Starring: Katsuhiko Sasaki, Hiroyuki Kawase, Yutaka Hayashi, Robert Dunham, Kotaro Tomita, Wolf Otsuki, Kanta Mori, Shinji Takagi, Hideto Odachi, Tsugutoshi Komada, Kenpachiro Satsuma
Writer: Jun Fukuda
Director: Jun Fukuda
Cinematographer: Yuzuru Aizawa
Music: Riichiro Manabe
Producer: Tomoyuki Tanaka
Original Title: Gojira tai Megaro
As a highly paid professional writer – you believe that don’t you? – I am expected to do a modicum of research before I present a film review. But there is one huge gap in my cinematic knowledge that needs to be rectified. Now don’t get angry at me – don’t throw anything at your monitor – but I have only seen three Godzilla films. Firstly, a hacked version of the original (Godzilla: King of Monsters) and Godzilla: 1985, both watched as practically a kid. Then of course, the American 1998 version – but it is probably best that we ignore that. What I am clumsily saying my knowledge base of kaiju eiga is quite poor. So taking the bit between my teeth, I ventured out of my darkened hovel, shielding my eyes from the sunlight, and made my way the largest shopping centre in the area. As I scoured the multiplex, I found (ignoring the American version once again), only one Godzilla film – Godzilla Vs Megalon.
Now I may be new to kaiju eiga but the general consensus is that the Godzilla films of Jun Fukuda from the early 1970’s are despised by many hard-core Godzilla fans. But as you have read, I am not a hard-core Godzilla fan – I am a tourist, and when watching Godzilla Vs Megalon, after a protracted opening, at the forty-five minute mark, when Godzilla arrived on the scene to battle Megalon and Gigan, shaping up like a punch-drunk prize fighter, a small tear welled up in my eye. The tear wasn’t because I had been dragged emotionally into the story or at the simple beauty of a monster taking a stand on behalf of humanity – the tear was because I thought ‘what have I been missing?’ Godzilla Vs Megalon is considered one of the worst in the series and there I was thoroughly enjoying myself as the Big G took on two bad-ass monsters. But no doubt I am preaching to the already converted. Let’s have a brief look at the story.
The film starts with another nuclear test. This pisses of the inhabitants of the underground kingdom of Seatopia. You see, Seatopia used to be a continent on the surface of the planet – it is hinted that it may have been the fabled lands of Mu or Lemoria – but an earthquake rocked the planet and sent the land to the bottom of the sea – and somehow beneath the earth. Somehow they managed to create oxygen and manufactured an artificial sun to sustain life. Now they Seatopians live in peace – well they did until us surface dwellers started nuclear testing. The tests have destroyed over a third of their land, and now they decide it’s time to strike back. They choose to send Megalon to the surface to destroy the surface dwellers.
Megalon, like most monsters, is a pretty ugly beast. He looks like a giant cockroach with two huge drills on his arms. On his head, he has a weird antenna, which looks like a five pointed star, which is turned upside down. From this antenna he can shoot energy beams. His mouth is unusual too. He seems to have four lips which roll back so he can fire, or spit out red hot cannon balls.
On the surface, a scientist, Goro Ibuki (Katsuhiko Sasaki ) has been building a robot called Jet Jaguar. Jet Jaguar is a silver robot with a pointy head who is jet propelled – he can fly. The purpose for this robot is never really explained, but the Seatopians send up a few human agents to take control of Jet Jaguar. They use Jet Jaguar almost as a homing beacon to direct Megalon to Tokyo where he can do the most damage.
With a miniature remote control Goro Ibuki takes control of Jet Jaguar once again, and tells him to fly off to Monster Island and get Godzilla. You see, in this film, Godzilla is a good guy. The Big G responds and makes his way to Japan. Meanwhile, Jet Jaguar races back to Japan, but upon his arrival, something strange has happened. He no longer responds to Goro Ibuki commands. It appears that Jet Jaguar has gone into survival mode and become sentient. No his own master, somehow – never really explained – Jet Jaguar transforms himself into a larger robot – the same size as Megalon. While waiting for Godzilla to arrive, Jet Jaguar takes on Megalon. Now the Seatopians are privy to the battle going on, up on the surface, and decide that Megalon needs a little backup. So they send Gigan up to help. Now Jet Jaguar is in an unfair two on one situation. Not only does he have to counter Megalon but also the cybernetic chicken with the buzz-saw belly, Gigan. Natually these two monsters start to give Jet Jaguar a kicking, that is until Godzilla arrives. The last third of this movie is monster fights – and for me that perfect entertainment.
According to Wikipedia, Jet Jaguar was created as the result of a contest Toho studios ran in 1972 for fans to come up with a new super robot hero for them to use. The winning entry was a drawing of a robot called Red Arone. This robot was renamed Jetto Jag? ( Jet Jaguar) and was set to star in his own film – Jet Jaguar vs. Megalon. After much deliberation, Toho decided that Jet Jaguar would not be popular enough on his own, so the film was rewritten to include Godzilla and Gigan.
All in all, I found Godzilla Vs Megalon to be an enjoyable adventure. It is slightly on the childish side – in fact it has often been labeled a kids movie. But in the end we are talking about a giant monster – and is there anything that appeals more to the cult film lover (or a child) than a man in a giant monster suit destroying miniature cities – I think not!