Film Discussion

Godzilla vs Megalon – Throwback 50

Sometimes Godzilla films have some pretty well defined themes, and seem to be trying to say something beneath all of the destruction of miniature sets and actors in thick rubber suits. The original film was a way of looking at the destruction caused by US war crimes against the Japanese people with the atomic bomb attacks. Godzilla vs Hedorah is a cautionary tale about the rising levels of pollution in the world. Godzilla vs Gigan is an almost meta-commentary about the commercialisation of monsters. These films, more often than not, try to say something. So what’s Godzilla vs Megalon about? Just this once, not a whole lot actually.

Godzilla vs Megalon begins in the early days of the 1970s, where a new round of nuclear bomb tests have begun in the pacific ocean. These tests have been causing earthquakes deep beneath the sea, which is causing damage to the hidden, underwater city of Seatopia. This hidden nation, angry with the way the surface world has been damaging their home, decides to unleash their giant beetle-god Megalon, in order to exact revenge. Their plan has one flaw, however: Megalon cannot be controlled.

READ MORE: Nine Liars (Maureen Johnson) – Book Review

In order to direct the giant monster from target to target, Seatopia sends agents to the surface world in order to steal a new invention, the robot Jet Jaguar. When the inventors of the size-changing mecha are able to wrestle back control of the machine, they send Jet Jaguar to Monster Island, to lure Godzilla to the chaos Megalon is causing in order to stop the rampaging monster. The Seatopians, learning that their beast will soon be outnumbered, call upon aid from the Space Hunter Nebula M aliens (the villains from the previous film), who send Gigan to assist, resulting in a two vs two monster fight.

A lot of the time when you start digging into the background of Godzilla movies you’ll be amazed at how these films came about. Often spurred on by the rising popularity of the Kaiju genre, and with a new monster design or story idea that a certain writer is pushing to get made, they often seem to be a perfect meshing of passion project and cash-grab. This time, however, the making of Godzilla vs Megalon seems to be a bit of a nightmare.

© 1973 Toho-Eizo.

Filmed in just three weeks, with one of those being given over to the special effects filming, Godzilla vs Megalon might be one of the fastest filmed Godzilla films. In order to cut a lot of corners the film has almost no set filming, with much of the human scenes being shot on location in order to save time and money. The main exception to this being the lab where Jet Jagur was created/controlled, and Seatopia.

Another element of the film that stands out is the creation of Jet Jaguar, the new robotic ally for the titular monster. None of the team working on the film came in with the design for the mecha, instead, he was created by a schoolboy who was taking part in an elementary school monster design project. The original creature the boy created, called Red Arone, featured many similar elements to Jet Jaguar, but the final design did alter parts of it. This apparently led to the child being upset that the robot that appeared on screen was not the creature he actually designed.

© 1973 Toho-Eizo.

Another time saving cheat that the film incorporated was in reusing a substantial amount of footage from previous movies. Much of the footage of destruction caused by the giant monsters was shot for other films, with the offending monsters cut around. This had been done in the past with varying degrees of success (with some films accidentally including shots of monsters that weren’t there), but for the most part Godzilla vs Megalon proved to be a bit more adept at the editing than some of the other films.

They even designed Megalon’s energy attacks to look like those that King Ghidorah would use, so as to reuse footage from his appearances more easily. One place, at least, that the film seemed to be willing to spend some time and money was in the creation of a new Godzilla suit. The previous suit was quite literally falling apart, so a new one was required in order to actually feature the titular monster. This new suit incorporated a ‘friendlier’ face, and was designed to offer greater mobility for the suit actor, resulting in this version of Godzilla being much more mobile than past iterations.

READ MORE: Video Games That Would Make Great TV Shows

Despite the odd beginnings, the cheap production, and a story that felt like Godzilla was slapped on at the end just so they could use the name, Godzilla vs Megalon only really found an audience long after the Japanese release, when it was released in the US three years later. This was the first US cinematic Godzilla release in four years, and thanks to some crafty marketing, such as a poster where the monsters are fighting atop the World Trade Center, and a ‘Godzilla For President’ poster campaign, the film ended up making over $5 million. It was claimed that this was the biggest independent film release in New York at the time. The film was that popular that it even resulted in a TV skit featuring actor John Belushi in a Godzilla costume.

Godzilla vs Megalon might be one of the least popular entries in the franchise, and it certainly has an odd history behind it. But it does introduce a couple of new monsters to the ranks, as well as finally giving audiences a new Godzilla suit. If you don’t mind the dip in overall quality there’s still some enjoyment to be found with this one.

Godzilla vs Megalon was released in Japan on 17th March 1973.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: