Mothra vs. Godzilla
Mothra vs. Godzilla (モスラ対ゴジラ, Mosura tai Gojira) is a 1964 Japanese kaiju film directed by Ishirō Honda, written by Shinichi Sekizawa, and produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka, with special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. Produced and distributed by Toho Studios, it is the fourth film in the Godzilla franchise. The film stars Akira Takarada, Yuriko Hoshi, Hiroshi Koizumi, Kenji Sahara, and the Peanuts, with Haruo Nakajima as Godzilla. In the film, humans beseech the aide of the insect-god Mothra to stop Godzilla from destroying Japan.
|Mothra vs. Godzilla|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ishirō Honda|
|Produced by||Tomoyuki Tanaka|
|Screenplay by||Shinichi Sekizawa|
|Music by||Akira Ifukube|
|Edited by||Ryohei Fujii|
|Box office||¥2.66 billion[a]|
Due to the success of King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), Toho chose to pair Godzilla against Mothra for the following film, with Mothra chosen due to the success of Mothra (1961). Honda directly intended for the film to be meant for children in addition to adults, as a way to compete with television's growing popularity in Japan. Notably, it is the final film in the franchise's Shōwa period to depict Godzilla solely as an antagonist.
Mothra vs. Godzilla was released theatrically in Japan on April 20, 1964. An edited version titled Godzilla vs. the Thing was released by American International Pictures in the United States on August 26, 1964. The film was followed by Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, released in the same year on December 20.
News reporter Ichiro Sakai and photographer Junko Nakanishi take pictures of wreckage caused by a typhoon. They uncover a strange, bluish-gray object in the debris, not knowing its significance. Later that day, a giant egg is discovered on the shore. The local villagers salvage it and an entrepreneur of Happy Enterprises, named Kumayama, buys the egg from the local villagers. Instead of letting scientists study the egg, Kumayama wants to make it into a large tourist attraction. Sakai and Nakanishi are informed that the strange object they found is extremely radioactive.
While Sakai, Nakanishi, and Professor Miura are discussing the egg at a hotel, they discover Kumayama checking in. Kumayama meets with Jiro Torahata, the head of Happy Enterprises. They are unexpectedly confronted by tiny twin girls known as the Shobijin and try to capture them. The Shobijin escape and meet with Sakai, Nakanishi and Professor Miura. They explain that the egg belongs to Mothra. If the egg hatches, the larva (though they have no quarrel with humans) will still cause great damage looking for food. The trio agrees to help.
Sakai, Nakanishi and Miura try to reason with Kumayama and Torahata but fail to do so and the Shobijin leave. The three of them return to Kurada Beach, to determine if there is any more radioactive contamination; and, knowing it cannot be Mothra, try to find what the source might be. They soon find it: Godzilla, who had been washed up onto Kurada Beach and buried under mud by the hurricane after his absence since his clash with King Kong, had suddenly emerges and begins to attack Nagoya. Sakai, Junko, and Miura travel to Infant Island to request the Shobijin to send Mothra to defeat Godzilla. The natives of the island and the Shobijin are eventually convinced by the trio. However, the Shobijin warn them that Mothra is already near death by natural causes.
Kumayama barges into Torahata's room and demands to get back the money that Torahata had recently swindled from him. Kumayama is shot by Torahata, then he too is killed when Godzilla arrives and destroys his hotel. Mothra arrives just when Godzilla reaches her egg and engages Godzilla in battle. Briefly, she seems to be winning, even spraying Godzilla with a poisonous powder, though this is ineffective. Despite giving her all, Godzilla hits her with its atomic breath, and Mothra collapses and dies from exhaustion. Fortunately, Godzilla loses interest in the egg and proceeds with its rampage.
The JSDF launches multiple campaigns against Godzilla until two giant larvae hatch from Mothra's egg. They follow Godzilla to Iwa Island, trap it with their silk spray and force Godzilla into the sea. Sakai, Junko, and Miura thank the Mothra larvae and Shobijin as they return to Infant Island.
- Akira Takarada as Ichiro Sakai (酒井 市朗, Sakai Ichiro), a reporter
- Yuriko Hoshi as Junko Nakanishi (中西 純子, Nakanishi Junko), a photographer
- Hiroshi Koizumi as Professor Shunsuke Miura (三浦 俊助 博士, Miura Shunsuke), a scientist
- Yū Fujiki as Jiro Nakamura (中村 二郎, Nakamura Jiro), another reporter
- The Peanuts, Emi and Yumi Ito, as the small beauties (小美人, Shobijin), the fairy guardians of Infant Island
- Kenji Sahara as Jiro Torahata (虎畑 二郎, Torahata Jiro), a corrupt business tycoon
- Jun Tazaki as Maruta (丸田, Maruta), Chief Editor
- Yoshibumi Tajima as Kumayama (熊山, Kumayama), owner of Happy Enterprises
- Kenzo Tabu as the mayor (県会議員, Kenkaigīn)
- Akira Tani as the village leader (網元, Amimoto)
- Haruo Nakajima as Godzilla
Historian Steve Ryfle called the film's themes as a "classic good-versus-evil stand-off". He noted the film raises philosophical questions about unity and humanity's will to put aside their differences for the greater good. Ryfle refers to Godzilla as a "specter of nuclear annihilation", metaphorically casting its shadow over Japan. Ryle also compares Godzilla as a "symbol of moral judgement" after indirectly killing the film's villains. Actor Hiroshi Koizumi felt that Honda was able to emphasize his themes through Mothra better than Godzilla, stating, "Mothra's role was a messenger of peace." Kenji Sahara emphasized that his character "was a symbol of greed." Honda purposely chose to portray the film's version of Infant Island as a partial wasteland, stating, "I wanted to visualize the terror and the power of the atomic bomb."
Before production began, Honda discussed with his cast that with the competition television has been posing for the movies, "[Toho] is targeting kids, not just adults, so we have to make something that all ages will find interesting." Producer Tanaka had told Kenji Sahara that he "wanted a villain with impact". To prepare for his role, Sahara spent time around "pushy" real-estate agents by posing as a buyer. Tanaka hired The Peanuts for publicity, due to their popularity at the time.
The film was originally intended to pick up after Mothra (1961), with the Rolisicans re-cast as the villains. There were several key differences from Sekizawa's earlier drafts: the villain Torahata did not exist; Sakai was accompanied by two scientists, a colleague and a friend's mentor; Godzilla's body washes ashore rather than Mothra's egg; the leads offer themselves as hostages to the Infant Island natives in exchange for Mothra's help; Rolisica was to be attacked by Godzilla; the Frontier Missiles were to be used by the Rolisican military; Himeji Castle was to be destroyed; Godzilla was to move East until reaching close to Tokyo; The artificial lightning tactic is conceived when Godzilla is repelled by electrical towers in Tokyo; Mothra attacks Godzilla when he becomes immune to electricity; Mothra engages Godzilla in a final battle when it stalks the lead characters on a beach. Honda changed much of Sekizawa's original script to accommodate his vision.
For Godzilla, the new suit was built by Teizo Toshimitsu, with Haruo Nakajima giving input whenever visiting the workshop. This led to a lighter suit that awarded Nakajima more fluid movement. Reinforced heels were added to the suit's feet which gave Nakajima freedom to roll and flip without losing his footing. The suit was constructed two months prior to filming. The 1962 Godzilla suit was recycled for water scenes and the shot with Godzilla tumbling off the cliff. For Mothra, a new prop was built, similar to the 1961 prop, with Y-shaped braced attached to the back that allowed the wings to flap. High-powered fans were used to create wind for Mothra's wings. The wing-span for the new Mothra prop was 15 feet. Mechanism were added that allowed the prop to move the head and legs via remote control.
Mechanical props and puppets were built for both monsters. The two larvas were a combination of hand puppetry and motor-driven mechanical props. The larva web was a petroleum based product which was liquified polystyrene. When the web was shot off-screen, it was poured onto a cup stationed at the center of a heavy industrial fan. The cup was sealed with small gaps around the edges. To shoot the webs out of the larva's mouth, a canister of compressed air was run into a sealed tube of liquid polystyrene. At a high pressure level, the liquid polystyrene was forced through a tube that ran through the back of the larva and into the nozzle installed on the mouth. As long as the nozzle was small, the solution vaporized when first emitted and solidified into the trademark web. Gasoline had to be used to remove the webbing and to prevent the suit from combusting, it had to be thoroughly dried.
The larva movements were designed by Soujiro Iijima by using a conveyor belt with rotating gears that allowed the bodies to move up and down. For the scenes with the Fairies, oversized furniture were built eight times their size to make the Fairies appear to look 30 centimeters. Honda had originally intended to depict the wasteland part of Infant Island with more realism and graphic imagery but this idea was dropped due to budgetary issues with the art department. Honda would later regret this decision, feeling he should have been more "stubborn."
Tsuburaya had Toho purchase an Oxberry 1900 optical printer which helped remove damages for composite photography shots. The optical printer was also used to create Godzilla's atomic breath. For the Nagoya Castle scene, Nakajima was unable to completely destroy the model. Nakajima attempted to salvage the shot by having Godzilla appear enraged by the Castle's strong fortification, however, the model was rebuilt to crumble more easily, with the scene having to be re-shot. For the scene with Mothra dragging Godzilla by the tail, the Godzilla suit was used for medium shots and a prop used for long shots. An additional sequence was filmed for the overseas version, which featured the United States military attacking Godzilla with frontier missiles. This sequences was omitted from the Japanese version.
The Mothra prop used for the New Kirk City scenes in Mothra (1961) was recycled for the Infant Island scenes. This prop was smaller compared to the new prop built for the film's adult Mothra. The 1961 model had a motor built into it that flapped the wings at a rapid pace. For the scenes with Godzilla near the cliff face, part of the set's support structure was hidden by using matte painting. The miniature tanks used in the film were purchased from Ihara models rather than typically custom built. The tank models were built to a 1/15th scale and were constructed from aluminum. The antennas were used for remote control.
For the scene where Godzilla destroys the incubator, the scene proved difficult for Nakajima and the wire staff, which required coordination. Close ups of the tail were done with a prop that was operated by two people due to the heavy weight of the tail. The scenes with Godzilla thrashing wildly at Mothra were shot at high speed, then projected at a quicker speed. The end results have been compared to the movement of stop-motion animation. The scene with Godzilla thrashing from the nets was shot with different cameras at once and as a result, the same scene plays over from different angles.
A second egg was produced for the hatching scene. A styrofoam egg was molded and a calcium carbonate substance was mixed with glue and added on top. The styrofoam egg was removed from its interior with a heated wire, which felt a hollow form. For the opening typhoon scene, Iijima built a shallow water tank to create the illusion of violent waves. Wider water scenes were filmed at Toho's massive stage pool.
The score was composed by Akira Ifukube. Ifukube adapted elements from Yuji Koseki's "Song of Mothra" theme into his score. At the point in their careers, Honda and Ifukube held planning sessions to discuss which scenes would feature music. Honda and Ifukube had a disagreement over a scene which featured Godzilla rising behind a ridge-line. Honda asked for attack music for the scene but Ifukube refused, feeling that it was unnecessary due to Godzilla being "impressive enough". However, Godzilla's theme was added instead, a decision which upset Ifukube. The track "The Sacred Springs" was the only track Ifukube wrote for The Peanuts and was intended to be lament for Infant Island's destruction.
Mothra vs. Godzilla was released in Japan by Toho on April 20, 1964, some time prior to the Golden Week and sold 3.5 million tickets. According to Henry G. Saperstein, the film grossed $217,000 for three weeks from eight theaters in Tokyo. The film was re-released theatrically in Japan in 1980 and sold 3 million tickets.
In May 1964, Henry G. Saperstein acquired the American theatrical and television rights to the film, under the proposed working title Godzilla vs. the Giant Moth, and sold the rights to American International Pictures. AIP released the film as Godzilla vs. the Thing on August 26, 1964, where it premiered in Los Angeles. AIP chose the title Godzilla vs. the Thing purposely to generate curiosity and anticipation for Godzilla's foe. AIP hired Reynold Brown to create a poster that featured Godzilla, but censored the other monster. Brown was paid $350 for his services.
The American version of the film contains footage shot by Toho specifically for the American release. The American version of the film received only a few minor adjustments: shortening the twin fairies' song on Infant Island and a scene where Sakai, Junko Miura and Makamura wave goodbye to the Mothras swimming home. Removed scenes include Kumayama hanging out leaflets to attract visitors to the giant egg incubator and where Torahata shoots Kumayama in a hotel room. New scenes were also added including a sequence where U.S. military officials help Japan against Godzilla. The American release of the film was double-billed with Voyage to the End of the Universe. AIP hired Titra Studios to dub the film into English.
In 1983, the Japanese version was released on VHS in Japan by Toho. On January 21, 1986, Toho released the film on LaserDisc. On December 1, 1989, Toho reissued the film on VHS. On December 1, 1991, Toho released a new mastered version on VHS. On August 1, 1992, Toho released the Champion Festival cut on LaserDisc. On December 1, 1993, Toho released the Japanese and American versions on a LaserDisc combo pack. On May 1, 1996, Toho reissued the film on LaserDisc. On April 25, 2003, Toho released the film on DVD. On April 22, 2005, Toho included the film on the Godzilla Final Box DVD Set. On March 19, 2010, Toho released the film on Blu-ray.
In 1989, the American version was released on VHS in North America by Paramount Pictures Corp under the title Godzilla vs. Mothra. On May 5, 1998, Simitar Video reissued the American version on DVD and VHS, which included a widescreen edition. This release retained the previous title Godzilla vs. Mothra, however, the widescreen side of the DVD featured the original American print with the original title, Godzilla vs. The Thing. On September 17, 2002, Sony Music Entertainment released a pan-and-scan version of the American version on DVD. This release also retained the previous title, Godzilla vs. Mothra.
On April 3, 2007, Classic Media and Sony BMG Home Entertainment released both the Japanese and American versions on DVD in North America. The special features included an audio commentary by Steve Ryfle (author of Japan’s Favorite Mon-Star: The Unauthorized Biography of the Big G) and Ed Godziszewski (author of The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Godzilla), a featurette on Akira Ifukube's life and career by Godziszewski and Bill Gudmundson, a slideshow, and the film's theatrical trailer. In 2019, the Japanese version was included in a Blu-ray box set released by the Criterion Collection, which included all 15 films from the franchise's Shōwa era.
A 1964 review for Kinema Junpo praised the effects but criticized the military attacking Godzilla, stating, "It's strange that the people don't learn from the past. From the Self-Defense Forces on down, every single person just plain looks stupid." In a contemporary review from the Monthly Film Bulletin, the review noted that "In spite of some clumsy model shots, Godzilla's fight with the giant moth and its caterpillar progeny is one of Toho's better efforts" The review praised the monsters design in the film and opined that the "ineffectual attempts to bring him to a halt are cleverly and spectacularly staged. Unfortunately, nothing else quite matches the special effects", noting a plot that was "ridiculous" and acting that was "lamentable, and the two miniature twins' habit of repeating every line of dialogue simultaneously is intensely irksome."
Variety commented that the film was a "Japanese sci-fi long on special effects but lacks appeal for general trade", and that "inspite of the slick production, the story and acting don't offer enough to attract large general audiences." The review commented that "virtually all-Japanese cast, with unfamiliar faces and broad emoting typical of such Japanese pics, also detracts from general appeal." The review commented on the film crew, stating that Honda's direction and the script "keep story moving at lively pace, building up to tense climatic scenes" and that "Eiji Tsuburaya, labored mightily to cook up monsters and their battles, the tiny twins and the military assaults against Godzilla."
From a retrospective review in 1998, Steve Ryfle, author of Japan's Favorite Mon-star: The Unauthorized Biography of "The Big G" praised the film as it stood "indisputably as the greatest of all the Godzilla sequels, with a fast-paced story and likable characters, the most impressive Godzilla design ever, two of the Big G's most spectacular battles, and an abundance of special-effects "money shots" that evoke the thrills of the 1954 original." In his 2017 book cowritten with Ed Godziszewski and covering Ishiro Honda's filmography, the two gave their impression that "[t]he final twenty-plus minutes hint at the genre's impending tilt toward young boys. It's a near nonstop barrage of military hardware and monster action", and adding that "Honda seemed to know that kids were now rooting for Godzilla, and so the film never gets too scary."
Ryfle praised the English dubbing for the American version, feeling that it's one of the reasons why the film is considered amongst the best Godzilla films. Ryfle felt that the English script was "snappy" and "well written" and that the voice performances sounded sincere and pulled with effort, stating, "You'd be hard pressed to find another movie where the dubbing is done as well as it is here."
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