When King Kong Vs. Godzilla was a hit, Toho didn't waste any time working on a follow up. They were smart enough to bring back the director of the original Gojira, Ishiro Honda, who obviously had a good feel for the character and to pit the giant monster against one of Toho's earlier kaiju creations, Mothra, who had starred in her own film in 1961.
The film begins when a massive storm hits Japan. When the clouds roll away and the rain subsides, a sinister business man named Jiro finds and buys a gigantic egg that has washed ashore with hopes of capitalizing on it and charging an admission fee to see it. What Jiro and his right hand man, Kumayama, don't count on is a visit from a pair of familiar tiny twin fairies who tell them that the egg is not their property and that it actually belongs to Mothra, the protector of the island. The girls try to convince the men to put the egg back, but it's to no avail and so soon they do what any pair of miniature fairies would do in their situation, they go to the press. With the help of two reporters, Sakai and Junko, and a friend of theirs named Professor Miura, they try to right this wrong but it's too little too late and soon enough Godzilla shows up and wreaks havoc on the city of Nagoya while Kumayama tries to kidnap the fairies.
The reporters and their professor friend plead with the fairies to convince Mothra to arrive and challenge Godzilla before the island is demolished and despite their initial protests, they finally agree. Mothra finally appears and she does her best to stop Godzilla but she loses the first fight and it looks like she's dead. What Godzilla wasn't counting on was what was inside that egg that washed ashore...
A nice blend of story and action/effects set pieces, Godzilla Vs. Mothra remains one of the more popular entries in the long running series for a few very valid reasons. First and foremost is the fact that the plot is really well paced and it moves along quickly but at the same time it also makes us care a bit about the human element in the film. By essentially pitting Sakai, Junko and Miura against Kumayama and Jiro the human drama mirrors the conflict between Godzilla and Mothra. Of course, it's the monster mayhem that we all watch these movies for and on that level the film is also a rousing success. Mothra's initial appearance in this picture is fantastic – it's creative, it's colorful, and it's very impressive while Godzilla here is tough as nails and full of righteous anger. Their initial battle is not only exciting but it's also really well edited, placing the human characters into the fray quite effectively. It all builds to an interesting conclusion that allows for even more effects heavy rubber suit combat that ties things up nicely.
On top of that are the production values on display. In addition to some fantastic miniature sets there are also the rubber suits and monstrous creations to marvel at. The camera work does a great job of capturing these elements from the right angles and it's all set to a genuinely exciting score. The film is definitely played more seriously than King Kong Vs. Godzilla was, but it's not so dark as to take the fun out of the picture, instead it finds a nice balance and runs with it.
NOTE: The differences between the original Japanese version of the film, Mothra Vs. Godzilla, and the American A.I.P. cut of the film, Godzilla Vs. The Thing, outside of the dubbing, are minimal. A few scenes are just slightly shorter and the missile attack on Godzilla is slightly longer in the A.I.P. version, but aside from that the two versions really don't differ much at all.
Good news and bad news as far as the transfers on this DVD are concerned. First the good news: the Japanese cut is presented in its original 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio that presents the film as it was intended to be seen. The quality is excellent with great color reproduction, minimal grain and print damage and plenty of foreground and background detail present in the picture. The bad news? The American cut of the movie is presented in 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen and so there is some cropping. The bright side is that the quality of the picture is quite strong and it's been said that these are the best elements that Classic Media could find to work with, but it's still a shame that the Godzilla Vs. The Thing version of the movie isn't in its original aspect ratio.
The American and Japanese cuts are presented here as they should be in Dolby Digital Mono, and optional English language subtitles have been provided for the Japanese cut. Both tracks are fine with only a little bit of hiss present that isn't really distracting and quite frankly, unless you're listening for it, you're not likely to notice it in the first place.
Extras for the Japanese cut of the movie are slim, limited to a still gallery, the film's original Japanese theatrical trailer, and a tribute to late Toho president Shogo Tomiyama. On the American cut of the film, we're once again treated to an excellent audio commentary track courtesy of Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski. The two men do a great job of pointing out innovations in the film's special effects and set design and also discuss subtleties of the film's score. The detail the history of the primary cast and crew members and explain the relationship between AIP and Toho a bit. It's an interesting talk that should please fans of the series.
Rounding out the extra features is a nice still gallery, an eight minute biography of composer Akira Ifukube, some animated menus and chapter stops. The disc is housed inside a hard cardboard book-style case that presents the DVD quite elegantly and which is similar in style to the other Sony/Classic Media Godzilla releases as of late.
Aside from the aspect ratio on the American cut of the film, this is an excellent presentation in every regard. Mothra Vs. Godzilla remains one of the more popular films in the series, and for good reason. Aside from the plentiful effects and monster battles there's a good story here as well. Sony/Classic Media have done a great job with this release and it comes highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.