When I was a wee lad, one of my favorite things to do was to pop in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974) on VHS while I was sprawled out on the couch with my trusty Godzilla handbook. What is cooler than giant monsters duking it out? Nothing! As I watched, I was enamored by Masaru Sato’s soundtrack. The lumbering opening credits embody the sheer weight of giant monsters, and as viewers get to know the characters, the soundtrack transforms into traditional-sounding Japanese folk tunes weaved into classic thriller hooks.
Early on, it looks like Godzilla has emerged from Mt. Fuji to wreak havoc upon Tokyo — totally unprovoked. Maybe he was just some mindless, destructive beast. But wait! A second Godzilla jumps out of the water to confront this gargantuan terror. And… wait for it… the first violent creature was actually Mechagodzilla in disguise! This was a mind blowing plot twist for a young child. Perhaps even more surprising was that this mechanized monstrosity was besting the titular hero, who is trounced and strewn into the ocean, creating a massive pool of blood reminiscent of Jaws. (Am I really comparing these two titles?)
“the entire plot seems like it was concocted by a listening to kids playing with action figures during a focus group and transcribing every single line of dialogue and action beat.”
Once the monsters left the screen, my initial instinct would be to fast forward, as I so often did, but for whatever reason, I waited it out. I remember cowering when the heroes are stalked and ambushed by freakish assassins. And for what? Some lion statue? The people mutating into space monkeys were off-putting, but I think I realized at that moment that in spite of this being a movie about giant monsters, the scariest things were the people.
Of course, this all culminates with a rematch between Godzilla and Mechagodzilla, but what about King Caesar? That mysterious Japanese lady sings a traditional song passed down by her ancestors and summons what looks like a cross between Falcor and the Rabbit from Donnie Darko. He was my favorite.
Then, the bad guys’ lair is destroyed, alongside Mechagodzilla. This sequence was so memorable for me that it became a staple of my make-believe experiences. Every time I would pretend that I was escaping from an exploding building, I wouldn’t imagine scenes from Star Wars or 007 — I would think about the pulsating circuits detonating in that Godzilla building.
Finally, like a cowboy riding off into the sunset, Godzilla walks off into the sea to return home, all the while, King Caesar turns back into a statue. What?!
The beauty of this movie has nothing to do with the quality (or lack thereof) of the production; it is because it is a triumph of going full-on campy. Like most films in the Godzilla catalog, the entire plot seems like it was concocted by a listening to kids playing with action figures during a focus group and transcribing every single line of dialogue and action beat. And that’s the beauty, really. Most kids shows and movies nowadays can be ridiculous, but there is often a certain degree of irony and self-awareness. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla has none of that, it just is, which is the most beautiful thing about a child playing around.
It’s at this time I have to make an embarrassing confession.
When I was in first grade, my teacher, Mrs. Gugliotta asked us all if we spoke a foreign language. This girl Amanda knew a few French phrases. Michelle’s dad was from Argentina, so she spoke Spanish. In this moment, I thought back to Godzilla and realized that I too knew could recite a foreign language. I watched that film enough times that I knew the King Caesar song by heart, so my hand shot up.
“I know a song from Japan!”
By this point in the year, Mrs. Gugliotta was wary of my strange, hyperactive antics, so she knew this was, at best, an exaggeration.
“How nice, Quentin. I bet you do. Now, the thing-”
‘Hoo tell hee mono do. Dome money moss tee adu! Ho bena kita. Hey yula kada. Sa many Yoshi do!! Ho tosh he now, CAESAR!!’”
“THANK YOU, Quentin.”
While Mrs. Gugliotta was not a fan of my glorious rendition, it sounded pretty authentic to my peers, who responded with some moderate applause. This might be a shocker, but I wasn’t the most popular kid, so earning that applause was a self-esteem boost I treasured all day.
Yeah, it’s a ridiculous movie, but Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla shall always hold a special place in my heart.