Terror of Mechagodzilla [Mekagojira no gyakushu] (1975)

This one has the distinction of being the first last Godzilla film.

The big lizard’s official demise has been declared several times now (with Godzilla Vs. Destroyah and Godzilla: Final Wars), but perhaps this one was the most significant, because it marked the end of the first era of Godzilla as well as the natural death of the series, when this one failed at the box office.

It was also their first attempt to do what they ultimately succeeded in doing with Godzilla 1985:  taking Godzilla seriously again.  They brought long-time series director Ishiro Honda back again (who had not been happy with Toho’s move towards children’s films) as well as iconic composer Akira Ifukube.

The result is the best Godzilla film of the Seventies, which admittedly is not saying much.  It may also be the least seen film in the Showa series, after the first sequel, Godzilla Raids Again.

This one has no children asking for Godzilla’s help, nor does he does not talk, or make a victory dance, or have a robot buddy.  And yes, we do not get a monster with a big goofy grin, like King Caesar’s (my official nomination for worst ever Godzilla monster).  The new monster, Titanosaurus, is one of the better Toho creatures:  distinctive and yet more or less plausible.

But what is even more surprising is the fairly dark set of themes:  a main character falls in love with a girl who has been turned into a cyborg and is being used by the aliens to control both Mechagodzilla and Titanosaurus.  There is no happy ending, and, at least in the American dub, the girl doesn’t even get a chance for that last minute change of mind we’ve been expecting. 

It wasn’t Godzilla’s best exit, nor was it enough to reverse his kiddie film decline, but after he’d spent the rest of the decade fighting Megalon, Gigan and the (shudder) Smog Monster, it was a welcome change.

And when he finally returned, he was no longer the champion of the Earth and the protector of children.

Now that’s something to be thankful for.

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