Toho Studios had Godzilla. 20th Century Fox Studios had Pierre Boulle’s apes. And the American studio was kicking the Big Green One’s ass in the Pacific Rim box office. So what does Toho Studios do? They created their own race of sentient humanoid-ape aliens to introduce into the series.
Toho Studios celebrated the Great Green One’s 20th anniversary in style with this everything-plus-the-kitchen sink monster romp featuring the return of Anguirus from Ishiro Honda’s first Godzilla sequel, 1955’s Godzilla Rides Again, a new monster in the form of the good kaiju dog-deity, King Caesar, and a James Bond-inspired Interpol superspy to defeat the aliens.
And if that wasn’t enough: they brought on the apes.
Toho’s new breed of intelligent apes, who hail from the “Third Planet from the Black Hole,” built a secret, underground high-tech base in Okinawa. And they have the ability to build robots. And they construct Mechagodzilla, a robotic doppelganger of Godzilla equipped with a wide array of weapons and flight capabilities.
Oh, yeah. And these apes enjoy their wine. And they can morph into human form.
The fun begins as an Oriental priestess has a vision of Japan’s destruction by a giant monster. Cue to a spelunker who discovers a chunk of never before seen metal in a cave. A subsequent archaeological excavation to find more of the metal unearths a chamber with a biblical-like prophecy of a forthcoming battle between huge monsters on the Earth.
Of course that errant hunk of metal is the work of The Simians and was used to construct Mechagodzilla to spearhead their conquest of Earth.
As crazy as it seems, it wasn’t 20th Century Fox who sued over this—but Universal Studios. When the film was released in the U.S in March of 1977 under the title Godzilla vs. the Bionic Monster, Universal took issue over the use of the word “Bionic,” as they owned the rights to The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman TV series. That led to the title that we U.S kiddies saw it under: Godzilla vs. The Cosmic Monster.
Keeping with their “borrowing” of the 20th Century Fox franchise, another race of Toho aliens from the third black hole planet returned in the 1975 sequel, Terror of Mechagodzilla. This time the aliens “aped” the underground disfigured mutants from Beneath the Planet of the Apes—and hid their disfigurement under rubber masks. Oh, and they brought along another, new monster-partner: the aquatic, non-mechanical Titanosaurus. The Mechagodzilla sequel would prove to be the last of the films until the Big Green One’s 30th anniversary started a new wave of Godzilla films.
If you must have Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla in your collection, there’s the 1988 restored Japanese cut with English audio on a 1988 VHS, a 2004 DVD with both English and Japanese audio, and a 2019 Showa-era Blu-ray issued by the Criterion Collection alongside 15 other Godzilla films released from 1954 to 1975. Terror of Mechagodzilla also appears in that collection, along with its three singular DVD forms issued in 1998, 2002, and 2007.
The epic battle! This stuff rocks no matter how old you are!