Der Krapp

by Brad Linaweaver

Big Lizards III ~ Installment 10

Terror of Mecha-Godzilla (1975): This is a sequel to a movie that went by many names: Godzilla vs. Mecha-Godzilla (1974), Godzilla vs. the Bionic Monster, Godzilla vs. The Cosmic Monster, and you won’t believe this, but in Germany the title was King Kong Gegen Godzilla (Toho’s Kong was nowhere in evidence).

The funniest part of this tediously slow-paced epic is the credits sequence by the American distributor, where the viewer learns that the picture is released by the Mecha-Godzilla Company. The titles are shown over freeze frames of shots from the previous film and one of the titles reads: Titles by Freeze Frame. Also humorous is a moment in the pre-credits sequence where the narrator says, “To Godzilla the jets were merely toys,” as the monster grabs an obvious toy jet off its wire.

The robot Godzilla is made out of space-titanium (which bears a startling resemblance to aluminum). Its alien inventors announce, “We are space men from the third planet, the only surviving planet in the black hole.” (?!) With all their advanced science, they need the help of an earth scientist (as usual) who has a beautiful daughter (as usual.)

The scientist has turned against the human race because his colleagues ridiculed his discovery of a giant monster in the sea he cleverly named Titanosaurus! Think about that. In the Toho universe there are dozens of documented monsters all over the place. All this guy wanted to do was add one more. No wonder he was driven mad. It’s not like he was in the other kind of science fiction movie where monster are rare and the discovery of one draws a lot of attention. A series of black and white photos show the man’s disintegration from the state of respected professor to that of a raving crackpot. That the photos seem to have been taken in one afternoon adds charm.

The aliens team up Titanosaurus with Mecha-Godzilla and send them against Godzilla, the last defender of urban centers. The scientist’s daughter has a telepathic link with Titanosaurus, and the aliens add to her troubles by installing Mecha-Godzilla’s brain in her stomach. Since she has died and been brought back to life, they point out that she owes them one. Besides that, they have all the buttons and switches.

The aliens sit around in silver suits, occasionally whipping subordinates, and saying things like, “We must wait for the right time to exert our power on Tokyo.” They want to rebuild it along their own architectural lines. Living in a black hole must have made them silly.

Some of the heroes work with Interpol; others collect their payment checks from the Ocean Exploitation institute. Godzilla is self-employed. For a while it looks as though the humans will have to take on Titanosaurus (who is bothered by sonic waves) and Mecah-Godzilla (who probably wouldn’t care for rust) by themselves. By the time the audience is becoming genuinely bored with the proceedings (e.g., watching folks get gunned down in slow motion à la Peckinpah -- thus proving Toho will steal from anywhere), Big G comes stomping and stumbling to the rescue. No doubt thousands of people are killed by Godzilla falling on sundry buildings while he tussles with the competition, but that’s no reason to withhold the applause from Earth’s champion.

Godzilla almost wraps up matters when he rips off Mecha-Godzilla’s head. It worked in the previous movie. Having already totaled Titanosauraus, he intends to iron out his differences with the robot.

Imagine Godzilla’s surprise (a stupider than usual expression on his fakey face) when Mecha-Godzilla continues to fight in its headless state. What has changed since last time is that the girl’s continued life keeps Mecha-Godzilla in action.

One of the heroes says to the scientist’s daughter, “Even if you are a cyborg, I still love you.” She does her duty anyway, committing hara kari... and saving Godzilla a lot more work.

Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973): If the robot Godzilla of the previous film was something less than convincing, he ranks with Robby, Gort, C-3PO, R2D2, and K-9 compared to the robot character of this bomb (Jet Jaguar). I have seen over a dozen Godzilla movies and none of the rest begins to approach this one for idiocy. Bill Ritch owns a videotape copy and considers it one of the outstanding comedies of all time, right up there with the Three Stooges and the Watergate hearings. Hardcore followers of G vs. M can even mimic the Japanese words to the theme song that were wisely left in the original instead of being dubbed into an English song.

Never have I seen such a small cast in a Godzilla film; there are three heroes, two young men and a younger boy. They keep getting chased by the same handful of thugs over and over. The thugs are in the employ of the ancient, lost-and found empire of Mu. This once proud civilization has been reduced to occupying a few rooms underground where the women wear Saran Wrap and dance around a dime-store idol. The leader of the underground Orientals is -- inexplicably -- an Occidental who seems to be a sailor on shore leave in Tokyo. He has the tattoos for it. They don’t look a thing like Mu workmanship.

There are more people in this movie than monsters, but just by a little bit. And the monsters (plus one robot) have all the good lines (roaarrr, grrrrr, beep).

Not surprisingly the movie begins with nuclear testing. Although it is in a really remote spot of the globe, the shock waves are felt at that popular tourist attraction, Monster Island... and underground in Mu. The denizens of Monster Island get knocked around and they bellow their complaints, but when it’s over, they don’t really give a Krapp. The citizens of Mu are not so forgiving, and they send their pet monster -- Megalon -- up to the surface world to wreck havoc and teach a lesson.

The two men and the kid are having a pleasant outing at a lake when the quake hits. They survive the lake-quake (a fissure opens and swallow all the water in the only good special effect). The three rush home to see if their robot is all right. A sitcom family goes sci fi!

Unfortunately for the viewers it has not been damaged. Jet Jaguar is a Day-Glo® orange robot that is the most obvious man in a robber suit imaginable. It has a moron grin permanently affixed. The Mu agents are after the robot, even though they insist their science is more advanced than ours. When told by one of the heroes that they are too dumb to build Jet Jaguar, the bad guys become angry instead of relieved....

The man who created Jet Jaguar is more of a genius than he knew. Nobody is more surprised than he when Jet Jaguar behaves autonomously to defeat Mu. After JJ flies to Monster Island and communicates to Godzilla using sign language (a neat trick) and gets the Big G on humanity’s side (surprise!), he returns home to demonstrate an even more amazing power. He grows to gigantic size and starts fighting the insectoid Megalon. This prompts JJ’s inventor to say, “He programmed himself in some way to increase his own size.” In some way is right.

The leader of Mu prefers fights that are two to one in his favor, so he sends a message to a buddy of his in outer space for a loan on the flying can-opener monster, Gigan. Godzilla doesn’t like bullies, though, and is angered at the way Megalon and Gigan kick JJ when he’s down. Soon the battle is two against two. The ensuing tag team wrestling match has all the grandeur of an awkward fight at an elementary school playground. All four of them cheat. What’s really surprising is that when the tables are turned, JJ holds one of the enemy monsters while Godzilla jumps at the poor critter with his feet impacting dead center (in the worst special effect of the film). These good guys can act like playground bullies, too, when it suits them.

It’s only a matter of time before JJ and Godzilla win because they both have hands, whereas Megalon only has metal spikes and Gigan metal hooks. Manipulative appendages are more useful every time. And so Godzilla wanders off into the sunset: and so does Jet Jaguar with the theme song... and so does the audience!