GODZILLA VERSUS ROBOGODZILLA or Don't Monkey with the Big “G” - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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GODZILLA VERSUS ROBOGODZILLA or Don't Monkey with the Big “G”

Gordon Hopkins dukes it out with a mechanised duplicate.
By 1974, the Godzilla franchise had been chugging along for twenty years. Budgets had dropped, plots became more ridiculous, and more repetitive. It seems almost everyone involved had lost most of their enthusiasm. Not an unreasonable feeling, give the unmitigated disaster that was Godzilla versus Megalon (1973).

Shinichi Sekizawa, the screenwriter who penned a great many of Godzilla's adventures, despaired at the prospect of having to come up with yet another monster. When asked to write the screenplay for the next movie, Sekizawa is alleged to have moaned, “There aren't any monsters left.”

Despite all this, Toho Studios was desperate to keep the franchise train rolling down the track. Why? In a word: toys.

George Lucas famously agreed to accept a mere half a million in payment for directing Star Wars. In return, he got to keep all the merchandise rights to the movie. Regardless of your opinion of Lucas' talent as a director, his business acumen cannot be denied.

Just like those Luke Skywalker “action figures” (because boys don't play with dolls), Godzilla toys were a huge cash cow, but only so long as Godzilla remained in the public consciousness.

In an attempt to break Sekizawa's writer's block (or, at least, his paralyzing unenthusiasm-which I know is not a word but it should be) special effects artist Teruyoshi Nakano helpfully suggested that mechanical creatures were much easier and cheaper to create than the sort of animal-type monsters which made up most of Godzilla's menagerie of monsters.

That was enough of a creative spark to get Sekizawa going, but not for long. Sekizawa produced a storyline for the movie but that was all. In fact, Sekizawa would never write another screenplay again.

The final script was completed by Hiroyasu Yamamura and director Jun Fukuda. Very little in it is new.
Godzilla versus Mechagodzilla (1974), also released in the U.S. As Godzilla versus the Cosmic Monster, opens with a prophecy. The daughter of a high priest predicts that a monster will rise up and crush all who try to escape underfoot. Given that sort of thing has been happening for the last twenty years the the world Godzilla inhabits, it doesn't seem like such a great leap of prognostication to me. (Strangely, the monster glimpsed fleetingly in her vision is King Ghidorah, who appears nowhere in this movie.)

Sure enough, Godzilla appears. His entrance is a bit weird, having been blown out of a volcano. His behavior is also somewhat out of character, in that he brutalizes Anguiras, despite being established Godzilla's “buddy” in previous movies. The abuse of Anguiras is surprisingly bloody for what is intended to be a kid's movie, and the blood only gets more copious as the movie progresses.

As you may have already figured out, this Godzilla is a fake, a mechanical doppelganger dubbed Mechagodzilla. Once the disguise is stripped away, a silver, be-weaponed giant robot is revealed and is everything Toho Studios could have hoped for. The easily manufactured toy because one of the most popular figures in the Godzilla line.

The monster is described as a cyborg by the human characters in the movie. A Cyborg is actually an amalgam of organic and cybernetic components. Since there is no indication of any organic elements in Mechagodzilla, I assume he referred to as a cyborg only because it sounds cooler than robot.

So who is behind this mechanical monstrosity? Aliens obviously. That was figured out thanks to the discovery of a small piece of “space titanium.” (Lazy writing alert!)

Once again, the old standby plot of aliens using a monster to take over the world is trotted out. A plot that has been tried numerous times in this series and has always failed. You'd think these aliens would get the picture eventually. At least these aliens try something different and built their own monster.

As already noted, there was very little originality hinted at in the story. Not only was the alien invasion story recycled yet again, but the whole notion of a giant monster battling a robot clone had already been done in King Kong Escapes.

In Godzilla versus Gigan, the aliens were cockroaches wearing human suits. In Godzilla versus Mechagodzilla the aliens are revealed to be apes. Unlike the cockroach-like aliens, which were sued to make a commentary on how mankind is polluting his world to the point of extinction, the aliens being apes in this movie has no significance.

Some fans of Japanese science fiction have suggested these are the same apes as those from the Mystery Science Theater 3000 fodder, Time of the Apes. A fun theory, I suppose, but not one I've really examined. Though released as a film in 1987, that movie was actually an edited version of a TV series called Ape Corps from 1975.
Anyway, back to the movie. The real Godzilla appears, bursting out of a building. There is no explanation why he was inside that building but it makes for a great entrance nonetheless.

Mechagodzilla had all manor of weapon. It can shoot multi-colored rays from its eyes, rockets from its fingertips and has machine guns in its knees. It's like the Swiss Army Knife of monsters.

This all proves to be too much for our hero, who gets his scaly butt handed to him.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the plot, an archaeological dig has uncovered a small statue that can be used to summon King Caesar, an ancient monster god that protects the Island of Okinawa. Given that Okinawa was annexed by the Japanese in 1609 and was also the site of a horribly bloody battle during World Ward II in 1945, one might argue as to the efficacy of King Caesar as a guardian. Still, the aliens are worried enough about it that they send some stereotypical thugs dressed in black to steal the statue. The aliens fail, the statue is used to wake the protector of Okinawa and King Caesar is revealed to be a giant, fluffy, floppy-eared Pekingese dog with a psychotic grin.

Overall, the movie is exceptionally silly but still a lot of fun. The story as a whole doesn't really hold up but a lot of the individual set pieces are worth the price of admission, and I don't just mean the monster bits, either. While the alien villains are cartoonish, the are also genuinely menacing at times. The aliens' lair is worthy of a James Bond movie.

The Denouement: There really isn't much to say about the final battle between Godzilla, Mechagodzilla and King Caesar, except that is is totally bonkers and probably one of the best fight scenes in the entire series. A lot of that is due to Mechagodzilla's weaponry, with lots of explosions and lighting bolts being thrown around and colorful rays. Also, the mechanical nature of his adversary means Godzilla doesn't have to hold back. Godzilla can even pull off his opponent's head, because there is no blood and gore, only sparks and smoke and wires.

The American Version: In addition to Godzilla versus the Cosmic Monster, this movie was also known under the title, Godzilla versus the Bionic Monster. At that time. Two American TV series, The Six Million Dollar Man and The Biuonic Woman, has brought the term, “bionic,” into the public lexicon. Eager to protect their turf, the producers of those shows threatened a lawsuit, which necessitated a title change.

While there were plenty of posters produced and the movie was advertised quite extensively as Godzilla versus the Bionic Monster, no one seems to know if it was ever actually shown in theaters under that title.

The Odds: I can't see a circumstance where King Caesar would crop up again. The design and back story are just too lame, although never say never. 50 to 1 against.

Mechagodzilla, on the other hand, is one of the most popular monsters in the monsterverse. I think its reappearance is a given. I won't even give odds on that one.

Read all of Gordon Hopkins previous Godzilla articles here.

Gordon Hopkins is an award winning reporter and columnist for The Fairbury Journal-News, a 130-year-old newspaper in Jefferson County, Nebraska (He hasn't been working there that entire time.) He has also written a couple of crime novels (“Fraudsters” and the best-selling “Broken”) and edited a few non-fiction books.

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