Terror of Mechagodzilla

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Directed by
Ishiro Honda

Screenplay by
Yukiko Takayama

Special Effects by
Teruyoshi Nakano

Music by
Akira Ifukube

Katsuhiko Sasaki – Akira Ichinose

Tomoko Ai – Katsura Mafune

Akihiko Hirata – Dr. Mafune

Goro Mutsumi – Alien Commander Mugal

Katsumasa Uchida – Jiro Murakoshi

Toru Ibuki – Tsuda (Bearded alien)

Kenji Sahara – Commander Segawa

Tadao Nakamaru - Interpol Chief Tagawa

Tomoe Mari – Yuri Yamamoto

Shin Roppongi – Yuichi Wakayama

Max’s Review:

The last Godzilla film of the Showa series, made at a time when economic factors were choking the franchise to death, The Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975) was an attempt to revitalise Godzilla’s decaying image by using the winning entry of a script competition, and bringing back director Ishiro Honda and composer Akira Ifukube. The result was a far darker film than its recent predecessors, and the best of the Showa sequels.

While the plot once again draws on the aging ‘alien invasion’ motif, Ishiro Honda handles it in a far more serious manner than Jun Fukuda did in Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla, (1974) and there is less of the child-orientated silliness that drags down films like Godzilla vs Gigan (1972) and Godzilla vs Megalon. (1973) The script, the winning entry of a screenplay competition held by Toho, is actually quite complex and well written, and succeeds in putting an imiginative new spin on a tired old formula.
The story's thematic darkness helps to evoke a sense of finality, and its genuinely moving conclusion is hauntingly reminiscent of Gojira, (1954) and as such creates a satisfying sense of the series having come full circle.
The film's pacing is a little uneven, but not to the extent that it seriously lessens its appeal.
The character development here is the best since the mid 1960s. Between her conflicted motives and her role in controlling both Titanosaurus and Mechagodzilla, Katsura Mafune is one of the most complex human characters in Showa series, and while the others aren’t as memorable, they are still an improvement over the last two films. The acting is decent as well, with no superb performances, but no cringe-inducing ones either.

The kaiju are well handled for the most part; Titanosaurus is a far more impressive design than the previous film’s King Caesar, and gives a much more memorable performance on screen.
While still cast as a heroic defender, Godzilla is treated with more respect here than in the previous two films, though unfortunately he seems to be playing second fiddle to Titanosaurus for much of the movie.
Mechagodzilla is handled rather differently here than in the previous film. For a large portion of the final battle it barely participates, as the aliens initially intend to wait until either Godzilla or Titanosaurus is defeated then crush the wounded victor. This time around, Mechagodzilla is controlled via a device placed within Katsura rather than by manual remote controls, and as a result it behaves in a slightly less mechanical and more animalistic manner than in the previous film. Another upgrade it has received is improved finger missiles, which prove absolutely devastating in combat.

The special effects, helmed by Teruyoshi Nakano, are the best of any Showa Godzilla film. The first scene after the opening credits, with the submarine searching the ocean floor for the remains of Mechagodzilla, looks very impressive for the time, as does the gorgeous low angle shot of Titanosaurus rising from the sea to attack the sub. In fact, there a number of low angle shots used throughout the film, and they work very well in conveying a sense of size largely missing since Gojira. The pyrotechnics are well executed throughout the film, particularly with Mechagodzilla’s final explosion and the spectacular attack on Tokyo by Mechagodzilla and Titanosaurus, one of the first fully-fledged city destruction sequences in some time. The miniatures and matte work are well done as well, and while some of the wirework during the fight scenes is a little obvious, such as when Titanosaurus lifts Godzilla into the air, there are fewer pronounced flaws than in most of its prequels.

As always, Akira Ifukube provides an excellent soundtrack which complements both the kaiju sequences and the human drama. While it doesn’t quite match the power and polish of his Heisei scores, it’s still some of his best work on the Showa series, and single-handedly puts the film up a notch.

Like Godzilla vs Destoroyah (1995) did for the Heisei series 20 years later, The Terror of Mechagodzilla epitomises the Showa era at the same time that it provides it with a dark and melancholy finale. In the end, it surpasses not only its direct prequel, Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla, but every Godzilla film made before it with the exception of the original.

Max’s verdict: 7/10