Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)
Just about every Godzilla movie, with the notable exception of the still-haunting original, is pitched at indiscriminate adolescents of all ages. To that end, the most enjoyable entries in the six-decade-old franchise are the ones that treat juvenile excess as a driving force—piling on more monsters, more explosions, more sops to the little (and big) kids in the audience. Released just in time for the titanic lizard’s 20th anniversary, 1974’s Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla is one of the most purely entertaining of the 28 official sequels, mostly by virtue of showing no restraint in combining a bunch of pulpy, crowd-pleasing components. The film features not just the G-man and his titular, robotic rival, but also the spiked sidekick Anguirus, an ancient doglike deity named King Caesar, a 007-ish Interpol agent, and hostile, incognito space aliens who look like Planet Of The Apes rejects. That all of these elements have been stuffed into a brisk 84 minutes is good indication of how little consideration the filmmakers have paid to “story.”
By the mid-’70s, Godzilla had been transformed into something of a heroic mascot, rising again and again from the depths of the sea to defend Japan from more nefarious monster threats. Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla makes no attempt to reclaim the character as a force of destruction; most of his battles occur in heavily depopulated areas, the urban devastation and mass casualties of the original a distant memory. And the special effects are actually worse than those seen in 1954, with the filmmakers doing little to disguise the fact that their headliner is a guy in a big, rubber suit. No matter: At a certain point, this series started operating more like a precursor to today’s Marvel movies, pulling in characters from other films and parallel franchises and creating a universe (or multiverse, if we must) in which ancient mythological forces coexist with superspies and extraterrestrial invaders.
Anyway, the real make-or-break of most Godzilla movies is the fight scenes, and Mechagodzilla features several inspired smackdowns, including a fiery skirmish at a power plant and the tag-team finale. If that’s not enough, there’s also the espionage subplot, a catchy swing soundtrack, and such daft touches as a “powerful pipe” that saves the day. Incidentally, adult viewers having trouble getting into the spirit may want to employ their own “powerful pipe” before queuing this one up.
Availability: Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla is available on DVD, which can be obtained from Netflix, and to rent or purchase digitally through VUDU.