While on a research trip in Okinawa, brothers Keisuke (Masaaki Daimon) and Masahiko Shimizu (Kazuya Aoyama) are alarmed when the mystic Azumi Princess (Beru-Bera Lin) prophesizes: “When a mountain appears above the clouds, a monster will try to destroy the world!” Plucky archaeology student Saeko Kaneshiro (Reiko Tajima) translates ancient cave paintings that further embellish the prophecy: “When a red moon sets and the sun rises in the west, two monsters will appear to save the world.” Shortly thereafter, Godzilla arrives on the scene, stomping buildings to bits and battling his four-legged buddy, Anguirus. Has Big G gone back to his city-wrecking ways? No, because then the real Godzilla strides centre-stage and does a double-take when he clocks this impostor! His fiery breath unmasks Mecha-Godzilla - the technological terror, out to conquer the Earth for its alien masters.
After discovering a mysterious metal and a statuette of King Caesar, a sacred lion-god and protector of the Okinawan people, Keisuke brings both to his uncle, Professor Wagura (Hiroshi Koizumi). He discerns the substance is “space titanium”, which prompts Keisuke’s immortal reply: “Space titanium? You mean titanium from outer space?” Swiftly, an intruder tries to steal the statue. And that man is none other than stone-faced tough guy Charles Bronson. Or rather someone who looks (and, in the English dub, sounds) just like him. Two-fisted fisticuffs ensue, whereupon Bronson takes a bullet and morphs into a grunting gorilla. Freaky.
Meanwhile, Masahiko joins pipe-smoking Professor Miyajima (Akihiko Hirata), when he and his dishy daughter (Hiromi Matsushita) and kidnapped by bad guys in shiny silver jumpsuits (“Goodbye, stupid humans, hah, hah, hah!”). Beneath their scowling human faces lurk hairy, scary gorillas. That’s right, evil space apes want to take over the world. Damn those dirty apes!! Held captive in their underground lair, Miyajima is forced to enhance Mecha-Godzilla’s already awesome arsenal. Can Keisuke rescue them in time? Will the Azumi Princess be able to summon King Caesar to defend his people? Just who is that creepy guy in dark sunglasses (Shin Kishida, later Dracula in Toho’s Vampire Trilogy) always lurking in the shadows? Don’t panic, because Godzilla has an amazing plan to save everybody!
Space apes were all the rage in Seventies Japanese sci-fi, what with Spectreman (1971), Time of the Apes (1975) and Swords of the Space Ark (1979) all packing their share of monkey-men. Indeed, Toho’s fourteenth Godzilla movie was the studios attempt to keep pace with the brash, anime-flavoured techno-hardware and candy-coloured mayhem wowing kids elsewhere, and as such became their highest-grossing entry of the Seventies. With a bigger budget and better special effects than its immediate predecessors, veteran Jun Fukuda imparts a manga feel in lustrous Tohoscope and blazing, comic book colours, while Masaru Sato’s fuzz guitar and bossa nova soundtrack gives the action a different flavour.
On the downside, there are far too many characters. We have not one, but two professors, two handsome archaeology students, two plucky ladies in peril, a shadowy secret agent and a wailing prophetess. Most of these characters add little to the fast-moving plot. Cuddly King Caesar is similarly superfluous, although endearing in a moth-eaten cloth toy sort of way. He was never the most memorable of Godzilla’s allies, although he impressed a young Ryuhei Kitamura enough to bring him back and include his theme tune in Godzilla: Final Wars (2004). However, Fukuda keeps the action rolling along in James Bond fashion, with gunplay, espionage games, death-traps and secret agents lurking around every corner. In fact his next movie would be the sexy psychic spy caper: ESP-Y (1975).
Godzilla’s battles with his robot twin are cracking stuff. Toho already tried the robot double idea with Mecha-Kong in King Kong Escapes (1967), but MG is a seriously cool foe: jet-propulsion, missile launchers in his fingers, rainbow eye lasers, cartoon thunderbolts fired from his chest, cannons in his nose and kneecaps, and a head that spins to create a force-field. How can you not love that? The character returned in a more melancholy sequel, Terror of Mecha-Godzilla (1975) and was revived as a Japanese Defence Force super-weapon in the muddled (but popular) Godzilla vs. Mecha-Godzilla (1993), and as a heroic cyborg (created from the original Godzilla!) in Godzilla x Mecha-Godzilla (2002) and Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003).
Here, Godzilla develops another of his ingenious superpowers. By absorbing lightning he turns himself into a living magnet, a loopy idea that plays like the monster equivalent of a training session in a martial arts movie. This is also the goriest Godzilla film, with Sam Peckinpah-style blood spraying from his wounds and even the space apes spouting jets of green goo. Plus you get a musical number when the Azumi Princess summons Caesar with a very Seventies pop song. If you like Hanna-Barbera’s Godzilla cartoons, you’ll love this.