"There is so much writing in English on Japanese cinema that can't be accepted at face value — not because the writers are careless, but because the differences in culture and language are just too intricate. When I see August Ragone's name on a piece of writing, it gives me permission to place my faith in it completely. Among Japanese fantasy film historians, he's the best working in English." —Tim Lucas, Video Watchdog

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Toho Champion Festival, March 17, 1973


Media Blasters' jacket for the first legit North American DVD release.

The 13th entry in the Godzilla film series is probably the most maligned and lambasted, even more than the infamous GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH (1971), and is also the most misunderstood of them all. Directed by Jun Fukuda, GODZILLA VS. MEGALON was looked upon by film critics in the US as a joke, "Is this what the Japanese are passing off as science fiction these days?" (Cinefantastique), and not realizing that the film was intended, from its inception, as a Kiddie Matinee presentation — part of Toho's Champion Festival programs, packaged with several short subjects: Isao Takahata's animated featurette, PANDA! GO, PANDA! THE RAINY DAY CIRCUS, Masahiro Takase's GO ON, YOUTH!, and a television episode of the Fujio Fujiko animated series KUROBEI OF THE JUNGLE.

Additionally, MEGALON was also cashing in on the Henshin Boom taking television by storm, by throwing a superheroic android into the mix: Jet Jaguar. Meanwhile, Toho launched a spin-off production of its own, ZONE FIGHTER, which premiered on Nippon Television a mere sixteen days later. So, the proceedings in MEGALON aped the wild and bombastic flavor of the pop culture currents — including a song by Guinness World Record recording artist, Masato Shimon. While MEGALON sold the least tickets of the previous entries, it also saw a limited release, but was a hit in the US three years later. For all of its childish histrionics, which are generally mortifying to grownups, MEGALON indeed strikes a cord in youngsters — the film's intended audience — and who's going to argue with that?

OWN IT TODAY: Last August, the Media Blasters label finally issued GODZILLA VS. MEGALON on R1 DVD with both the original Japanese audio (w/English Subtitles) and the English Dubbing, which can be obtained through retailers and online services such as Amazon.com.


Buddy Cop Doug said...

People can say what they want, but I'll always see GvM as one of the most entertaining kaiju movies I've ever seen. It doesn't matter if you're on the edge of your seat or laughing at its ridiculousness, if you can find something to enjoy about it, then the movie did its job.

I also had no idea that the singer who so poetically sang of Jet Jaguar's sushi pail eating habits was also the man who performed the Gatchaman theme. That's pretty awesome.

vwstieber said...

I may be going out on a limb here, but I read this film as (at least partly) a Lovecraftian tale. HPL was first endorsed by Edogawa Rampo in the late 1940s, and by the early 1970s, translations of his work were readily available in Japan. The Seatopians are a ready stand-in for one of HPL's undersea ancient civilizations that worship a fearsome alien god whom they alone can awaken through strange rituals. Megalon is certainly a strange enough creature--with his starfish appendage and weird geometric extremities--that he would fight right into the Old Ones' pantheon.

At this point the film veers off the HPL track, but I do think that core element exists. Viewing the film in this light certainly makes Megalon a sinister figure indeed.

The early portions of the film also have some fine special effects work. The scene where Megalon breaks through the dam stands out as a high point in the series, at least for me.

Dennis said...

Ummm... I'm gonna say "probably not" on the HPL theory. The 'undersea kingdom' theme is hardly original to Lovecraft, and appears in a number of films and television shows (and comic books), both Japanese and American. All of these ideas trace back at least as far as Ignatius Donnelly's ATLANTIS: The Antediluvian World, and perhaps even earlier. The Atlantean myth has its Pacific parallel in legends of Lemuria or Mu. Plus Megalon is as much if not more a protector of Seatopia as a god. Those drill arms smack of some kind of bionic engineering by the Seatopians' ancestors in the long-forgotten past.