"Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla" (1974) - 50th Anniversary!

by Joseph Perry and Mike Imboden

In our “The Good, the Bad, and the Verdict” film reviews, Joseph and Mike give their thoughts on a slice of cinema. For this installment, it’s a special look at Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla (Gojira tai Mekagojira) for its 50th anniversary!

An Okinawan prophecy appears to foretell Earth's destruction at the hands of Godzilla, only for the true Godzilla to reveal his doppelganger as a mechanical alien weapon.

The Good
Joseph: SEE! The fun-tastic design of the first Mechagodzilla! SEE! The handicap-match climactic battle between Godzilla, King Caesar, and Mechagodzilla! SEE! Godzilla bleed! 

Mike: The third of director Jun Fukuda’s Godzilla films (following Godzilla vs Gigan (1972) and Godzilla vs Megalon (1973)), is arguably his best, thanks in no small part to it being the first appearance of the iconic Mechagodzilla.  While the human drama tends to bog down the second act, there are still enough monster fights to impress, including the first meeting between Godzilla and MechaG, which ranks up there as one of the coolest looking with the fiery sky and explosions.
The aforementioned human drama, which IS a bit on the slow side, provides a simple explanation as to what Mechagodzilla is, where he came from, and what his purpose is. Add in a little intrigue with an Okinawan MacGuffin in the form of a King Caesar statue that plays a part in the prophecy that foretells of the movie’s events, and there’s a little something for everyone here.
I think the biggest part — and most important part — of what makes this all work is MechaGodzilla him/itself.  There’s a good reason that, next to Ghidora, Mechagodzilla has squared off against Godzilla the most times.  The dude is a robot Godzilla fer crying out loud — you don’t get much cooler than that!

The Bad
Joseph: SEE! One of my least favorite Godzilla suits, which features what look like inflatable scales on his back. SEE! Ape extraterrestrials disguised as humans! SEE! Animated laser beams! SEE! The very odd creature design for King Caesar! SEE! What passes for intrigue as a small group of humans try to thwart space aliens’ plot to conquer Godzilla! 

Mike: If one is going to look at Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla with a critical eye, one will find a fair amount of things to scoff at. The human story involving space apes with an eye on conquering the earth is pretty tepid and has some daikaiju-sized holes in it (why couldn’t they fix MechaG’s head by themselves? Why were only two Interpol agents looking into the space apes? What triggered the investigation? Etc., etc.). The monster fights, while cool in their own right, are a bit lackluster and nowhere near as fun as the giant showdown of Godzilla vs Megalon, with eye beams, atomic rays, and  lasers that are all fairly chintzy looking.  
King Caesar is a bit of an oddity, like a giant anthropomorphic dog with eye lasers.  His part in the Azumi prophecy is important, but honestly, in the grand scheme of things, Godzilla didn’t really need his help.
The less said about Godzilla’s deus ex magnetic power courtesy of a lightning storm, the better.
The biggest thing to me is the amount of blood that is seen spraying everywhere.  For a movie clearly targeted at kids and one that has a U.S. rating of “G”, there’s an awful lot of red and green blood that might be a bit of a shock to someone not expecting it.

The Verdict
Joseph: You can have the most jumbo-sized bowl of popcorn imaginable while watching Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla and you still won’t match the amount of corn that this movie serves up. It’s certainly not the worst Godzilla movie, but it’s not one that a kaiju aficionado would want to try to win over a potential new convert with. As a lifelong Godzilla fan, I have fun watching this feature and enjoying the cool design of the debut Mechagodzilla and the tricks he has up his space-metal sleeves. Three guest kaiju in addition to The Big Fella makes for a nice amount of monster fighting action, which is always welcome. Come for the action instead of the humans vs. ape aliens machinations, and an entertaining time is guaranteed.

Mike:  I saw this in the theater as Godzilla vs The Bionic Monster and thus it will always have a special place in my heart, regardless of any and all faults it may have.  The initial battle between two Godzillas was crazy to see and still elicits a “hoo-boy!” from me when they meet in that oil refinery.  This, after watching Godzilla’s sidekick Anguirus get walloped something fierce, adds a certain level of gravitas to the battle. 
Yes, the story bogs down in the middle when the focus shifts to the humans and space apes and said story has its share of faults, but the battles pack enough (bloody!) action to make up for the yawn-inducing sections.
Is Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla a top five Godzilla movie?  No, and I’d say it’s not even a top 10.  HOWEVER, it introduces an iconic arch-nemesis and for that alone it gets an enthusiastic recommendation from this Godzilla kid.

Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla
, from Toho Company, is available on select streaming services as well as physical media.

Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla
Directed By: Jun Fukuda
Written By: Jun Fukuda, Masami Fukushima, Shin'ichi Sekizawa
Starring: Masaaki Daimon, Kazuya Aoyama, Reiko Tajima
Run Time: 1h 24m
Rating: G
Release Date: March 21, 1974