The film was released theatrically in the United States and Canada in the summer of 1964 (four months after its Japanese debut) by American International Pictures as Godzilla vs. the Thing.
News reporter Ichiro Sakai and photographer Junko Nakanishi take pictures of the wreckage caused by a typhoon, uncovering a large reptile scale in the debris. Later that day a giant egg is discovered on the shore. The local villagers salvage it, and scientists come to study the egg.
While Sakai and Junko try to ask Professor Miura, one of the scientists, questions about the egg, an entrepreneur of Happy Enterprises named Kumayama scurries the scientists off and explains that he has bought the egg from the local villagers. Instead of letting scientists study the egg, Kumayama wants to make it into a large tourist attraction. Sakai, Junko, and Professor Miura are disgusted and believe that Kumayama has no right to keep the egg.
While the three are discussing the egg at a hotel, they discover Kumayama checking in. Sakai wonders if somebody else may be working with Kumayama and investigates the matter. Kumayama meets with Jiro Torahata, the head of Happy Enterprises. As the two are discussing the billion-dollar tourist attraction the egg represents, two tiny twin girls known as the Shobijin, interrupt them. The Shobijin explain that they are from Infant Island and that the egg belongs to their god Mothra, who lives there. Torahata and Kumayama ignore the girls' pleas and try to capture them. The Shobijin escape the room and meet with Sakai, Junko, and Professor Miura outside the hotel. The girls beg them to bring the egg back too and the three promise to try as hard as they can to bring the egg back to Infant Island. The girls explain that if the egg is not returned, a larva will hatch and will cause destruction to its surroundings as it searches for food. When confronted by Sakai, Junko, and Miura, Kumayama offers to buy the Shobijin, disgusting Junko, Miura, and Sakai.
The Shobijin leave even though they could not get the egg back and thank Sakai, Junko, and Miura for their kindness. Sakai tries to write editorials but they fail due to lack of public interest. When the scale is found to be radioactive, the three test for radioactivity in an industrial area where it was found. Godzilla suddenly emerges from Kurada Beach, where it had been blown ashore by the hurricane and buried under mud, and begins to attack Nagoya.
The two go to Infant Island anyway with Professor Miura. They are captured by the local villagers and are brought to the tribe’s chief. The three ask for assistance but, as expected, are refused because of the atomic testing and Japan's failure to return the egg.
The Shobijin are heard singing and everyone walks towards them. Sakai, Junko, and Miura ask the Shobijin for Mothra's assistance but they are also turned down. Junko then pleads to all the villagers that not everyone from Japan should be accused for what happened to their island. Godzilla is killing everyone and refusing their country assistance is wrong. Sakai then adds that "we're all human" and that everyone is connected and must help each other. Mothra's screech is soon heard and the Shobijin ask everyone to follow them. They convince Mothra to help Japan and the people that live in it, but the monstrous insect is old and weak. Even if Mothra defeats Godzilla, she will die.
The next day, Kumayama barges into Torahata's room and demands Torahata give him his money back that Torahata had recently swindled from Kumayama. They fight and eventually, Torahata is defeated by being punched in the mouth, and is bleeding. Kumayama crawls into Torahata's money cabinet and begins to steal the money from it. Torahata wakes up and sees Godzilla approaching the hotel. He then grabs a gun and shoots Kumayama in the head, killing him. Torahata is killed while escaping with his money when Godzilla destroys the hotel.
Godzilla walks towards the egg and tries to destroy it until Mothra shows up. The two fight a tough battle where Mothra seems to have the upper hand. While on the ground, Godzilla fires its atomic breath into Mothra's face and mortally injures her. Mothra dies with her wing resting on top of her egg while Godzilla walks away. The Shobijin then explain to Sakai, Junko, and Miura that the egg can be hatched today and begin to sing.
Meanwhile, the military tries to fight Godzilla by electrocuting it with "artificial lighting" but fail. Godzilla then melts the tanks with its atomic breath. The Shobijin continue singing and Mothra's egg finally hatches with not one, but two Mothra larvae. The larvae follow Godzilla to Iwa Island and use their silk spray on Godzilla in an attempt to trap it, but Godzilla returns to the sea. The Mothra larvae and the Shobijin celebrate and return to Infant Island.
Haruo Nakajima (Godzilla) takes a break during filming.
Akira Takarada as Ichiro Sakai
Yuriko Hoshi as Junko Nakanishi
Hiroshi Koizumi as Professor Miura
Yu Fujiki as Nakamura
The Peanuts, Emi and Yumi Ito, as the Shobijin
Yoshifumi Tajima as Kumayama
Kenji Sahara as Jiro Torahata
Jun Tazaki as Murata, Chief Editor
Mothra, a giant divine moth deity who was sent by the Shobijin to stop Godzilla.
Haruo Nakajima as Godzilla, the King of the Monsters and the primary antagonist of them film.
American International Pictures theatrical poster for the 1964 U.S release for Godzilla vs. The Thing. AIP hid Mothra's appearance behind sensational false advertising. Incorporates artwork by Reynold Brown
American International Pictures originally released the film in the United States in September 1964, and it opened in New York City on November 25 of that year, retitled Godzilla vs. the Thing. Mothra's appearance was kept out of promotional material, which hinted that Godzilla's opponent would be a hideous tentacled creature and referred to it only as "The Thing". New York Times film critic Eugene Archer reacted to the film and its title: "Well, there are three things, not counting the movie. One has wings and looks like a big bee. The other two are hatched from the first Thing's egg, after quite a bit of worshipful kootch dancing from a pair of foot-tall native goddesses...".
In video releases of the 1980s, the film was titled simply Godzilla vs. Mothra. However, Mothra is still repeatedly called "The Thing" in the film, confusing many film-goers who thought "The Thing" and "Mothra" were two separate monsters.
This is the first Showa Godzilla film to be nearly completely intact for North American release (a very few small scenes were edited out). The first three Godzilla films were heavily edited, as well as included English actors and new narration.
There were several differences in the original screenplay from Shinichi Sekizawa, which he submitted in 1963 on December 31, compared to the finished product. The most noticeable is that Godzilla's body was substituted for Mothra's Egg in the final draft. Furthermore, Godzilla was also going to take a bigger role in the film, with Mothra only arriving just in time for the climax. Rolisica, a fictional land that was featured in Mothra (1961), was present in this early screenplay as well. The Rolisican government was also going to be the ones to deploy the Frontier Missiles against Godzilla, as opposed to the US forces as it occurred in the International version of Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964). Lastly, this early draft didn't feature Mothra's Larva at all, and the final confrontation was going to be with the Imago version of Mothra and Godzilla.
The upper lip on the Godzilla suit in this film has a slight wobble. This was originally an accident; in the filming of a scene where Godzilla smashes into the Nagoya Castle, the actor in the suit, Haruo Nakajima, fell and the suit's head slammed into the castle, loosening the teeth. Special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya liked this so much that he wanted to keep the suit like that for a while.
During Godzilla's initial assault on Iwa Island, composer Akira Ifukube originally did not want to use music for the sequence. However, Ishiro Honda disagreed and added music during post-production without the composer's knowledge. When Ifukube first saw the sequence in the finished film at its premiere, he turned to Honda and gave him a dirty look. It is the only recorded disagreement they have ever had in their professional careers.
The claws on Godzilla's hands and feet were made out of FRP for the first time in this film.
Another highlight of the film is the "Frontier Missile" sequence, where Godzilla was being attacked on a beach by American battle cruisers. This scene was included only in the North American version, although part of the scene was featured briefly in the original Japanese trailer.
Mothra vs. Godzilla - Toho's current official English title. Classic Media used this title for their DVD release.
Godzilla vs. The Thing - UK and North American theatrical release title.
Godzilla vs. Mothra - American TV and home video title.
Godzilla Against Mothra - English title used in international promotional material, and on Toho's original posters.
The film sold approximately 3,510,000 tickets in Japan.
The film has received favorable reviews by critics, and is widely considered among the best Godzilla films. The film's approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes is currently at 90% based on ten reviews.
Released: November 7, 2006 (DVD/VHS)
Picture Format: 2.35:1 Anamorphic (Japanese Version) 1.77:1 Cropped-Anamorphic (US version)
Soundtrack(s): Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Japanese Version only) English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (US Version only)
Subtitles: English (optional)
Extras: Audio Commentary with authors Ed Godziszewski and Steve Ryfle (US Version only)
Still Gallery Slide Show
Tribute to Akira Ifukube (13 mins)
Notes: Also available in The Godzilla Collection with "Gojira (Godzilla)", "Godzilla Raids Again", "Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster", "Invasion of Astro-Monster (Monster Zero), "All Monsters Attack", and "Terror of Mechagodzilla" (all films include Japanese and US Versions).
Re-release: October 18, 2013
Released: April 7, 1998 (DVD/VHS)
Picture Format: 2.35:1 (Non-Anamorphic) [NTSC]
Soundtrack(s): English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 Mono
Extras: The Gallery of Godzilla (stills, design sketches, storyboards and poster artwork)
Bonus Trailers for "Godzilla's Revenge", "Godzilla Vs. Monster Zero", “Godzilla, King Of The Monsters!”, and "Terror Of Mechagodzilla"
Interactive trivia game
DVD-ROM features: 4 screen savers, printable photo, & art galleries, and access to "simitar.com" and "followthru.com" websites
Notes: 1.33:1 pan & scan version also on "Side B". Also available in the 6-disc box set "Godzilla: 5 Rampaging Movies", with "Godzilla Vs. Monster Zero", "Terror Of Mechagodzilla", "Godzilla's Revenge", "Godzilla, King Of The Monsters!”, and "The Art Of Illusion" bonus disc.
Paramount Home Video/Gateway
Released: between 1995/1996 (VHS)
Paramount Home Video
Released: 1982 (VHS)