Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A Quick Look: THE TERROR OF GODZILLA (1978 - color)

   The final film in the original slate of Godzilla pictures, THE TERROR OF GODZILLA is considered a high point by most fans. In the film, following the destruction of Mechagodzilla, the invaders from the third planet of the black hole have rebuilt the mechanical marvel and intend to destroy Tokyo with it. The rebuilt city will be their base of operations for conquering and ruling Earth. To aid them, they've contracted a disgraced scientist who was laughed out of the business because of his pet theory involving a living dinosaur he claimed to've discovered. (This in a universe crawling with living dinosaurs...) His dinosaur, Titanosaurus, is under mechanical control, and soon both it and Mechagodzilla are leveling the world's largest city. Both creatures are directly controlled by the scientist's daughter, she turned into a cyborg by the Martians. When she falls in love with an agent looking to stop the monsters, complications arise. Oh, and Godzilla stops by, too. More somber than the previous entries, the film even sticks to a muted color scheme of mostly greys and browns. More a love story than the usual Godzilla picture, sedate human drama commands much of the film's first half. Being a bit of a throwback to the more natural monster designs of the 60's, Titanosaurus has long been a fan favorite. The film also features my all-time favorite Godzilla moment, when our reptilian hero is bombarded with everything Mechagodzilla can muster against him -and the big blue dinosaur charges through the inferno of explosions and rays to reach his opponent. Even after he catches fire at one point, Godzilla still makes it to his target and then unleashes a barrage of punches on his metallic foe. It's a genuinely thrilling 'hero' moment and perfectly captures why the Showa Era Godzilla was so popular. The film didn't see US release until around 1978, when it was shown both in theaters AND on television. The TV release added a prolog explaining Godzilla's history and changed the title to TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA. This title has been the one used for all VHS and DVD releases. THE TERROR OF GODZILLA played theaters in several different cuts. The kiddie matinee version trimmed out just about every instance of human violence, which made for a very confusing climax. This was the version seen on VHS and DVD for years. Only recently did a scope, uncut version surface on DVD thanks to Classic Media. Basically, this version restored the film to it's full theatrical cut, but included the TV prolog and titles for good measure! Toho toyed with producing more films in the series, but never made another one. Godzilla wouldn't resurface until GODZILLA 1985, which kicked off a whole new franchise. Because of this, THE TERROR OF GODZILLA is bittersweet, but very enjoyable.

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