Aliens from the Third Planet of the Black Hole use mind control over a giant monster in order to...
Okay, it's the same old plot, but TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA avoids silliness for the most part and stands as one of the most serious, or perhaps one of the least goofiest, Giant Monster films since the days of MOTHRA, RODAN or the original GOJIRA. There are elements that will make you giggle (the alien space helmets, which look like they probably get good AM and FM reception) but TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA is a well-directed, well-paced piece of Giant Monster sci-fi with a handful of interesting characters and an explosive climax that acts as a fitting end to the first part of Godzilla's long career. It is the also the best all-around Godzilla film since DESTROY ALL MONSTERS.
After an opening scene with a submarine destroyed by yet a new Giant Monster (the very cool Titanasaurus), the film goes monsterless for 40 minutes, while we learn about our main characters. The characters are walking clichés but are nonetheless interesting. There is Dr. Mafune, played by the king of Godzilla movies Akihiko Hirata. Scorned by his fellow scientists for his controversial theories on mind-controlling Titanasaurus, he has sworn revenge on all of them, as well as on mankind in general. You could say he is bitter. To this end, he teams up with Evil Aliens who wish to take over the Earth by fixing and unleashing Mechagodzilla on an unsuspecting Tokyo once again. With Titanasaurus and Mechagodzilla both under mind control, not even Godzilla could win, they reason. They obviously have short memories, since the same plan has been tried in several other films and always, always fails.
Even if the plot is the same bunch of nonsense as four or five other Godzilla movies, it is treated with just enough seriousness to make it feel important, but not enough for it to become boring. The addition of Dr. Mafune's daughter, Katsura, played by the lovely Tomoko Ai, adds a dimension of inevitable tragedy to the storyline. She lives to protect her doddering father, yet does not want to see mankind destroyed because her boyfriend is a member of it. Without giving away some of the backstory revealed in several flashbacks, Katsura owes much to the aliens and is duty bound to follow their orders. Katsura, as played by Ai, is one of the more sympathetic and well-rounded female characters of the series to come along in quite a while. Also sympathetic, if you stop to think about it, is Titanasaurus himself. Several times in the film, it is mentioned that he is actually a rather peaceful animal who, if not under mind control, would never seek to harm anybody. Poor guy - wrong time, wrong place.
Of course, the selling point of all these films is the monster action, and this film delivers. Mechagodzilla takes out entire city blocks with a simple sweep of his head (it shoots out high powered laser beams, natch), while Titanasaurus used his tail fin to create hurricane force winds. Together, they battle Godzilla, showing up rather late in the film, to the usual point of no return, after which, of course, Godzilla returns and turns the tables on both of them. The standard Godzilla ending, but done well, with lots of huge, fiery explosions.
TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA was not intended to be the final Godzilla film, but times were tough in Japan (and all over) in 1975 and the film did not do well at the box office. There was no follow up film in 1976, and the series just faded away after this one, the fifteenth film to feature Godzilla. It would be nine years before Godzilla returned to movie screen across the world. -JB