Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973)
I have a confession to make. Even before this eBay-bought video arrived in the mail, any hope of me writing an unbiased review on it was shot. I had already read a dozen reviews of Godzilla versus Megalon , all of which universally labeled it the absolute worst Godzilla movie ever made, and in the top five worst movies in general. So, even before I first watched it, I hated it vicariously through those who had suffered before me. .
And now, after watching it four times in the last week, I can fully agree that this movie could suck a nail from a two-by-four. But then again, it was made for kids (apparently two-year olds) so I really should look at it in that light. But that's hard to do with a Godzilla movie, considering the proud and impressive lineage of the series, Godzilla's Revenge exempted, of course. I'll try and be gentle with this review, but I'm not promising anything.
Godzilla versus Megalon's plot is the direct result of the era's cultural fascination with "giant robots battling monsters". Japanese television was the primary medium for this, with such classics as Ultraman, Kaman Rider, and Zone Fighter thrilling kids with neat-o robots and freaky rubber-suit alien monsters every week. The Godzilla movie franchise was already in the tank after the horribly sucking Godzilla versus Gigan from 1972, and Toho Studios decided to sell out to popular demand and make the next movie installment an Ultraman rip-off. They also decided to totally dive headfirst into the kiddy movie format, where all the real merchandizing money is. The result is as far from the original 1954 Godzilla in tone and mood as Schindler's List is from Undercover Brother.
This movie continues the lamentable trend of reusing vast amounts of stock footage from previous movies as a money saver. Entire battle sequences are lifted out of past Godzilla movies and dropped into this one, with just a bare effort to blend them in. Much is taken from Godzilla versus Gigan (just from last year) and had to be painfully obvious for anyone in the theatre over the age of five. There are a few neat effects that are new, however, but they don't make up for all the stale old stock footage.
Godzilla versus Megalon was first released in Japan on March 17, 1973 to enthusiastic reviews from Miss Tanaka's first grade class. Its first American release was in April of 1976. This is the only Godzilla film to have made it to "public domain" status, meaning that it's free for any company to produce copies of it for resale. This, unfortunately, has made it one of the most viewed Godzilla movies for the average Joe Dirt American.
The copy that I'll be using for this review is one of those cheap re-releases, this one made by Goodtimes Home Video in 1985. It's a 90-minute VHS tape and the film and sound quality are both average. From what I gather, the American version is mostly similar to the Japanese original, with just some out-of-place violence cut out (bummer).
And now on to our show...
We open immediately with a big nuclear test in the North Pacific. A handy map (notated in Japanese) shows us that the blast was in the Aleutian Island chain. This must mean that the nuke in question is American, right? This is important, as later it seems like everyone is blaming the Japanese for conducting the test.
Every Godzilla movie has to have a Meaningful Message. Some preach to us that pollution is bad, that greedy corporations are bad, or that mean people suck hard. This movie's Meaningful Message is that nuclear testing is very bad, but because it's a candy-coated kiddy show, it hits us with a club wrapped in layers of puffy cotton. The opening montage sets up the Evil Military Industrial Complex and their nasty nuclear testing as the cause of all the carnage we're going to see in the next 90 minutes.
We hear that the test even affects far away Monster Island, which, of course, is where Godzilla and the rest of the monsters of this timeline are living. We see Godzilla, Rodan and a few others writhing around in pain as clouds of red gas billow around them. All this is lifted from Destroy all Monsters! and makes no sense at all in the context of this movie. Monster Island is clearly said in innumerable references to be in the far South Pacific, many thousands of miles away from the Aleutians. If that much damage is felt that far away, then the entire west coast of America must be in tatters from this test bomb. It's simply a dumb excuse to reuse some cheap stock footage.
From the Monster Islanders in agony, we go right to the opening credits. These are quick and just the name of the movie and the studio production tag. The fact that they didn't bother to translate the actors' names into English is an early sign of the shoddy production values of this movie.
Ok, now our setting returns to the islands of Japan where the majority of our movie will take place. All the towns and cities seen are not named, so we have to make some assumptions about the geography of the movie. More on that later.
One of the things we will notice as the movie goes on is that the Japan of this timeline appears to have a total civilian population of under half-a-dozen! With the exception of the military and two hapless truck drivers, we see virtually no other human beings in this movie than our three heroes. The only "crowd shots" are egregious stock footage. I suspect they couldn't even afford extras, and the actual actors were paid in ramen and free movie tickets to the premiere.
The action centers around three and just three guys. These are a pair of "friends" and the much younger brother of one of them. Much has been written of the obvious gay undertones of this film, what with our two main characters having a "special relationship" devoid of the usual girlfriends seen in most popcorn monster movies. At first I didn't believe it, but the more I watched this movie, the more I have to say that they are indeed two gay men. That makes this movie a very progressive effort, especially in a conservative society like Japan.
The two "friends" are Goro Ibuki and Hiroshi Jinkawa, and the kid is Goro's little brother Rokuro.
Goro Ibuki is played by 29-year old Katsuhiko Sasaki. He has the most productive career of any of the cast of this movie, having been acting up until 1999. He would attain full leading-man status as the dashing Agent Ichinose in 1975's Terror of MechaGodzilla and as Professor Mazaki in 1991's Godzilla versus King Ghidrah. He also really stunk in 1974's Catastrophe: 1999, but that wasn't really his fault (it was Gerald Ford's). In this movie, Goro is a robotics inventor and all-around smart guy.
Hiroshi Jinkawa is played by twenty-something Yutaka Hayashi. By this time he was a drummer in the popular 1960s pop band the Village Singers, but his early acting career was mostly bit parts in bad Japanese crime dramas and exploitation films. Later, he became known for playing fast-talking reporters on NHK comedy-variety shows. In Godzilla versus Megalon he's clearly the movie's Designated Stud Muffin, a race car driver and general hunk. I guess women are supposed to swoon over him, but since he's so obviously gay in this movie I think the target audience might be a bit different than intended. I will refer to him as "Rex Dart, Eskimo Spy!" for the rest of this review. For an explanation, watch the MST3k episode, you'll piss yourself laughing.
Little Rokuro is played by 9-year old Hiroyuki Kawase. At the time this movie was made, Kawase was already a well-known actor, being on the Japanese version of Sesame Street for five years. He got his start at a very young age playing the beggar's son in Kurosawa's Dodes Ka-Den in 1970. He also played a very similar annoying child in 1971's Godzilla versus Hedorah. Strangely, he would only have a few more movie roles after this one, his last work in the 1974 TV series Ape Corps. I wonder what became of him, all my attempts at tracking him down after 1976 via the Internet have failed (anybody know?). Whoever is dubbing his voice is obviously a woman faking a bad Rocky Bullwinkle accent. It's one of the most annoying dubbing jobs in the entire Godzilla series, seriously. In keeping with established form, I will call him "Kenny" for the rest of this review. He wears the standard tiny pedophile micro-shorts seen on all little boys in Japanese monster movies and in myspace.com amateur porn videos.
This is 1973, remember, and DISCO! is in full swing. Both Goro and Rex consistently wear open-necked shirts, tight hip-hugger pants, Nehru jackets with patches on the elbows, wide lapels, turtleneck sweaters and platform shoes. There's also a lot of bling-bling and nasty oily shaggy long Ashton Kutchner haircuts. This swinging 1970s thing only makes it easier to buy the probable gay angle.
Goro has invented and built a man-sized robot named "Jet Jaguar", which looks like a 1970s Power Ranger. It's really just a Japanese stuntman in a gray and red suit with a funky helmet. If you have seen Ultraman or Megaman, then you have seen Jet Jaguar, though the face-plate bears a striking resemblance to Jack Nicholson in Batman. I think it's actually supposed to be some sort of gay BDSM toy, but that's just a guess on my part...
Jet Jaguar was the result of a contest Toho Studios had for children to come up with a new character for the Godzilla series. The winner was a robot called "Red Arone", submitted by an elementary school student, which was a cross between Ultraman and Zone Fighter. It was tweaked a bit and ended up being "Jet Jaguar". Godzilla versus Megalon was intended to be the "pilot episode" for what Toho hoped would be a series of Jet Jaguar movies and television shows, ripping off Ultraman as much as legally possible. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, this movie sank without a trace like a tramp steamer in a hurricane and Jet Jaguar never resurfaced on any big screen.
Our opening set piece takes place at an unnamed lake somewhere in Japan. Here we see that Goro and Rex are out for a nice picnic, while Kenny plays in the lake on this freaky dolphin-shaped paddle boat. Seriously, this thing is the craziest contraption I've ever seen, you have to watch this movie just for this. It's not really a beach, just a rocky slope leading down into the water. This explains why they're here all alone, they probably filmed it at a rock quarry. Goro and Rex share some food and drink and gaze longingly at each other.
The crazyass dolphin thingie.
Suddenly, the ground begins to shake and shimmy! An earthquake starts up, and a fissure opens up in the lake bed. The water begins to rapidly drain from the lake in whirlpools. Oh, no! Kenny is in danger!
Fear not, Goro has a "rocket" at hand, which is some sort of line on a powered charge like the Coast Guard uses to rescue Cuban floaters. Why the hell he would have this on a romantic picnic is a mystery, but he does. Firing from the hip, while an earthquake sways him around, you'd think the chances of a successful shot are quite slim. However, the shot is exactly on target, the rope landing almost right in Kenny's open hand. Sure.
They pull him up, just in time as the dolphin-floatie-thing gets sucked into a whirlpool. All safe ashore, they clamber up to the bank and watch in amazement as the entire lake is drained into the fissure. A passable matte painting shows us this geological marvel. Though it's never explicitly stated, I think we're supposed to assume that this was caused by the nuclear testing as well, though that's scientifically dubious. Later, we will see the monster Megalon come out of this fissure, so perhaps it was caused by the Seatopians (more later)?
The drained lake.
They all jump into Rex's very cool roadster (he's a professional race car driver, remember?) and head back home. Hmm...where the heck did they put that huge dolphin-floatie-thingie when they came out to the lake? It must have already been at the lake, right? So there were other people there, maybe even a dolphin-floatie-thingie rental shop. We never see any other people there, though. The road they travel is also completely empty, no pedestrians, no cars, nothing. The budget for extras must have been nil. When you can't even afford to pay locals a 5 yen note to stand and gawk in the background, you know that you're destined to fail as a filmmaker.
Rex's open-top roadster is very 1940s looking, with European swooping lines, a very wide stance, large tires, and a right-driver wheel. I don't know what kind of car it is but if anyone does, let me know.
The roadster (is it a Ruska?).
In the car, they hear a radio program about the nuclear test causing all these earthquakes (I guess there were others before). This spawns a forced discussion about Mu and Lemuria (really!). Goro provides all the exposition here, which is a lame way of telling us what to expect from the plot. Mu and Lemuria were fabled continents in the Pacific and Indian Oceans that were sunk in catastrophes, just like Atlantis in the Atlantic. If this was an American or European movie they would have been talking about Atlantis, of course. All of this chitchat sets up the idea that there's still a secret civilization beneath the oceans that's the remnant of the sunken Mu/Lemuria/Atlantis. And, indeed, we will soon see that this is the case with our Seatopia. More later.
Returning now to Goro's swanky inventor's pad/lab, our three heroes notice that the door has been jimmied open. They enter carefully but are jumped by two "field agents" of the undersea kingdom of "Seatopia". These two were in here ransacking the place, and we will see them off and on the rest of the movie.
The lead Seatopian agent is played by 46-year old Kotaro Tomita, who would go on to play Professor Ota in 1975's Terror of MechaGodzilla, but would never act again. Here he has a singularly bad foppish haircut and looks nearly 99% like Alan Rickman's Professor Snape character in the recent Harry Potter movies. Thus, I'll call him "Snape" for the rest of this review.
The other Seatopian agent is played by 39-year old Wolf Otsuki, a Swedish-born actor living in Japan. This was his sole movie role, but he is known from TV as Kaman Rider Super-1. He plays a "European" type here, and he looks a whole lot like Deepak Chopra or, even better, like Gregori Rasputin from the wickedly cool Hellboy movie I just saw. I think I'll call him "Rasputin" for the rest of this review, but he doesn't get a lot of screen time.
So a fight blossoms. Goro and Kenny get roughed up a bit, little Kenny even getting kneed in the stomach!!! Rex, coming in last, manages to get some licks in, but is smacked down himself. He does manage to grab a button off of one of them, more on that later. The bad guys then race out the door and into the night. Rex rushes to Goro first, virtually stepping over the moaning 9-year old Kenny to get to his "special friend". They are both ok, and Rex chases after the bad guys.
The Seatopians jump into a black Mercedes Benz 220 sedan and roar away. Hey, why did they run off? Goro was already down, and Rex was contained, and the two agents both had pistols, so why did they run? We will later see them come back to finish the job, so why didn't they now when they had the chance? Strange.
Anyway, Rex gives chase in his trendy roadster, quickly catching up to them despite their considerable head start. They follow this lonely winding road for some time, squealing tires and clenching teeth and flapping hair locks and all. Really not that exciting a car chase if you think about it. It's now supposedly nighttime, though you can clearly tell that it's really daytime and they are using a blue filter in a day-for-night effort. Eventually, the Seatopians grow weary of the chasing and the turning and the clenching and toss an incendiary device out the window as they exit off on a country road. Rex, not wanting to void the warranty on the paint work on his car, decides to end the chase and head back home.
While Rex is gone, Goro and Kenny check through the house to see what's gone. Here we get to see that the place is a multi-story building, with both a laboratory and living quarters, and it's out in the far suburbs of some unnamed city. Nothing about it appears corporate-sponsored at all, but more like just a guy's apartment where he tinkers on stuff. We never get any indication in the movie as to where Goro gets his money or his equipment, and he continues a long sci-fi movie tradition of the wealthy eccentric loner inventor working alone in his basement.
It turns out that nothing is missing from the lab, though the place is trashed a bit (Snape and Rasputin were interrupted before they could take anything). They do find a small pile of sand next to the robot. We are to assume that it came off one of the Seatopians' shoes, but there's no way that a pile that big would have stayed on their shoes all the way up from their homeland and only fall off in the most convenient place imaginable.
Kenny finds a pile of sand.
As we will learn soon that the bad guys were wanting to take over the robot, we have to wonder what they were trashing the place for. The control of the robot seems centralized in an obvious control panel, so we wonder why they would turn over the little kid's room as well as the rest of the apartment. What were they looking for?
They analyze the sand they found, using Goro's nifty science gadgets and microscopes and stuff. It's determined that the button Rex pulled off and the sand are made of the same stuff! Hmm... We also learn here that Goro smokes cigarettes like a fiend.
Several days later, back at the lab, we see Rex arrive in a different cool convertible. This one is a Volkswagen of some sort (it's not a Ghia, might be a 1600, help?). I don't know the exact model, but I would love to hear if someone does. The name plates and hood emblem on the VW have been removed (you can clearly see the holes). The only way I could tell it was a Volkswagen was by one quick shot of the gas and brake pedals which have the distinctive "VW" symbol on the pedals. Strangely, it's clear that Toho didn't want to pay the yen to have the car company in the movie
The odd VW. Yeah, that's a 1600.
Kenny, who's out in the yard, has tweaked a little motorbike, chopped down like a lowrider (he's the Jesse James of Godzilla movies!). Rex chats a bit with Kenny and then goes upstairs for a little "talk" with Goro (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more).
We later see that Goro has apparently sent off the dirt sample to some other lab for better analysis. The results show that particular brand of sand only comes from a strata of the Earth's crust fifty miles down! Hmm...how did that lab get a sample of the soil from 50 miles down? I'm aware of no drill that can go anywhere near that far down.
He also says that the only other place that kind of soil is found on the surface is on Easter Island. Please! Why did they try and shoehorn in every possible spooky X-Files plot hook into this movie? Thankfully, the Easter Island thing never gets any more screen time so we can forget about it the instant we hear it. Goro also says that the statues there are three million years old, which is just crazy talk as everyone knows they were built by the Hanso Foundation in 1982.
They chat a bit more about Jet Jaguar, which is now apparently fully operational. We see that this conversation is being overheard by the two Seatopian agents, who planted a bug in the lab while they were there.
So, meanwhile, Kenny has gone out on the street riding his bike. The two Seatopian agents are watching from their car, intent on kidnapping him to use as a hostage to get Jet Jaguar from Goro. As with all of Japan in this movie, the urban city streets are completely and utterly deserted in the middle of the day, allowing the Seatopians to drive slowly up next to him and kidnap him without any witnesses. Also, we see that Kenny is wearing a red shirt with everyone's favorite beagle Snoopy on it.
The bad guys force Kenny to go to the front door at gunpoint so that Goro will unlock the door. Once they barge inside, the Seatopians make short work of our three heroes. Rasputin ties up Goro and Kenny and takes them off. Snape stays in the lab, with Rex tied up to a pole nearby. Snape is going to control Jet Jaguar from here, as well as serve as a communications relay for the Seatopian Leader.
We now cut down to the heart of the Seatopian kingdom, located deep under the seas. Clearly, the screenwriters had watched the Plato's Stepchildren and All Our Yesterday's episodes of the old Star Trek series as this is a civilization of toga-wearing peaceniks who dance around a lot and sing songs.
They like to dance.
The Leader of the Seatopians is played by 42-year old Robert Dunham, an American actor living in Japan. He's best known to Toho fans as Mark Jackson from 1964's Dagora, the Space Monster, but he was also in 1961's Mothra and 1969's The Green Slime. He spends our entire movie dressed in a white toga with a tiara (really). He has a bad porn star mustache and sideburns, and an inordinate amount of chest hair which the toga allows us to see way too much of. His outfit and mannerisms here make him look very gay, which would be keeping with the gay rights theme that we have going in this movie.
Back at the lab, Rex comes to soon and begins to verbally assault Snape. Snape, having never watched a James Bond movie in his life, begins to tell Rex all about Seatopia and their plans for Jet Jaguar and the "monster Megalon". The gist is that Seatopia is a subterranean civilization that adapted to life under the seas following a disastrous earthquake that sank their continent eons ago.
Snape tells him that the Seatopians have long ago invented a way to produce oxygen, as well as an artificial sun for power and heat. This is a civilization way more advanced than contemporary surface people, so much so that they have given up the need for truly advanced scientific technologies. Like robots. That's why they have to swipe Jet Jaguar to lead the monster to action. Sure.
So, now Jet Jaguar is firmly in the control of the Seatopians, and they can begin the next phase of their operations. The Seatopians need to call up their monster god Megalon and set him upon the surface dwellers in revenge for the nuclear blasts. These tests are shaking their kingdom something fierce, knocking over their bongs and spilling their organic herbs. [Editor Pam: If they're fifty miles down, as that sand seems to suggest, I wonder if nuclear testing would actually affect them. A quick look at an article in Wikipedia suggests that the maximum effect from underground testing is measured in meters, the actual radius of effect depending on the yield of the bomb and the nature of the soil. The depths at which the tests were conducted were somewhere in the neighborhood of 1000 meters or less. The article is brief and doesn't give specifics of how deep all the testing was and what the yield of all the bombs was, but it seems extremely unlikely that any sort of effect of nuclear testing could be felt 50 miles below the surface. I could probably do more research and come up with a more precise answer, but that would take more time than I really want to spend on this movie.]
Like Mothra and King Seesar, to awaken Megalon the Seatopians have to sing and dance. It's a full ensemble piece, however, not just a catchy song sung by a lone priestess, complete with dancing girls and a jazzy disco beat. These girls are wearing white bikinis, which is very good, but are covered with sheer wraps, which is not so good. In a most embarrassingly hammy way, the Leader implores and cajoles Megalon to rise up and crush the infidels.
On a side note, the group of dancing girls seen in the wide shots of the Seatopians raising Megalon are the only females we have in this entire movie (I checked). This is really odd as Toho movies are known for strong female characters, often leads.
The monster Megalon is a giant stag beetle, about the size of Godzilla. He's armed with drill bits on his hands, a laser thingie on his head that looks like a spatula, and the ability to shoot "napalm rocks" out of his mouth. He can also fly, though his wings are really dinky. The glowing thing sticking out of the top of his head makes him look like a Tellytubby mutated by a fall into a vat of toxic waste.
So, Megalon is off to smash some hapless surface people. You'd think that a civilization so advanced that they seem to have created a utopian society where everyone dances and wears togas would be past such petty emotions as rage and vengeance, but there you go. Couldn't they just call up the worlds' leaders and ask them to stop with the bombs? It's not like we're doing it on purpose. Though, seeing the violent and mean methods that the two field agents employed to get the robot, we sense that there's a veneer of suppressed psychotic violence and anger at work in this civilization.
Back to our humans, as Kenny and Goro awaken now, hog-tied and inside a large metal shipping container. They're on the back of a truck, driven by two redneck locals. Rasputin has apparently hired these two toothless goons to drive this box out to a hydroelectric dam and dump it overboard. The price is 100,000 yen and no questions asked. Hmmm...wouldn't it have been easier to just shoot Goro and Kenny?
The truck with the box.
Inside the box, we hear Goro tell Kenny to scoot up to him and work on untying his ropes. Hmmm...Kenny is struggling with this, as he's just nine-years old and the knots are pretty tight and his hands are also behind his back. Wouldn't it have been better for Goro to try and untie Kenny, who could then have full use of his hands to untie Goro? Just thinking.
Back at the lab, Snape has reprogrammed Jet Jaguar and now sends him off. We see that the robot can fly (!!!!!!!!) with no visible means of propulsion. We also see that the robot is apparently programmed with PUNCH CARDS!!!!! Yes, that's right, punch cards like in the old 1950s IBM machines. All the computer geeks will die when they see this.
Now that Rex has learned the Seatopian's nefarious plans, he can mount his escape and save the world. He breaks his chair and his bonds with relative ease and knocks out Snape cold. He then jumps into his convertible and races off to catch the truck.
Snape recovers soon afterwards and calls his bosses, telling them that they have to stop Rex before he can rescue Goro. And so we now have our second thrilling (!) car chase set piece, inspired by all the James Bond movies that Japan was eating up in the 1970s.
Apparently there are a few other Seatopian agents lurking around the area. A red Toyota sedan and a motorcycle end up chasing Rex through the completely deserted streets of "No Extra Land", while bongo music pounds on the soundtrack. They go down staircases and squeal around corners, but nothing really exciting happens. There are no guns, no hidden rocket launchers, no real drama. In the end, Rex eludes both car and cycle and keeps chasing the truck (though we have to wonder how he even knows about the truck, what it looks like and where it's going).
The empty streets of Tokyo...
Now Megalon emerges from the dry lake bed, through a fissure (maybe the same lake we saw in the beginning?). He stands around a bit flexing and grunting until Jet Jaguar shows up. Megalon takes to the air and they head for somewhere, presumably Tokyo as Tokyo always gets thrashed in these movies.
Soon, Megalon arrives at the dam where Goro and Kenny are about to be entombed. Rex also arrives at the dam just as the two redneck drivers are backing the truck up to the water's edge. Hmmm...where's Rasputin? What the hell? He just disappears between scenes and now the truckers have his gun. I had to go to the all-knowing Internet to find out that they cut some stuff out for the American release that explained all that. Anyway, Rex tells them to stop, and they jump out and accost him with Rasputin's fancy laser pistol.
Wait, wait, wait. So the rednecks long ago tossed Rasputin out of the truck, right? But they're still going through with the whole box-dumping thing? Did they get the money in advance? If so, then why go through with the double-murder? And if they didn't get any money, now that they have tossed Rasputin out, they sure won't be seeing any of it now. For that matter, what the heck is the use of hiring some truckers to dump Goro and Kenny over the falls? If they were just going to kill them, why not just shoot them in the head and be done with it? Why must Evil Henchmen always come up with the most complex, lame plans to do the simplest thing? I could go on for days...
Anyway, Megalon's arrival on the opposite side of the dam freaks the rednecks out. They abandon their plans for box-dumping and instead steal Rex's car and flee. Rex jumps in the truck and attempts to drive it to safety, but can't double clutch apparently. He jumps out of the cab just as Megalon looms over. The monster, acting out of sheer comic malice, smacks the steel box with its claw, sending it flying through the air. It flies up to the top of a forested ridge, landing with a bam! The door is jarred open and out tumble Kenny and Goro, dazed and confused, but otherwise unhurt...
WHAT THE HOLY FUCK?????
So being in a steel box, totally unprotected or secured, that's smashed a half mile by a monster to land on the rocky ground causes no injuries whatsoever? Not even a bruise? You are killing me, Godzilla versus Megalon...
From their vantage point, our humans watch the carnage of the smashed dam (which is really a well-done sequence). Goro suddenly remembers that he has an emergency back-up controller on a necklace on him! How convenient! Now they can regain control of the robot. Unfortunately, it only works "line of sight", so they have to find a better way to get close enough to the flying Jet Jaguar.
The Japanese military now gives it a go against Megalon. The coming battle is long and impressive, with both air and ground units heavily involved. In the end, however, the human army is powerless against the monster and it goes on its merry way. To describe the battle in detail would be pointless, as it's composed entirely of stock footage stolen from at least seven different movies. It's cut in and pasted together haphazardly, with no attempt at a proper blending of either theme or style. Some of the lowlights include...
Stock footage clips from movies dating from 1954 to 1972, all with varying levels of film and sound quality. Several blatantly obvious shots of completely different monsters fighting with the army, showing terribly shoddy effort. These include a shot of one of the Gargantuas running behind some trees and another of Gigan smacking some jet fighters.
Just because I do this for fun, here's the total destruction inflicted by Megalon on the Japanese military...Five maser cannons, two Type 61 tanks, and eight F-86 Sabre jets.
A burning Sabre about to crash.
During the battle, Goro meets up with the three-star General in charge of the military's futile efforts. The General is played by Kanta Mori, who's notable for playing the nation's Defense Minister in Toho's epic Submersion of Japan, also released in 1973. He seems to be sleepwalking through his role here, however, not really giving his best effort.
The General is at a loss to do anything about Megalon, so he decides to give Goro's plan a try. Goro is given access to a helicopter to get his "line of sight" controller working on the flying Jet Jaguar. This he does with some drama as the robot is about to smash the helicopter before being reined in.
Hard to see, but yes, that's helicopter number 69...
Whoo-hoo! Jet Jaguar is now back under Goro's control. He orders the robot to fly to Monster Island and bring back Godzilla. And off he flies, apparently programmed with the co-ordinates of the place, or maybe he stopped and bought a map.
Back in the lab, Snape curses his luck and tells his Leader that Jet Jaguar is loose. Megalon, now without guidance, just wanders around randomly stomping trees and kicking rocks. Clearly, Megalon is a dumb animal, completely devoid of independent thinking. He can sure drill good, though.
The Seatopians, now that Megalon has lost his way, contact "Star Hunter Universe M". They request the monster Gigan to come and help. Whoa, so the Seatopians have contact with other planets? And they can't build their own robot or sew a decent t-shirt? This is one of the lamer ways that another monster is introduced into a movie, giving us little reason to keep from throwing stuff at the screen.
While all this is going on, Rex and Kenny head back to the lab to take care of Snape. Why they didn't just bring along a platoon of soldiers is beyond me. Surely having a chance to capture a Seatopian agent alive and pump him for information would be high on the military's list of things to do today. But, no, it's all up to Rex and Kenny.
Showing some sly planning, they first stop off at a hobby shop in some evacuated town. It's evacuated because of the monster, but really it's empty because they couldn't afford to pay for extras to stand in-camera. They're looking for a toy airplane, and Kenny finds a model of a JASDF F-86 Sabre to use. They say they will pay for it later, but I think they just stole it.
Back at the lab, they sneak up to the door. Rex lures Snape out on the patio where Kenny apparently flies the plane at his face. Rex then jumps him and punches him out. What!!!!! This was your plan? You seriously said, "Ok, Kenny, what we're going to do is lure him out and wank him with a toy plane!"? Why not just get a baseball bat and hit him? Why a model plane? Stupid people.
Goro soon arrives back at the lab in a military jeep, apparently loaned to him free of charge. They take care of Snape and then go off to find a good spot to watch the next half hour of monster fighting.
Alright, Jet Jaguar now arrives on Monster Island. We see Godzilla milling around doing not much of anything. Discounting the quick little stock footage vignette at the beginning of the film, this is the first time we get to see the titular monster on screen. It comes at the 45 minute mark in, a terribly late arrival for the monster we have all come to see. Imagine if you paid good money to see Rocky IV and you had to wait a full 45 minutes before the Italian Stallion even appeared on screen. You'd be outraged!
Now, Godzilla has never seen Jet Jaguar before, and normally reacts in a hostile way towards anything that comes near him, but for some reason he decides to listen to the robot. Not really listen, as Jet Jaguar manages to convey "Follow me, ok?" to the lizard with hand signals only (!!!!). More laughably, Godzilla nods knowingly and agrees! So, Jet Jaguar flies off for Japan, Godzilla jumps in the water (shot stolen from Godzilla versus the Sea Monster) and swims north after him. Truly, Godzilla has become the savior and protector of Japan.
Meanwhile, Megalon has apparently managed to find his way on his own and is now fully involved with immolating Tokyo. With all the egregious use of stock footage from a dozen better movies, we can fall asleep watching this and not miss much. Clearly, Godzilla isn't going to get to Japan quickly enough to stop Megalon from doing some serious damage. Jet Jaguar flies ahead, determined to keep him occupied until Godzilla can get there.
JJ in flight.
Now, I know what you're thinking, that Megalon is a massive laser-beam-shooting monster and Jet Jaguar is just a six-foot tall dude in a spandex suit. No contest, right? But in one of the most stupid, lame, laughable and unscientific scenes in all of cinema, we see that Jet Jaguar can "grow himself" to be Megalon-size, just like a Power Ranger villain. Arg. This is accomplished by some bad optical effects and techno music, and explained away with a wave of the hand. Goro, watching from below, simply says, "I guess he realized he had to hold the monster somehow. So he just programmed himself in some way to increase his own size." This is a kiddy movie, so I won't spend the next ten pages explaining the blatant violation of the first law of thermodynamics, the conservation of matter. Let's just move on...
Ok, with this first face-down by Megalon and Jet Jaguar, the final battle of the movie officially begins. There will be two other players coming in later, but the overall battle is the same. It just might be the longest single monster battle in any Godzilla movie, lasting a full 35 minutes total out of a 90 minute run time. The setting is a barren valley of scrub brush and dirt, oh so typical of the cost-efficient locations favored by the cheaper Godzilla movies. The human cast members are really just here to watch from a ridge and ohh and ahh.
The fight has four separate and distinct rounds to it...
Round 1) Jet Jaguar versus Megalon
Round 2) JJ versus Megalon and Gigan
Round 3) JJ and Godzilla versus Megalon and Gigan
Round 4) JJ and Godzilla versus Megalon
I am not about to go blow-by-blow here, as I just don't feel like it today, but I will give a summary and some key points.
Round 1) Clearly, this one is going to Megalon. Jet Jaguar has only his fists, versus Megalon's array of drills and lasers. Here we see that JJ has headlights in his eyes, to light up the dark terrain. The high point of the round is when Megalon flies around JJ in a tight circle, causing JJ to spin around until he GETS DIZZY AND FALLS OVER!!! He's a freakin' robot!!! How does a robot get dizzy? We also get a way-too-long shot of the two of them rolling around on the ground together, arms locked, legs all intertwined, faces close. Hmmm...
Round 2) The addition of Gigan to the Megalon side just makes it a worse hair day for Jet Jaguar. Gigan flies in from outer space, and Jet Jaguar looks from one to the other with a look that says, "Oh, shit." This round is quite short, but brutal for the good side. JJ gets mangled in short order and Gigan is ready to deliver the killing blow when Godzilla finally arrives.
Round 3) The ultimate battle royale as Godzilla rushes in to save Jet Jaguar. Godzilla stares off the two monsters and helps Jet Jaguar up. JJ shakes his hand (!!!) and nods as if to say, "Thanks, buddy, I was about to wear my ass for a hat!" This round goes back and forth, with all four combatants taking and giving hits. Godzilla, of course, gives the best account, and Jet Jaguar spends most of the round on his butt moaning like Pony Boy. In this battle, Godzilla tears up a tree and uses the dirty roots to flick dirt in Megalon's eyes. That's the first time I have seen Godzilla use the surrounding terrain features in a fight. After getting thumped enough, Gigan bails, flying back into space to lick his wounds.
Hmmm...what are you doing?
Round 4) With Gigan having run away, Megalon is left to face Godzilla and Jet Jaguar alone, and the results are as expected. The whole Godzilla-sliding-on-his-tail kick thing is legendary, so I won't detail it here. Needless to say, it's worth the price of the rental just to see it. In the end, a brutalized Megalon dives into a hole in the ground and burrows back to Seatopia to lick his wounds. Godzilla and Jet Jaguar exchange hand shakes and manly head-bobs again (!!!).
JJ and Godzilla bond.
Back in Seatopia, the Leader realizes that his plans are in trouble. He orders all the exits to Seatopia sealed and Megalon recalled. This is where the movie leaves them, still down there, still a threat, ready for a sequel (which never came). I guess we could just continue to nuclear test them to death, that seems to be working well.
Back on the field of battle, Godzilla goes away, presumably back to Monster Island, but maybe off to Tokyo to stomp it for old time's sake. Jet Jaguar clanks over to our humans. Shrinking back to his original six-foot size (laws of physics be damned!), he returns himself to Goro's command. Clearly, the sequels are set as Goro says that Jet Jaguar will be back to save Japan if he is needed. They walk off into the sunset as the "Jet Jaguar theme song" plays. Kill me. Seriously.
As the music plays they walk along. Kenny looks up at Jet Jaguar dreamily and says, "You're so cool. Would you be my dad?". Rex looks at him and says, "Hmmm...nice thighs. Do you work out? Say, do you want to go out some time?". And Goro looks at him and says, "Dude, you sure got your ass handed to you back there. Really, if Godzilla hadn't been there I'd be picking up nuts and bolts from your shattered carcass all night long. Maybe I should invent some cool laser beams and missile launchers for you. Next time you might not get so lucky, eh?".
The end. I loved this movie.
[Editor Pam: Not a bad movie for anybody under 8, but it'll seem pretty lame to anybody older. It always annoys me when filmmakers use impossible plot devices like having Jet Jaguar grow and shrink at will, because they know their target audience is too young to spot them as being impossible. It's very disrespectful to the people who are going to be watching your movie.]
Bonus! Some handy statistics for you:
2: Number of cigarettes smoked by our cast.
9: Number of cast members with speaking parts (excluding stock footage).
Written in August 2004 by Nathan Decker and edited by Pam Burda.
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that's between you and the vengeful wrath of your personal god...