Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)

Cue By Cue: Film Music Narratives: Godzilla vs. The Thing (Mothra ...

Composed by: Akira Ifukube

With King Kong vs. Godzilla a roaring success, Toho had another epic crossover duel. Instead of grabbing a popular foreign character like King Kong, they went for their other homegrown mon-star, the giant butterfly Mothra. Unlike the other members of Toho’s growing stable of titans, Mothra was a good guy (or good girl?), only causing havoc when her faithful foot tall twin fairy priestesses are abducted by an unscrupulous businessman. Mothra vs. Godzilla concerns her egg washing ashore on a Japanese beach. Quickly the egg is claimed by a corporation, despite the pleas of the twin fairies. Days later Godzilla emerges and, despite the flaws of modern man, Mothra rushes out to defend Japan from the dinosaur’s latest rampage. Mothra vs. Godzilla is often considered one of the greatest films after the original. It’s not hard to see why. Godzilla is really built up as a threat, there is some actual depth to the story, and the battles with Mothra are satisfying in that she is a total underdog using her wits and specialized powers.

Ifukube releases another important musical entry. First he tweaks the Godzilla theme some more, mainly the Terror of Godzilla part. Most of the new material however, is for Mothra. Ifukube did not score the butterfly’s 1961 debut film (the honors go to Yuji Koseki). The only reference brought over from it is “Mothra’s Song,” which was a tremendous hit and could not be ignored. Its appearance here is not as energetic, with the twin fairies singing independently of background music. Ifukube is more focused on two new Mothra songs. “The Sacred Fountain” is a powerful sad song from one of the film’s low points. Its tune, introduced in “Reflections of the Little Beauty,” represents Mothra’s benevolence. It fittingly closes out the film in “Ending.” The second theme/song is introduced at the 1:27 mark in “Main Title.” This is Mothra’s battle theme and appears alongside Godzilla’s theme in the action cues. The song it serves is “Mahara Mothra,” an energetic tribal piece that alternates between the singing fairies and the chanting inhabitants of Infant Island. There is even more Mothra material. The egg has a sinister theme (“The Rainbow-Colored Object”) that is perhaps too sinister for later scenes in the film. It also doubles as a theme for Mothra’s larval stage and is heavily present in the final battle cue. The fairies briefly have a mystical motif (“The Little Beauties Theme Song”). The bonus karaoke tracks provide nice instrumentals of the songs.

The tunes and themes are pretty good. The problem is the stand-a-lone listening experience on the complete album. Most of the destruction and battle scenes use the same pieces of music ad nauseam. This results in a highly repetitive listening experience in the second act, with only “Mahara Mothra” breaking the growing monotony. I feel an edited down album of 30-40 minutes would be much stronger, or at least a non-chronological one. That being said there are non-thematic highlights that stick out. There’s a tropical flourish that opens the album and reappears in some of the battle cues. “Devil’s Purification” is an effectively eerie minute of music. I have to give two separate ratings for the score, taking into account Ifukube’s strength in creating themes but also the issues his composing style has on complete score releases.

Rating: (film) 8/10 (album) 7/10

Fun Fact; American producers thought nobody could take the idea of a giant butterly as a serious threat. Therefore they obscured Mothra in the trailers and retitled the film Godzilla vs. the Thing. So if somebody hears the title and imagines a duel between Godzilla and John Carpenter’s ever-transforming alien threat, don’t get excited.

Tracklisting

  1. Main Title
  2. The Rainbow-Colored Object
  3. The Giant Egg in the Waters off Shizunoura
  4. The Giant Egg Washes Ashore
  5. The Little Beauties Theme Song
  6. Reflections of the Little Beauty
  7. Mothra on the Hilltop
  8. Mothra Leaves
  9. The Dome Goes Up in Flames
  10. Mysterious Radioactivity
  11. The Appearance of Godzilla
  12. The Compound Falls Under Siege
  13. Godzilla and Nagoya
  14. The Dome at Sunset
  15. Infant Island
  16. The Devil’s Purification
  17. Sacred Springs
  18. Mothra’s Song
  19. Mothra Sets Off
  20. Godzilla vs. The Tank Brigade
  21. Destruction of the Hamakaze Hotel
  22. Adult Mothra vs. Godzilla
  23. Plan A: Electrocution
  24. Plan B: Electrocution
  25. Mahara Mothra
  26. The Birth of Baby Mothra
  27. Baby Mothra vs. Godzilla
  28. Ending
  29. Background Music Inside the Hamakaze Hotel
  30. Sacred Springs (Karaoke Version)
  31. Mahara Mothra (Karaoke Version)
  32. Sacred Springs (Karaoke Version)

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