GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA

(aka GODZILLA VS. THE THING (US Title)

(1964)
(Japanese Title: Mosura tai Gojira)
With Akira Takarada, Yuriko Hoshi, Yû Fujiki, Emi Ito, Yûri Ito, Susumu Fujita (and Haruo Nakajima as Godzilla!)
Directed by Ishiro Honda
Reviewed by JB

This review is of the dubbed American version of the film.  

Godzilla regrets not bringing that 50-ton can of Raid   A great Giant Monster movie where many diverse elements found throughout the series, such as Japanese mysticism, corrupt corporations and evil capitalists, heroic newspaper reporters, gentle environmental messages linked to anti-nuke sentiment, and, of course, giant monsters, all coalesce into an entertaining and satisfying whole. Like MOTHRA, GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA also features a core human cast that actually makes it worthwhile sitting through the parts of the movie that don't feature prehistoric creatures beating the hell out of each other.  The special effects and model work are well above average for one of these films, especially the flood sequence that begins the film. Thankfully, the American version, known as GODZILLA VS. THE THING, is, not an ersatzly edited mish-mosh of the Japanese version but almost an exact duplicate with the dubbing of dialog handled well enough not to be a distraction or an annoyance.  There is even one English-speaking sequence specifically filmed for American audiences and not originally shown in the Japanese release.

    This is a superior entry into the early series despite Godzilla being completely overmatched by the military, the giant moth Mothra and both of her offspring.  His entrance into the film - popping up from underground, tail first (or ass backwards, you might say) is classic, but there is clearly something wrong with him.  For much of the film, he stumbles and bumbles around like a giant Jerry Lewis, accidentally smashing buildings with his tail and destroying a temple by tripping and falling into it.  If his roars had subtitles, they would probably read "I'm sorry... I didn't mean to!... oooh nooo, the nice building... oh, Dean!".  I'm guessing that he was portrayed this way in an attempt at keeping continuity in the series.  Since his last appearance was in KING KONG VS. GODZILLA, where he was defeated by the giant ape (or guy in the world's worst ape costume), his uncoordinated actions of this film may signify just how much of a beating he really took in that film.

As Roger Moore might say: "He always was a hot-head!"    Ironically, the Godzilla suit itself, nicely redesigned with "new, shorter snout!" and angrier, Jack Bauer "Where's the bomb!?" eyes, took quite a beating itself in this film,  In a scene where Jerryzilla stumbles into the ancient temple, the mouthpiece on the costume broke and wobbles noticeably.  Later, when a couple of missiles explode around the poor lost lizard, the entire headpiece caught on fire, but director Ishiro Honda, knowing a good piece of footage when he saw it, let the scene run a little longer and kept it in the film.  Apparently the actor inside the suit, Haruo Nakajima, was unaware he was in any danger!  

    Mothra, that most mystical of the great Japanese monsters, is called on by the Shobijin (those two little identical twin fairies also known as "The Peanuts") to battle The Big G and save Japan, but she is at a disadvantage in that she is dying. She doesn't really defeat Godzilla here, but taking advantage of his state of confusion, she basically pesters him endlessly like a bumblebee at a cookout.  Wonky as he is feeling, Godzilla at first can only let loose with several poorly-aimed breaths of fire that miss their mark completely.  Still, since she essentially has little power, all Godzilla needs is one good shot to incapacitate her, and it is up to Mothra's rather disgusting larval offspring to finish the job of dispatching Godzilla yet again.  

    For fans of Akira Kurosawa films, it is fun to see Susumu Fujita as the General of the Japanese Army.  Fujita was Kurosawa's first star, before the director discovered the talent of Toshiro Mifune. Best remembered as the title character in Kurosawa's first film SANSHIRO SUGATA and its sequel, Fujita also had memorable roles in the later Kurosawa classics HIDDEN FORTRESS and YOJIMBO.  A fine actor in his own right, Fujita is not asked to do much in GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA beyond barking out military orders, but at Toho, as at American studios, a paycheck was a paycheck. 4 - JB

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