Monday, February 25, 2013

GODZILLA VS MEGALON(1973) - a look back by Evan "G2KMaster" Brehany

GODZILLA VS MEGALON(1973), the fourth(4th) Godilla movie directed by Jun Fukuda, has the distinction of being the most viewed Godzilla film on the planet. This movie has been released as numerous VHS tape offerings, most of subpar quality as well as many cheapie R1 DVD releases. The only quality DVD releases are the Region 4 "Madman Entertainment", the Region 2 Toho and the Region 1 Mediablasters(Tokyo Shock), the latter void of extras but at least featuring the movie in its original widescreen(2:35.1) aspect ratio and with both English dubbed and Japanese language(w/English subtitles) audio options. This film, loaded(or overloaded) with stock footage from other Godzilla films, has been widely lampooned by both kaiju film fans and other casual fans of monster movies. Here is Evan Brehany's take on this film after his latest viewing of it:

        - GODZILLA VS MEGALON as a satirical comedy -
Vincent Camby wrote a positive review for GODZILLA VS. MEGALON. That review showed that the legendary critic didn't pay attention to special effects in films from either side of the Pacific. This positive review for GODZILLA VS. MEGALON is different than that. If there had to be a thesis it would be that GODZILLA VS. MEGALON is Jun Fukuda's try at making a satirical Godzilla film. GODZILLA VS. MEGALON is full of irony, both practical and thematic when seen against the backdrop of the series up to that point. I believe this movie is an intentional comedy.

The thematic irony is that Megalon is going to fight Godzilla. Nuclear testing naturally awoke not one but two Godzillas. That was the Earth's natural reaction. Of course, as explained in the prologue, by 1973 mankind still detonated with atomic bombs including the Japanese whose nuclear tests would eventually damage and then destroy Ogasawara Island, a location which is the island designated to be "Monster Island" where all of Earth's monsters have been collected and incarcerated. As if a natural reaction isn't enough to these nuke detonations, a physical embodiment of the earth also reacts: the Seatopians. These subterranean dwellers, ticked off at humanity for atomic bomb tests, dispatch their enormous, insectoid monster "Megalon" in retaliation, the winged, roach like monster reaching Earth's surface and immediately beginning a wanton rampage. For the first time since the original Godzilla film, a kaiju completely ravages Tokyo without stop as Megalon attacks Tokyo and battles the JSDF. For all the monster's destructive power, it's hostile disposition and its rampage, Megalon isn't a very coordinated monster nor does it seem well skilled in combat against another kaiju(Godzilla).

Megalon does weird things all through the film. Megalon jumps into a damn, only to plow through it and topple over himself. Megalon performs an odd floating action which leads to a face plant. When first fighting Jet Jaguar, Megalon just looks dazed, swaying back and forth until he gets smacked into consciousness.

The Seatopians who operate on the Earth's surface in this movie are idiots, plain and simple, their bumbling tactics completely undermining their obvious goals. Examples of their idiocy include an odd car chase scene in which vehicles go up and down stairs: this bizarre car chase results in a Seatopian motorcyclist crashing into a barn, splattered in paint and never seen again. In the case of the primary two Seatopian spies (if you can call them such), it is interesting in that they choose to try to kidnap a stay at home scientist/inventor who has created an experimental robot, "Jet Jaguar". This colorful robot develops abilities and a self awareness that not even its inventor can foresee. The pair of bumbling Seatopian spies meet their end by both by two unasuming truckers and Megalon himself!

Though GODZILLA VS. MEGALON was originally planned by Toho to be a movie featuring Jet Jaguar only, Godzilla's more restricted presence in this movie is nevertheless well timed and obviously crucial to the movie's ending. We have seen in the past (particularly with GODZILA VS. HEDORAH) that Godzilla is capable of instinctively tracking down kaiju he is going to fight. Here we have a rather uninspired Godzilla: the monster doesn't want to do anything unless his eventual tag-team "buddy" Jet Jaguar helps him out. Godzilla initiating a straight on attack at Megalon? No: rather Jet Jaguar lead the charge. Walk through fire which Godzilla has done many times?-No again. When it comes to Godzilla's choice of attacks its mostly physical assaults: just beat Megalon with a tree, let him swallow his own napalm ball and use the next best ability to flying: sliding on his own tail! The lack of high speed filming is a real bummer during the kaiju combat scenes and don't even get me started on the heavy use of stock footage. 

Many scenes, including Godzilla's reluctance to walk through fire, is interestingly enough scored to flute music you'd hear if it was a playful spring morning scene in a non-kaiju film. Reiichiro Manabe scores this film after having scored GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH. Now, Toho and company could have simply reused Ifukube themes (cut possible losses by following GIGAN's infuence as shown here with the abundance of stock footage) but instead of that they employ a composer who turned in the most bizarre score of the Godzilla film franchise up to this point.

Any kind of unifying seriousness comes from the protagonist "triumvirate" of scientist/inventor, his kid brother and the scientist's best friend. This human cast of "good guys" create Godzilla's partner "Jet Jaguar", get the JSDF involved AND are also the ones who jeopardize their own lives the most to save humanity. Despite the usual plot advances such as the characters trying to learn about the antagonists, we are subjected to quotes like, "that doesn't help us get any closer to the people behind all of this." Is it a comedic comeback or is it a pun on the often far fetched exposition the antagonists of the series have experienced up to this point? Other silly cast dialog includes "what side is Gigan on?" and "that's not too hard to guess". There is physical "slapstick" in this movie to boot with Jet Jaguar's servant-like bowing at the door and subsequent sucker punching a Seatopian in the stomach. In another sequence one of the Seatopians meets his end after two simple truck drivers simply push him over a hill!

At the end of the day my comedic interpretation of GODZILLA VS. MEGALON(1973) does not mean I don't regard it as a good film. When producing a comedy, it is inevitably hit or miss because such a comedy may or may not reach into the audience and make them laugh. If you haven't watched GODZILLA VS MEGALON or if you have seen it but not recently give it another look and decide for yourself if it strikes you as a comedy. 

The American trailer:

This review was written by Evan "G2KMaster" Brehany, a dedicated fan of Godzilla, Godzilla movies and other Japanese fantasy/sci-fi cinema. Evan is a resident of Georgia(like myself) and lives in Warner Robins, Georgia. Evan and I have been friends through our shared adoration for Godzilla movies and Japanese kaiju "eiga" for over six years now. He is a valued member of my online community called Monsterland Forums and is also active on Facebook and at Donny Winter's online community called Kaiju Galaxy.  Look for more reviews from Evan "G2KMaster" Brehany in the near future!