Direction: Jun Fukuda
Screenplay: Jun Fukuda
Original Story: Shinichi Sekizawa
Music: Riichiro Manabe
Special Effects: Teruyoshi Nakano
Producer: Tomoyuki Tanaka
Okay, I’ve now seen Godzilla vs. Megalon in the
pristine widescreen version The Sci-Fi Channel frequently airs. And yes, in
this format, it does look better – the color is bright, the images sharp.
But looks alone do not a good monster movie make.
And speaking of looks, the kaiju in this film –
other than Godzilla and his Ultramanish sidekick – aren’t too shabby. In terms
of (relative) effectiveness, Megalon’s costume fares the best, with its
insectile mouth and beetle-like shell and wings. However, this Seatopian
defender is a tad too bulky, and its on-screen jumps, many of which result in
unlikely trajectories, are obviously wire-manipulated.
Back from the previous Big G entry, Gigan looks just as strange as before (according
to this film’s English dialogue, Gigan hails from Starhunter Universe M, though
at one point the M is placed between Starhunter and Universe). Part bird, part
robot, part farming implement (i.e. the scythe “hands”), Gigan remains one of
the only true kaiju cyborgs. His design displays imagination, and it is
well-proportioned, though his “buzz saw” seems more than a little useless at
As for garish Jet Jaguar, he’s more colorful than a rainbow but not nearly as
bright. And that’s all I shall say about him.
(There, thought I was going to say something snide,
didn’t you? Like “Jet Jaguar has a smile stiffer than Cher’s last
face lift.” Or “Jet Jaguar gets his wardrobe exclusively from Calvin
But now we go on to Godzilla. Oh, my. The horror indeed.
Now I know some G fans really like this Godzy design. For example, in Brett
Homenick’s spirited (and recommended) defense of Godzilla vs. Megalon in
G-FAN #70, he claims that this G incarnation is “cool.” But no one can really
deny (and Brett doesn’t) that the simplified, playful look of this megaro-goji was
intended to appeal to the small fry in the audience.
I contend that this Big G design is the worst ever,
what with its big, googly eyes and overall puppy dog look, a countenance more
befitting the King of the Muppets than the King of the Monsters. Indeed, more
than anything else, the Big G of Godzilla vs. Megalon resembles a
disastrous cross between a Godzillasaurus and a sock puppet.
Now around this time, fanciers of this much-maligned G movie are shaking their
heads, gnashing their teeth, and perhaps devising insidious schemes with which
to punish The Unbeliever. But before any of you Megalon aficionados out there
start calling me up with threats to hold my Beatles CD collection for ransom,
When I recently watched Godzilla vs. Megalon in
its widescreen version, during the first half or so of the film, I actually
found myself enjoying it. That’s right. Enjoying. This. Movie.
I can’t explain it; I won’t ever try. But I actually found the first
thirty or forty minutes or so entertaining. Now I didn’t say I found them particularly
good. I just said I found them entertaining.
But during the middle third, whatever elements my susceptible psyche had found
enjoyable appeared to evaporate like dew under a sun lamp.
Soon the movie became just a series of improbable plot points and wearying stock
footage. It’s really bad when, as each snippet of stock footage appears, you
can mentally name the movie from which it was swiped. It’s also depressing.
For example, for the city destruction scenes, Ghidrah, The Three-Headed
Monster is excavated more extensively than the trench for the Panama Canal.
As for the story, it is seriously undernourished (some might even say anorexic): Due to
undersea nuclear testing, Seatopia declares war on the topside world,
sending forth Seatopian mascot Megalon to pillage the surface nations,
inexplicably starting with Japan, which possessed no nuclear weapons whatsoever
in the 1970s. (Now does this make any sense? Why didn’t the Seatopians
go after America, Russia, or China instead?)
Meanwhile, Goro, the inventor of robot Jet Jaguar; his younger brother Rokuro, who
is dubbed with what must be the most irritating “child” voice of all time;
and Goro’s friend Hiroshi, who apparently rooms with Goro, encounter
ineffectual Seatopian spies who plan to nab Jet Jaguar. They need the robot so
they can (1) make an army of robots and (2) use the gaudy automaton to guide
Megalon. Eventually, the human protagonists rather easily overcome the Seatopian
agents, perhaps explaining why Seatopia apparently has no standing army with
which to confront the surface dwellers.
Then again, maybe they should have sent burly, bare-chested Seatopian leader Robert
Dunham to infiltrate a seventies L.A. disco. His heavy sideburns and mustache just scream
“Rock on with your bad self!” Of course, he does a lot of screaming anyway,
mostly at Megalon, to get the apparently hearing-impaired kaiju to wake up and
raze the landlubbers.
Now the point has been made by Megalon defenders that
Seatopia’s motivation to attack the surface world is more substantive than
belligerent world conquest. Because nuclear testing has destroyed a third of
its country, Seatopia declares war on the topside inhabitants in retaliation.
Dunham even notes that Seatopia doesn’t want to send Megalon forth to demolish
the surface world, but that the empire must defend itself from the
All this is true enough, but the majority of the film
is handled in such a juvenile manner that any hopes of establishing a serious
plot point are all but lost. Godzilla vs. Megalon is mostly geared to
young children, and the majority of kids could care less why Seatopia unleashes
Megalon – they just want to see a lot of sci-fi action and monster fights.
Besides, attempts to establish a credible milieu for
Seatopia are dismal. Pretty much all we see are a couple of unimpressive sets,
one of which features the bust of a big idol before which a troupe of Seatopian
women ludicrously dance in slow-motion. When you compare this meager
world-staging with the Mu Empire’s more elaborate and convincing sea
civilization in Atragon, for example, you realize how one-dimensional
Seatopia’s realization really is.
But back to the story in progress: After being taken over by the
Seatopians, Jet Jaguar guides the direction-challenged Megalon towards the
city. But after Megalon smashes a dam, Goro regains control over Jet Jaguar
and sends him flying off to Monster Island to solicit Godzilla’s help against the marauding
Without Jet Jaguar’s guidance, Megalon now starts crazily jumping all over the place,
as though desperate to relieve himself. (Apparently even evil kaiju
don’t heed nature’s call in public.) Conveniently, Megalon only seems to need
Jet Jaguar’s guidance when the plot calls for him to – otherwise, the big bug
seems to blunder about just fine. Well, almost just fine.
Meanwhile, worried Seatopian leader Robert Dunham gives an order to dial up Starhunter
Universe M and tell them to send Gigan right away. I wonder if his
second-in-command called collect? If not, can you imagine the size of
Seatopia’s phone bill? No wonder they don’t have enough money to buy Dunham a
shirt to cover his entire chest.
Anyway, Megalon and Gigan mix it up with Jet Jaguar, but just when things look bleak,
Godzilla comes skipping to the rescue like a demented knight in rubber armor.
The battle that follows is either a joyous delight or a blasphemous horror,
depending upon the viewer’s particular tastes.
And guess who’s bidding bye-bye to Godzilla at the end? Yes, it’s that adorable
little tyke Rokuro, whose unspeakable vocals could cow even Cthulu into
whimpering submission. That’s not the Japanese child actor’s fault, of course,
but after hearing that insufferable voice, it’s no wonder Godzilla beats a
Oh, and then there’s Riichiro Manabe’s music score. Manabe resurrects his frightful
squawking Godzilla theme from Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster, and
otherwise delivers a forgettable score no better and no worse than those of
many seventies quickies.
And we mustn’t forget the special effects. Yes, I
know poor Teruyoshi Nakano had almost no money and even less time to lens his
visuals. That’s a shame. But that still doesn’t keep most of his effects from
being sub-par. (To be fair, Nakano’s effects for Godzilla 1985, a G film
on which he had far more money to spend, are considerably better, and his
effects for 1973’s Submersion of Japan are reportedly first-rate.)
However, two of Nakano’s newly shot visuals for Godzilla
vs. Megalon compare favorably to the work of Eiji Tsuburaya, and
they’re both worth noting. At the film’s beginning, the draining of the lake
is effective. And later, even more successful is Megalon’s destruction of the
dam. This spectacular and carefully filmed sequence easily ranks on a par with
the better destruction scenes of Godzilla’s 1960’s entries, and reminds one of
the impressive dam breach in Mothra. (In G-FAN #45, Globe Meter
columnist David McRobie implies that Godzilla vs. Megalon’s dam break is
even better than the one in 1978’s big-budget Superman.)
As far as direction goes, Jun Fukuda’s pacing is
erratic and undisciplined. Several of the “human plot” scenes come off as
awkward, even amateurish. Again, this is probably the result of a rushed
shooting schedule; Fukuda’s work on Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster
and Son of Godzilla is far better.
In addition to the other technical aspects of the film,
the hurried production takes a heavy toll on the screenplay. As Nakano noted,
“The screenplay was completed right before the crank-in.” Unfortunately, this
hasty story scribbling shows.
For example, take the means by which Jet Jaguar
becomes king-sized. One of the characters lamely informs us that the colorful
robot “somehow” programs himself to grow giant. This notion is, to say the
least, highly contrived – and sounds more like wish fulfillment magic than
The bare bones storyline did have potential. And if
Shinichi Sekizawa had written the screenplay instead of just the story on which
the screenplay was based, the script might have been much better. But
alas, it was not to be.
And in any event, even if the story had been improved,
there were still those monster battles to contend with.
For fanciers of monster humor, Godzilla vs. Megalon
must provide a kaiju eiga feast. We get to see Megalon yucking it up,
Megalon and Gigan fighting dirty, Godzilla performing tail-sliding drop kicks,
Godzilla and Jet Jaguar shaking hands, and so on and so on and so on.
All I can is, the film’s monster battles mostly just
seem bizarre. For the serious or even quasi-serious Godzilla fan, the effect
of viewing this “comedic” kaiju combat is nothing less than stupefying. Never
has the Godzilla series suffered a more sustained series of infantile
For example, in one scene, Megalon starts flying in
ever-faster circles around Jet Jaguar. The mesmerized robot starts spinning,
as though he’s standing on a rotating platform (which he apparently is), until
he gets so dizzy he falls down.
If you find this funny or thrilling (or both), nothing
I can say will matter to you. But if you find (1) the notion of a robot
getting dizzy ridiculous and (2) a rotating platform coming out of nowhere so
that Jet Jaguar can spin round and round an unacceptable intrusion of the
“fourth wall,” then you’ll probably find the monster battles of Godzilla vs.
Megalon a trying experience, if not to say an outright test of your
Of course, fans of Godzilla vs. Megalon (and I
know you’re out there) will not be put off one whit by what either I or any
other dissenting kaiju eiga fan has to say about this movie. And who would
have it any other way?
In truth, if I had been eight or nine when Godzilla
vs. Megalon made its North American theatrical debut, I might regard the
movie with nostalgic fondness. But note I said might, not would.
(After all, as a ten-year-old, I was put off by the sporadic “kaiju komedy” of Ghidrah,
The Three-Headed Monster).
And I have to admit that to a kid, the Godzilla vs.
Megalon trailers would have looked great -- it’s little wonder that they
captivated monsterstruck children of the seventies.
However, I didn’t see the film until it appeared in
its truncated NBC version hosted by a G-suited John Belushi in 1977. Now at
that time, I had seen several previous Godzilla epics, but I had only seen them
once, and not recently, so I wasn’t aware that the destruction footage was
re-cycled. Little wonder that I remember thinking the film’s “urban renewal”
scenes rocked. But as I watched the movie with some college chums in the
dorm’s TV lounge, I recall thinking that most of the film was just plain bad
moviemaking. Several of my peers agreed; I recall one saying, “Guys,
this is awful.”
Ultimately, I had to concur – and still do.
Well-intended and well-argued reappraisals
notwithstanding, Godzilla vs. Megalon continues to represent the Big Guy
at his absolute worst. It may look like filet minion in its current Sci-Fi
Channel widescreen print, but to this G fan, it still goes down like canned