Friday, August 4, 2017


PHENOMENALITY: *marvelous*

I didn't enjoy TERROR the first time I saw it, but decided that before re-viewing it. I'd give a look to Steve Ryfle's thoughts on this film, the last of the "Showa series," from Ryfle's book JAPAN'S FAVORITE MON-STAR.

Ryfle made a pretty intelligent defense of the film, finding its script to be superior to most of Godzilla's other 1970s offerings, and that its potential had been undermined by budget cuts. In addition, the American version, the one that usually shows up on TV screens here, made the Japanese version far more incoherent, The most daunting example of this that the main villains of TERROR-- the so-called "Black Hole Planet 3 Aliens," seen in the preceding film GODZILLA VS. THE COSMIC MONSTER-- are conflated with the aliens from MONSTER ZERO. Why did the American editors do so? My guess would be that because the actual aliens in the original TERROR look pretty wimpy, the editors chose to excerpt the neat-looking aliens from ZERO to give the villains more heft.

For the final time in the Showa series, we have aliens who have decided that Earth is a plum ripe for picking, and who justify their aggression by nattering about humankind having treated the old planet badly. On top of bringing back their previous creation, the always snazzy-looking Mechagodzilla,, the Black Hole dudes also acquire the services of a mad Japanese scientist, Doctor Mafune. The doc long ago discovered a new breed of surviving dinosaur, whom he named "Titanosaurus," but apparently he couldn't produce the monster in the flesh. The scientific community embittered Mafune by mocking him, though their scorn seems unusual, given that a new mutant dinosaur seems to pop up every other year in the Toho-verse. Anyway, the nastiness of other scientists motivates Mafune to turn against his own people, though some seeds of future discontent are planted when the aliens begin acting rather high-handed. Not only do the Black Hole guys start using Titanosaurus as their own catspaw against Godzilla, they also turn Mafune's daughter Katsura into a cyborg, programmed to help them control Mechagodzilla. This naturally plays havoc with Katsura's love life, as well as eventually turning Mafune against his alien masters.

Most of the human characters are incidental, and though Katsura's subplot has potential for tragedy, the treatment yields only shallow melodrama. The film's sole merit is in the battle-scenes between Godzilla and his two opponents. Mechagodzilla always looks great, though he doesn't really move a whole lot. In contrast, Titanosaurus is a highly mobile antagonist, but his design, right down to his squalling battle-cry, is something less than winning. Only Godzilla himself gains points this time out, for though he's not a figure of terror that he was in his early years, at least he's not a clownish, world-saving superhero-monster. He just seems to be a big ornery beast protecting his chosen stomping-grounds-- though certain future versions of the character would eventually restore the Big G to his lost glories.

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