Mothra vs. Godzilla screenshot

Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)

four stars

Godzilla battles Mothra in the first meeting of Toho's two most popular kaiju.

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After the success of Godzilla, Toho made several standalone kaiju films that each featured a new monster. After the success of King Kong vs. Godzilla, Toho focused on putting their top star head-to-head against other kaiju in crossover movies. No Toho-created kaiju had the star power of King Kong, but 1961's Mothra was popular enough in Japan and the United States that the titular monster was chosen to be Godzilla's next opponent.

When a giant egg washes ashore, it's promptly purchased by a private company to become a tourist attraction. Two miniature women called the Shobijin arrive to take the egg, which belongs to Mothra, back to Infant Island with them. The egg's "owners" ignore warnings that it will hatch and the larvae inside will destroy anything in their path in search of food. When Godzilla suddenly returns, only Mothra and the recently-shunned inhabitants of Infant Island can save Japan.

Mothra vs. Godzilla screenshot

Mothra vs. Godzilla is full of legitimately impressive practical effects. Because Mothra's not a typical human-shaped monster, she's depicted through a variety of creative methods in all her adult, egg, and larval forms. The Shobijin are believable enough as tiny people, and the effects used to make them appear small are never overly distracting. Most impressive are the many miniatures in the film, which are easily overlooked because of how realistic they appear.

What makes this film great, though, is the unfortunately timeless story. Greedy men want to exploit the egg, then try to buy the Shobijin even as they plead for help. When Godzilla shows up and the world doesn't deserve any aid, Mothra shows compassion and fights. Mothra doesn't help because the world deserves it, but because it's the right thing to do. It's not Mothra's fight, and she knows she's not strong enough to defeat Godzilla. She fights and dies to save the world while men kill each other over money.

Infant Island is a beautiful place. The world didn't know about its beauty, and used the island to test nuclear weapons. When the egg is discovered, everyone involved is only concerned with how much money it will bring them, from the fishermen who find it to the businessmen who build a park around it. The men in charge ignore any facts they dislike, and the idea of giving up something profitable is out of the question. Mothra vs. Godzilla is a terrifyingly realistic film in this way, except that there's no giant, heroic moth that will save the day in the real world.

Mothra vs. Godzilla poster Mothra vs. Godzilla title screen

Director

  • Ishirō Honda

Cast

  • Akira Takarada as Ichiro Sakai
  • Yuriko Hoshi as Junko Nakanishi
  • Hiroshi Koizumi as Professor Miura
  • Emi Itō as Shobijin
  • Yumi Itō as Shobijin
  • Kenji Sahara as Jiro Torahata
  • Yoshifumi Tajima as Kumayama
  • Haruo Nakajima as Godzilla