Godzilla vs. Megalon (1974) – Godzilla 60th Birthday Challenge

This post is part of my Godzilla 60th Birthday Challenge

In 1972 Toho ran a competition for school children to design their own Kaiju; the winner would have their creation seen on the big screen. In a decision that I refuse to accept as truth, the ‘best’ entry was a humanoid robot named Red Alone. The name was changed to Jet Jaguar and his feature film went into development with him facing off a new monster; Megalon. During pre-production however they realised how terrible Jet Jaguar was, so the obvious solution was “Let’s just put Godzilla in it”. Production started immediately, reportedly lasting just three weeks. It’s fairly clear how this is going to go.

“Look, I’ll give you an autograph only if you promise to stay out of my films”

Godzilla vs. Megalon opens with a nuclear test practically destroying Monster Island, upsetting the inhabitants as well as the citizens of Seatopia ; an underwater nation whose presence isn’t questioned or explained, and is portrayed in a manner that can only be described as ‘Greeks in a 1950’s spaceship set’. They’re so angry that they summon their ‘beetle with drills for arms’ God Megalon to wreak havoc on earth who bursts out of a riverbed in a sequence that is actually very effective. I fear the budget may have been blown with this moment though, because many of the monster sequences are painful to watch. This feeling is made all the worse by Jet Jaguar, who is the invention of our earth-based protagonists that manage to get themselves knocked out by goons all too frequently but have a number of entertaining scenes. In a first for the series, this means the human story is actually more bearable than the monster scenes. Light relief comes courtesy of Jet Jaguar’s ridiculous arm gestures that apparently prepare him for flight, and seeing him getting punched repeatedly. The highlight of the film is without question the bizarre, hilarious moment Godzilla discovers a new gravity-defying fighting move.

10/10

This is far from the worst Godzilla film I’ve seen so far, but it does have rather few redeeming features. One great sequence early on (the river draining) and some enjoyable moments in the human storyline aren’t enough to save this film. It manages to make the most fundamental, usually most reliably entertaining part of these films – monsters fighting each other – boring. Ultimately it was clearly made in a hurry, to try and squeeze a bit more money from the commitment to make a Jet Jaguar movie.

3/10

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Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972) – Godzilla 60th Birthday Challenge

Two years after Godzilla vs. Hedorah made reasonable steps in trying to drop the goofy, childish tone that the franchise had slowly erred into, Godzilla vs. Gigan pushes this further. It’s a more violent entry that continues the reinvention of the famous lizard as Earth’s eco-saviour, saving us from the evils of our own creation, but this time with no child protagonist in sight, leaving the adults to carry the story along. Or at least try to…

Godzilla: “GEEZ YER LUNCH MONEY OR ELSE” – Anguirus: “Yeeah… or else”

After some pretty cool laser effect opening titles, Godzilla vs. Gigan follows a simple graphic designer as he tries to sell his Kaiju stories to various comic book publishers with no success. Eventually he gets a lot of interest from the operators of the incomplete World Children’s Land, centred around the life-size Godzilla Tower. Finding himself working alongside the shady businessmen who claim to be working towards world peace, he is accosted by another group of people claiming the same thing. Somewhere in this un-gripping but reasonably fast-paced plot there are illegible audio tapes that somehow are heard and understood by Godzilla and Anguirus on Monster Island. There are a few too many forced attempts at humour from these characters, and when they don’t really offer much else beyond simply forwarding the plot it makes them a bit annoying. At other times the tone of the film is trying to be more serious than the content; a certain big reveal mid-way through is laughably awful, lifted straight from the cheesiest B-Movies of the 50’s, but it’s played straight-faced, as are many of the moments in this film that would have benefitted from the sort of campy tone that made Invasion of the Astro-Monster so great.

SKWAAWK!

Thankfully this film affords the monsters a good portion of the runtime, including a brilliant extended introduction to King Ghidorah’s new ally; the scythe-armed, bandsaw-bellied space-parrot called Gigan. This is probably the best-looking monster rampage of the franchise so far, with explosions and fire aplenty providing much of the lighting for the night-based sequence, and some brilliant shots showing off the monsters. Later battles are almost as good, with some fun tag-team style moves and a surprising amount of blood shed by the monsters. As seen once or twice before, the monsters occasionally “talk”. But with no translators, and with the film not taking place in a child’s dream, inspired moments show comic-book speech bubbles appearing on the screen; a hint of the tone that could have made the main plot of this film so much more entertaining.

I can’t print the translation to that. Godzilla, you foul-mouthed monster!

Confidently proving that vs. Hedorah wasn’t a flukey step in the right direction, this film casts aside the childish elements that were fast running the franchise into the ground, but doesn’t offer much to replace them leaving the human story very bare and unsatisfying, with some themes plastered in that cross the line of feeling almost preachy at times. The monsters once again do their best to rescue not only Tokyo, but the film itself.
6/10