Let's Talk: Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)/Godzilla vs. The Thing (1964)
Mothra vs. Godzilla. Godzilla vs. The Thing. Whatever title you know this fourth installment in the Godzilla franchise as, it is personally one of my favorites. It’s the third time the king of the monsters faces off against another monster, but this time it’s the queen of the monsters, Mothra. She debuted in her own feature film three years earlier and the difference between the two monsters is literally night and day. The Official Godzilla Compendium said it best, “The contrast between the two protagonists – ugly, dark, and brutal Godzilla against beautiful, bright, and gentle Mothra – could not have been more striking.”
I Love Mothra vs. Godzilla! Here's Why...
There are a couple of reasons why I love this film. One of them is this is the first movie where there isn’t too much change between the Japanese and the American versions. They both start out the same with a massive hurricane hitting a town off the coast of Japan. In both they have locals finding Mothra’s egg and an enterprise (run by Kumayama and Torahata) buying the egg for the sole purpose of making it a tourist attraction. They also have the two little ladies – the Cosmos, as we come to know them – trying to convince the entrepreneurs to give the egg back to them. Lastly, as the three main characters (Sakai, Junko, and Professor Miura) go to Infant Island – in the American version, it’s called Mothra Island – to plead with the islanders to let Mothra help them against Godzilla, the islanders refuse because of what main land Japan did to them and their island with the atomic bomb testings in the 1950s.
I will admit that as I watched both (obviously not at the same time) I was pleasantly surprised at how similar they were. Still I prefer the Japanese version over the American version, but it’s also about damn time. It took us Americans three movies before we finally stopped trying to make it our own thing!
However, I did learn a fun fact in The Official Godzilla Compendium about the American version. So apparently, “In acknowledgement of their films’ growing international appeal, Toho filmed an additional sequence for Mothra vs. Godzilla that played only in American theaters – a scene in which the United States Navy bombards Godzilla with Frontier missiles. While it is not unusual for scenes to be missing from American releases, Mothra vs. Godzilla remains the only Godzilla film containing an effects scene screened only outside Japan, though filmed by Toho itself, and not by second unit directors in other countries.”
Small Differences Between the Two
That was only one of a handful of differences I noticed between the movies. Some others were when the “monster egg” first appeared, in the American version they show different American papers talking about it while in the Japanese version it’s different Japanese papers. Also, as I mentioned earlier, in the American version they refer to Mothra’s home as Mothra Island, not Infant Island. I also noticed that they never really say Mothra’s name in the American version. They kept on calling it “The Thing”.
Godzilla = A CLUTZ!
Another reason why I love this movie is because, in my opinion, Godzilla is portrayed as a massive clutz in it. He gets his tail stuck in a tower. As he pulls it out, he did it with such force that he falls forward and makes the tower fall on top of him. As the tower falls on top of him, he attacks it as if saying, “What the hell, dude?! You want to pick a fight with me!” Last, but certainly not least, he misses a step and falls right into Nagoya Castle. Seriously, during that entire sequence of events from when he emerges out of the ground, I’m dying from laughter. I mean this could all just be me, but the next time you watch this film, remember this and let me know what you think.
Some of My Favorite Scenes from Mothra vs. Godzilla
Two of my favorite scenes came from the king of the monsters being such a clutz. One of them is when the tower falls on him. As he attacks it, he just looks like this gigantic creature, this force that shouldn’t be messed with and I love it. I love when watching these films that even for a second, because of the way they filmed Godzilla, you get to think that he’s actually real. You forget that it’s just a man in a rubber suit.
However, I will say that some of the computer “animation” they did throughout the film was pretty horrible. Yes, I know it was the sixties, but you could totally tell when they decided to “map in” Godzilla to make him look larger than life and it bothered the hell out of me. I would rather they brought back the puppet from the first movie than use computer animation.
I also loved when he fell into Nagoya Castle because that was actually an accident. According to The Official Godzilla Compendium, the Godzilla suits are not made for the actor’s head to be placed in Godzilla’s head. Instead, the actor’s head is where Godzilla’s chest is. There are holes there for the actor to see out of and breathe out of. Unfortunately, for Haruo Nakajima – the actor who portrayed Godzilla in Mothra vs. Godzilla - he couldn’t really see, so he did slam into the model of Nagoya Castle as instructed, but not in the right place, so it didn’t break like it should’ve. They had to do other takes with Nakajima just pounding on the castle with help from someone off-camera. Well, it was also apparently very well constructed and cost 500,000 yen to make it.
(By the way, if I had something constructed and it cost that much money, I wouldn’t want to destroy it. I would keep it and ask for a cheaper model to be built; one that would be destroyed after the first hit.)
Speaking of accidents that happened during the filming of this movie, “Late in the film, military aircraft bomb Godzilla from the air. In that sequence, a large blast ignited the head of Haruo Nakajima’s Godzilla suit. Nakajima…fortunately escaped injury…”. What’s funny is I always thought something was off or weird about that scene. I mean, that is another scene I love because you just see Godzilla walking off with his head on fire, but he doesn’t seem affected. It’s so cool. It makes him look like a badass! But thanks to my favorite book, I learned that part was quite literally an accident.
Suit Change Number Four
The last aspect of the film I want to discuss is the change in the look of the suit. It is the fourth movie, so of course there’s a fourth change in costume. This time, “The suit was slightly slimmed down from the previous incarnation, and the face was softened and made to look a bit more mammalian.” I also noticed that the Bugles claws vanished from King Kong vs. Godzilla and that he technically had eyebrows. Again, the next time you watch this film, take a look at Godzilla’s face and tell me he doesn’t have eyebrows. In this movie, he puts every person who creates extravagant eyebrows to shame.
What Do You Think?
I think that’s about it for Mothra vs. Godzilla (or Godzilla vs. Thing). I know I mainly talked about Godzilla and not Mothra, but I will be discussing her when I watch her stand-alone film soon, so she will get her well-deserved spotlight. Let me know what you think. Do you agree with me? Do you disagree with me? Did you learn something new? Do you know something I don’t? Let’s talk.
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Please remember I am not getting paid to talk about this amazing franchise or promote any movies or books. I am just a fanatic, like yourself, wanting to start a conversation about Godzilla and other monster movies. To learn more, please check out my Policy page. Again, I would love to hear from you, my fellow Godzilla fanatics. You can either comment below (please read my “Comments Policy” on the Policy page before doing so) or contact me.
The photos featured in this post are my photos. The first is my copy of Mothra vs. Godzilla. The second is my “signature photo”, me with my copy of one of my favorite Godzilla movies.
**This post was originally published on February 17, 2020**