Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Godzilla Week: Godzilla vs. The Bionic Monster (1974)
Released briefly in the United States as Godzilla vs. The Bionic Monster before changing its title to Godzilla vs. The Cosmic Monster after the rights-holders of the Six Million Dollar Man/Bionic Woman franchise complained, this film is more widely known by the title Godzilla vs. Mecha-Godzilla.
Here, there’s a significant air of mystery as the kaiju action commences. Godzilla begins acting in uncharacteristically destructive, violent and evil fashion, even attacking a friend from Monster Island, the spiky Anguirus.
But it is soon revealed that evil aliens who appear human but are really simian in nature (think Planet of the Apes…) are behind the attack, using an impostor Godzilla -- the robotic Mecha-Godzilla -- and hoping to conquer the Earth.
In this case, Godzilla requires the assistance of King Caesar -- a kind of glowing dog/bat kaiju who has slumbered for generations inside a mountain cave on Okinawa -- to defeat the aliens’ “ultimate weapon!”
Okinawan prophecy, re-counted by the descendants of the royal family of Azumi Castle, foretells of a day when a black mountain will appear, the sun shall rise in the west, and two monsters will rise to defeat a grave threat to humanity.
The symbols of this prophecy begin to come true in the late 20th century when aliens “from the third planet of the black hole, outer space” land on Earth, and launch their cyborg, Mecha-Godzilla from their underground base.
Godzilla rises from the sea to stop his merciless and malevolent duplicate, but fails on the first attempt.
Now, Princess Nami (Lin) must sing a song from ancient Azumi history to wake the great King Caesar from his longer slumber, to join forces with Godzilla and save the world.
Although King Caesar looks a bit like a Muppet gone mad, Godzilla vs. The Bionic Monster introduces one of the great villains of the Godzilla canon: the giant robot, Mecha-Godzilla. This silver titan can shoot missiles from its finger tips, and fire beams of energy that ravage Godzilla.
Given the robot’s impressive arsenal, perhaps it is not surprising that this is an especially gory installment of the long-lived saga.
For example, in one scene red blood veritably fountains out of Godzilla’s neck as Mecha-Godzilla attacks.
In another scene, two aliens take bullets to the head, and greed fluid bursts out of their wounds. In keeping with this more savage tone, the evil alien leader is absolutely merciless in nature, ordering his giant cyborg, at one point, to “beat Godzilla to death!” rather than merely destroy him.
So the stakes are pretty high in the film, and again, one feels while watching it that -- again, it’s almost like a 1970s James Bond film. It comes replete with an evil-talking villain who loquaciously shares his plans, and reveals his secret subterranean headquarters. There are also the requisite action sequences. In this case, Godzilla somehow transforms himself into a “magnetic pole” during battle, and attracts Mecha-Godzilla to his scales. That’s a new one.
Similarly, there’s an “imposter” Godzilla in the film’s opening, a reflection of certain Bond tropes seen in series entries such as From Russia with Love (1963) and The Man with The Golden Gun (1974).
Although this film is not as strong as Godzilla vs. Hedorah since it lacks the social context of that film and the 1954 original, it certainly features a great villain and a unique guest-star in King Caesar. It’s always nice to see Anguirus, as well.
One logical question does arise, however: how did the Azumi family know this threat from space would come? What forces gave rise to the ancient prophecy? Just think of the “second sight” necessary, in ancient days, to imagine aliens from space, Godzilla, Anguirus, Mecha-Godzilla and aliens from space.
Otherwise, Godzilla vs. The Bionic Monster is good fun, if occasionally absurd. The moment when the alien leader spits out his home address (“the third planet of the black hole, outer space,”) is one example of the latter. And you just have to love the fact that the villain is such a trash-talker, always boasting about his robot and seeking to diminish Godzilla’s chances.
Finally, it is also never explained why the same supreme leader is always smoking a cigar and drinking liquor.
Aren’t smoking and drinking human vices?
And simple human vices don’t seem likely from an outer-space ape man who cackles his way through lines of dialogue like “Goodbye, Stupid Earthlings...”
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