As Godzilla entered his twentieth year of existence he was reaching the end of an era in his catalog of films. The Showa era had taken Godzilla from his beginnings as a menace to Earth and turned him into a more heroic and protective figure. The suits for the films underwent several changes, making Godzilla’s appearance less menacing as time went on. The final four films of the era- Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972), Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973), Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974), and Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)- may not have been the best offerings of the series, but they had several things of note in Godzilla’s history.
Godzilla vs. Gigan once again had aliens threatening the Earth, this time bringing with them the monsters Gigan and King Ghidorah. The aliens control the monsters from, of all things, the head of a Godzilla replica at a theme park. Of course, Godzilla won’t stand for this, and pairs up with Anguirus to take on the threat. Jun Fukuda returns to the director’s chair for the first time since Son of Godzilla. The film used some stock footage from earlier films as a cost saving measure, using parts of Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Monster Zero, and Destroy All Monsters. This film would mark the last appearance of Ghidorah in a Godzilla movie until 1991, where he would return with a new look in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah. This film also marked the last time Haruo Nakajima would don the Godzilla suit, as he would retire after the film was completed.
Godzilla next took on a menace from beneath the ground in Godzilla vs. Megalon. The people of Seatopia send the monster Megalon to destroy the people living on the Earth’s surface. The film paired Godzilla this time with an intelligent robot named Jet Jaguar, who was made in response to a contest for children to come up with a new hero. The character had originally been named Red Arone and had been drawn by an elementary school child, a bore resemblance to both Ultraman and a character from TranZor Z (1972), both of who were popular in Japan at the time. Originally, Jet Jaguar was to star in his own film, but it was decided he would not be strong enough to carry a movie on his own. Megalon was originally going to be used in Godzilla vs. Gigan, but was cut from that film and used for this instead. The suit used for the film was the fastest one produced for the series, but the eyes didn’t work right (something that was corrected for Godzilla’s appearance on the TV show Ryusei Ningen Zon in 1973).
A mechanized being shared the screen in the next movie in the series, but he wasn’t on friendly terms with Godzilla. Once again, aliens returned to menace Earth, this time bringing a giant robotic version of Godzilla with them. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla saw Jun Fukuda return once more in the director’s chair, introduced the monster King Shisa, and marked the last appearance of Anguirus until Godzilla: Final Wars (2004). It was the first Godzilla film (in its Japanese version) that gave onscreen credit to the actors in the monster suits. This was the only Japanese Godzilla film that saw a release in Hungary, and in Germany Mechagodzilla was called King Kong. The film was marketed in Japan as Godzilla’s 20th Anniversary movie, and was the last to have music composed by Masaru Sato, who also scored Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster (1966). Mechagodzilla returned in a sequel in 1975 called Terror of Mechagodzilla, where aliens once again provided the threat, rebuilding the robotic Godzilla, who, along with a creature called Titanosaurus, did battle with Godzilla. Ishiro Honda returned for the last time as director, and this would also be the final time that Godzilla would be portrayed as a hero until Godzilla: Final Wars.
Due to the energy crisis of the 70s affecting film production, this would be the final Godzilla movie for a nine year stretch. When Godzilla next returned to the silver screen, he would begin a new era in the series (Hensei) and would return to his role as a villain. But that will be another installment in our month long tribute to Godzilla. Stay tuned!
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