I am not going to sugar coat it; the 1970’s were a dark time for the Godzilla series. Between 1970 and 1979 only 5 films were released in the series, with the last one being released in 1975, and it would be close to an entire decade before another one was released. The 1970’s would therefore become the conclusion to the first era of Godzilla films, also known as the Showa Era, as these films were released before the death of then ‘Showa’ Japanese Emperor Hirohito who died in 1989.
The 1970’s group of Godzilla movies were pretty dark due to several reasons. One; most of the films in this series were pretty dark in theme. Most were also for several parts shot in the dark; but the main reason why this period could be considered a dark part of the series, is that most of the films aren’t very good! One of the reason for this could be argued that these films were made possibly on the cheap (as one person argued in a 1998 BBC Documentary, possibly due to the energy crisis is a reason for the series coming to a close); which can be argued quite well due to the large amount of stock footage used in several of the films. I remember watching some at a young age, and instantly being able to quite clearly recognise scenes from previous entries. They are some of the weakest films in the series and as such create a large dark cloud over it. According to Rotten Tomatoes; only two films in this period have a fresh rating (2 and 4), and according to Steve Ryfle‘s book: Japan’s Favorite Mon-Star; only one film has more than 2 stars (5), with 2 and a half.
Despite this though some of the film’s are held quite high by fans of the series as classics, and to me there are a couple which aren’t too bad. This period also introduced new monsters to the series, a couple of which have become legends in their own right. So I thought I would rate my Top 5 films from this period. With this period only having 5 films in it, that means all the films in this period get mentioned too, so one none is left out. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this list of my Top 5 Godzilla films from the 1970’s.
5. Godzilla vs. Megalon – A forgotten undersea civilization has had enough of nuclear testing destroying their kingdom, and so decide to release their deity; a creature known as Megalon, to bring them vengeance.
Godzilla vs Megalon is pretty bad; there is no sugar coating here, it is pretty poor. Whilst other films in the series may use a larger variety of stock footage for their films; this one constantly seems to use the most; it’s like almost half the film is nothing but stock footage. It does create it’s own scenes for the other half, and creates some very memorable images including when Megalon breaks a dam, and a nice shot of a far away fight between the Monsters. Megalon has a pretty cool design in fairness, but even that doesn’t save the film. There is also a lack of continuity as scenes which depict Megalon under attack from planes don’t show his arms attacking them, but Gigan‘s, and he hasn’t shown up yet. The film for the most part looks very childish, and while that is a major target market for the film; it’s dark tone and theme don’t help it there as at the same time it can look more adult orientated in it’s fight scenes. Jet Jaguar is nice and colourful, but to other people could be considered ridiculous. It’s just pretty silly overall; if you want further proof; look at the strange fish boat at the beginning.
4. Godzilla vs. Hedorah – An alien substance made entirely of pollution and sludge arrives on the planet and begins to grow, threatening all life on the planet.
Conceived by new-time director Yoshimitsu Banno as an idea that if Godzilla can save the earth from other giant monsters; maybe he can help clean up some of the pollution whilst he’s at it. Sadly this would be the only time he would direct a Godzilla film due to how the film turned out and the opinion of Godzilla’s long time producer Tomoyuki Tanaka. It’s not so bad for Banno however as he would go on to be one of the main producers for the recent American entries in the series. But yeah, this is a weird one. I absolutely loved it the first time I saw it, now I’m not so sure. Hedorah does have a cool design for the most part and those eyes are absolutely fantastic. There are also some pretty good songs in this film; but overall it’s a bit messy. The film’s statement of cleaning up pollution can go a bit over the top, and leaves long gaps with theory in it, instead of continuing the narrative. The final battle whilst set at night can make it too dark given that both monsters are black in flesh, with only Hedorah’s eyes and Godzilla’s breath for illumination. It’s not that bad, just a bit poor given the rest of the series for comparison. Maybe if it stuck to narrative and didn’t feel more like an advert for the extreme case of how bad pollution could get then maybe it could be that bit stronger. And whilst Godzilla flying like that is a pretty nice scene backed up with that music; it doesn’t help the series portrayal for those who are watching it for the first time as non-fans.
The second of two films in this period to feature Mechagodzilla; whose earlier success one year previously prompted Toho to make a sequel starring the titular monster. Terror of Mechagodzilla actually starts off pretty strong as it featured quite a few elements from the previous film. Much like the previous film the first monster to get a major mention is neither Mechagodzilla or even Godzilla, but a new monster called Titanosaurus. The film then carries on to create a crime style investigation of both this new creature and some other weird events currently going on. And then it starts to falter. The film gets a little jammed up with this love story between two humans, one of whom (unannounced to the other) is a cyborg. The story begins to settle and flat line at this point and it can be a while until the monsters start to appear. The early scenes of city destruction aren’t bad, and the film works well with it’s dark themes, but it just doesn’t really pick-up it just settles. Some of the later carnage too also suffers with continuity problems, as some shots of monsters behind buildings ruin the scale in comparison to full body shots. It is a scary one to some degree and can create a few horror like images to the first time watcher, but when it goes into the daylight, it’s only the close-ups of the monsters, and the insides of the female cyborg that get to you. Godzilla’s first proper scene though is Awesome, it’s like a big time professional wrestler arriving on to the scene to bring law and order back to a chaotic scene. This would also be the last Godzilla film to be directed by Ishiro Honda.
2. Godzilla vs. Gigan – A race of intelligent cockroaches from another world decide that Earth is the next best thing to their original planet, and decide to move in; their is just one problem: earth is already occupied.
At number two in this list of weird things Godzilla did in the 1970’s; we come to his ability to speak a crude version of English. Yes; Godzilla talked in this one. In Japan, Godzilla only talked in speech bubbles with his mate Anguirus; where as when the film was dubbed into English, they replaced the speech bubbles with an English voice over. Again this film is a bit weird (already explained one major reason why), but at the same time it’s also weirdly good! It contains some of the most recognizable pieces of stock footage in the series, even going as far as to try and darken the lighting in them to try and make them fit, but there is still a large amount of actual footage in this one to make up the film. The human plot of the story is a very interesting one and one I would like to see repeated and explained further maybe in the future. The film also uses a stock soundtrack in the form of music not written for this film, or any other film for that matter, as it was instead originally used and created for the Mitsubishi Pavilion at the 1970 Osaka Expo. The dark mood and themes work well with how the film has been produced, creating for the first time this decade a film that actually fits and works. It’s dark and can be for younger viewers genuinely scary, and whilst it does suffer from stock footage a little, it’s use of the stock music works well in it’s favor, and there is enough of a film here to be genuinely enjoyed. Keep a lookout especially for the return of King Ghidorah, the construction of the Godzilla Tower, plus the scenes of the first monster to make Godzilla bleed (a first in the series).
1. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla – An Azumi priestess has a dark vision about some bad things that are going to take place in the near future, an ancient prophecy is about to take place, and Godzilla has a new roar?
A few years ago I made a list of my favourite Godzilla films, and this one came in tenth place! For a period where there was a large number of poor entries in the series, this one stands out above the rest for being not just the best of this particular decade; but one of the best full stop! It’s featured use of a prophecy to tell the tale of a climactic battle between, not two, but three giant monsters really helped to drive this film’s plot in the right direction and keep it moving. The use of a prophecy to tell the tale of a giant cyborg is pretty funky too, as it creates a nice and relatively unique balance of both fantasy and science fiction. The introduction of King Caesar as a monster may look ridiculous, but to ally with Godzilla, plus his wake up song create some cool moments in the film. The film is gripping from start to finish as it continually builds momentum. It’s soundtrack is very weird as it contains almost entirely jazz based riffs, but again they’re pretty cool and memorable. The fight scenes between the monsters are all epic in their own right, plus the hand to hand fights between the humans and aliens are pretty well done too. The human side of the story is rather engrossing too creating scenes which may sound boring, but are pretty thrilling; such as a chase on board a cruise ship. Altogether Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla shines a bright light in a dark period, it features some true colossal monster action, some deep human drama, some cool music, and is overall one of the best films in the entire Godzilla film series.