Because again, ROBOTS ARE AWESOME!
Despite the success of 1954’s “Gojira”, and its American adaptation “Godzilla, King of the Monsters” in 1956, Toho Studios didn't exactly begin the Godzilla franchise in full, until 1962.
Especially after the sequel “Godzilla Raids Again” (1955), failed to click with audiences, along with its pretty terrible 1959 American version “Gigantis the Fire Monster”.
“Gigantis” is a whole article of woe all on its own. But let’s just say that the renaming of a popular character like Godzilla, in an decade without the internet, or reliable entertainment news sources, did not go over well.
Thankfully for fantasy fans, Toho continued their string of science fiction and monster movies throughout the fifties. They just did it without Godzilla.
Among these were 1957’s “The Mysterians” (alias “Chikyū Bōeigun”, or "Earth Defense Force"); a Japanese take on the attempted alien invasions of Earth narrative. And one that also manages to do some things different, from the older American efforts which inspired it.
It was filmed in glorious color, and had a very decent budget, as it's often forgotten that Japanese monster movies were technically A-level productions. Until the downgrading of the 1970's. And featured plenty of cool super weapons and vehicles on both sides of the interplanetary conflict.
Much more intriguing than how these alien invasion film’s usual play out, with the aliens having all the fun toys, and the human heroes only whipping up one useful, but otherwise unimpressive trinket to defeat the invaders at the end.
Including computer viruses programmed by David Levinson, and yodeling from vintage country music albums.
And straight from The Mysterians’ toy chest, comes the giant burrowing robot dubbed Moguera.
Moguera (as in Mole), may not be the first robotic Kaiju in Japanese fiction, but he is the first prominent one featured in the Kaiju film genre.
And although he / it has not appeared in more than two films, the original 1957 version of the character remained a mainstay in Kaiju / Godzilla merchandising for years.
Moguera is a giant burrowing robot used by The Mysterians to first help construct their underground headquarters on Earth. And then later, unleashed upon the surface as the first violent example of their otherworldly power. Despite the robot’s destructive presence and laser beam eyes, Moguera is taken out with multiple explosives across Koyama Bridge.
A second Moguera unit is briefly seen during the climax, as it creates ground fissures to swallow up the human’s own gigantic super weapons dubbed Markalites (mobile energy-shooting satellite dishes). Only to be destroyed by its own handy work, as one of the Markalites falls on top of it.
|'Moguera 2', about to be crushed by a falling Markalite Cannon|
A heavily reimagined Moguera, now called M.O.G.U.E.R.A (an acronym for Mobile Operation Godzilla Universal Expert Robot Aero-Type), appears in “Godzilla vs Space Godzilla” (1994). This human-built military machine is a successor to the previous year’s Mechagodzilla, whose pilot crew fights alongside Godzilla (however reluctantly), against his cosmic doppelganger.
I’m pretty supportive of almost any giant monster out there, but given a choice between the two Moguera automatons, I’ll take the 1957 vintage any old day.
|Moguera (the first one) on the warpath!|
The original story for “The Mysterians” had no monster in it, as Mogera's inclusion was a last minute idea from producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, whom felt the film needed a Kaiju. Bless him.
The original concept for Moguera was to have him / it be a half-mole, half-reptilian creature. Though the design was never brought to special-effects-suit life, some key details were later used for another burrowing giant, Baragon, from the 1965 film “Frankenstein Conquers the World”.
Director Ishiro Honda reworked Moguera into being a robot, as a way to further demonstrate the technological powers that The Mysterians possessed. Below is a compilation piece I put together, featuring design art and storyboards of the abandoned flesh and blood Moguera.
And plenty of alternate files of the unrealized Moguera, that you readers are welcomed to collect and share elsewhere online.