After a violent hurricane devastates a development area at Kurada Beach, two newspaper employees, reporter Ichiro Sakai and photographer Junko Nakanishi, find a large scale of some sorts while the latter is attempting to photograph the wreckage. Later that day, an enormous egg is discovered floating just off a nearby fishing village and it's soon hauled ashore by the villagers, who feel that anything that appears in their waters belongs to them. While trying to figure out the egg's origin, Prof. Miura, along with Sakai and Junko, are introduced to Kumayama, an entrepreneur who reveals that he bought the egg from the villagers for his company, Happy Enterprises, and says that he plans to turn it into a tourist attraction, one that even the scientists will have to pay to see. When Kumayama and Torahata, the man who backed the entrepreneur, meet to discuss their plans for the egg, they are visited by two tiny women, the Shobijin, who tell them that the egg isn't theirs. The two greedy men try to capture the tiny girls but they manage to escape and later meet up with Sakai, Junko, and Miura, who explain to them that they're from Infant Island, which has been devastated by atomic testing, and that the egg belongs to their monster god, Mothra. Upon hearing their pleas, the three of them do what they can to try to help them get the egg back but Kumayama and Torahata remain very unreasonable and even try to buy the tiny women. Realizing that there's nothing more than can be done, the two women leave with Mothra but as they do so, they thank Sakai, Junko, and Miura for trying. Afterward, Sakai tries to sway public opinion against Happy Enterprises with his articles but it doesn't do much good and the attraction involving the egg gets ever closer to its opening day. Prof. Miura contacts Sakai and Junko and puts through a radiation decontamination process, explaining to them that they were slightly radioactive and that the strange scale that they found at Kurada Beach emits radiation as well. Upon arriving at the spot to test for any more radiation, the three of them, as well as the large crowd that has gathered there to see the progress of the cleanup operation, are horrified when Godzilla suddenly emerges from the beach's soil, having also been washed ashore by the hurricane and buried beneath the mud. With the monster rampaging throughout the countryside, Sakai and the others realize that they're only hope is to go to Infant Island and ask the natives to get Mothra to help them, as much of a longshot as that is. While the natives, including the tiny women, unsurprisingly refuse at first, the three of them make their case and Mothra herself seems to agree to help them. However, because the giant moth is old and dying, there's no guarantee that she'll be able to defeat Godzilla and so, the real hope for Japan may lie with Mothra's unborn offspring inside the egg.
In-between King Kong vs. Godzilla and this film, Ishiro Honda had directed two more science fiction films. The first was Matango, a very bleak and dark film about shipwreck survivors who are forced to consume an edible fungus in order to survive and, as a result, begin losing their minds and eventually become fungi themselves. I've personally never seen the film but, from everything I've heard, it sounds like one of Honda's darkest films by far and feels more like horror than science fiction (I really should track it down since it's also considered one of his personal best). The other was Atragon, a science fiction spectacle film about a powerful submarine being used as defense against an undersea kingdom that attempts to take over the surface. This movie is notable for introducing the snake-like monster of Manda, who would go on to make occasional appearances in the Godzilla series, with his biggest role being in Destroy All Monsters. After Atragon, Honda returned to Godzilla and while he may not have cared for the lighter and sillier direction the series began taking with King Kong vs. Godzilla, he remedied that here by effortlessly combining his more serious sensibilities with the lighter touches of screenwriter Shinichi Sekizawa. This is the movie that hit just the right middle-ground to satisfy both parties: it's still a fun and entertaining film, nowhere near as dark as the original Godzilla, but, at the same time, nothing about it, including the monsters, is played for laughs. Honda gets to keep both Godzilla and Mothra as powerful, awe-inspiring creatures and also manages to put in some nice allegory while, at the same time, Sekizawa is allowed to continue making the monsters characters who react to the humans just as much as the humans react to them and keep the film as a piece of fun entertainment above everything else. You couldn't ask for a more perfect union between Honda and Sekizawa and, sure enough, at least in the Godzilla series, they would never quite be able to duplicate it again.
As Junko, Sakai's inexperienced photographer, the lovely Yuriko Hoshi comes across as very kind-hearted but strong-willed at the same time. While she does get on Sakai's nerves due to how little she knows about taking pictures for a newspaper, she agrees with his opinion that Kumayama shouldn't be allowed to just buy the egg like that, citing its value to science rather than as a tourist attraction, and like her boss, is determined to help the tiny girls get Mothra's egg back to Infant Island. When she, Sakai, and Prof. Miura have their fruitless meeting with Kumayama and Torahata, Junko stands up to Torahata when he insists that he has no part in the decisions made by Kumayama and Happy Enterprises, saying that he's playing dumb. When that meeting fails, she tries to cheer the tiny girls up by saying that Sakai will put their story in the newspaper but she, along with the girls, is disappointed when Sakai says that doing so won't grant them any legal recourse. She also agrees with Sakai when he feels that going to Infant Island to ask for Mothra's help against Godzilla would be not only insensitive but might be utterly pointless since they probably wouldn't help them anyway. When they get to Infant Island and they how devastated it is by the atomic tests that were conducted there, she understands why the natives, including the faeries, refuse to help them, with their not getting Mothra's egg back only compounding the problem, but before Sakai makes his speech, Junko makes her case as well, telling them that many, many people are being killed by Godzilla, both good and bad, and that even bad people have the right to live. This, along with Sakai's following speech, apparently inspires Mothra herself to decide to help them. Finally, one last thing I have to say that I like about Junko is that, as is the case with the series as a whole, they don't try to force a romance between her and Sakai, which is what would happen if this were a typical American monster movie. It goes about as far as Sakai occasionally putting his arm around her and even then, it's always just to comfort her whenever something upsets her. Since I get tired of that cliché in American monster flicks, I'm really glad that the Japanese have very different sensibilities concerning them.
Another returning actor to the series is Hiroshi Koizumi, who plays Prof. Miura, the scientist who at first attempts to study the giant egg and then joins up with Sakai and Junko in their quest to get it away from Happy Enterprises. While his role here is certainly more memorable than his bland series debut role as Tsukioka in Godzilla Raids Again, Koizumi again doesn't have much to do except just go along with the newspaper reporter and his photographer for the most part. He does make Miura out to be a likable guy who, like the other two, knows that it's not right for Kumayama to just up and buy the giant egg and turn it into a tourist attraction and he's also the first one to mention that the authorities wouldn't be of any use to them in this matter because of how long it takes for them to do anything. He also feels for the two tiny girls and the natives of Infant Island for the atomic tests that were conducted there and for them not being able to get Mothra's egg (he agreed with Sakai about how it would be virtually impossible to use legal means to get the egg back from Happy Enterprises), but, at the same time, when Sakai initially refuses, Miura says that he himself will go to the island to ask for Mothra's help against Godzilla, saying that they may listen to their pleas if they make their case. Like I said, when Miura arrives on the island along with Sakai and Junko and they see the devastation that the atomic tests did to it, he clearly feels sympathy for the people, as do the other two, and when they turn their request for help, he understands full well why they did so. In fact, he's about ready to give up and head back when Junko and Sakai make their cases to the islanders, which ultimately sway their decision. Speaking of his relationship with the reporter and the photographer, he's initially annoyed by them when he first meets them and they try to get him to answer some questions when he's trying to do his work with the egg but I think that their dislike for Kumayama's purchase of the egg is what makes them join up and plus, he decontaminates the two of them when he discovers that they picked up some radiation. All in all, Miura may not be the most important in the film but, like everyone else in the main cast, he's still likable due to his determination to do the right thing.
The two tiny twin girls who are associated with Mothra are played by Emi and Yumi Ito, a singing duo who were known in Japan as the Peanuts. I simply say that they're associated with Mothra because, frankly, I still don't know what their relation to the giant moth is, if they're her guardians, caregivers, or what. They're obviously closer to her than anyone else on Infant Island since she listens to and understands them when they talk to her (or sing, for the most part) and there's possibly something supernatural about them since they're so tiny. Or at least, I think there is. In the Japanese version of Mothra, they're referred to as the "Shobijin," which tentatively translates to, "little beauties." They may refer to them as such in the Godzilla movies, although I'm not entirely sure but, for the sake of flow and to avoid confusion, I'll refer to them as such too from here on out. In any case, now that we've got that out of the way, the Shobijin, like Mothra herself and the other inhabitants of Infant Island, are peace-loving and prefer not to cause conflict if they can help it. They at first appear to Kumayama and Torahata to ask them to return the egg but when that doesn't work at all, they go to Sakai, Junko, and Miura and enlist their help in getting the egg back. Unfortunately, this doesn't sway the greedy businessmen either and the girls are forced to return to Infant Island without the egg, although they thank the three of them for their help and kindness. That said, though, they, like the rest of Infant Island, refuse the groups plea for help against Godzilla because they now have no faith in the outside world whatsoever. In the later Godzilla movies that they appeared in, the Shobijin would be always be absolute goody-two-shoes and immediately offer Mothra's assistance to those who needed it, so it's surprising to see them unwilling to help here. You understand why they feel that way, of course, and even if they are of some divine, supernatural origin, they too would probably lose faith in humanity after the way they and their people have been treated. Still, it's not like their attitude is one of, "We're not helping. Get out of here and don't ever come back." They sincerely apologize to their friends for not being able to help and the natives seem to share in that sentiment. Of course, they say that they're aware that Mothra's egg is in danger, so you'd think they would have sent Mothra to get it by this point but, I guess the reason they didn't is because you find out she's old and dying and would have been unable to do so. However, once Junko and Sakai make their cases, the Shobijin inform them that Mothra has decided to help them. It takes Mothra a while to reach Japan in order to battle Godzilla but once she does, the Shobijin arrive as well, telling the main characters that they always keep their promises. Even though Mothra loses her life to Godzilla, they explain that the egg can be hatched and that Mothra's young will deal with Godzilla. This provides more evidence that they must be of some divine origin because their singing not only allows them to communicate with Mothra but it, along with a ritual that the natives perform simultaneously on the island, prompts the egg to hatch as well. And speaking of their singing, while some are annoyed by it, I don't mind it in this particular film. Now, it annoys in some other movies but here, I think it serves a nice purpose and plus, the two of them are really good little singers!
Yu Fujiki, who played the cowardly Furue in King Kong vs. Godzilla, is here again as Nakamura, another reporter that works alongside Sakai and Junko and who loves eating eggs. While Nakamura, like Furue, is meant to be comedy relief, he's not as overtly silly as Fujiki's previous character (of course, everybody was being silly in that movie). The comedy with him comes from how much he loves to eat eggs, mainly soft-boiled and with use of a fork for eating the yolk (not my idea of a delicious lunch but who am I to judge?) and how he's constantly being chewed out by the editor. He stays close to Mothra's egg, even when Godzilla's nearby, because the editor told him that if he didn't stick to his assignment, he'd be fired. Nakamura even admits that he's more worried about being fired than he is of Godzilla. Personally, though, I like what he says in the English version better: "I'm not as afraid of Godzilla as I am of the editor. He's meaner." He's the one who suggests asking Mothra for help against Godzilla and is so surprised with how the editor reacts to it that he thinks he said something wrong. He watches the battle between the two monsters with the three leads and after Mothra's killed and the military retreats, Nakamura ends up being in the wrong place at the wrong time because he's holding onto the back of an army jeep that ends up taking off with him! But, as a result of that, he learns that Godzilla is heading for Iwa Island, where a teacher and a group are children are trapped, and he brings the others to the nearby harbor, where they set out on a boat to rescue them while Godzilla is busy battling the two Mothra larvae that hatched from the egg, so Nakamura isn't just a useless comedic character and plus, I just like the sight of him with the three leads throughout the film's last quarter.
Another actor who returns from the previous film is Jun Tazaki, who plays the extremely volatile editor of the newspaper that Sakai, Junko, and Nakamura work for. He's a pretty grouchy guy, always on the lookout for a big story and is on the back of anyone who isn't out looking for one too (namely Nakamura). He gives Sakai something of a lecture about a newspaper's responsibility when he says that he's going to stop writing articles about Happy Enterprises since they're not doing any good in getting them any legal recourse against the company, telling him that newspapers are meant to be the voice of the people, not to influence the law and such. When Sakai says that the articles are just giving Happy Enterprises more free publicity, the editor goes as far as to question the power of his writing, telling him that his words might not be strong enough! Sakai almost starts an argument with the editor for that comment but is interrupted by a phone call. When Godzilla appears and begins attacking, the editor says that he doesn't think that the military will be able to do anything against the monster and when Nakamura suggests getting Mothra to battle Godzilla, the editor says that it's a great idea (but even then, he lambasts Nakamura for not sticking with Mothra's egg and tells him he'll be fired if he does it again). He also insists that Sakai and the others go to Infant Island to ask that favor, since they are the only ones who are able to talk to the Shobijin and when Sakai is reluctant, he tells him that if they don't get help, Godzilla will completely destroy Japan. He may not be the nicest character in the film but he's not unlikable either and you can't say that he's not memorable either.
Yoshifumi Tajima, an actor who pops up quite frequently in Toho's sci-fi and monster flicks, usually in small parts, gives his most memorable performance in the series here as Kumayama, the entrepreneur who sees fit to purchase Mothra's egg for his company and turn it into a tourist attraction. Of the film's two human antagonists, the other one being Torahata, Kumayama is the more comical due to Tajima's semi-hammy acting. He portrays Kumayama as big and blustery, with nothing other than money on his mind, going as far as to even charge scientists for the right to look at the egg. He has no conscience whatsoever and when Sakai, Junko, and Prof. Miura bring the Shobijin to make their pleas for the return of Mothra's egg, the only thing Kumayama and Torahata can think of is to try to buy the girls to be put on exhibition along with the egg. When they first met the girls, they'd already tried to capture them, which only goes to further prove that there's nothing they both care about more than money. Kumayama certainly does have his asshole moments, like when he blows cigarette smoke in Junko's face when she attempts to photograph him and when he obnoxiously laughs at Torahata's question to the leads as to whether Mothra gives them power of attorney, but through it all, he's portrayed as so bigger than life and somewhat buffoonish with his actions and facial expressions (the latter get particularly funny at times) that you can't bring yourself to hate him, even though what he and Torahata are doing is despicable. However, despite his silly moments, Kumayama is not played purely for laughs, as he would have been if he appeared in a film like King Kong vs. Godzilla. He gets really serious whenever someone interferes with his business, threatening the three leads with legal action for doing so and becoming quite angry when the villagers demand their money for the rental of the land they're using to house Mothra's egg, telling them that he'll have the money for them the next day and proceeding to throw them out. Kumayama gets out and out violent during his final appearance in the film, where he angrily confronts Torahata for swindling him out of his money, which was even further compounded when Godzilla appeared and scared away all potential tourists, causing him to lose everything. He brutally beats Torahata's face until there's blood pouring out of his nose and proceeds to try to get back at his former partner by taking all of the money he has stored in a large cabinet in his hotel room. He doesn't get much farther than that, though, as Torahata puts a bullet through his head, ending their partnership permanently.
The other human villain, Jiro Torahata, is much more unlikable than Kumayama and, in many ways, is the real human antagonist of the piece. Kenji Sahara really gets to play against type in this role and makes Torahata the definition of greedy capitalism. Torahata is just a bastard. He's greedier than even Kumayama and uses the political connections that he has to get whatever he wants. He plans to make as much money from the egg as Kumayama, even more so, and in the end, we find out that he went as far as to swindle his own partner. He has a large cabinet filled to the brim with money in his hotel room but we never learn how he got it or what he intends to use it for. When Kumayama tries to get Torahata to lend him some of that money to pay off the villagers, Torahata simply says, "That money is for something else." No doubt it's meant for some other scheme that he's got on the backburner. Torahata is ruthless enough to attempt to capture the Shobijin when they first appear to them, possibly either to simply kill them or, as he and Kumayama later come up with, as a means to make more money. I say both he and Kumayama but when the two of them are reintroduced to the girls by the three leads, it's obvious that Torahata is the one who comes up with the plan to buy them, with how he murmurs something to Kumayama before the latter comes back with the offer. Ultimately, though, what makes Torahata such a snide villain is how smug and arrogant he is in regards to the bad things he does. He's especially so during the scene where he and Kumayama meet with Sakai, Junko, and Prof. Miura, where he claims to simply be the moneyman and that Kumayama and Happy Enterprises make the decisions. Junko calls him out on this crap, saying, "You're playing dumb," to which Torahata smugly responds, "I'm not playing dumb, young lady." Although he and Kumayama seem initially intimidated when they're told that the egg belongs Mothra, Torahata then makes that crack about whether their association with Mothra gives them power of attorney, a statement that really disgusts Sakai. Later on, when Kumayama asks him for some money to pay off the villagers, Torahata so smoothly talks him into a deal that ends up ruining him that you feel that, Kumayama's initial reservations aside, that he's the type of guy who could sell ice to a polar bear. And when Kumayama angrily confronts him about the money he lost, what does Torahata say? "You should have known better." Can you spell asshole? But, as I've said, underneath that smug exterior is a man who is so ruthless to get what he wants that he'll stop at nothing, even murder, as shown when he shoots Kumayama when he's taking the money from his cabinet, to make as much money as he can. But, like Kumayama, his greed is what does him in because he takes the time to gather up his money and evacuate the hotel when Godzilla is approaching rather than just worrying about his own life and, therefore, doesn't make it out before Godzilla destroys the hotel and he's crushed to death beneath the falling rubble.
In writing the screenplay for Mothra vs. Godzilla, Shinichi Sekizawa basically combined elements of both King Kong vs. Godzilla and the original Mothra. Like the latter, the film begins with a storm (both of which basically have the same name), the leads are a male reporter, a female photographer (though the one in Mothra didn't have as much to do), and a male scientist, and the human antagonist is a greedy capitalist whose narrow-minded and selfish ambitions result in the loss of many lives and a lot of property damage. In Mothra, the latter aspect was due to the capture of the Shobijin, which caused Japan, and later, the fictional country of "Rolisica," to suffer Mothra's wrath, while here, it's Kumayama and Torahata's refusal to give back the egg to Mothra and Infant Island that initially leaves Japan defenseless when Godzilla begins attacking. And, of course, the connection to King Kong vs. Godzilla is the pitting of another popular movie monster against Godzilla and since the original Mothra had been quite popular when it was released in Japan in 1961, it was only logical that she be the King of the Monsters' next opponent. However, hears an interesting question: is Mothra vs. Godzilla a sequel to the original Mothra? You'd think the obvious answer would be yes but when you look at the two films, it doesn't become quite so obvious. Besides the similarities between the narrative structures of both this film and Mothra, it should be noted that the events of that film are never mentioned here. Even though everyone in Japan knew of Mothra and the Shobijin by the end of that movie, here the characters seem absolutely surprised when the Shobijin appear to them and when they tell them of Mothra. You'd think that Kumayama and Torahata would have remembered what happened the first time a greedy businessman like themselves messed with Mothra and wouldn't be so smug when they're confronted with this fact, although they do seem to initially recognize the name. In Mothra, the title character caused a lot of damage when she went on an angry rampage to try to save the Shobijin and they themselves said that Mothra doesn't know right from wrong, only the instinct to take them back to Infant Island. Here, Mothra is portrayed as not only being very intelligent but also possessing a type of divine morality and even a faculty for forgiveness. She could have easily gone on a rampage like she did before and take her egg with force but instead, it seems like she wants peace just as much as the people who worship her. You could chalk that up to the fact that she's old and dying but it also seems like she's much more of an actual deity in this movie than the simple-minded, if somewhat divine, creature that she was before. In the original Mothra, Infant Island was indeed a victim of nuclear testing courtesy of Rolisica but, unlike the completely barren rock that it is here, there was a lush green jungle with strange plant-life in the center of it and the natives seemed much more primitive than the eloquently speaking people they are here. In short, the connection that this film has with the original Mothra is fairly shaky. You could instantly assume that the giant moth here is the same creature that appeared in that film but, as I've pointed out, it's not as simple as all that. It's not like Toho was all that concerned with very strong continuity at this time anyway, with monsters returning after they were seemingly killed beyond all doubt and the same actors playing different roles throughout the series (Hiroshi Koizumi also appeared as a scientist in the original Mothra), in addition to very vague connections to past films that are meant to take place in the same universe, so it's best to not think about this stuff too hard or else, your head will explode.
There's quite a bit of allegory to be found in Mothra vs. Godzilla. Not is there a little bit of commentary on the place and role of newspapers and journalism in general but the film, like Mothra, also makes a statement about the consequences of unchecked capitalism. However, while Shinichi Sekizawa did make this subject matter the focus of satire in Mothra, it must be noted that he wrote it into the final screenplay for this film at Ishiro Honda's insistence. Honda's influence could also be why the issue here is more allegorical than satirical. In Mothra, the capitalistic villain is so overtly evil and villainous that you'd expect him to be in a comic book of the day. Here, despite some occasional buffoonish actions from Kumayama, he and Torahata are played more straight and, especially in the case of Torahata, are meant to be symbols of capitalism rather than characters to be ridiculed because their bad aspects are so overt. It's also indicative of the time period the film was made in, which was when Japan's economy was very quickly becoming one to be reckoned with (by 1968, it would be the second most powerful in the world, right behind the United States). It's also interesting to note that in Mothra, the villain was from a fictional country that was a thinly veiled stand-in for the United States (the large city that serves as the centerpiece for that movie's climax is called New Kirk City) whereas here, you have two men who are 100% Japanese doing every underhanded and immoral thing they can to get as much money for themselves as possible. Given the general attitude of Japanese business, it's not surprising why they went that route in Mothra, especially during such a prosperous time for the country, but I have to wonder why Honda felt it necessary to make such a statement with a Japanese character in this film. Maybe he felt that Japan was becoming too prosperous too fast and that this type of greed could result from it? Since I never met the man, I can't say for sure that this was his intention so it's just a theory and one that I wouldn't press unless I had more confirmation, which I don't.
Honda also added the theme of hope for a world without distrust into the film. As I said back in my review of the original Godzilla, Honda's wartime experiences turned him into a firm pacifist and so, you can see the speech that Sakai gives to the natives of Infant Island about how they all want a world without suspicion and distrust and that they won't stop trying, despite all of the conflicts that tend to arise in the world, as the director himself telling us his humanistic viewpoints. While I do like the original Japanese dialogue, I think the way it's written in the American version affirms Honda's feelings even more so: "Just as you distrust us, so we distrust others as well. It's wrong. We're all human. As humans, we are responsible for each other. We are related. Refuse us and you abandon your brothers. We must learn to help each other." That "brotherhood of man" speech, as it's called, so wonderfully sums up what Honda was trying to say with this scene that I have to give major props to the writers of that American version. Some may call that overly sentimental and saccharine but, honestly, is a world without distrust, suspicion, or hate really that much of a crackpot idea? This allegory trickles down into other type that's present here, one that hasn't been mentioned since the original Godzilla: atomic tests. While it's not nearly as prevalent here as it was in the original movie, Mothra vs. Godzilla does remind us that Godzilla is the result of nuclear tests, an aspect of his character that was basically ignored in the previous two films and, save for occasional mentions here and there, would disappear altogether until the second cycle of movies in the 80's and 90's. Not only is Godzilla's presence indicated by high Geiger counter readings, such as when Prof. Miura puts the counter next to the object that turns out to be his scale and when the counter goes haywire when he begins emerging from the ground of Kurada Beach, but Sakai and Junko also have to be put through a decontamination process because Miura realizes that they're slightly radioactive, no doubt from handling Godzilla's scale. But where the atomic aspect of the film really hits home is when Sakai, Junko, and Miura travel to Infant Island and see that it's been completely decimated by the nuclear tests conducted there. They're all shocked by what they see, with Junko commenting that she feels partly responsible, and Sakai sums it up best by saying, "Nuclear tests don't make news anymore, until you see this." Undeniably, Honda felt that Japan, and perhaps the world as well, shouldn't forget about the impact of the atomic bombings, even at this point where it had been almost 20 years since Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
It's interesting because when I began planning out this series of reviews, I was originally going to say that this film is where the second Godzilla comes the closest to being like the unstoppable bringer of death and destruction that his predecessor in the original film was. However, upon watching the movie again for safety's sake, I can say that that's not entirely true. While Godzilla is definitely not played for laughs and doesn't act like a goofball the way he tended to in King Kong vs. Godzilla (except during his first attack when he's acting especially clumsy) and his design in this particular film is quite menacing, he mainly comes across again like a confused creature that's just wandering around the countryside and is only causing death and destruction either by accident due to his immense size and girth or when he's defending himself upon being attacked. There are only a few times when he seems to be truly malevolent: when he intentionally sets fire to a section of the industrial complex during his first appearance, when he's menacing Mothra's egg (the look on his face there shows that he has some pretty monstrous plans for it), and when he glares at the Mothra larvae while using his atomic breath to create a fire to block their path. You could also look at the fact that he never returns to the ocean but continues to plod throughout Japan as a sign of malefic intentions on his part but otherwise, the destruction he causes seems to be either accidental or defensive. Aside from the part where he intentionally uses his atomic breath to set fire to a factory during his first rampage, all of the property damage is either simply because he has no choice but to walk through the numerous houses and other small structures on the ground or through pure accident, like when he destroys the hotel that Kumayama and Torahata are in by turning his body and whacking the building with his tail as a result. And as I already mentioned, he acts particularly clumsy during his first attack and appears to succeed in causing destruction in spite of himself. It's weird because, despite how silly he acted in King Kong vs. Godzilla, he seemed more intent on actually causing destruction there! Of course, Godzilla also destroys a lot of military vehicles as well as mortally wound Mothra but it's only because he was attacked first and was defending himself. He actually ignores the military's assault on him for the most part and it's only after they attempt to kill him with artificial lightning and fail that he becomes enraged and deliberately destroys their tanks and the apparatus they used for conducting the lightning. And yes, it's clear that he intended to do something not so nice to Mothra's egg, seeing as how he went out of his way to destroy its enormous incubator in order to get to it, but he only attacks Mothra herself because she came at him first. For that matter, Mothra actually has the upper hand throughout the fight and is only killed because Godzilla manages to get a lucky shot with his atomic breath. It also seems like he goes to Iwa Island just to escape all of the craziness that he was running into on the mainland and once there, has to defend himself yet again from Mothra's larvae. This reading of Godzilla's characterization here doesn't hurt the movie for me and you still get the idea that he's, whether intentionally or not, a menace to Japan and needs to be gotten rid of but I think it would have worked better if they made Godzilla himself come across as malevolent as his actual design in this film.
|What are you looking at?|
Speaking of which, his design in this film is another inspired piece of work. He's much thinner here than he was previously, sort of along the lines of Godzilla Raids Again, but unlike that film, his slimness actually works here and doesn't feel as awkward as it was there. He has fewer reptilian features than he did before (in fact, his head, which I'll get into, has a bit of mammalian look to it this time around), his tail is much longer, and, while his color is still very much a charcoal gray, there seems to be a slight touch of green in there as well. The most striking aspect of Godzilla's look here, though, is his head and face. As you can see, he really does like very menacing, especially when looked at straight on, mainly due to the enormous eyebrows that stand out from the rest of his head and makes it look like he has a very angry, frowning expression. His face also looks particularly angry and malevolent when viewed at from a side angle, like when he first appears at Kurada Beach. If you watch the movie, you will notice that Godzilla's upper lip wobbles around a lot. That's due to an accident that occurred during the filming of one scene that resulted in the teeth getting loosened up but apparently, Eiji Tsuburaya liked the way it looked and left it in (when my step-cousin and I were kids, we rationalized the wobble by saying it was leftover baby fat). Unfortunately, they still make use of a puppet of his head, notably for close-ups of it during his battle for Mothra and when he turns to atomic breath the tanks after destroying the towers that conduct artificial lightning, that doesn't quite fit with the suit's head since it's much more reptilian in appearance and the eyebrows aren't as prominent on it, although you can still see them (and to be fair, it does look more realistic than those used in the previous films). Speaking of the suit, the shots where Godzilla is swimming to Iwa Island, which are shot from the back, were actually done using the suit from King Kong vs. Godzilla because they had already decided that they wanted to use the suit here for the next film, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, and wanted to keep it from being damaged as much as possible (although, nevertheless, they would have to make some repairs to it). His atomic breath is still clearly a very hot, radioactive vapor when you see it in close-ups but it's looking more and more like a beam of energy, hinting that we're getting ever closer to when it becomes an atomic blast. And his roar this time around, just like his main music theme, has finally become the roar that many consider to be his official sound and, save for some minor tweaking, would stick with him for the rest of the original series of films.
It's amazing to watch the battle between Godzilla and Mothra and realize that you're watching a man in a suit fight with an enormous marionette because, especially in Mothra's case, you'd swear that you were actually watching two enormous creatures battling it out. The fact that they were not only able to make Mothra look good and quite pretty with the color patterns on her wings and body but also create a performance by simply maneuvering this inexpressive marionette is a testament to the talent of the special effects artists. The grace and swiftness that Mothra demonstrates during her battle with Godzilla is amazing and, again, remember that, even though they made use of different camera speeds to make it quicker, it's just people swinging this large model around. It's impressive how they're able to make Mothra bank, turn in the air, and repeatedly flap her wings in a very rapid fashion to create a windstorm that blows Godzilla around, and all without looking clunky or cheap as well. Mothra doesn't have many weapons with which to fight Godzilla but her agility, strength, and powerful winds from her wings manage to make this a surprisingly challenging battle for him, although this yellow powder that she uses against him, which is similar to a natural weapon that moths actually have, doesn't seem to affect Godzilla at all. While Mothra herself may be a marionette, her larvae are people in suits and it's impressive how they're able to make them believably look like caterpillars crawling around rather than humans. I've heard that Katsumi Tezuka is supposedly one of the larvae and if that's true, then he again proves that, despite what Haruo Nakajima has always said, he was up to the challenge of suit-acting in spite of his age. While they can't fly, the Mothra larvae are still very agile and are able to dodge blasts of Godzilla's atomic breath while spraying him with their very strong silk until he's unable to move and ends up tumbling into the ocean. As for the sounds they make, Mothra has a high-pitched screech that sounds very fitting for an enormous insect like herself, while her larvae make these loud squeaks which fit them as well.
Ten years prior to this film, Eiji Tsuburaya and his crew attempted to make a monster movie in Japan for the first time; by this point, however, they had become masters of their craft. The special effects in Mothra vs. Godzilla truly shine. While they still had some issues in the optical and compositing department, the rest of the effects work in the film is brilliantly done. The models look great (the tanks look much more convincing here than they did previously), with the large pagoda in Nagoya being especially impressive, Godzilla and Mothra both look really good (as I said, even though the puppet heads for Godzilla don't look like the suit's head, they look good in and of themselves), the way they make Mothra feel like a living creature is very impressive and the same goes for her larvae, and there's some good matte work to be found here, such as in the far-off shots where you can see Mothra's egg with a crowd of people around it. They use some interesting tricks involving camera speed during Godzilla and Mothra's fight where it seems like the action speeds up faster than normal. At first, I thought it was stop-motion but upon closer inspection, it looks as if they just shot the action at a faster than normal rate of speed. It does look a little odd when compared to other sections that are shot at normal speed and the switch is a bit jarring but, on the other hand, it makes the action feel much more exciting that it already is and it also helps in giving Mothra a more convincing feel of an enormous insect. But, as I mentioned, Tsuburaya and his crew are still having a little trouble when it comes to the compositing work in scenes where the monsters can be seen in the same shot as the normal actors and when the normal-sized characters interact with the Shobijin. It's much more well-done than the painfully dated and amateurish-looking optical work that we saw in King Kong vs. Godzilla, mind you, but the composited elements still look a little faded or blue when compared to everything else and you can sometimes clearly see the matte lines, particularly in shots involving the main actors and the Shobijin. Plus, in some of the shots where the Shobijin are running to where Mothra is with the main characters following them, they are noticeably transparent. The good thing about the Shobijin here is that, while they still used dolls are stand-ins for them in some shots, they only film them from the back. In the original Mothra, they often filmed those dolls from the front whenever someone picked them up and even for that type of film, it looked faker than all get-out. In close-ups of Mothra when she's flying during her fight with Godzilla, you can clearly see the strings holding up the marionette and, while it looks good in other parts of the movie, the use of the Godzilla puppet head in some shots during the section of the fight where Mothra is attacking his head doesn't quite work. But, those wonky bits aside, the special effects work here, on the whole, is solid and a testament to how far the artists had come within the ten years they had been doing this work.
The first effects sequence in the film is at the very beginning but, surprisingly, doesn't involve the monsters. Instead, we see the devastatingly powerful hurricane that all but decimates the resort at Kurada Beach. Chairs and a tent-like overhead get blown away, electric poles and a stone structure get blown down as if they're nothing, gallons upon gallons of seawater rush in, flooding the beach, and even a boat gets tossed on shore along with everything else. The effects work is very well done and the miniatures look as convincing as they can be. The lead-up to this destruction sequence that the opening credits play over, which is the ocean in a state of extreme turbulence, is also very realistic and it all helps to get the film off to a very good start.
After Sakai, Junko, and Miura manage to get the assistance of Mothra, the military prepares to herd Godzilla into an area where they can use machines that conduct artificial lightning as a means to try to kill him. While they prepare the area near the machines for use (I'm sure that some of that is footage from King Kong vs. Godzilla where they were preparing that huge pit, making this the first instance of stock footage in the series), a squadron of tanks follows Godzilla as he marches across the hills and repeatedly fire on him. Godzilla completely ignores this relentless attack, even when a couple of the shells hit him right in the head, as well as on his chest and arms, and continues walking forward as the shells explode around him, although at the end of the sequence he does seem to turn around and look at the tanks as if he's saying, "The hell are you doing?"
After Godzilla demolishes the hotel where Kumayama and Torahata were staying, killing the latter in the process before he could escape, he sets his sights on Mothra's egg as it sits within the enormous incubator that Happy Enterprises had constructed around it. Clearly interested in the egg for some reason (I always assumed that he wanted to eat it; maybe he could make an omelet with his atomic breath), Godzilla uses his tail to smash the incubator until it's completely exposed and looks down at it rather menacingly. However, before he can do whatever he intends to, Mothra arrives and immediately catches his attention as she flies over him and then turns around for another pass. Godzilla begins walking towards Mothra but before he can get too close to her, she begins flapping her wings quickly enough to create a windstorm powerful enough to make it hard for Godzilla to keep his balance. The winds destroy the rest of the facility around the egg and Godzilla tries to hit Mothra with his atomic breath but misses and is blown back along with what's left of the incubator and the egg. After the egg comes to rest by a rock, Mothra stops her windstorm and flies in to attack Godzilla who, still interested in the egg, leans his body over it to keep Mothra away and swipes his claws at her as well as tries to hit her with his atomic breath again. Unable to get to her egg, Mothra grabs the tip of Godzilla's tail and actually drags him away from it! Godzilla desperately grabs at the ground for support but it's to no avail and Mothra manages to drag him a great distance before letting go. Godzilla again tries to blast her but misses again as she flies around the back of his head, turns around, dodging another blast in the process, and then attacks Godzilla's head from behind. Godzilla swipes at her furiously and tries to grab her but can't turn around far enough in order to get at her and eventually loses his footing and falls on his back in a large pit, while Mothra begins using her poisonous yellow powder against him. It doesn't seem to do anything except enrage Godzilla but nevertheless, he's unable to get to his feet as Mothra continues blowing it on his body, with Godzilla blasting his atomic breath here and there. Despite her weakened, dying state, it looks as if Mothra has Godzilla on the ropes but then, she gets hit right in the face with a blast of atomic breath. While Mothra is stunned from this, Godzilla seizes his chance and sits up while blasting her again, this time burning her right wing. Critically injured, Mothra flies over Godzilla and lands on a nearby hill, with her wing still smoking. Seeing that he's injured his opponent, Godzilla walks over to Mothra, no doubt intending to finish her off, but then, just when he's almost on top of her, Mothra manages to take to the air again and sends Godzilla tumbling back into the pit. With her last strength now completely spent and her injury compounding her weakened state, Mothra flies over and lends next to her egg, covering it with her left wing, as she finally expires. Godzilla manages to get back to his feet but, instead of going after the egg again, simply walks away, probably satisfied enough that his opponent is dead.
With the military's plans to kill Godzilla defeated, a nearby seaside village is evacuated and in the midst of it all, a professor makes a revelation that there are some students and a teacher stuck on nearby Iwa Island. However, right after he tells an officer and a boat captain this, Godzilla appears behind the nearby mountain, forcing them to flee as he marches into the village, destroying some houses with his feet. While he makes his way to Iwa Island, the Shobijin and the Infant Islanders finally get Mothra's egg to hatch, revealing two larvae. Upon hearing where Godzilla is heading, the main characters arrive in the village and manage to dig the professor out from underneath some wreckage that he got caught under when Godzilla plodded through the village. That's when they see the two Mothra larvae following Godzilla to the island and Sakai comes up with the idea to go to the other side of the island and save the children while Godzilla has his hands full with the larvae. They put their rescue plan into motion as Godzilla arrives on the island, with the larvae not too far behind. Godzilla does notice them but just roars and turns around, heading farther into the island, as the larvae come ashore. Walking through the small village on the island, Godzilla turns around after making it past the outskirts and sees that the Mothra larvae are still following him. He proceeds to set the village on fire with his atomic breath to keep them from getting to him and after he does so, he turns back around and continues walking, not realizing that the larvae do manage to get around the fire. One continues following right behind him while the other heads off to the left in order to cut him off up ahead. Godzilla continues walking along the island as the one Mothra larva keeps following him until he stops and begins looking around, observing his surroundings. The caterpillar that followed him watches his thrashing tail, waiting for the opportunity to attack, while the other crawls into one of the tunnels that can be found on the island in preparation for her attack. Finally, Godzilla unknowingly puts the tip of his tail right in front of the caterpillar behind him and she proceeds to bite it. Roaring in both pain and frustration, Godzilla begins flinging his tail and the caterpillar around like mad, trying to fling her off of it. Maneuvering himself around while thrashing his tail, Godzilla eventually manages to knock the larva off by slamming the lower part of her body down very roughly and after he does so, he continues whacking her with his tail while she flings herself back and forth, possibly trying to bite him again.
Seeing that her sibling's in trouble, the other Mothra larva sticks her head out of the tunnel she's hiding in and sprays Godzilla right in the face with her silk. She continues spraying him as he swings at the silk, trying to keep it from hitting him, and finally forces the larva to retreat back into the tunnel with a blast of his atomic breath. With his face and dorsal plates covered in silk, Godzilla heads for higher ground, while both larvae follow him to get in position to attack together. They both then begin spraying him with silk, covering his arms and chest, as Godzilla futilely tries to block the silk from hitting him with his hands. When one of the larvae crawls over to another position and begins spraying him again, Godzilla fires at her but she ducks behind a rock and resumes her spraying with her sister. They continue covering Godzilla with the silk until his hands end up fused together with a good portion of his upper body covered. Godzilla shoots his atomic breath again but only manages to melt a rock and when that doesn't work, he begins kicking rocks furiously, trying to hit one of the larvae. The main characters manage to save the kids and teacher, who have taken shelter in a nearby cave, and get them to the boat, as the battle rages on. Godzilla continues kicking rocks like crazy as well as blindly firing his atomic breath, only managing to melt another large stone in the process. He almost gets one of the larvae with another blast and the other has to dodge some rocks that are kicked but after they dodge, they begin spraying him again. By this point, the silk on Godzilla is so thick that it's like he's wearing a straightjacket and since he's unable to see because his eyes are covered, he's just swinging around and kicking rocks with either his feet or his tail like crazy, desperately trying to score a hit. He eventually loses his balance and falls on his back, destroying everything around him as he struggles to get free of the silk, which the caterpillars remedy by continuing to spray him. Eventually in his struggling, Godzilla rolls off down the side of the island and plunges into the water below (if look closely at the silk-covered head, you can tell that it's the suit from King Kong vs. Godzilla being used). And with that, the children and their teacher return to the village while the Shobijin head back home to Infant Island with Mothra's young, as the main cast says and waves goodbye to them.
Just like director Ishiro Honda, composer Akira Ifukube brought his A-game to Mothra vs. Godzilla and created one of his best scores for the series. This music is just awesome and goes through all of the necessary ranges, be they terror, suspense, excitement, mystery, sadness, and beauty, as perfectly as a score can. The film opens up with a thrilling lead-up to the main title, which is where we hear the now fully-realized Godzilla theme for the first time. Like I said in my review of King Kong vs. Godzilla, the Japanese version had his theme almost there but not quite; this is where it was polished and became the music that most people know. The loud, hard-hitting brass notes work perfectly in making Godzilla feel like a menacing force of destruction and are put to good use when he first bursts out of the ground at Kurada Beach as well as whenever you first see him when he's on the attack. You hear two versions of the follow-up to the main part of the theme: one, which you hear when Godzilla begins marching through the industrial complex near Nagoya after he first appears, has a very slow and somber sound to it, possibly meaning to reflect the damage that he's causing and innocent lives he's endangering, whereas the other, despite sounding similar, is much faster-paced and seems to be meant to be more exciting and thrilling (this is the follow-up you hear to the theme during the opening credits). There are some moments where this latter follow-up leads into a very loud and harsh, "dom, dom, dom," sound, most notably when Godzilla is destroying the incubator containing Mothra's egg. Speaking of which, music that corresponds with Mothra is mainly different instrumental versions of the songs that the Shobijin sing. most notably the one you hear when they and the Infant Islanders are trying to get the egg to hatch. This theme for Mothra ranges from loud and very threatening, like when the main characters see her for the first time, to mysterious and power, as it is during her and Godzilla's battle (as well as during the final battle between Godzilla and Mothra's larvae), out and out beautiful, as it is when Mothra and the Shobijin leave Japan after failing to get the egg, and sad when she's fatally injured by Godzilla and dies after flying over to and covering up her egg with her wing.
The Shobijin themselves have a theme that you hear when they first appear, which is a twinkling and magical bit of music that fits well with their tiny, fairy-like nature (in fact, in the English dub of the next film, they're referred to as fairies). When they first appear to Sakai, Junko, and Prof. Miura, this theme is followed by a small, delicate instrumental version of the song that you later hear them singing while they're sitting next to the spring on Infant Island. In fact, Mothra's egg itself has an awesomely atmospheric and mysterious theme when it first appears floating in the ocean and when it's being hauled ashore, a theme that's made to sound very bombastic when we see how the egg was washed into the sea during the opening hurricane and somewhat forlorn and abandoned when we see it sitting by itself at the abandoned complex after Godzilla first appears. You hear another mysterious piece of music, one that's more threatening, when Miura analyzes the scale that Sakai and Junko found and discovers that it's highly radioactive. When the main characters go to Infant Island, you hear an empty, forlorn theme created by horns that fits well with the shots of the desolated, barren landscape of the island. And going back to the Shobijin's song at the spring on the island, a very beautiful, instrumental version of it is heard at the very end of the movie when Godzilla has been defeated and they're returning home with the Mothra larvae. It's nice and soft as Sakai tells Nakamura that the only way to thank them for what they've done is to make a better world, one without distrust, and as they wave and say goodbye to them, the last notes of the music swell into a wonderful, sweeping finale that still gives me goosebumps whenever I hear it. It not only makes you feel good, it also makes you hope that the world that Sakai is talking about will come to pass, not just in the reality of these films but in our own as well.
While it really gets on my nerves in some of the later movies, I think the Shobijin's singing here is really beautiful and works well in getting across the appropriate emotions. The song that you hear them singing on Infant Island when the main characters find them sitting by a spring is really nice and very soothing to the ear but, at the same time, has a very sad sound to it and, even if you don't understand the words (I don't), you can sense that it has to do with the ruined nature of their island, especially when, after they get done singing, they tell the main characters that the spring is the only thing that's sustaining life on the island (in the English version, we're told something equally sad, that this very small spot surrounding the spring is the only bit of green left on the island). When Mothra appears to chirp her consent to the speech that Sakai gives to the islanders and everyone follows the Shobijin to where she is, you hear the girls sing a song to her, one that they also sung in the original Mothra when they were put on exhibition and were calling for her to come rescue them. Therefore, when you hear them singing it to Mothra again here, you can deduce that they're giving her what little else convincing she might need to get her to help Japan (not that I think she really needed it, though). While it sounds okay here, I prefer the more elaborate version of it in Mothra, where it sounded a lot better and more like they were actually singing; here, although I get why, it sounds like they're simply saying it to Mothra with just a faint hint of singing behind it. My favorite song in the film, however, is the one they sing to try to get Mothra's egg to hatch. Not only do I particularly like the way Emi and Yumi Ito sing their part of this song but I also like the addition of the Infant Islanders' ritual chanting to try to help get the egg to hatch as well. The cutting back and forth between the Shobijin and islanders doing their dancing and praying makes the thing feel much more epic and important, that Japan's future is hanging in the balance when it comes to whether or not the egg will be hatched. The effect is only enhanced later on when we see Godzilla making his way through the small seaside village to swim to Iwa Island and we also see more of the islanders doing their ritual, which we can tell has a magical effect, given how the egg begins to glow and we see some flashing colors accompanied by the sound of crashing thunder during shots of a statue on Infant Island. It all culminates with the Shobijin saying, "Mothra! Mothra!" before the egg finally cracks open, accompanied by the same sound of thunder, and the larvae break out. Very, very good stuff.
In stark contrast to the gaps between the Japanese and American releases of the first three Godzilla movies, some of which were as long several years, Mothra vs. Godzilla was released in America, under the title Godzilla vs. The Thing, in September of 1964, just five months after its release in Japan. American International Pictures distributed the film over here and while their version was certainly the first American release of one of these films that was extremely faithful to the original Japanese version, they still decided to mess around with it a little bit when it came to the marketing. In addition to the title change, the trailers and posters didn't show Mothra at all (although the egg was shown in the former), instead opting to build some suspense around whatever it was that Godzilla would be battling in this film. The various posters for the film showed Godzilla either tangling with an enormous question mark or with some creature whose appearance was censored because it was deemed, "too horrific," although you could tell that whatever it was actually had tentacles! While this advertising campaign was typical of the times, especially from a company like AIP, one has to wonder how audiences of the day reacted when they went to see the film and saw that "the thing" was nothing more than Mothra (and yet, the characters in this version, including the Shobijin, constantly refer to Mothra as such throughout the film). And while it was an interesting gimmick, I myself wonder if AIP felt that Mothra's presence wouldn't mean much to American audiences. They were certainly aware of her, since Columbia Pictures had released Mothra in America in 1962, but I'm not sure how it did over here since I can't find that information. If it didn't do that well, then it would make sense for AIP to not play up the presence of a monster whose debut film hadn't made much of an impact with American audiences. I'm sure someone knows and will probably inform me but right now, AIP's decision to market the film the way they did remains an interesting curiosity.
And now, let's have a little lesson about the various titles this film has had since its original release in America. Despite its American theatrical title having been Godzilla vs. The Thing, when it was released on VHS, the title was changed to Godzilla vs. Mothra, a title that stuck with the film throughout the rest of its run on video and when it was first released on DVD (even though, they didn't dub over the instances where Mothra is called "the thing"). Because of this title change, when the 1992 film that actually was known in Japan as Godzilla vs. Mothra was released over here, they had to change that film's title to Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth in order to avoid confusion. In any case, I saw the theatrical trailer with the title Godzilla vs. The Thing on that compilation I've often talked about, Fantastic Dinosaurs of the Movies, and even though it never actually showed Mothra, I recognized her egg as well as some of the footage and figured out that this was the movie that I knew as Godzilla vs. Mothra. It wasn't until I got the Godzilla Compendium that I learned for sure that both of those titles corresponded to the same film and it was also there that I learned that Mothra vs. Godzilla was the Japanese title, a switch-around that surprised me when I first saw it. In any case, since Godzilla vs. Mothra was what the VHS as well as the actual movie itself said (they edited the title as such for that video release), I continued to call it that up until the 2006 Classic Media DVD, which featured both the Japanese version and the English version, the latter of which had the Godzilla vs. The Thing title put back in. Now, I typically do call this film Mothra vs. Godzilla but when I'm talking to those who aren't as privy to these different alternate titles, I typically say Godzilla vs. Mothra to avoid confusion since that's what they usually know it as (that is, until they find out about the 1992 film, which opens up a whole other can of worms and have to explain that to them!)
While not 100% perfect since some of it is still a little over the top and silly, the dubbing for the film is still amongst the best in the series. The voices fit the characters well, especially those for Sakai and Junko (the one done for Prof. Miura I'm not exactly crazy about but it still works for the most part), the original dialogue is translated well and in some cases, such as Sakai's "brotherhood of man" speech, is improved upon, and the actors doing the dub actually try to make their voices sound Asian, adding just that little extra bit of authenticity that helps you believe that you're actually hearing the Japanese actors talking even though they're not speaking in their native language. Fans of Speed Racer would be interested to know that Peter Fernandez, who voiced both Speed and Racer X on that show, does a little bit of dubbing here and his voice will be heard in several more Godzilla films down the line. Like I said, the dubbing certainly isn't perfect, since some of the voices you hear are a bit cartoonish and it doesn't always line up with the actors' lip movements either, but considering some of the dubbing we've heard before (*cough* Gigantis *cough*) and some that we'll hear later on, it's still very, very close to being the best you could possibly ask for. The only major complaint I have about the dubbing is how they constantly call Mothra, "the thing," even after Godzilla's opponent in the film is revealed to indeed be her and not whatever tentacle-monster they had hinted at in the American publicity, which doesn't make any sense. I guess they felt they had to call her the thing since they had titled the movie Godzilla vs. The Thing but it doesn't make sense when Mothra, along with her larvae, are revealed to be the only other monsters in the film besides Godzilla and the characters, including the Shobijin, are still calling her that. It doesn't absolutely ruin the film for but I still don't like it.
As for the actual content of the film, not much was lost in translation. There are some minor trims here and there, such as a moment where Kumayama and Torahata realize that they didn't catch the Shobijin in their hotel room when they thought they did (here, they just have Kumayama jump to try to cover them with a coat and then have him say that he can't find them) and another moment after Mothra and the Shobijin head back to Infant Island where we see some of Sakai's newspaper articles on a street stand and Kumayama proudly announcing on a float the upcoming opening of the exhibit of Mothra's egg, but for the most part, not much is different from one version to another. In stark contrast to King Kong vs. Godzilla, Akira Ifukube's score here was completely retained and despite the dubbing, the Shobijin's songs remain in Japanese, which I'm glad for because trying to translate those songs and then getting someone to sing them in English just wouldn't have worked. Their songs would also be retained in the Japanese dialect in the English dubs of all of the other movies featuring them, which was another good move on the part of the studios. The only change I don't like is at the end when they completely took out Sakai's saying that they must thank the Shobijin for their help by creating a world without mistrust and instead they cut from the characters seeing them returning home with Mothra's larvae to them simply waving goodbye to them. It's still a nice ending and you get to hear the great piece of music there either way but nevertheless, as much as I liked it when I was a kid, it still felt like a very abrupt and somewhat truncated ending. When I finally saw the original Japanese version when I was 19, not only were suspicions confirmed but I also wondered, "Why didn't they just keep that material in and dub it?" I know that the speech Sakai made on Infant Island in this version wasn't exactly what was said in the original but still, if they could write that, then they could have had Sakai say something just as impactful and meaningful with which to close the movie. Again, this change doesn't completely destroy the movie for me, that would be nitpicky and ridiculous, but I do think there was a way it could have been done better.
The biggest difference between the two versions by far is that in Godzilla vs. The Thing, after Godzilla first appears and attacks Nagoya, the American navy takes a shot at the King of the Monsters with their powerful "Frontier Missiles." Despite its being a fairly long sequence and the fact that it's put in place of a scene in the original version where the Japanese military has a briefing about where to attack Godzilla, the additional trims made to the movie means that neither version is that different in terms of length. While this is definitely not the first time new footage was added to the American versions of these films, what makes this unique is that, rather than being shot after the fact, it was filmed during the shooting of the actual movie in Japan, was scripted by Shinichi Sekizawa, and features special effects created by Eiji Tsuburaya and his crew. It's also the only addition to any of these films that actually involves Godzilla, making it even more significant. The scene itself is just a typical Godzilla/armed forces battle scene and doesn't add anything to the plot or help move it along but nevertheless, it is very interesting to see Americans taking on Godzilla. They don't do really hurt him as they repeatedly fire on him with their Frontier Missiles while he walks along a beach (it didn't look like a single one of those missiles actually connected with him), mind you, but at the end of the sequence, they do manage to knock him down and into a pit. What's weird, though, is that even though the missiles didn't kill Godzilla, after this scene, the American Navy doesn't do anything at all to aid Japan in their battle against him for the rest of the movie! They must have decided, "Well, we tried. You guys are on your own now." That's our boys. America, fuck yeah! All joking aside, though, this sequence is interesting to see, not only because it's extra footage for an American version that was actually shot at Toho but also, to my knowledge, it's still not available in Japan. At least, it wasn't for a long, long time. It might be now but if not, then it's certainly interesting to again note that the American version of this film is the only instance where there is footage of Godzilla himself that is only available to us.
Whether it's the original Japanese version with the title Mothra vs. Godzilla or the American version, Godzilla vs. The Thing, this film is definitely a highlight of the series. The directing by Ishiro Honda and the writing by Shinichi Sekizawa is solid, the acting is great all-around and the characters are likable, the pace is really good, the themes and allegory present are worth discussing, the special effects work is very well done for the most part, the monsters look great, and the score is definitely one of Akira Ifukube's best pieces of work. In addition, despite some hiccups here and there, the American version is very respectful to the original, keeping all of the important material and the great music and songs, putting in some exceptionally good dubbing, and even adding in an interesting sequence of its own involving Godzilla with the Frontier Missile scene. It's small wonder why this often considered to be the best film in the Godzilla series outside of the original. It's definitely one of my favorites, as you can probably tell. If you're thinking about getting into Godzilla but don't know where to start, this is most certainly one to go for. It's simply exquisite and a shining example of not only the Godzilla franchise but of the kaiju genre in general.