Why yes that is the poster for the Americanised version of Mothra Vs Godzilla. For some reason they opted to called it Godzilla vs The Thing and decided to hide just what “The Thing” was. Hell, looks like it’ll be some tentacle monster there. God bless the Hollywood B-Movie studio system of the 1960s. Anyway, this film is Mothra Vs Godzilla and it’s about Mothra fighting Godzilla. Well, there’s some stuff about an egg and some crooks… also some tiny little ladies… but mostly it’s about a giant moth fighting a giant dino-lizard guy. Click the link below to read what I hilariously call a review!
I guess I should elaborate on the plot somewhat. As the film opens a typhoon is battering the coast of Japanese fishing town. When the storm has died down a giant mysterious egg is found to be floating out at sea. A local businessman named Kumayama (Yoshifumi Tajima) uses local salvage laws to claim the egg as his own by paying the local fishermen that recovered it. He plans to open, what could be, the least exciting the short term theme park attraction in the world with the currently unhatched egg as its centrepiece. You’d think that considering 2 different Godzillas, an Anguirus and a King Kong have trashed multiple cities throughout Japan in the last decade that you’d want nothing to do with any sort of giant creature, but hey, business is business, right? News reporter Ichiro Sakai (Akira Tarada) and photographer Junko Nakanishi (Yoriko Hoshi) team up with Professor Muira (Hiroshi Koizumi) to find out what they can about this egg. Soon they encounter two tiny women (they’re so beyond midget, like 6 inches tall) who inform them that the egg belongs to a deity like creature called Mothra. They beg for the egg’s return but when Kumayama refuses to let it go they leave with Mothra to allow the larvae that will hatch from the egg to trash Japan. Soon it is discovered that Godzilla washed up on the beach too, buried by the sand, and it is up to the three protagonists to head to Mothra’s island and convince its natives to let Mothra come to their aid to defeat Godzilla.
At this point in the Godzilla series the big lizard is still very much the antagonist. He doesn’t actually appear until around 45 minutes into the film, the only clue of his arrival being a radioactive scale found on the beach during the film’s opening scenes. There is likely a reason for his late arrival though, and the clue is in the title. Earlier drafts had Godzilla appearing much earlier, but his late arrival actually serves to up the drama in a massive way at just the right time. The looming danger of the egg hatching and its larvae trampling Japan in its search for food is magnified by the sudden arrival of Godzilla. His reveal scene is one of the best monster reveals in the entire series. After realising the scale was radioactive, Ichiro, Junko and Muira head back to the beach to warn of the radiation. They spot a little movement on the sand. Then a lot of movement. The sand undulates ominously until suddenly a tail bursts through and Godzilla rises from the ground like a zombie. Remember that his fate was left as a mystery after his defeat at the hands of King Kong in the previous film. For all we knew he was dead. This reveal is so supremely cool and hits at exactly the right moment.
The film’s story focus is solely on Mothra for the most part and it’s entirely justified. Unlike King Kong Vs Godzilla (or at least the US redub) there is a message being conveyed throughout that asks people to be less selfish and unkind. It is the selfishness of Kumayama and his boss Jiro Torahata (Kenji Sahara) that prevents the egg from being returned and the belief that no amount of public outcry could change their minds that leads to Mothra and her Shobijin (The 2 tiny women) friends deciding that the people of Japan need to learn from their error of judgement. Kind of harsh, but this is Japan where they have a demon or ghost for pretty much every thing you could possibly do wrong. And many demons that just do shit for giggles. On top of that Mothra’s island home of Infant Island has been decimated by nuclear bomb tests over the years and is a desolate wasteland except for a small fertile area that is the only source of sustainable nourishment for the island natives. This is not a particularly subtle way of saying “nukes are bad and will probably kill us all”, but it’s effective. The film may not deliver its message with the same level of impact as Gojira did but at least it is delivering some sort of message. What message did Man of Steel deliver I ask you? This is a film about a giant moth fighting a lizard and it delivers a more relevant message than what passes as popcorn entertainment these days. It’s also an hour shorter. I like that.
Performances don’t have the naturalism of the first film but the series was gradually moving towards a more light entertainment mood at this point. There’s a lot less of the forced comedic gurning of King Kong Vs Godzilla, and thankfully no monsters are getting drunk. Mothra Vs Godzilla remembers to drag things down to a dirty place from time to time, for example, the deaths of Kumayama and Torahata is pretty much Shakespearean in its pathos. The villains end up being more pathetic than you could have expected as they fall over each other to get away with their money. One interesting character is Junko who, for the time in Japan, was a very assertive female character. She speaks up against her superiors when they do her wrong. Points out they don’t get her respect by default. She even takes command of the odd situation. Consider that in the same decade as this film was released Michael Caine was sending Marget Blye back home because their job was too dangerous for a mere woman to be involved in. Junko is quite a progressive female character for 1963, especially for Japan. This is even identified in her more modern Western dress sense and hairstyle. She’s modelled after the fashionable looks of the early 60s American woman.
When it comes to the film’s score I feel as if this was the film where Akira Ikufube’s compositions really soared to a higher level of grandeur. The Godzilla theme was brought back and given some extra bombast. On top of that the battles are scored with some suitably dramatic pieces. There was a story that he wanted one scene in the film to be left without music but director Ishiro Honda disagreed and added one of Ikufube’s pieces anyway. Apparently this led to the only disagreement these two men had in all the years that they worked together on this series of films.
Mothra Vs Godzilla is a charming and genuinely fun action adventure film and so far (in this series of reviews) the only film that has come close to being as good as the original, albeit for entirely different reasons. There’s the odd effect that has aged badly, but mostly the film’s effects stand up as well as you can expect anything from the period to. The film has pretty high production values all around with possibly the largest number of sets and locations used up to this point. I have mentioned before that I haven’t seen every Godzilla film before starting this crazy marathon run of reviews, but I really think I’ll be hard pressed to find one that is better than this film in terms of overall quality. Everything just meshes together really well making for a thoroughly enjoyable monster flick. Next up is the first film to feature Godzilla’s greatest foe, Ghidorah, The Three Headed Monster!