This is part of an ongoing series called Godzilla & Friends: Reviews from the Godzillaverse and Beyond!. Feel free to look around.
This is known as one of the best Godzilla movies. It’s got the right amount of everything. It’s got the right amount of monster fights, the right amount of drama, a heapin’ helping’ of destruction and though it’s not a comedy, it has the perfect amount of humor.
The characters in Mothra vs. Godzilla are amazingly well developed. You hardly see a monster for the first 30 minutes, but that’s ok because you’re sucked into the story! That’s right, MvG has a great story, and fairly political too. But not to the point of preachiness. Nowhere near that, actually.
In a nutshell, greed is bad and bad things happen because of our greed. The government can’t really do much about that, so we as people must come together without greed… and defeat Godzilla (seriously, it’s still a movie about a giant lizard).
Mothra vs. Godzilla is a sequel to two movies, Mothra (1961) and King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962). The Mothra that is in MvG is the same that was in the original Mothra. She is back on Infant Island with her devotees.
At the end of King Kong vs. Godzilla, our reptilian hero was underwater, nowhere to be seen. Was he dead? Well, obviously not.
So let me tell you a story…
The movie opens with a typhoon. Kurata Beach is soon opening and the weather will certainly delay it. In the devastating aftermath, reporter Sakai and his photographer Junko stumble onto what looks to be a large scale. Later that day, a “monster egg” is seen off the coast. The fisherman of the village bring it ashore and claim it as their own.
Two things naturally happen now. Scientists come to study it and businessmen come to buy it. The head scientist, Professor Miura, is very curious about the egg, but before he can study it to the extent he wishes, businessman Kumayama from Happy Enterprises buys it, hoping to make it a tourist attraction.
This doesn’t thrill Sakai, Junko and Miura in the least. But then later discover that Kumayama isn’t working alone. He is in cahoots with Jiro Torahata, the head of Happy Enterprises. While they are discussing plans for the “Shizunowa Happy Center” that will feature this giant egg as its main attraction, Kumayama and Torahata are visited by the Shobijin, Mothra’s twin fairies who stand only 30 centimeters high. He very politely and in unison ask that they return the egg to them. But no dice, little beauties!
The Shobijin escape and find Sakai, Junko and Miura. They again ask for the egg back, now explaining that it’s the egg of Mothra. A big “oh crap” appears on the faces of our reporters and professor. They know what this means. The girls also note that Mothra also is asking for their help. Oh, and Mothra is there. Right THERE! Buzz Buzz!
Sakai, Junko and Miura take the girls with them and immediately try to convince the businessmen of Happy Enterprises that keeping the egg is a really crappy idea. The businessmen, specifically the creepier Kumayama, offer to buy the girls. Again, businessmen will do that, so watch out.
That little act even creeped Mothra out, so she takes the girls and flies back to Infant Island with a warning that the egg is going to hatch and you are seriously not going to want to be there when it does.
Nevertheless, Happy Enterprieses opens Shizunowa Happy Center and begin to heat the egg so that it will hatch. Brilliant idea.
Remember that scale that the reporters found on Kurata Beach? Well, Professor Miura discovers that it’s highly radioactive and invites Sakai and Junko to his lap for a steam bath of some sort because that will remove radiation. Trust him, it will.
For some reason, the mayor of Kurata Beach is trying to turn that area into an industrial park. That’s going to have to be put on hold while they test for radiation. Turns out it’s not really all that radioactive. But it also turns out that Godzilla is buried under the freaking mud!
Godzilla heads for Nagoya. He seems a bit clumsy this time around. He’s not out for blood and not looking for trouble, he just don’t know better. His tail gets caught in a radio tower and he pulls it down on himself. He staggers around and seems to accidentally knock over Nagoya Castle (which must have been rebuilt since he and King Kong destroyed it in KKvG).
The military come up with a plan, but our reporters and their professor friend don’t believe it’s going to help at all. Another reporter, Jiro, who ironically eats a lot of eggs, suggests they ask Mothra for help. She might be able to defeat Godzilla. They’re skeptical because some country whose name we won’t mention was using Infant Island as a site for testing nukes. More than likely the native’s aren’t thrilled.
Turns out that that hunch was right. Sakai, Junko and Muira fly to Infant Island, put on Devo suits and ask the natives for help. The natives flat out tell them no. The world has destroyed their home. They have played with the Devil’s Fire (radiation) and pretty well deserve whatever they get.
So Sakai, Junko and Muira appeal to the little twin girls. Surely they’ll be willing to help. No. Hell no. Why? Same reason – this is your dish water, YOU soak in it! Junko then delivers a very emotional speech about the innocent people in Japan and how not everyone is bad, but the good must suffer with the bad. Sakai also tries to appeal to them. The natives don’t seem all that moved and it’s sort of awkward until Mothra herself breaks the silence and agrees to help.
Meanwhile, back in Japan, things aren’t looking so hot for creepy businessman Kumayama. He realizes that Torahata, head of Happy Enterprises, is swindling him. The two fight and there’s actually blood, which is rare for a Godzilla movie. Torahata is knocked out and Kumayama starts to grab money from Torahata’s dumbly-placed money cabinet. Torahata wakes up and shoots Kumayama just as Godzilla appears on the horizon! With Kumayama dead, Torahata can now escape with all the money! Except that Godzilla knocks over the building and Torahata dies an well-deserved unglorious death.
And with the two “bad guys” gone, it’s time to focus on the monsters! Godzilla sees Mothra’s egg and breaks open the incubator. But before he can destroy it, Mothra comes and attacks Godzilla!
The battle begins with Mothra’s wind attack. She flaps her wings, knocking Godzilla around. She then grabs him by the tail and drags him backwards! I was pretty well out of my seat at this point. Holy crap! Technically speaking, the model they used for Mothra had a 15 foot wingspan. It’s huge and amazingly well done. The whole movie is worth it for this scene alone.
Mothra tries again and again to kill Godzilla, and though she knocks him down, she cannot defeat him. She flies to the egg and dies next to it. The little Shobijin girls then sing to the egg, hoping to hatch it that very day!
Godzilla moves on and the military have an elaborate plan to electrocute him. This is pretty effective but still doesn’t do the trick. Godzilla falls and the officer in charge orders to raise the voltage. That melts the cables and Godzilla is free and heading towards Iwa Island where a teacher and her class are stranded.
The Shobijin’s singing hatches the egg and from it emerge not one but TWO Mothra larvae. They immediately tear off after Godzilla.
Our heroes, Sakai, Junko and Muira along with Jiro the egg-eating reporter, take a boat to Iwa Island to rescue the teacher and her class.
Will the Mothra larvae ensnare Godzilla in their sticky cocoon silk? Will this finally stop Godzilla? Well, what do you think?
And let me tell you about something…
Mothra vs. Godzilla was great. It’s sort of a sleeper though. I mean, you don’t really realize how great it is until you start thinking about it later. Despite the blood and shooting in one scene, it’s a very peaceful movie. Godzilla doesn’t mean to be destructive and it’s fairly plain to see that most of the damage is accidental or in response to humans shooting at him. Mothra is, of course, very peaceful. She battles Godzilla and it’s a fierce fight, but there’s a grace to it. Even the ending is more restraint than violent force.
Also, unlike King Kong vs. Godzilla, this isn’t a comedy. Sure, it’s got some perfectly blended comedic moments, but here it’s all about story. In that way, it’s much more like Mothra.
Even the American release, which was weirdly-titled Godzilla vs. The Thing, is pretty darn good. There are a few tiny scenes edited out, but the dubbing is excellent and the mood is kept. The movie itself was cropped from the “Tohoscope” 2.35:1 ratio to the standard 1.78:1 (as can been seen in the pictures posted here). It’s pretty noticeable in some scenes. There’s even a scene that was originally filmed to be in the Japanese version that was only in the American version.
The scene involves American ships (with American flags) shooting rockets at Godzilla. It’s a really well filmed sequence and Godzilla gets the crap kicked out of him. But it was left out, probably because Japanese folks didn’t really want to see Americans bombing Japanese soil. Makes sense to me. At any rate, the scene is great, so you definitely have to see both versions.
You should at least see the original Mothra before seeing Mothra vs. Godzilla, but definitely see them. A brand new Mothra DVD will be released this year (otherwise, you’ll have to resort to alternative measures to find it). Mothra vs. Godzilla, however, it readily available. And while I’ll probably end up recommending you see all of the Godzilla movies, these two, aside from the original Gojira, are my favorites.
Next stop… Ghidorah: The Three-Headed Monster! It stars new-comer Ghidorah, Godzilla, Mothra and features the return of Rodan! Go!
Producer: Tomoyuki Tanaka | Director: Ishiro Honda | Screenplay: Shinichi Sekizawa
Special Effects: Eiji Tsuburaya | Score: Akira Ifukube
Released: April 29, 1964 | 88 mins | Color | 2.35: 1 Aspect Ratio