Godzilla vs. Megalon
|Godzilla vs. Megalon|
|Directed by||Jun Fukuda|
|Screenplay by||Jun Fukuda|
|Story by||Shinichi Sekizawa|
|Produced by||Tomoyuki Tanaka|
|Music by||Riichiro Manabe|
|Box office||$20 million|
Godzilla vs. Megalon (ゴジラ対メガロ, Gojira tai Megaro) is a 1973 Japanese kaiju film directed by Jun Fukuda, written by Fukuda and Shinichi Sekizawa, and produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka, with special effects by Teruyoshi Nakano. Distributed by Toho and produced under their effects subsidiary Toho–Eizo, it is the 13th film in the Godzilla franchise, and features the fictional monster characters Godzilla, Megalon, and Gigan, along with the mecha character Jet Jaguar. The film stars Katsuhiko Sasaki, Hiroyuki Kawase, Yutaka Hayashi, and Robert Dunham, alongside Shinji Takagi as Godzilla, Hideto Date as Megalon, Kenpachiro Satsuma as Gigan, and Tsugutoshi Komada as Jet Jaguar.
Godzilla vs. Megalon was released theatrically in Japan on March 17, 1973. It received a theatrical release 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, severely damaging the island paradise and sending Rodan and Anguirus plummeting into the depths of the Earth, with Godzilla narrowly escaping the fissure which his friends tumbled into.
For years, Seatopia, an opulent undersea civilisation that resides in vast cities reminiscent of those of Ancient Greece and Rome, has existed in relative peace, ruled by Emperor Antonio, but nuclear tests in recent years have severely affected the cities via the earthquakes the tests produced. With the Seatopian capital badly affected by the most recent test, the Seatopians plan to unleash their civilization's beetle-styled god, Megalon, to destroy the surface world out of vengeance.
On the surface, an inventor named Goro Ibuki, his little brother 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 him 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 their allies, the Space Hunter Nebula M aliens (from the previous film) to send the alien monster Gigan to assist their allies.
As Godzilla journeys to fight Megalon, Jet Jaguar starts acting on its own and ignoring commands to the surprise of its inventors, and grows to gigantic proportions to face Megalon himself 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. Jet Jaguar bids Godzilla farewell and Godzilla returns to its home on Monster Island. Jet Jaguar turns back to its human size, and returns home with Goro and Rokuro.
- 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
The origins of Megalon can be traced back to 1969's All Monsters Attack, as the original working idea for the film's antagonist Gabara was initially envisioned as a giant mole cricket called Gebara. The character was later reworked into Kaoru Mabuchi's 1971 treatment for Godzilla vs. the Space Monsters: Earth Defense Directive, a precursor to 1972's Godzilla vs. Gigan. The proposal called for Megalon to be paired with Gigan and King Ghidorah under the command of the hostile alien invader Miko, only to be defeated and driven off by the combined might of Godzilla, Anguirus, and a brand new monster called Majin Tuol. The next draft of the script, titled The Return of King Ghidorah!, retained the core villain cast of Gigan, King Ghidorah, and Megalon, but replaced Anguirus and Majin Tuol with Varan and Rodan. However, most of the proposed monsters were cut, leading to the final version of Godzilla vs. Gigan.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence Godzilla vs. Megalon was originally planned as a Jet Jaguar solo film, and no Japanese sources have surfaced which claim otherwise. Rather, the creation of Jet Jaguar 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 Arone. Red Arone 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 Arone was used for publicity, but Toho had renamed the character Jet Jaguar and had special effects director Teruyoshi Nakano redesign the character, only keeping the colors from the Red Arone suit. The Red Arone suit had a different head and wings.
According to Teruyoshi Nakano, Godzilla vs. Megalon was a replacement project for another film that was cancelled at the last minute, and evidence suggests this cancelled film was Godzilla vs. Red Moon, slated for 1973. As a result, the project was postponed during pre-production. Screenwriter Shinichi Sekizawa had no time to write out a full script, and instead thought out a general story. Director Jun Fukuda ultimately ended up writing the screenplay. To make up for lost production time, the film was shot in a hasty three weeks. The production time totaled 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 on September 7, 1972.
According to Teruyoshi Nakano, the Godzilla suit used in this film (nicknamed "MegaroGoji" メガロゴジ ) 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 altogether. 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 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 U.S. 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 being 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 the public domain in the late 80s, 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 1988, New World Video intended to release the original uncut version of the English dub but, declined the project, due to a lack of budget that was required for a full release. However, despite this, the film was released uncut and in widescreen in 1992 by UK company Polygram Ltd as a double feature with Godzilla vs. Gigan. In 1998 the film was again released by UK company, 4 Front Video. As of now it appears those are the only two VHS tapes on the film that are unedited and in high quality. It was also released on DVD by Power Multimedia in 1999 in Taiwan. Originally the Sci-Fi Channel (now SyFy) showed the cut version, until finally in 2002 as Toho regained ownership of that title alongside Godzilla vs. Gigan and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (both of which also were released by Cinema Shares) and broadcast the film fully uncut for the first time in the U.S.
In Japan, Godzilla vs. Megalon sold approximately 980,000 tickets. It was the first Godzilla film to sell less than one million admissions. It earned ¥220 million in Japan distribution income (rentals).
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 has 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, but a few pieces of effects work have 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), while PolyGram and 4 Front released the unedited version of the film in 1992 and 1998, respectively. Some rumors have circulated that the film's original VHS releases in the States were uncut, but there is no evidence confirming or denying this.
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. Despite this, 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. This release was commercially the first to remaster the film to its original full-length version. In 2019, the Japanese version and export English dub were included in a Blu-ray box set released by the Criterion Collection, which included all 15 films from the franchise's Shōwa era.
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By the late 1970s, Godzilla films settled down to a comfortable formula. Toho was making two films a year. Each cost in the neighborhood of $1.2 million and could be counted on to earn about $20 million.
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- 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 and a drive-in in passing).
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