Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Race Relations: Godzilla Vs Megalon(1973)

Anyone who knows me will tell you I like all Godzilla movies. There are obviously some I like a whole lot more than others. There are also Godzilla movies that, I believe, are unfairly slammed. Godzilla Vs Megalon is one such movie, directed by Jun Fukuda, produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka and originally released to theaters in Japan back in March, 1973.

I am not now, nor will I ever in the future, try to convince anyone that this movie is a terrific Godzilla film because IMO it isn't. Still, over the years this movie has grown on me, not a lot to be sure but enough that I now like viewing Godzilla Vs Megalon on an annual basis...and sober.

The film's story: a subterranean race called the "Seatopians", fed up with mankind's atomic bomb testing and the adverse effects on their civilization these explosive devices are having, decide to open up a can of whoop ass on humanity. To effect their hostilities on human-kind the Seatopians dispatch a huge, beetle like, winged monster named Megalon to wage a rampage of destruction on Earth's surface. The Seatopians, despite their superior technology, cannot effectively navigate their insect-like monster on the Earth's surface and consequently send agents to abduct a special robot, named Jet Jaguar, from an inventor named "Goro Ibuki". Ibuki, understandably opposed to losing his prized robot, fights back, aided by his friend "Jinko"(Jinkawa) and Ibuki's kid brother "Rakuro". The trio regain control of Jet Jaguar from the Seatopian agents, and Jet Jaguar flies to Monster Island to ask Godzilla for help in dealing with Megalon. Jet Jaguar returns and, morphing into a 50 meter tall giant, battles Megalon. The Seatopians secure the services of the cyborg space monster Gigan from their Space Hunter galaxy allies: Gigan arrives quickly on Earth and joins Megalon. Together the two monsters quickly overwhelm Jet Jaguar. Just when Jet Jaguar appears to be done in by the two monsters Godzilla arrives to help "JJ"...(no other spoilers)

Observations, some good and some not so good:

Thumbs up:

-the rendering of Jet Jaguar in the film. I've seen this robot described as "an Ultraman rip off". Perhaps. I still like the design overall and the dash of color in JJ's design.

-many special effects shots in this film are marvelous, including the "dam" scene, the sequence where Megalon destroys the bridge, blasting the structure apart with its drill like appendage, and the lake draining out(near the beginning of the film)

-the pyrotechnic effects are quite good, no surprise here with Teruyoshi Nakano handling the SPFX for this movie: the movie's opening sequence starts off with a bang, literally, as there are lots of explosions and other various blasts leading into the movie's opening title credits. These explosion effects do not IMO make up for other effects shortcomings in this film but they do make it, at least for me, somewhat easier to overlook while watching this movie.

-the fight scenes and car chase scene: both added a nice bit of human action to the film, despite my disdain for the choreography of the fights, which I thought were sub par, limited to sloppy hand strikes and basic scuffling

-the rendering of Megalon: I liked the monster's overall appearance and it's beam firing horn, and exploding rocks launched from its mandibles

Thumbs down:

-the attire worn by Seatopia's leader "Emperor Antonio"(played by Robert Dunham), which looked like something out of the Broadway play for "I, Claudius".

-the stock footage is abundant in this film and used to horrendous excess

-the movements of Megalon during the scenes where the monster leaps. The creature's movements during the "leaping" sequences appear sloppy and awkward

-the ineptitude of the Seatopians in this film. This race possessed superior technology, as was boasted by one of their agents to "Jinko", yet their plans were completely thwarted by an inventor, his friend, a young boy and a resourceful robot, neither of these characters apparently needing much of any help from the JSDF

-the often lack of high speed filming in the kaiju battles

Godzilla Vs Megalon has seen a wide variety of releases on VHS and has also appeared in an episode of "Mystery Science Theater 3000", dissected by Tom Servo and friends. In 1976 this film was released by Cinemashares to American theaters in English dubbed language. It would be broadcast on NBC in 1977 as an hour long feature, hosted by a Godzilla suited and up and coming comedian named John Belushi, the movie butchered down to an hour run time.

Reading about this movie I was interested to discover that Godzilla Vs Megalon has no major female character in it, the only Godzilla movie lacking a female lead of some kind. The movie itself was originally planned as a "Jet Jaguar Vs Megalon" feature but Toho eventually decided that Jet Jaguar wouldn't be able to carry the movie theatrically, so a new screenplay was hastily written to include Godzilla and Gigan. The movie, subsequent to this change, was filmed in all of three weeks!

Anyone who has not seen Godzilla Vs Megalon should watch this movie uncut, in its original widescreen(2:35.1) aspect ratio and in its original language(with English subtitles if possible). The various cheapie VHS tapes of this movie on the market do this movie a disservice, with their chopped down run times and generally grainy prints.

This film is available on official Region 2/NTSC format DVD(no English subtitles) and on Region 4/PAL format DVD, the latter from Australia's "Madman Entertainment" website.

The film can also be had from various online retailers who sell DVD-R's of the movie. Here's the URL to see the film on Region 4/PAL format DVD for sale at "Madman Entertainment": http://www.madman.com.au/actions/catalogue.do?releaseId=6604&method=view
(you can also access this link by clicking the title of this blog)

The original Toho trailer for the film: