DVD Review: “Terror of Mechagodzilla”
Released By: Classic Media
Release Date: April 29, 2008
Number of Discs: 1
Approximate Running Time: 169 Minutes
Special Features: Audio Commentary, Art Gallery, Women of Godzilla Featurette
Suggested Price: $16.93
The twenty-one year run of the original Godzilla film series comes to a conclusion with this fifteenth and final installment that rematches Godzilla with his robot duplicate. With the help of a disgruntled Earth scientist, aliens intent on conquering our planet have salvaged the wreckage of Mechagodzilla from the previous film. The controls for the robot are now housed inside the scientist’s daughter whose life was saved by the operation which made her a cyborg. The scientist also controls a dinosaur he discovered, the Godzilla series last new monster character, the amphibian Titanosaurus. After a lengthy build up, Godzilla finally arrives in time to make his final stand against two titans of terror.
The Fanboy Factor:
The 1970’s saw a marked decline in the Godzilla film series’ performance at Japanese box offices. Each of the five films released in this decade had done increasingly worse than the one before it but 1974’s Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla (Godzilla Vs. The Bionic / Cosmic Monster in the US) had shown promise. For the follow up film, it was decided that not only would the mechanical menace return but so would the series’ most popular director, Ishiro Honda, who had left after the embarrassing All Monsters Attack (Godzilla’s Revenge in the US).
Terror of Mechagodzilla shows some improvements, including a darker tone, but ultimately falls flat. Mechagodzilla has been given a streamlined and more menacing look in the overhaul and a few new features to make him a more formidable foe than ever. For the first time, some exterior footage is shot of the monster battles and the natural sky adds a surprising amount of realism to the scenes. Low angle shots of the monsters with the sky above them give the impression that they are truly gigantic.
On the downside, Titanosaurus is one of the lamest monsters Godzilla has ever come up against, falling somewhere ahead of King Caesar from the pervious film (who at least was a good guy) but behind Gabara from Godzilla’s Revenge who could shoot lighting from his hands. Titanosaurus is big, as his name implies, but he sports a neck that looks like it is just asking to be broken and he makes a noise like a chicken being electrocuted. His sole weapon is a fan like tail that can create 700mph winds, not the handiest of abilities.
This film starts out with a rehash of the fight scenes from the previous movie to explain the setup for the rematch. For the next hour, the monster action is limited to just a few appearances by the unimpressive Titanosaurus. The majority of the screen time is taken up with Interpol agents and posturing aliens planning conquests when what the viewers really want is battling monsters.
It takes until just past the sixty minute mark for Mechagodzilla to finally be activated and join Titanosaurus on a city stomping rampage that does the series proud. Godzilla shows his face for the first time since the opening credits and promptly gets clobbered by the titanic tag team. In an extremely rare move for the Godzilla series, the military is actually able to incapacitate Titanosaurus with something resembling a sonic taser and then finish him for good with the help of a revived Godzilla. This sets the stage for a more evenly matched showdown where Mechagodzilla throws everything but the kitchen sink at his organic counterpart. It’s an admirable finale but too little, too late to save the already waning franchise.
The audio and video quality of this package is consistent with the excellent standards of the other Godzilla DVDs Classic Media has released. One of the underlying detractions in this series has been Classic Media’s dismissal of the US versions of these films. The English language dubs are included on the DVDs but advertising materials and promotions that made the US versions unique are largely ignored. Terror of Mechagodzilla attempts to correct some of these oversights by including a six minute prologue that was added to the original television syndication edition of the film. This poor man’s origin of Godzilla and overview of the series is uneven at best and inaccurate at its worst but it is still a fun collage of stock footage with pompous narration dubbed in for unintended laughs. The extras include a short biography on the female characters in the Godzilla films, a feature length commentary that is stilted but interesting and what is labeled as an “art gallery”. This latter bonus actually contains stills from the film, a few behind the scenes shots, and movie posters (including some international versions but nothing from the original US theatrical release under the confusing title Terror of Godzilla).
The Bottom Line:
While hampered by a slow start, the final battle has its moments and there is enough novelty in this installment to warrant the purchase for fans. Terror of Mechagodzilla is an unsteady bookend to the original series and gives a strong indication of why it was due for a much needed hiatus.
Trivia: Terror of Mechagodzilla was not intended by Toho to be the final chapter of the original series. While it performed poorly in Japanese and American theaters, it proved popular in other parts of the world. Toho announced a follow up film called Godzilla Vs. The Devil which sounds like it really could have taken the series into darker territory. After this film stalled several times, it was scraped in 1978 in favor of a new story,Rebirth of Godzilla. Rebirth ran into its own series of problems but eventually evolved into Return of Godzilla (Godzilla: 1985 in the US) six years later.