Saturday, July 11, 2009

Conqueror Worms: Mothra Vs Godzilla(1964)

Recently I watched the original Toho classic Mothra Vs Godzilla(1964) on DVD, in Japanese language and English subtitles. This film is widely considered, and justifiably, among the best of the "Showa" era Godzilla films, which were made from 1954 - 1975. The movie has a serious tone, an entirely believable plot, some memorable villains and overall special effects, including animatronics, miniatures, "suit"mation and other pyrotechnic effects that, while dated compared to today's "green screen" and CGI technology, have nevertheless stood the test of time quite well. The Americanized version of the film, released theatrically in the U.S. as Godzilla Vs The Thing, also includes an additional scene in which American warships fire "Frontier" missiles at Godzilla, a scene that is very well done. For any Godzilla fan who likes seeing this monster portrayed as the bad guy, Mothra Vs Godzilla is a film for you!

More observations about this film, some familiar and perhaps a few that aren't:

Thumbs up:

1. the abundance of high speed filming used to render Godzilla's movements. This lensing technique makes the action of the monster look slower and more realistic, given Godzilla's size

2. the trio of Akira Takarada, Yuriko Hoshi & Hiroshi Koizumi who all play off each other very well

3. the score overall is IMO terrific. The main Godzilla "march" helps enhance the urgent, serious tone of the film

4. many of the miniature effects, by Eiji Tsuburaya and his effects team, are stellar

5. comic relief, though not overdone, by the gruff and no-nonsense newspaper editor "Murata"(Jun Takazi) and his affable but bumbling and perpetually boiled egg eating reporter(played by Yu Fujiki). As personalities go these two are polar opposites.

6. the overall rendering of Mothra, which I thought was outstanding. The wire works staff were no doubt very busy in helping to bring this enormous prop to life in front of the camera

7. the overall battle between Godzilla and Mothra: nothing fancy as both monsters play up to their strengths: Mothra uses her maneuverability advantage in the air, her poison powder and hurricane force winds generated by her flapping wings. Godzilla basically relies on his oral beam, the monster perhaps realizing if he used it enough he would eventually score a hit on his winged adversary(which he did)

8. the JSDF(Japanese Self Defense Force) in this movie: these guys actually planned and carried out their attacks on Godzilla with purpose, unlike in other G films where the JSDF come across as being ineffective, unmotivated dullards. In Mothra Vs Godzilla the JSDF leave no doubt of their intent to not only stop Godzilla but also to try and destroy the creature if possible

9. the rendering of the twin Mothra larvae: well done(using animatronics), the two creature's movements retaining a good degree of realism

10, the presence of some truly despicable villains, in particular "Torahata"(Kenji Sahara), a greedy and arrogant shyster who tries to rip off and subsequently jam up his own business associate, "Kumamaya", himself no upstanding individual either.

11. the "Mosugoji" Godzilla suit. No, I don't like the "wobbling lips" but, forgetting that particular shortcoming, I thought the suit looked great overall

Thumbs down:

1. the sequences of the adult Mothra Vs Godzilla battle where hand puppets are used. I have never been nor will ever be a fan of the puppetry arts

2. the battle between Godzilla and the twin Mothra larvae: I have no problem with the larvae successfully cocooning Godzilla but I do think those tasked with choreographing this battle made things a little too easy on the larvae. I would have liked seeing Godzilla put up more of a fight against the smaller creatures.

The AIP trailer for "Godzilla Vs The Thing":
Godzilla vs. The Thing trailer