Mothra vs. Godzilla (Japanese release, 1964) – The 4th Godzilla Movie – Directed by Ishiro Honda – Starring Akira Takarada, Yuriko Hoshi, Hiroshi Koizumi, Yu Fujiki, Emi Ito, Yumi Ito, Yoshifumi Tajima, Kenji Sahara, and Katsumi Tekuza.
What’s most impressive about the GODZILLA movies to me through four films is not just their versatility, but their willingness to make you wait for what you came to see: monsters crushing monsters.
There is a real attempt to give you a story in these opening GODZILLA films, and what’s incredibly interesting about MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA (or whichever of the four names you prefer) is that it’s Godzilla who feels like he’s entering Mothra’s universe more than the reverse, but ultimately it feels like both monsters are intruding upon contemporary Japanese society.
Which is pretty impressive since it keeps happening.
Ishiro Honda expertly blends the two monster worlds together with modern Japan, merging the fanciful aspects of Mothra’s first movie with the darker aspects of the Godzilla films, and still keeping humanity’s story at the center.
MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA opens with an oceanic storm, and in all of the resultant damage, a giant egg washes up on the shore. Local businessman Kumayama (Yoshifumi Tajima) and Happy Enterprises do what local businessmen do best and attempt to profit off the egg. Our protagonists for this go-round repeats the journalist/scientist dynamic from MOTHRA. Journalist Ichiro Sakai (Akira Takarada) and scientist Professor Miura (Hiroshi Koizumi) attempt to investigate the massive egg, but Happy Enterprises shoos them away, telling them that they have bought the egg fair and square from the locals and will not allow anyone else access.
Kumayama is just the face for Happy Enterprises, however, as company head Jiro Torahata (Kenji Sahara) is overseeing the operation. While these two are scheming, the tiny female Shobijn (Emi Ito and Yumi Ito) show up to tell the businessman that they’re from Infant Island and the egg is from Infant Island and if the egg isn’t returned to Infant Island, there’s gonna be lots of monster smashing because the egg belongs to Mothra.
The Shobijn are annoying, but they’re important to Mothra’s story and so it’s nice to see them kicking around this movie, too. The real joy about this egg-hatching angle, though, is that the baby Mothra isn’t going to smash Japan because it’s evil but because when it hatches it’ll be a newborn desperately searching for food. It’s not going to destroy anyone out of malice, but out of a primal need for food.
Happy Enterprises isn’t interested in anything the Shobijn is selling, so the tiny ladies turn their attention to Sakai, Miura, and Sakai’s photographer Yoka Nakanishi (Yuriko Hoshi), where they find a much more receptive, but powerless audience.
Into all of this comes Godzilla, who’s been displaced by the same storm and decides to attack Nagoya because he’s f*cking Godzilla and that’s what Godzillas do. Look, I know that there’s a dude in a rubber suit (Katsumi Tekuza) smashing models, but it’s awesomely rendered. I could watch Godzilla smashing stuff all day and not get tired of it because Tekuza, Honda, and the effects team are at the top of their game here. I will say that Godzilla does feel like an interloper at times and almost unnecessary until we get to the point where Godzilla turns his attention on the egg and we get the big Godzilla versus Mothra throwdown.
This is a great monster vs. monster sequence. Mothra gets the upper hand but then Godzilla kills her with his atomic breath. Mothra dies on top of the egg in a very motherly, tender display, and Godzilla is off to stomp and roar elsewhere. The Shobijn help hatch the egg with their singing and two little Mothra appear to go double team the attack on Godzilla, and they defeat him by tying them up with their silk spray.
MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA is another good installment of both the Godzilla and Mothra series. Honda paces his films to build tension and work the narrative to a point where the monster battles mean something more than just active destruction. When I started watching these Godzilla films, I thought I’d get a kitschy kick out of them, but I am honestly and truly really enjoying them, so far. If you’ve never seen them, I highly recommend checking out these early movies.