Mothra Vs Godzilla (1964)

Mothra Vs Godzilla (1964)

Nothing Like This Ever On the Screen!

When a giant egg is washed up on the shores of Japan in the aftermath of a storm, a greedy businessman quickly declares ownership of it and plans to exploit the egg as a tourist attraction. However, the twin fairy sisters arrive, telling reporters that the egg was swept away from Infant island and it contains the larval offspring of Mothra. It must be returned or else, once the egg hatches, the babies will cause devastation in the search for food. Problems arise when Godzilla turns up and has his sights set on the egg. Mothra turns up to defend her egg and battle Godzilla.

 

After the successful response to King Kong Vs Godzilla, it was only a matter of time before the giant lizard squared off against another huge monster and Toho opted to go for Mothra from the 1962 film of the same name for his next foe. Doesn’t quite seem fair does it – lizard vs moth? But this idea became pretty much the go-to formula for the Godzilla films right until The Return of Godzilla all the way forward in 1984. No longer could you just have Godzilla smashing cities and going up against the Japanese army, there needed to be a big monster for him to face off against. It worked well against King Kong and it was popular, so Toho milked the formula for years…and years…and years. It became so much the norm that attempts to deviate from that formula were not as well-received.

Mothra Vs Godzilla (also known as Godzilla Vs The Thing) is a fairly bog-standard 60s Godzilla film where there is a lot of talking and human interaction, a few token scenes of Godzilla smashing Japan up, more token scenes of the military trying (and failing) to stop him, more talking as the humans try to devise a scientific way to beat him, before Godzilla and his opponent fight in the finale of the film. The human sequences in these films are either overly dull or extremely cringey and campy but are merely designed to pad out the time between monster sightings. At least the film tones down the silly slapstick humour that had crept in with the last one (largely due to King Kong but Godzilla wasn’t innocent) and makes Godzilla just a badass destruction machine – well as badass a destruction machine as the 1960s budget would allow him to be.

A giant lizard versus a giant moth may not sound like the greatest and to be frank, it’s not. I’ve never really liked Mothra as a giant monster as I always found the concept of a killer moth to be somewhat unbelievable, as opposed to a giant prehistoric Pteranodon (Rodan) or three-headed monster from space (King Ghidorah, very much modelled on the Hydra from Greek mythology). They are believable threats; a giant moth is not. Why doesn’t anyone think about building a giant light and switching it on at night to kill her? The other big issue with Godzilla fighting Mothra is that he always has to fight Mothra in both forms – the larva stage and the fully-grown flying stage. The fight with the flying version isn’t too bad because Mothra is quite nimble and can attack and move away. The fight with the grub versions, two little caterpillars, is ridiculous – Godzilla looks like he’s kicking around two brown turds. The miniature sets don’t help the larva to look realistic, but the effects work is really good on the whole – the Godzilla suit doesn’t look like it’s been hanging around in a closet with mini-Mothras chewing away at it for months on end. There are also some excellent wide shots of Godzilla marching down a sandy beach, really showing us the scope of Toho’s sets, before the little toy tanks roll up and start firing caps at him.

Mothra Vs Godzilla was the last of the Godzilla films to portray the monster as the enemy of Japan – from here onwards, Godzilla was to become the saviour of the country as, over the next decade, he would save Earth from all manner of intergalactic monstrosities from King Ghidorah to Gigan, before he was turned back into humanity’s worst nightmare for the 90s and 00s reboots. It’s also interesting to note that in these earlier films, Godzilla’s opponent was named first in the title (King Kong Vs Godzilla, Mothra Vs Godzilla) whereas in the later films, he was always given top billing.

One constant right up until the end of the 90s era was composer Akira Ifukube. Once again, he proves a masterclass in composing, with another excellent soundtrack. Even though the Godzilla films, particularly those in the 70s, were cheesy and campy, Ifukube’s scores were always top notch, driving the excitement and action as much as anything else in the film, and they deserved far, far better than some of the drivel he was assigned to. It just shows how much impact music can have on a film.

 

People say that Mothra Vs Godzilla is one of the best of the series and I’ve always found that hard to stomach, as I prefer my campier, sillier Godzilla films from the late 60s to early 70s as they feature way more monster action. But I can see where they’re coming from – it’s a decent entry, certain the best of the first handful of sequels, and features some effective effects work, all handled with a more serious tone than the majority of the films which followed.

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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