The Test of Time: Mothra vs Godzilla (1964)

We all have certain movies we love. Movies we respect without question because of either tradition, childhood love, or because they’ve always been classics. However, as time keeps ticking, do those classics still hold up? Do they remain must see? So…the point of this column is to determine how a film holds up for a modern horror audience, to see if it stands the Test of Time.

Director: Ishiro Honda
Starring: Akira Takarada, Yuriko Hoshi, and Hiroshi Koizumi

At one point in my life I sure did love some old school GODZILLA movies. Something about the bad dubs, dated effects, and simple plots appealed on a number of different levels. Of course, it didn’t hurt that it starred a massive green monster who enjoyed crushing strategically placed models and props. While J.J. Abrams and company attempt to recreate the monster genre with 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE this weekend, let’s see if one of the more famous sequels from Japan stands up against the Test of Time. 

Under the examination: MOTHRA VS GODZILLA (aka GODZILLA VS THE THING).


THE STORY: When the biggest damn egg ever washes up on the shores of Japan, things change pretty quickly. The moment scientists start inspecting it, a local businessman somehow buys the egg (eight minutes into the movie) and doesn’t want science to get anywhere close to it. In fact, he and his evil capitalist buddy want people to pay to see it. It turns out that this isn’t just a big egg, but the egg of Mothra, a giant moth from a faraway island where it is worshipped. Anyway, all this activity wakes up the big fella, leading to a monster on monster showdown all while a reporter and a photographer attempt to figure it all out.  

Battle for the ages.

WHAT STILL HOLDS UP: First thing first. I don’t think most folks are fully aware of the longevity of GODZILLA. It’s officially the longest running franchise in cinema, starting in 1954 and lasting through 28 different Toho features (that’s the Japanese production company) along with two major American versions and a few US cuts of the original films. Now that’s pretty damn impressive, especially considering the name brand character can’t talk. It’s not like James Bond where you can recast him or give him, you know, dialogue. No, your star is a destructive monster. Officially, MOTHRA VS GODZILLA is the fourth in the franchise, arriving two years after the big guy’s battle with King Kong. Of course, you don’t need to see that one (or any other) to follow along. 

Teach that building a lesson.

It’s important, however, not to discount the franchise or this film for not having a point. Director Ishiro Honda and screenwriter Shin’ichi Sekizawa (who respectively directed and wrote a ridiculous chunk of the franchise) do a fine job here of creating social awareness, which could be an easily forgotten part of these films. They hit on the effects of nuclear testing, the greed of business, and nature vs progression. And it’s not just a throwaway aspect. No, we see what progression has done to Japan and how it effects those around them (like those red dressed folks on the island). 

Even though the film displays some brains, I still think the best part of about any old school GODZILLA movie comes from two things: people running away from Godzilla and Godzilla lumbering around. But in MOTHRA VS GODZILLA, he’s not just taking a stroll or even wanting to destroy everything around him. No, he’s more just one big clumsy bastard, bumping into everything in sight, even getting his tail stuck and slipping off a ledge, which sends him face planting into a building. Feeling embarrassed, he then proceeds to beat the church senseless to teach it a lesson. What’s not to love about that? As for the monster on monster action, it doesn’t disappoint. My favorite part? When Godzilla finally reaches that big ass egg, he gives it one mean stink eye.

The ultimate evil eye.

WHAT BLOWS NOW: OK, the twin little girls in yellow are pretty annoying. They represent the voice of Mothra, which is kinda cool (especially since Japanese pop group The Peanuts played them) but damn, they just seem to whine and beg to anyone who will listen about returning the egg to them. It’s cute at first but shut up after a while. And boy, there’s a great display here of bad green screen. Case in point: once we arrive on the island where we witness the results of nuclear testing. It’s…terrible. Somehow I doubt that was ever a good effect. Of course, a lot of the effects here are less than spectacular but that’s the enjoyment of most of the flick.  

Now that's acting.

THE VERDICT: MOTHRA VS GODZILLA ends up being a movie that sounds more appealing than the end product at times, but it's impossible to deny the appeal of watching a dude in a monster suit wander around smashing a set of miniatures and doing battle with a giant moth that can flap its wings really fast. Now that's entertainment. 



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