Godzilla vs. Megalon
|Godzilla vs. Megalon|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jun Fukuda|
|Produced by||Tomoyuki Tanaka|
|Screenplay by||Jun Fukuda|
|Story by||Shinichi Sekizawa|
|Music by||Riichiro Manabe|
Godzilla vs. Megalon (ゴジラ対メガロ Gojira tai Megaro) is a 1973 Japanese science fiction kaiju film featuring Godzilla, produced and distributed by Toho. The film is directed and co-written by Jun Fukuda with special effects by Teruyoshi Nakano and stars Katsuhiko Sasaki, Hiroyuki Kawase, Yutaka Hayashi, and Robert Dunham, with Shinji Takagi as Godzilla, Hideto Date as Megalon, Tsugutoshi Komada as Jet Jaguar, and Kenpachiro Satsuma as Gigan. It is the 13th film in the Godzilla franchise and Shōwa series.
The film was released in Japan on March 17, 1973 and theatrically in the United States in the summer of 1976 by Cinema Shares.
In the first part of 1971 (197X in the Japanese version), the most recent underground nuclear test, set off near the Aleutians, sends shockwaves as far across the globe as Monster Island in the South Pacific, disturbing monsters such as Godzilla, Anguirus, and Rodan.
For years, Seatopia, an undersea civilization, has been heavily affected by this nuclear testing conducted by the surface nations of the world. Upset by these tests, the Seatopians plan to unleash their civilization's beetle-like cyborg god, Megalon, to destroy the surface world out of vengeance.
On the surface, an inventor named Goro Ibuki, his nephew Rokuro, and Goro's friend Hiroshi Jinkawa are off on an outing near a lake when Seatopia makes itself known to the Earth by drying up the lake the trio was relaxing nearby and using it as a base of operation. As they return home they are ambushed by agents of Seatopia who are trying to steal Jet Jaguar, a humanoid robot under construction by the trio of inventors. However the agents' first attempt is botched and they are forced to flee to safety.
Some time later, Jet Jaguar is completed but the trio of inventors are knocked unconscious by the returning Seatopian agents. The agents' plan is to use Jet Jaguar to guide and direct Megalon to destroy whatever city Seatopia commands it to do. Goro and Rokuro are sent to be killed, while Hiroshi is taken hostage. Megalon is finally released to the surface while Jet Jaguar is put under the control of the Seatopians and is used to guide Megalon to attack Tokyo with the Japan Self Defense Forces failing to defeat the monster. Eventually, the trio of heroes manage to escape their situation with the Seatopians and reunite to devise a plan to send Jet Jaguar to get Godzilla's help using Jet Jaguar's secondary control system.
After uniting with Japan's Defense Force, Goro manages to regain control of Jet Jaguar and sends the robot to Monster Island to bring Godzilla to fight Megalon. Without a guide to control its actions, Megalon flails around relentlessly and aimlessly fighting with the Defense Force and destroying the outskirts of Tokyo. The Seatopians learn of Jet Jaguar's turn and thus send out a distress call to the Space Hunter Nebula M aliens (from the previous film) to send Gigan to assist them.
As Godzilla journeys to fight Megalon, Jet Jaguar programs into a safeguard mode and grows to gigantic proportions to face Megalon itself until Godzilla arrives. The battle is roughly at a standstill between robot and cyborg, until Gigan arrives and both Megalon and Gigan double team against Jet Jaguar. Godzilla finally arrives to assist Jet Jaguar and the odds become even. After a long and brutal fight, Gigan and Megalon both retreat and Godzilla and Jet Jaguar shake hands on a job well done. Godzilla returns to Monster Island, and Jet Jaguar returns to its previous human-sized state and reunites with its inventors.
- Katsuhiko Sasaki as Inventor Goro Ibuki
- Hiroyuki Kawase as Rokuro 'Roku-chan' Ibuki
- Yutaka Hayashi as Hiroshi Jinkawa
- Robert Dunham as Emperor Antonio of Seatopia
- Kotaro Tomita as Lead Seatopian Agent
- Wolf Ohtsuki as Seatopian Agent
- Gentaro Nakajima as Truck Driver
- Sakyo Mikami as Truck Driver's Assistant
- Shinji Takagi as Godzilla
- Hideto Date as Megalon
- Tsugutoshi Komada as Jet Jaguar
- Kenpachiro Satsuma as Gigan
Godzilla vs. Megalon was originally planned as a non-Godzilla film, a solo vehicle for Jet Jaguar, which was the result of a contest Toho had for children in mid-to-late 1972. The winner of the contest was an elementary school student, who submitted the drawing of a robot called Red Aron. Red Aron was turned into a monster suit but when the child was shown the suit, he became upset because the suit did not resemble his original design. The boy's original design was white but the costume was colored red, blue, and yellow. Red Aron was used for publicity but Toho had renamed the character as Jet Jaguar and had special effects director Teruyoshi Nakano redesign the character, only keeping the colors from the Red Aron suit. The Red Aron suit had a different head and wings.[full citation needed] 
However, after doing some screen tests and storyboards, Toho figured Jet Jaguar would not be able to carry the film on his own, either in screen appearance or marketing value, so they shut the project down during pre-production. Nearly a month later, producer Tomoyuki Tanaka called in screenwriter Shinichi Sekizawa to revise the script to add Godzilla and Gigan. To make up for lost production time, the film was shot in a hasty three weeks. The production time totaled at nearly six months, from planning to finish.
The film had three early treatments, each written by Shinichi Sekizawa, one was titled Godzilla vs. The Megalon Brothers: The Undersea Kingdom's Annihilation Strategy which was completed in September 1972. The second was titled Insect Monster Megalon vs. Godzilla: Undersea Kingdom's Annihilation Strategy, which was turned in on September 5, 1972, and the third draft was submitted in September 7, 1972.
According to Teruyoshi Nakano, the Godzilla suit used in this film (nicknamed the "Megaro-Goji" suit) was made in a week, making it the fastest Godzilla suit ever made to date. They did not have time to make the eyes work correctly, something they had more time to fix for Godzilla's five appearances on Toho's superhero TV series Zone Fighter (1973), which was produced around the same time.
The Megalon suit was one of the heaviest suits produced since the 1954 Godzilla suit, which made it even more difficult to raise the Megalon suit via wires in certain scenes up to the point where Nakano almost decided to scrap those scenes all together. Since the film was shot in the winter, Katsuhiko Sasaki stated that director Jun Fukuda gave him and Yutaka Hayashi a shot of whiskey to warm them up.
The Gigan suit is similar to the previous design, but the suit was made thinner, less bulky, the horn on the head was less pointed, and the buzzsaw didn't move, since it was made of static pieces. This suit also has different-sized back fins, a more circular visor, scales running up the back/sides of the neck and longer legs compared to the original version.
Teruyoshi Nakano recalls how the film was rushed and that it took three weeks to shoot, stating, "It went into productions without enough preparation. There was no time to ask Mr. Sekizawa to write the script, so Mr. Sekizawa kind of thought up the general story and director Fukuda wrote the screenplay. The screenplay was completed right before crank-in".
Like previous Godzilla films, Godzilla vs. Megalon heavily employs stock footage from previous Toho Godzilla films such as Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964), The War of the Gargantuas (1966), Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966), Destroy All Monsters (1968), Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971), and Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972).
In 1976, Cinema Shares gave Godzilla vs. Megalon a wide theatrical release in the United States and launched a massive marketing campaign for the film, along with the poster, buttons with one of the four monsters' faces on them were released. Given away at theatrical showings was a comic that told a simplified version of the film, which incorrectly named Jet Jaguar as "Robotman" and Gigan as "Borodan". These incorrect names were also featured in the US trailer.
Initially, Cinema Shares screened Toho's international English version but to ensure a G-rating, several cuts were made, which resulted in the film running three minutes shorter than the original version.
Godzilla vs. Megalon is the first Godzilla film to receive an American prime time network television premiere, where it was broadcast nationwide at 9:00 PM on NBC on March 15, 1977. However, to accommodate commercials, the film was only shown in a one-hour time slot, which resulted in the film to be cut down to 48 minutes. John Belushi hosted the broadcast where he did some skits, all in a Godzilla suit.
Mel Maron (who was president of Cinema Shares at the time) chose to release Godzilla vs. Megalon because he saw Godzilla as a heroic figure by that point and felt the timing was right to show children a hero who was a friendly monster and not Superman.
The U.S. rights for the film eventually fell into public domain in the late 1980s, which resulted in companies releasing poorly cropped, fullscreen VHS tapes mastered from pan and scan sources. This also led to the film being featured in Mystery Science Theater 3000.
In Japan, Godzilla vs. Megalon sold approximately 980,000 tickets. It was the first Godzilla film to sell less than one million admissions. The film was a success in American theaters, earning $383,744 in its first three days in Texas and Louisiana alone.
Godzilla vs. Megalon was released theatrically in America on May 9, 1976, though the San Francisco Chronicle indicates that it opened there in June, and The New York Times indicates that it opened in New York City on July 11. The New York Times film critic Vincent Canby, who a decade before had given a negative review to Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, gave Godzilla vs. Megalon a generally positive review. In his review on July 12, 1976, Canby said, "Godzilla vs. Megalon completes the canonization of Godzilla...It's been a remarkable transformation of character - the dragon has become St. George...It's wildly preposterous, imaginative and funny (often intentionally). It demonstrates the rewards of friendship, between humans as well as monsters, and it is gentle."
Godzilla vs. Megalon has attracted the ire of many Godzilla fans in the decades since its original release. The film contributed to the reputation of Godzilla films in the United States as cheap children's entertainment that should not be taken seriously. It's been described as "incredibly, undeniably, mind-numbingly bad" and one of the "poorer moments" in the history of kaiju films.
In particular, the special effects of the film have been heavily criticized. One review described the Godzilla costume as appearing to be "crossed with Kermit the Frog" and another sneeringly compared it to Godzilla vs. Gigan, stating that it did "everything wrong that Gigan did, and then some." However, most of the criticism is of the lack of actual special effects work, as most of it consists of stock footage from previous films, including Godzilla vs. Gigan and Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, and a few pieces of effects work has garnered praise, specifically a scene where Megalon breaks through a dam and the draining of the lake.
The other aspects of the film have been similarly skewered. The acting is usually described as flat and generally poor, and as not improving, or sometimes, worsening, the already weak script. One part of the film, on the other hand, has garnered almost universal praise: Godzilla's final attack on Megalon, a flying kick. It has been called the saving grace of the film, and was made famous by the mock exclamations of shock and awe displayed on Godzilla vs. Megalon's appearance on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Through the end of season three to the middle of season five, that clip would be shown at the opening of each show.
Despite all this, the film is also one of the most widely seen Godzilla films in the United States — it was popular in its initial theatrical release, largely due to an aggressive marketing campaign, including elaborate posters of the two title monsters battling atop New York City's World Trade Center towers, presumably to capitalize on the hype surrounding the Dino De Laurentiis remake of King Kong, which used a similar image for its own poster.
The film was released numerous times in the VHS format, mostly as videos from bargain basement studios that featured the edited TV version (which was wrongly assumed to be in the public domain for many years). Media Blasters acquired the DVD rights to both Godzilla vs. Megalon and Destroy All Monsters. Both films were released under one of the company's divisions, Tokyo Shock. Media Blasters originally planned to release Godzilla vs. Megalon on DVD and Blu-ray on December 20, 2011; however, due to technical difficulties with the dubbing and Toho having yet to give its approval for the release, the DVD/Blu-ray release was delayed. Media Blasters finally released the film on August 14, 2012, but only on a bare-bones DVD and Blu-ray. Also, a manufacturing error led to several copies of the originally planned version featuring bonus content to be released by accident. These special features versions are incredibly rare and are not labelled differently from the standard version, making them nearly impossible to find.
- Ryfle 1998, p. 360.
- Audio Commentary by Steve Ryfle & Stuart Galbraith IV - Media Blasters Recalled 2012 DVD Release
- Ryfle 1998, p. 182.
- Ryfle 1998, p. 183.
- Ryfle 1998, p. 184.
- "Godzilla vs. Megalon". Tohokingdom.com. Retrieved 2014-07-10.
- The Hollywood Reporter. May 12, 1976.
- Can, Vincent (1976-07-22). "Another 'Godzilla' Movie". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
- Anthony Romero. "Toho Kingdom; Godzilla vs. Megalon review".
- Chris Holland & Scott Hamilton. "Stomp Tokyo- Godzilla vs. Megalon review".
- "Review at "Barry's Temple of Godzilla"".
- Famous Monsters of Filmland: "“GODZILLA VS MEGALON” Blu/DVD Release Delayed", January 19, 2012.
- Sci-Fi Japan: "The Great Godzilla vs Megalon Mix-Up Mystery", October 22, 2012.
- Sci-Fi Japan: "Godzilla vs Megalon Special Edition DVD Extras Detailed", November 10, 2012.
- Ryfle, Steve (1998). Japan's Favorite Mon-Star: The Unauthorized Biography of the Big G. ECW Press. ISBN 978-1550223484.
- Canby, Vincent. (July 22, 1976). Another 'Godzilla' Movie; Monster Is Now a Good Guy (film review at The New York Times).
- Stanley, John. "Godzilla - The Asian Beast Who Refuses to Die". San Francisco Chronicle (Sunday Datebook), June 20, 1976 (review of Godzilla vs. Megalon - actually a history of the Godzilla films to date, mentions Megalon currently playing at three theaters & a drive-in in passing).
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