Wednesday, April 30, 2014

GODZILLA vs. MEGALON (1973): 30 Days of Godzilla

DAY 14


You know the Godzilla series is seriously on the ropes when the King of the Monsters is reduced to a co-starring role in his own movie. Giving last week's Godzilla vs. Gigan a run for its money as worst Godzilla film, Godzilla vs Megalon was released in 1973 in which Godzilla plays second string to the first and last appearance of the robot Jet Jaguar.

Jun Fukuda, director of Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster (1966) and Godzilla vs. Gigan (72), returns to direct Godzilla vs. Megalon, a film that -- surprisingly -- was never meant to star Godzilla in the first place. in 1972, Toho held a contest for children to create a new character to appear in a Toho movie. Toho chose a robot character with striking similarities to Ultraman as the winner, naming it Jet Jaguar. Godzilla vs. Megalon was therefore originally conceived as Jet Jaguar vs. Megalon. Perhaps owing to the fact that Jet Jaguar has about as much personality as sheet of aluminum foil, Toho decided to rework the project to shoehorn in Godzilla and Gigan so Jet Jaguar didn't have to carry the movie on his own. Unfortunately, it takes a full hour for Godzilla to show up and do anything

As far as the plot to this light-on-Godzilla movie goes, it concerns an attack on Japan by the forgotten undersea civilization of Seatopia. Led by American actor Robert Dunham as the Emperor of Seatopia, the undersea civilization retaliates against the surface world's nuclear tests by sending the giant monster Megalon (a giant beetle with drill bit hands) to tear shit up. The Seatopians attempt to steal the advanced robot Jet Jaguar from his inventor (Katsuhiko Sasaki), the inventor's son (Hiroyuki Kawase), and their friend (Yutaka Hayashi) to help guide Megalon (somehow and for some reason). After several non-monster sequences involving car chases and motorcycle escapes, as well as some hilarious violence against children, Jet Jaguar is sent to Monster Island to get help from Godzilla. In turn, the Seatopians call upon their friends in the Space Hunter M-Nebula to send Gigan for reinforcements. This sets the stage for a 2-on-2 kaiju battle that pits Megalon and Gigan against Godzilla and Jet Jaguar. But first Jet Jaguar causes himself to grow to giant size (somehow). It may take about an hour of bullshit involving annoying kids, stale actors, and the humdrum exploits of Jet Jaguar, but once the monster battle starts, it features some pretty fun special effects courtesy of Teruyoshi Nakano, even if a good portion of the special effects in the movie are courtesy of stock footage.

The gang's all here
Since the suit last seen in Godzilla vs. Gigan was literally falling apart on screen, Toho constructed a brand new Godzilla suit that reflected the cartoon-nature of the heroic 1970s Godzilla. With big puppy dog eyes, a simple snout, grin-shaped mouth, simplistic dorsal fins, and large brows, Godzilla now looked like the big lovable kid-friendly hero he had become by the early 1970s. I like to call him Muppet Godzilla. Godzilla vs. Megalon is also the first Godzilla film in a while to feature several new monster suits. Gigan is a hold over from the previous installment, but Jet Jaguar, Godzilla, and Megalon are all new suit creations. I'm not sure why, however,but  both Gigan and Megalon were built without hands. You'd think that would be a pretty important feature to have when wrasslin'.

Hi-ho, Kermit the Frog here.
Godzilla vs. Megalon doesn't make a lick of damn sense. It's also irritating and unforgivably boring. In fact, some of the most interesting elements of Godzilla vs. Megalon have less to do with the film itself and more to do with the marketing. Here are some weirdo facts about how Godzilla vs. Megalon was advertised around the world:
  • In Spain, the movie was titled Gorgo y Superman se citan en Tokio (Gorgo And Superman Meet In Tokyo). I guess Jet Jaguar is the so titled "Superman," but did the Spanish confuse Godzilla with UK's Gorgo?
  • In Germany, the movie was re-titled to King Kong - Dämonen aus dem Weltall (King Kong - Demons From Outer Space). In the German dub, Jet Jaguar is reportedly named King Kong but no other connection to the famous ape is explained or implied.
  • In America, Godzilla vs. Megalon was released in 1976, the same year as the Dino De Laurentiis-produced King Kong remake. American distributor Cinema Shares attempted to ripoff King Kong's poster art by also depicting Godzilla and Megalon atop the Twin Towers in New York although no such scene ever occurs.
  • Before he appeared in Marvel comics, Godzilla's first ever American comic book appearance was in a four-page magazine released by Cinema Shares into theatres to promote the release of Godzilla vs. Megalon. Existing copies of the comic are hard to find, but scans exist online...and make the film seem way more exciting than it is. Note the mistaken naming of Jet Jaguar as "Robot Man" and Gigan as "Borodan."


By 1973, there wasn't much life left in the Godzilla franchise. Godzilla vs. Megalon might as well be a death rattle. But fear not, G-fans. There is a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel. Next on 30 Days of Godzilla, we take a peek at a real fan-favorite film and a much needed return to some semblance of quality. Join us tomorrow for the film that marked the 20th Anniversary of the King of the Monsters: 1974's GODZILLA vs. MECHAGODZILLA.

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