaijuDuke.
Directed by Ishiro Honda, produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka, and with musical score by Akira Ifukube, 1975’s “Terror of Mechagodzilla” would be the final Showa era Godzilla adventure before the Heisei series began in 1984, wrapping up the original continuity of the franchise. Taking place shortly after the events of “Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla,” a crew of scientists from the Ocean Exploitation Institute man the submarine Akatsuki in search of Mechagodzilla’s wreckage, which fell into the sea at the end of the last movie. Unfortunately, not only do they fail to find any sign of the alien robot, but the sub and its crew are sent to a watery grave by a new Kaiju, the massive and powerful Titanosaurus! Luckily, a recording of their last S.O.S. allows their superiors and colleagues at OEI as well as Interpol know of the monster’s existence and an investigation ensues that not only uncovers the marine dinosaur’s name, but also the identity of the outcast scientist who discovered it, Dr. Shinzo Mafune. However, when biologist Akira Ichinose and his old college bud, Interpol agent Jiro Murakoshi, attempt to visit Dr. Mafune at his home, they instead meet his daughter Katsura, who insists that her father is dead and that she destroyed all his notes per his dying wishes. Fooled by her, they leave without knowing that the “good” doctor is still very much alive, and very bitter over his expulsion from the scientific community over his extreme theories involving controlling sea life and the existence of Titanosaurus. So bitter in fact, that he has continued his experiments and perfected his control device technology, giving him total mastery over Titanosaurus, all so that he can take his revenge and prove his former colleagues wrong. Dr. Mafune and Katsura learn soon after that their generous financial backer Tsuda is really one of the Space Men from the Third Planet from the Blackhole, who escorts the family to their base of operations and introduces them to Mugal, their wicked new leader. Commander Mugal explains that they are impressed by Dr. Mafune’s Titanosaurus controller and wish to install a similar system in the salvaged Mechagodzilla, and that together they can both have their revenge and conquer earth with the combined might of both monsters. However, as Dr. Mafune works on perfecting MechaG’s control system, Katsura finds herself falling in love with the blissfully ignorant Akira, who not only seeks to prove her father’s theories correct and restore his good name, but who has feelings for her as well. Unfortunately, Katsura is helpless to do anything against the space men, who have control over her thanks to having rebuilt her as a cyborg after an accident in her father’s lab nearly killed her years ago, convincing her she should concentrate on revenge rather than love since she was no longer human. Meanwhile, Interpol begins to suspect the return of the space men due a sample of space titanium being brought to them by a man claiming to have received it from a missing scientist, an ill-fated escapee from Mugal’s collection of slave workers, their throats cut so they cannot speak. Katsura and Tsuda oversee an attack on the Akatsuki II using Titanosaurus, the dinosaur failing to sink the second sub thanks to its improved sonar, super sonic waves being the creature’s only weakness (a weakness Katsura learns from Ichinose during a date). Hoping to prove the superiority of Titanosaurus over Mechagodzilla and exact his revenge on those who scorned him, Dr. Mafune unleashes his favored dinosaur on Tokyo while Katsura and his silent butler sabotage the OEI’s Supersonic Wave Oscillator, leaving Japan helpless. Mugal allows Mafune to get away with this because his super Geiger counter detects the approach of Godzilla, his hope being that even if Godzilla defeats Titanosaurus he’ll be too weak afterward to oppose Mechagodzilla. Sure enough, Godzilla arrives on the scene to put a stop to Titanosaurus’ rampage, but the battle is short lived due to Dr. Mafune calling Titanosaurus off when Katsura is shot by Interpol and falls into the sea. His daughter fatally wounded, Dr. Mafune once again turns to his alien allies to save her life, submitting to their will and grief stricken to learn they have installed MechaG’s controller into her stomach, their logic being even Interpol would never think to look for it there and that Katsura’s mind will give MechaG the edge Mafune himself had said it lacked due to being an inorganic construct rather than a thinking, living creature. Mafune and the aliens even take Ichinose captive when they catch him outside Mafune’s home reminiscing over Katsura, while elsewhere Jiro barely manages to rescue the mute captives of the aliens before their now obsolete base self-destructs. What follows is the invasion of Tokyo by the improved Mechagodzilla and his new tag team partner Titanosaurus, the two monsters proving to be an unstoppable duo until Godzilla returns for the final showdown. However, despite giving it his all, even the King of the Monsters finds himself in dire straights as MechaG and Titanosaurus wear him down. Thankfully however, things take a turn for the better when Interpol utilizes a new Supersonic Wave Oscillator against Titanosaurus, distracting the dinosaur from its duty as MechaG’s teammate and evening the odds in Godzilla’s favor. Ichinose then escapes his bonds and takes out Tsuda, and Jiro shows up in time to stop Katsura from shooting him. A brief gunfight follows as Mugal makes his getaway, using Dr. Mafune as a shield against Jiro’s bullets, killing the mad scientist before his daughter’s eyes. Ichinose makes it clear he still loves Katsura even if she is a cyborg and doesn’t blame her for anything that’s transpired, however, she is forced to kill herself when he refuses to heed her warning about the MechaG controller being inside her. With Katsura dead, MechaG is rendered helpless and inoperable, easy pickings for Godzilla, who then proceeds to help Interpol finish Titanosaurus, Mafune’s dinosaur falling into the sea, its final fate unknown. Mugal and his remaining forces try to escape in their flying saucers, only to be blown out of the sky by Godzilla. With his enemies defeated and the world safe for man and monster alike once more, Godzilla returns to the sea for a very well earned rest.
Human/Alien characters and actors: Akira Ichinose is played by Katsuhiko Sasaki and Jiro Murakoshi is played by Katsumasa Uchida, and though they are the good guys they’re pretty boring and forgettable, the truly memorable and interesting characters being the tragic Mafune family and the villainous aliens. Akihiko Hirata returns to play the mad scientist Dr. Mafune, a dark character who’s clearly brilliant but blinded by his obsession for revenge even at the cost of his own home world. Mafune is one of my favorite human characters from the Showa era, standing out from the many alien villains who frequented the films of that time for being a human baddie with a sad past and legit gripe. Now, I am not saying that commanding a deep sea dinosaur to punish your critics is an excusable, healthy means of handling one’s anger but the point is that he’s a very flawed, very human character with understandable motives rather than being blatantly, stereotypically evil. When Katsura tries to dissuade him from turning Titanosaurus into a killer, Mafune explains that they’ve gone too far to turn back now, making it clear he considers it too late to start having second thoughts after already having thrown in with the invaders. Katsura, played by the gorgeous Tomoko Ai, gives an emotionally stirring performance as the daughter of a mad man, destined for tragedy due to her father’s thirst for revenge, her loyalty to him, and her sad fate as a cyborg. You really feel bad for her as she gets pulled deeper and deeper into the machinations of her father and his alien partners Mugal and Tsuda, the two of whom are best described as magnificent bastards, bad through and through, taking any advantage over the Mafune family they can get. Tsuda is portrayed by Toru Ibuki and Goro Mutsumi reprises his role as the alien invasion leader, though for the record Mugal is supposed to be a different character altogether from the nameless lead villain from “Godzilla Vs Mechagodzilla” even though they’re portrayed by the same actor (which can be a little confusing, but the lack of an eye spot and the different uniforms helps). While the Black Hole aliens are as dangerous and deceptive as before, they’re much less menacing in appearance due to their cheesy new uniforms, which come complete with weird helmets decorated with chess pawn shaped horns and face visors. Also, there is only one instance in which we see one of the aliens revert back to their true form, and the manner in which they do so is less flashy and gruesome than before, the face appearing less ape like and more akin to a deformed human’s face (the alien basically peels a fake layer of skin off to reveal his real face). “Terror of Mechagodzilla” really stands out amongst Godzilla films for being told mostly through the eyes of the antagonists rather than the heroes of the story, and its a welcome twist. However, while I enjoy Dr. Mafune’s character, I again find myself confused by why aliens would require an earth scientist, even an incredibly advanced one, to fix their own robot, though I suppose its possible the control device developed to manipulate Titanosaurus is actually better than whatever the aliens originally devised for MechaG, so I don’t let such questions bother me too much.
Monsters and special effects: Godzilla was depicted using the same modified MegaroGoji costume as before and it suits the darker, more serious style of this film with his angry, frowning face. However, I’m sorry to say Godzilla is featured in few scenes, appearing to confront Titanosaurus during his solo assault on Tokyo and returning in time to face both MechaG and Titanosaurus at the climax. Granted, Godzilla’s first big entrance was very dramatic and impressive, but he seems to come out of nowhere during the final battle and leaves you wondering where the heck he was all that time, just hanging around the city outskirts waiting for trouble? Mechagodzilla also doesn’t see much action until the final battle as well, spending most of the movie being repaired by the aliens and Dr. Mafune. MechaG looks the same as before but has a few minor upgrades, the best example being that his head is now a helmet or outer covering of sorts, meaning that if his head is torn off during battle his mechanical brain/computer and laser beam emitters are left untouched. Less impressive are his “revolving missiles,” which are no different than his old finger missiles, his hands just spin around more often than they did in the last movie and its never explained what benefit this brings, like a faster rate of fire or something. However, the missiles still dish out a tremendous amount of damage, making for some spectacular city destruction scenes. Despite the title of the film, “Terror of Mechagodzilla” is really more about Titanosaurus than Godzilla or Mechagodzilla, the sea dino having more scenes than any of the other monsters. Titanosaurus strongly resembles a cross between a dinosaur and a fish, which is perfect seeing as that he’s supposed to be a long lost aquatic dinosaur, giving off a Loch Ness Monster sort of a vibe in sharp contrast to radioactive mutations like Godzilla. Titanosaurus serves as a tribute to early Showa era monsters like Anguirus or Varan, lacking flashy energy based attacks and being a prehistoric monster in origin as opposed to an alien or what not, relying on sheer brute strength and sharp teeth and claws to fight his battles. As a matter of fact, during the climatic battle Titanosaurus did most of the fighting, trading numerous blows with Godzilla, more or less his equal in terms of brute strength, MechaG supporting him with artillery fire whenever Godzilla gained the upper hand. His only ranged attack stems from his forked tail, which when extended resembles a fish tail or a fan, and can be used to kick up hurricane force winds while on land or produce whirlpools underwater, a rather unique and surprising weapon to see in action when viewed for the first time. More interesting still, is that Titanosaurus is normally a peaceful animal that shies away from violence, only attacking while under Dr. Mafune’s influence rather than being naturally aggressive and territorial like so many other kaiju, which makes his part in Mafune’s revenge and Mugal’s schemes even more tragic. I also enjoyed his trumpeting roar, the best description for it that I can think of being that of a deep sea elephant, which believe me will make more sense after you hear it for yourself, honest. All of the monsters were wonderfully portrayed, their suits well designed and the battles intense, and the model cities they fought in looked believable in appearance and how they were destroyed by the kaiju. The underwater scenes were probably some of if not the best executed during the Showa era, understandable given how in most other films kaiju are usually seen wading through the water rather than swimming under it. Needless to say, Teruyoshi Nakano did a good job directing the special effects for “Terror of Mechagodzilla.”
Overall, I would say “Terror of Mechagodzilla” is perhaps the darkest Showa era Goji film with the exceptions of the original “Gojira” and “Godzilla Raids Again,” and makes for a fitting last entry in the Showa series, making it hard not to get emotional when we see Godzilla swim away at the end, knowing he would not return until the 80s. Titanosaurus and Mechagodzilla make for a devastating team even if they lack the personalities of past team-ups such as King Ghidorah and Gigan or Megalon and Gigan, but its understandable given that MechaG is a robot and Titanosaurus is a mind controlled dinosaur. The lack of Godzilla in this movie is a bit disappointing, but the scenes in which he does appear are well worth the wait, and it was fun to see the roles be reversed from the events of “Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla,” with Godzilla having to fight an uphill battle against two powerful rivals instead of working together with a comrade to double team a single tough opponent. The Japanese and English language versions of the movie on DVD are more or less identical, unlike the edited theatrical version, only in the Japanese version there is a scene of Katsura topless (don’t get excited guys, she was being operated on so its far from being an alluring scene), and in the English version there is a lengthy narrative telling the history of how Godzilla went from being a destroyer to a defender, featuring clips of older Goji films to go with it before the actual movie begins. I consider this movie to be a must see for fans of “Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla” as well as for anyone who’s interested in seeing how the original Godzilla series concluded, though like its predecessor its probably too violent for younger kids (though honestly younger kids maybe bored by the lack of Godzilla action or find themselves unable to follow the darker tone of this character driven story). Personally I like it, and hope that one day Toho will allow Titanosaurus to star in another movie, he’s way overdue for a second bout with the Big G in my opinion.
(Some photos originally located at http://monstermoviemusic.blogspot.com/2011/04/terror-of-mechagodzilla-tohosaperstein.html)
Terror of Mechagodzilla is a special Godzilla film for a few reasons. One, it is the final film of the Showa era. Two, it features the reurn of the original Mechagodzilla. Three, it features the first (and sadly last) appearance of Titanosaurus. Four, it is the return of Akira Ifukube on music duties. And finally five, it features the return of Ishiro Honda, the director of the original Gojira, and many films after it. There was a energy crisis at the time, TOHO had shut down the Godzilla franchise right after this film. The big G returned in The Return of Godzilla in 1984, which started the Heisei era. This would also be the last time we see Godzilla as a full-fledged defender of Japan, who actually gets along with the humans. Terror of Mechagodzilla is a farewell the way things were, it truly is a great film.
Official description from Classic Media:
When aliens from the third planet of the black hole attempt to take over Earth with a little help from their friends Mechagodzilla and Titanosaurus, they find themselves pitted against Godzilla, who squares off against them in defense of the planet. This film, which is 15th in the Godzilla series, features some of the most memorable fight scenes in the franchise.
You can tell by this film how different Honda’s style is to Fukuda’s. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla had an upbeat, jazzy tone. This film retains the deep, almost depressing mood of Honda’s previous films, much like Gojira. This being a direct sequel to the previous entry, some plot devices were reused. The Aliens of the Third Planet from the Black Hole are back, (no ape form, but some pretty cool 70’s spandex) there are three monsters, (none on G’s side this time around sadly,) and the leaders of the Aliens from both films are pretty darn similar. Whereas the previous film had fun fights scattered throughout the film, this film only has one. (Not counting the brief skirmish between G and Titanosaurus in the middle.) However, the final fight is just utterly fantastic. It’s of the best battles in Godzilla history. This would also mark the final time the battles would be this crazy, punches/tackling and all. (Until Final Wars brought back this style.) The monsters were what stole the show, but like usual, the next paragraph will be on the cast.
What’s interesting about this film is that instead of developing the cast with pointless scenes, (ahem, the Heisei era) it uses the characters to move the story along. There’s no house scene with the main character drinking coffee relaxing, the characters are always talking about the plot. I personally like that, it keeps the film from getting dull or boring. Of course, tbecause of this, the characters aren’t developed enough to say that there were any award-winning performances. However, unlike the sub-par acting of the previous entry, this one does have some really solid performances. The main character is Akira Ichinose, a marine biologist. He’s pretty much just there to move thst story along, another character with no acting emotion like the previous entry’s main character. Any type of emotion emitted is forced. However, the sub-plot with Katsura and Dr. Mafune make up for the heroes’ lackluster performances. Tomoko Ai as Katsura gives a convincing performance, probably the best in the film. Her tale is both tragic and interesting. Dr. Mafune is an interesting character, aside from his backstory. Apparently after being kicked out for his work in the science community, he wants to destroy all humams? Sorry, I don’t buy that. Too unrealistic. Still, his character was well played. The new leader or the Aliens is Mugal, portrayed by Goro Mutsumi. (The same actor who played the other leader in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla!) He’s pretty much exactly the same as the previous leader. A very good main villain for the human characters, it’s just that he’s exactly the same as the previous leader, it might as well been the same character brought back to life.
The new monster is Titanosaurus. Heh, this film is called Terror of Mechagodzilla, but it’s Titanosaurus who steals the show. In a world where Gigan, Megalon, and King Caesar appeared, Titanosaurus’s simple design was welcome. The suit is fantastic, and the monster is full of character. A proud part of the G universe, it’s sad that he was a never a big hit with the fans, truly underrated. (Pretty awesome roar too.) Mechagodzilla makes his proud return here, but doesn’t look as good in terms of strength. When G came in close, it could hardly fight back. It’s like it lost its melee capabilities. Still a cool robot to watch, the 70’s at its finest. Of course, one cannot forget the King of Monsters himself, Godzilla. The suit is the same from the last film, still looking fantastic. I love the fighting character in him, how he has heart and NEVER gives up or retreats. (Ahem, Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla.) It is both ironic and funny how Godzilla and the humans ‘team up’ in the final battle, when twenty-one years ago he was their worst nightmare. Ah, I miss those days when he and the humans had a mutual respect.
Akira Ifukube returns for music duties. He truly is one of the greatest composers ever. The dramatic opening theme, Titanosaurus’s theme, they’re all great. Truly dramatic, couldn’t have asked for better music in this film. Also, the effects in this film are fantastic. Like in the last film, the explosions are truly spectacular. The assault that turned Tokyo into a barren wasteland probably ranks as the greatest city-destroying scene ever captured in a G film. As I said earlier, the final fight is truly epic, very well choreographed. The blows are felt, and you are just in-tuned, thinking how the heck G will pull through this, there’s a sense that he might not actually win. Really, the final fight in itself makes the film worth watching, I miss those crazy punch/kick/headlock/wrestling battles, good stuff.
Overall, Terror of Mechagodzilla is one of the finest Godzilla films out there. It serves as a farewell to the way things were. Ishiro Honda, by far the best of the Godzilla directors, returns to direct his final Godzilla film. It features the music of the always-awesome Akira Ifukube, and the debut of an awesome monster in the form of Titanosaurus. The final battle is great, and there’s a lot of emotion regarding the Katsura subplot. The ending is nice, (albeit the brief scene where the Fake Godzilla suit is used,) it really gives off a sad, yet happy ending to the Showa era. Terror of Mechagodzilla is a Godzilla film that I will keep coming back to, it’s one of the ones I’d definitely recommend to non-fans.