Terror of MechaGodzilla (1975)

Composed by: Akira Ifukube

Terror of MechaGodzilla was the last installment of the original Showa series. This was not exactly intentional, as more films would doubtlessly have been made if not for the fact that it was the least financially successful movie in the franchise. It was thus perhaps ironically fitting that the last old Godzilla film was directed by Ishiro Honda and scored by Akira Ifukube. The aliens from Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla rebuild their creation with a few improvements. A mad scientist named Dr. Mifune agrees to use his cybernetic-enhanced daughter Katsura to help control the robot, as well as a dinosaur named Titanosaurus (not the real one, a fictional bipedal one that can cause winds with its tail). The film doesn’t feel as fun as the previous entry, but the story is more intriguing. It’s not the strongest entry, but its leagues ahead of most other late Godzilla entries in the original series.

Ifukube had been gone for a long time. Upon his return Godzilla had already been completely transformed into a goofier kid-friendly superhero. He decided it would be wise to dismiss the traditional theme, as it conveyed a sense of destructive terror. His replacement is the main title march from the original Godzilla film, one of the most important musical decisions in the series. Not only is it more heroic, he plays it a tad more ponderously to match the Big G’s size. Evidently the use of this theme had a major impact, as Ifukube would make it Godzilla’s primary theme when he returned to the franchise sixteen years later.

Ifukube of course does not jazz up MechaGodzilla like Satoh did. Instead he creates a heavily sinister theme. This powerful villainous fanfare creates a great sense of dread with its long notes. Titanosaurus has his own sinister theme. The first part of this theme is played on low instruments while the second gets shrill like Rodan’s theme, appropriate since both can create destructive winds. Katsura, the woman behind these monsters, is an important enough character to gain her own musical identity. This melancholy theme conveys a sense of both romance and tragedy. “Katsura’s Death” (sorry for the spoiler) is one good variation that ends on a soft reprise of MechaGodzilla’s theme. “Ending” does not feature any of the themes, but has a choral flourish which fittingly closes out the Showa series.

Terror of MechaGodzila is a decent finale for old school Godzilla. This and the other MechaGodzilla film both had music that helped restore some of the Big G’s lost luster. It was fitting that the main title march from the first film would return as Godzilla’s heroic theme. This brought the music full circle and also set the stage of Ifukube’s contribution to the Heisei series in the 90s. One quibble for Terror’s score is some of the repetition, which is to be expected in many Ifukube scores.

Rating: 7/10

  1. Main Title
  2. ‘Akatsuki One’ in Distress
  3. Mugar Heads to Earth
  4. Dr. Mafune’s Past
  5. The Female in the Mafune Family
  6. Off to Mount Amagi
  7. Mechagodzilla II
  8. Ichinose and Katsura
  9. Katsura’s Memories
  10. Escape from Titanosaurus
  11. Ichinose Gets Tailed
  12. Titanosaurus Swings into Action
  13. Titanosaurus Attacks
  14. The Appearance of Godzilla
  15. Cyborg Surgery
  16. The Mafune Family Tragedy
  17. Mechagodzilla II Goes on the Offensive
  18. Mechagodzilla Counterattacks
  19. Godzilla vs. The Mega Monster Tag-Team
  20. Godzilla in Danger
  21. Resurrection of Godzilla
  22. Sharpshooting
  23. Katsura’s Death
  24. Ending

Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla (1974)

Composed by: Masaru Satoh

The Godzilla series experienced an uptick at the box office with Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (or vs. the Bionic Monster or vs. the Cosmic Monster). The idea of a giant mechanical doppelganger of the famed monster obviously had strong appeal. The film also avoided the use of stock footage, though, with remaining budget constraints, at the expense of having a long stretch of time without any monsters. The movie once again has aliens masterminding the plot. Their new weapon MechaGodzilla is pretty awesome and the film is great when he’s in action. Otherwise it’s a bit weak, focused more on humans evading alien agents in order to bring a mystic statue to Okinawa Island. The statue is supposed to revive King Seesar, a giant protector dog. One of the aspects that probably helped the film gain popularity despite its flaws is Masaru Satoh’s final return with a jazzy yet powerful score. Continue reading

Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973)

Godzilla vs. Megalon (Gojira tai Megaro) (1976) [OST] by 真鍋理一郎 [Riichiro  Manabe] (Album): Reviews, Ratings, Credits, Song list - Rate Your Music

Composed by: Riichiro Manabe

Godzilla vs. Megalon is often considered the epitome of Godzilla’s sillier side, as well as a low point in the series. It has received a bit of a revived reputation, but more as a “so bad it’s good film.” The plot focuses on Seatopia, an expy of Atlantis, unleashing Megalon, a drill-armed bipedal beetle monster with a laser-shooting daisy star on its head, on the surface world which has endangered them with nuclear tests. To guide Megalon they steal the superhero robot Jet Jaguar from a Japanese inventor and his heterosexual life partner and kid brother. Jet Jaguar is freed from their control, he summons Godzilla, who has been absent for most of the film, to aid him in his fight while the Seatopians get the help of Gigan, the main antagonist of the previous movie (and almost as bizarre as Megalon in his design). The climatic tag-team battle is the goofiest action scene in the entire franchise. It introduced Godzilla’s famous dropkick, achieved by propelling himself forward on his tail. In addition to the slapstick action, the film has loads of stock footage and, in the English dub, one of the most obnoxious kid characters in the series. The film also sees the return of Riichiro Manabe, whose odd music is even more ill-suited for this entry. At least in Godzilla vs. Hedorah the music lined up with the ugly and surrealistic images of pollution and its effects.

            First I should discuss Godzilla vs. Gigan. That entry’s score was made up of tapes from Akira Ifukube’s previous scores, meaning there was no original theme for Godzilla’s titular foe. There was the “Godzilla March,” an original song created for the film and played over the ending. Otherwise I can’t rate a film’s soundtrack when there is no actual new music to analyze.

            Back to Megalon, “Opening” is actually pretty okay, but “Main Title” sees the return of Manabe’s obnoxious punch-drunk horn motif for Godzilla. The rest of “Main Title” does bring up Jet Jaguar’s theme. The robot’s theme is actually pretty solid and memorable. At the end the melody is used for a song (“Jet Jaguar Punch-Punch”) that caps off the film’s ridiculously cheesy nature. Perhaps because the theme is linked to a song it necessitated a stronger melody. The underscore is of course all over the place, with 70s flute music in “Highway Road” and a weirdly groovy motif in “Kidnap I” and “Kidnap II.” “Underwater Kingdom” is appropriately mysterious and sinister. It has an electronic whine that makes a religious Seatopian dance very surreal. The unsettling material appears in the next track “Megalon on Land.” This might be the monster’s theme. In fact it’s hard to figure out if Megalon and Gigan truly have any theme in Manabe’s miasma of flutes melodies, odd electronics, and disco elements. The eerie theme from “Underwater Kingdom” does come later when Seatopia enlists the aid of Gigan in “M Space Hunter Sends Message to Star.”

            “Car Chase” brings back the fast flute music from “Highway Road.” This track abruptly concludes with comedic “wah-wah” music as paint spills onto one of the villains. “Defense Team Takes Action” represents the military’s efforts with hard-edged material (every military scene in this movie is stock footage). “Godzilla of Monster Island” kicks off with garage-band style fare before the Big G’s horn motif breaks out. “Monster March I” has some odd bird-like sound in the background. The final battle music in general is sinister, but gets comical in “Godzilla’s Strong Punch” when the villains get defeated in fairly humiliating fashion. Jet Jaguar’s theme graces the triumphant “Victory Handshake,” segueing into Godzilla’s fanfare.

            Overall the music is memorable for mostly the wrong reasons. Jet Jaguar’s theme is solid and some of the music from the Seatopia scenes is effectively creepy, but otherwise Manabe’s material is just too bizarre for a giant superhero movie. In a sad irony Godzilla vs. Megalon received a prominent theatrical and television release in America, meaning that the image of Godzilla as a goofy superhero became entrenched in western memory. It would take decades for his serious image to be restored in American popular culture.

Rating: 2/10

  1. Opening
  2. Main Title
  3. Changes Of The Lake
  4. Highway Road
  5. What The Intruder’s Left Behind
  6. Deteriorated Room
  7. Intent Of The Intrusion
  8. Chase
  9. Making Of A Robot
  10. Kidnap I
  11. Kidnap II
  12. Underwater Kingdom
  13. Megalon On Land
  14. Jet Jaguar Takes Action
  15. Car Chase
  16. Defense Team Takes Action
  17. Attack Preparation
  18. Crisis In The Container
  19. Megalon Approaches
  20. Attack Begins
  21. Monster Island Flies
  22. M. Space Hunter Sends Message To Star
  23. Invincible Megalon
  24. Godzilla Of Monster Island
  25. The Fierceness Of Megalon & Gigan
  26. The Big Transformation Of Jet Jaguar
  27. Jet Jaguar
  28. Godzilla By Way Of The Sea
  29. Bitter Battle
  30. Godzilla Appears
  31. Monster Match I
  32. Monster Match II
  33. Monster Match III
  34. Strike Back
  35. Godzilla’s Strong Punch
  36. Victory Shake
  37. Jet Jaguar Growth
  38. Godzilla & Jet Jaguar Punch-Punch
  39. Godzilla & Jet Jaguar Punch-Punch-Punch
  40. Godzilla & Jet Jaguar Punch-Punch-Punch (Karaoke version)
  41. Godzilla & Jet Jaguar Punch-Punch-Punch (record version)
  42. Ending

Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971)

Godzilla vs. Hedorah (Soundtrack) | Gojipedia | Fandom

Composed by: Riichiro Manabe

Godzilla vs. Hedorah, or Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster, is the most bizarre entry in the series. While producer Tomoyuki Tanaka was in the hospital, director Yoshimitsu Banno concocted a plot about a space born organism that feeds off earth’s rampant pollution. The organism becomes the towering pollution monster Hedorah. The film has an odd, uneven tone. Godzilla is a full-fledged anthropomorphic superhero and engages in some pretty goofy behavior. At the same time the film is rife with images of death and decay. To its credit it was the first franchise entry in a while to actually show the human consequences of the monsters’ rampages. Adding to the cinematic acid trip are animated sequences, reportedly put in to compensate for a low budget. Once he learned what Banno had created, Tanaka was furious. However in the past decade the film has received a more positive appraisal. It undeniably strives to distinguish itself. Even better, there is no stock footage and the monster battles are unique, if given to an occasional bizarre moment.

Adding to the off-kilter atmosphere is Manabe’s score. Manabe’s music is divisive. Some like its unique tone, but for many it’s too weird and unlistenable. So what do I think of it? Godzilla’s theme (heard most fully in “Godzilla and the Polluted Ocean”) is memorable in the wrong ways. Manabe uses blaring horns that do suggest scale, but also sound more appropriate for a drunk or a comedic scene. The horns usually lead into an equally obnoxious wailing crescendo. Towards the end Manabe introduces a more traditional heroic fanfare (“Godzilla in Flight” and “Ending”), albeit one that is still cartoonish and backed by the blaring horns.

The music in general presents a bleak atmosphere. Some of it is actually quite effective in underscoring the dread horror induced by rampant pollution and the smog monster Hedorah. Some of its appearances are downright unsettling. Hedorah’s material is first president in “Opening” after Godzilla’s horn fanfare graces the Toho logo. One motif is pounding horror strikes followed by a long, eerie, and undulating note. This motif accompanies Hedorah’s earlier appearances as a sizeable tadpole. His more general theme is a repetitive ponderous piece, conveying both the monster’s towering height (taller than Godzilla’s) and the muck of pollution. This theme is also often interspersed with horns when it clashes with the Big G, first in “Two Giant Monsters in the Factory Town.” One of the more bizarre cues is “Sulfuric Acid Mist,”, which sounds like it has a man groaning underneath the music (it indeed comes from the film’s most nightmarish scene).

Of course one cannot discuss the score without mentioning “Give Back the Sun!” It’s a title song literally sung on-screen by Mari Keiko during the opening titles. About half-way through its first appearance the Keiko’s vocals are echoed by a male chorus. Its inclusion adds to the film’s oddball nature, but it is strong and memorable. The song is used diagetically in a nightclub sequence and makes a reappearance, with male vocals, when Hedorah is finally destroyed. The song was actually given an English dub in its American release, enabling more audiences to understand its on-the-nose lyrics and message. However, later releases have used the original Japanese version and I can’t seem to find the English dub. There are a couple other pieces that get diagetic use. “Arano’s Guitar” is downbeat lament while “Our Energy” is wild party music with electric guitar.

Manabe’s music is simultaneously appropriate and inappropriate, appropriate for the weird film and inappropriate for the franchise as a whole. The biggest flaw is Godzilla’s theme, which blares onto the scene to ruin the dismal atmosphere created by the Hedorah and pollution motifs.  Of course, the stand-out is “Give Back the Sun.” Overall the soundtrack, like the film, is a fever dream and will probably do more for Godzilla fans who want to relive the atmosphere through music.

Final Rating: 4/10

Tracklisting

  1. Opening
  2. Give Back the Sun! I
  3. Bizarre Incident at Suruga Bay
  4. Investigation at the Bottom of the Sea
  5. The Giant Tadpole
  6. Terror in the Water
  7. Ken’s Cry
  8. The Mysterious Monster
  9. Godzilla and the Polluted Ocean
  10. Multiplying
  11. Hedorah Comes Ashore
  12. Give Back the Sun! II
  13. Smokestacks and Hedorah
  14. Godzilla Launches an Offensive
  15. Give Back the Sun! III
  16. Hedorah in Pieces
  17. Two Giant Monsters in the Factory Town
  18. The Factory that Strips Away The Green
  19. Fragments
  20. Hedorium
  21. Catalytic Action
  22. Hedorah’s Birthplace
  23. Highway Attack
  24. Sulfuric Acid Mist
  25. Anti-Hedorah Masks Hit the Market
  26. Nuclear Fission
  27. Identifying the Weak Spot
  28. The Transforming Pollution Monster
  29. Preparing for the Electrode Plate Experiment
  30. Arano’s Guitar I
  31. Arano’s Guitar II
  32. Our Energy I
  33. The Flowers Die, The Water Dies
  34. Our Energy II
  35. Telepathy from Godzilla
  36. Showdown at the Foot of Mt. Fuji I
  37. Showdown at the Foot of Mt. Fuji II
  38. The Youngsters Die
  39. Godzilla’s Bitter Struggle
  40. Showdown at the Foot of Mt. Fuji III
  41. Operation “Lead the Way”
  42. Hedorah Approaches
  43. Hedorah Approaches (Ending)
  44. Tranquility
  45. Radioactive Fury
  46. Godzilla in Flight
  47. Give Back the Sun! (Male Chorus Version)
  48. Victory
  49. Godzilla Heads Off
  50. Give Back the Sun! (Male Chorus Version) II
  51. Give Back the Sun! (Male Chorus Version) III
  52. Ending
  53. Give Back the Sun! I (Karaoke)
  54. Give Back the Sun! II (Karaoke)
  55. Give Back the Sun! III (Karaoke)
  56. Give Back the Sun! (Male Chorus Version) II (Karaoke)
  57. Give Back the Sun! (Male Chorus Version) III (Karaoke)
  58. Give Back the Sun! (Male Chorus Version) I (Karaoke)
  59. Godzilla vs. Hedorah (Give Back the Sun! [Record Version])
  60. Get Hedorah!