Godzilla vs Mothra (1964)

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Our rating: four lava lamps.

Information about this film in the Internet Movie Database.

Mothra, the world's largest lepidoptera.
With the exception of the original Godzilla, Godzilla vs Mothra is probably the high water mark of the Godzilla series of movies. Made in the wake of the hugely popular King Kong vs Godzilla, this movie is colorful, fantastic, and exciting.

The film opens during a big storm that washes an even bigger egg on shore in Japan. So what happens when an egg the size of an ocean liner washes ashore? The local fisherman sell it to a huge company (which we will call ConHugeCo, because we can't remember the real name). ConHugeCo then puts the egg on display, two bits a gander. This may be the most realistic thing ever to happen in a Godzilla movie.

But darn it all, it's never that simple. No sooner has ConHugeCo got the egg than two miniature fairy women (who represent the "powers of goodness and light," or so they say) appeal to the company's officers to return the egg to Infant Island. The egg is the progeny of the god of Infant Island, the giant insect Mothra, last seen in 1961's Mothra.

This brings us to one of the weirder aspects of this film that needs to be explained. When the film was released in the US theaters, AIP designed an ad campaign whereby Godzilla's adversary was only known as the Thing. In the posters for the movie, Godzilla appeared along with big question mark that obscured some sort of tentacled creature, and the title was changed to Godzilla vs the Thing. So in the movie itself, Mothra is almost always referred to as the Thing in the dubbing, though there are a couple of times when the name "Mothra" does slip through.

"Somebody light the giant candle!"
Godzilla enters the scenario when he bursts from the ground(!) after the storm and proceeds to stomp his way through Japan. The Japanese military, with the assistance of some US Navy ships (in scenes shot just for the US version) try their darndest to take down Godzilla with conventional weaponry, but nothing doing. Godzilla eventually runs across the giant egg. Hankering for a really big omelet, Godzilla attacks...

...and is counterattacked by Mothra, come from Infant Island to defend the fruit of her loins. Assuming insects have loins. In any case, the battle results in the death of the adult Mothra, but luckily for Japan, there are a couple of spare Mothras in reserve.

In Godzilla vs Mothra, Godzilla is back to being a completely destructive creature. He destroys buildings in copious numbers, without the elements of slapstick humor that started to show up in King Kong vs Godzilla. It's Godzilla, and he's evil, just the way we like him. Just to put icing on the cake, the special effects are excellent. Other than one or two shots of awkward looking hand puppets subbing for the monster suits, the monsters look realistic and the fight coordinators came up with novel ways for a giant fire-breathing lizard to combat a giant moth.

A large portion of the film is devoted to the various methods the Japanese military leaders employ to try to take care of their giant lizard problem. Most of them involve electricity. This is of course the third time in four movies that electricity has been used against the big G. In Godzilla, it didn't work at all. In King Kong vs Godzilla, it worked completely. In this film, it only sort of works. But it looks cool this time around, and that's what's really counts.

Oh sure, they represent
the powers of Goodness and Light,
but they don't know that fur kills.
Godzilla vs Mothra is the archetypal Godzilla vs [Name of Monster Here] movie. The formula established here would be recycled endlessly, basically because it works well. Godzilla shows up, the other monster shows up, they fight. Then Godzilla walks away victorious, and the Japanese military tries to stop Godzilla to no avail. Finally, the other monster shows up, usually in a different form. Godzilla is dispatched, usually by being dropped in the ocean. Godzilla vs Biollante (1989) is a particularly good example of the formula.

After Godzilla vs Mothra, the Godzilla series would never produce a movie as quite as good as this one. Godzilla vs Mothra also marks the last time until Godzilla 85 that Godzilla would be portrayed as an unredeemable threat to the human race. The only thing that keeps it from being on the same level as the original Godzilla is that Godzilla vs Mothra doesn't have any kind of social relevance -- unless it is relevant to your society that you should be nice to little farie people because some day you may need the help of a giant moth.

Rent or Buy from Reel.

Review date: 5/8/98

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