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  Godzilla vs Megalon Godzilla goes superhero!
Year: 1973
Director: Jun Fukuda
Stars: Katsuhiko Sasaki, Hiroyuki Kawase, Yutaka Hayashi, Robert Dunham, Kotaro Tomita, Mori Mikita
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 3 votes)
Review: The inhabitants of the underground kingdom of Seatopia are evil. Yup, every man, woman and child. Diabolically evil. Maybe it’s because they don’t get out much. Maybe it’s because of cultural confusion, since despite living near Japan everybody wears Greek togas and performs Hawaiian hula dances all the live-long day. Mostly it’s because of those damn surface-dwellers and their constant nuclear tests wreaking havoc with the environment. So the angry Seatopian Leader (Robert Dunham) dispatches their demon god Megalon, a giant cockroach with drills for arms and a death-dealing electric daisy on his head (Now that’s evil!), to save the environment by, uh, destroying the surface world. Who does he target first? Why, the nuke-loving people of Japan, of course!

Seatopian agents also target science whiz Goro (Katsuhiko Sasaki), who shares a space-age bachelor pad with kid brother, Rakusan (Hiroyuki Kawase, also in Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster (1971)) and an unnamed friend (Yutaka Hayashi). Recent writers have suggested he is Goro’s gay lover, so never say Godzilla movies weren’t progressive. The dastardly Seatopians steal Goro’s latest invention, super-robot Jet Jaguar, an Ultraman clone with Jack Nicholson’s grin, but after a hair-raising escape, stock monster footage, and slapstick chases, our heroes retrieve the controls and send their metal marvel to fetch Godzilla. Big G agrees to help, wading across the sea towards Japan.

Sensing trouble, Seatopia places a call to “Starhunter Universe M”, requesting their monster Gigan. Part-robot, part-parrot with hooks for hands and a buzz saw in its stomach, Gigan got its ass kicked in Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972). Clearly, the Starhunters want to offload some shoddy merchandise, so they don’t mention that. Goro, Rakusan and what’s-his-name grab ringside seats, cheering as Jet Jaguar super-sizes himself to battle Megalon and Gigan. Proving a resemblance to Jack Nicholson represents no technological advancement whatsoever, he gets thrashed (The possibilities of the real Jack tangling with rubber monsters remain tantalisingly unrealised). Fortunately, Godzilla shows up for a fire-breathing, death ray spewing, buzz saw spinning showdown. Gasp - as his shoulder wound spurts blood in the finest Sam Peckinpah tradition! Thrill - as Godzilla and Jet Jaguar are engulfed in a ring of fire! Cheer - as they come out swinging! And don’t forget to sing along with the Jet Jaguar theme tune: “Fight! Fight! Fight!”

Despite Toho Studio’s efforts, Jet Jaguar didn’t prove popular enough to land a series of his own, although Godzilla made several television appearances alongside the very similar, Zone Fighter (1973). If poor Godzilla looks rather shoddy here, and Teruyoshi Nakano’s special effects seem haphazard, it’s because Toho diverted their megabucks into what became the most spectacular and critically acclaimed science fiction epic of the decade, The Submersion of Japan (1973). The jocular tone of this review may suggest otherwise, but j’adore Godzilla vs. Megalon. One cannot in good conscience call this a great movie, yet its colourful chaos delights monster-mad kids and, if all else fails, you can marvel at Robert Dunham’s scorching sideburns and porn star moustache. Dunham was regular in Japanese sci-fi, appearing in films like Dagora, the Space Monster (1964) and The Green Slime (1968). Here he seems less like a wrathful, otherworldly leader than a paunchy, toga-clad frat boy dispatching his killer cockroach on a drunken dare.

In their desperate bid to lure punters back to the Godzilla series, Toho latched onto seemingly every Seventies filmmaking trend. Psychedelia and eco-awareness (Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster), kiddie matinees (Godzilla vs. Gigan), the shojo manga boom (Terror of Mecha-Godzilla (1975)), and for Godzilla vs. Megalon, superheroes. Feature length edits of tokusatsu shows like Jumborg Ace (1973) - soundtrack by Pink Floyd! - and Koseidon (1979) - a.k.a. the greatest show ever made, but we’ll come to that another day - were big hits for rivals Toei Studios and Tsuburaya Enterprises, but Toho were never able to crack this market. When films like Star Wars (1977) and The Exorcist (1973) found international success, the studio drafted scripts for Star Godzilla and Godzilla vs. the Devil, but sadly these were never made. Shame they didn’t give sexploitation a try. Godzilla vs. Emmanuelle, anyone?
Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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