Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Two if by sea: GODZILLA VS MEGALON(1973)

What with the impending R1 DVD release of Godzilla Vs Megalon by Mediablasters(Tokyo Shock) I thought I'd revisit this 1973 Toho kaiju film again. Godzilla Vs Megalon is the most widely viewed Godzilla film on the planet: it has been released ad nauseam in the past as various VHS tapes and cheapie DVDs(Alpha Video comes to mind here). Most of these releases do the film no favor at all and look grainy, not to mention to the severe run time editing that turns this film into a feature barely over sixty minutes long. Back in 1977 NBC did exactly that turning this movie into an hour long broadcast hosted by comedian John Belushi, who used his talents at satire and physical comedy to lampoon the film, the (late) Belushi even donning a Godzilla costume during the broadcast.

I have seen the original Toho version of Godzilla Vs Megalon, the original version in a widescreen 2:35.1 aspect ratio and uncut. Madman Entertainment(out of Australia) has offered this movie on Region 4 DVD for some years now, the letterboxed and uncut Toho version. Internet vendors have also offered burns of the Region 2 Toho DVD with attached English subtitles(a "bootleg" Region 0 DVD-R) for some time as well but Godzilla fans have been waiting for a long time for someone to release this movie on quality Region 1 DVD, hence the excitement and anticipation when Mediablasters announced earlier this year that they were going to release Godzilla Vs Megalon(and "Detroy All Monsters") on Region 1 DVD, this release including the original uncut and widescreen Toho version.

Godzilla Ve Megalon has been routinely blasted by both casual and hard core fans of the giant monster movie genre. I sympathize with detractors of this 1973 movie: it's loaded with stock footage and there is an abysmally low amount of high speed filming used to render the movements of the monsters(and Jet Jaguar) slower and more realistic looking. The generally unpopular "quacking" Godzilla theme music also is used for the first time here. Still, I believe this movie is unfairly slammed. Godzilla Vs Megalon is directed by Jun Fukuda, produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka and was 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 I don't think it is. Still, over the years this movie has grown on me and I now watch my Region 4 DVD of this movie every year.

DVD cover art for the R1 Mediablasters DVD release

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 his 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 space monster Gigan: together with Megalon 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 "Seatopian" attire worn by "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(1973), as I previously mentioned, has seen a wide variety of releases on VHS. In 1976 this film was released by Cinemashares to American theaters in English dubbed language. The television broadcast on NBC in 1977 of this movie is laughable, the broadcast hosted by a Godzilla suited, 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).

Godzilla Vs Megalon(1973) 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.

There has been a delay in the Region 1 DVD release of this film by Mediablasters: it was originally scheduled to be available at retailers on November 29th, 2011 but word now is the delay may push back the DVD release until late December, 2011 or sometime in January, 2012. The Mediablasters DVD is available for pre-order at Amazon, the site listing the official release date as December 18, 2011. To see the R1 Mediablasters DVD for sale at Amazon click the title of this blog entry or click this link: Godzilla Vs Megalon R1 DVD

The Toho trailer: