Here comes Godzilla with allegories in … Mothra vs Godzilla (1964)
Mothra had a reign of popularity that began with Mothra (1961), then Mothra vs Godzilla (1964), and a host of other movies. Mothra vs Godzilla (1964) is the forth Godzilla sequel, and is probably one of the better ones, but it is still pretty campy and hard for me to watch without the pleasing power of fast-forward. Maybe these films are for kids after all, as the producers seem to slowly descending into pure camp at this point. However, this movie does touch on the nuclear aspect Godzilla brings to film as an allegory, so it does work in that way.
The Allegory of Mothra
The overall theme in this movie is represented by an island people, who are presented as victims of a nuclear threat, and have grown up with a monster named Mothra to protect them. As an allegory, clearly the inhabitants of the mysterious island represent Japan. The nuclear threat is symbolized by Godzilla. In this way, Godzilla is the villain of this film, unlike later movies where he becomes heroic and a symbol of strength. After the first Mothra is killed later in this movie by Godzilla, its larva could represent the new nation of Japan that has evolved since World War II. Godzilla represents the USA, since it is the United States who dropped the bomb to begin with. In this way, it is easy to see why Mothra was so popular, because it represents the people or nation of Japan, its heroic pride in taking action against what threatens it. The other sequels cannot be looked at in this way and that’s why this movie stands apart.
Thinly Veiled Plot?
The movie opens with a storm, which signifies destruction. Tidal waves lash the coast and do incredible amounts of damage to miniatures. The American dubbing is about as bad as watching Carrot Top perform. The plot has to do with the exploitation of a huge mutant egg, which came from a mysterious island. Given that the island represents Japan, the influence of arrogant and unscrupulous businessmen could be another reference to America. The egg scenes draw out the first appearance of Mothra though, which I was expecting soon. Many of the elements presented in this movie are more subtle than others, and even the campy aspects fit given the rest of the campy environment. Much of the dialogue really needs help though. Maybe it’s just the dubbing. Who knows.
The first twenty minutes are fairly boring. The scenes just delay the inevitable and stretch out the picture until we get to the part we all want to see, the Mothra and Godzilla battle. Inside of focusing on the science inherent in the existence of a giant egg, the movie focuses on a greedy businessman who wants to sell tickets to see the egg. It works as an allegory like I’ve already said, but it otherwise seems silly, as if included for a younger audience.
The existence of 6 inch women is not explained, but there is some discussion in connection with a large reptile scale that is found to be radioactive. I am guessing that the scale is from Godzilla, which irradiated the mysterious island, which is a thinly veiled allusion to the atomic bomb like I mentioned. After investigating the island, some of the scientists state that the island still contains a lot of radiation, which might be a reference to radiation on the real life island of Japan directly after the bombing.
Godzilla is shown to have been washed up onto a beach like a sea shell and buried under the sand. Despite this, the effects are not too bad really, although are blurry when they try to zoom out and show some perspective on Godzilla attacking Nagoya. So Godzilla stomps some cardboard houses for a while and it’s not bad. Rear projection is used to show a blurry Godzilla stomping around the city. I enjoyed this part of the movie.
Oblivious Businessman #6: What should be done about Godzilla?
Silly Man #3: We should ask Mothra for assistance.
Oblivious Businessman #6: That’s it! You’re a genius!
Silly Man #3: That’s what I think. Do you think I should get a raise?
Some helpful people decide to go to the mysterious island to find Mothra and get help. Once they get there, an old man comments on the destructiveness of man, reminding us that this b-movie is really a b-movie allegory. If only he didn’t look so stupid. Anyway, that’s about all the allegory we get in this movie, because now it’s time for singing. The producers must like singing for some reason, because the 6 inch girls hold a 10 min concert. I’m not sure what this annoying singing represents, if anything.
Also, the way the army decided to defend against Godzilla baffled me. They create an electric fence, just like in the 1954 original, which doesn’t do squat, basically. The only threat against Godzilla is Mothra, so they finally get around to showing the confrontation an hour in. Mothra bats around Godzilla for a while until it falls out of the sky. Bam, yer dead. Mothra calls in its larva for backup.
The webbing of Godzilla is interesting and the best effect in this movie. It is well-done and they went all-out to close this movie. The webbing scene takes 10-12 minutes to complete though, so they really wanted to sell it, but much of it has repeated shots and actions, which is tiresome. I’m not sure if they had enough to film, but most scenes seem drawn out.
All in all, Mothra vs Godzilla (1964) is the very best early sequel in the series, mostly for the allegory. Unfortunately, many scenes drag the pace with repeated actions and movements. For example, in the webbing scene, there were endless shots of Mothra larva just crawling around, back and forth. Most of the human scenes are pointless, including the annoying 10 minute singing scene. But I can see why they brought Mothra back later on in the Godzilla series, as he is deserving of a sequel, and Godzilla is deserving of a rematch. The inclusion of some deeper themes is well-done and the dialogue is passable, albeit campy.
Godzilla Movies (click movie name for my review)
1. Godzilla (1954) – 9/10
2. Godzilla vs King Kong (1962) – 4/10
3. Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla (1974) – 5/10
4. Mothra vs Godzilla (1964) – 6/10
5. Destroy All Monsters (1968) – 3/10
6. Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991) – 4/10
7. Godzilla against Mechagodzilla (2002) – 8/10