Back in 1966, Director Jun Fukuda had been taken aboard by Toho to create a Godzilla film that would capture the light tone of serial TV shows that had seized Japan’s imagination, in an attempt to capitalise on what TV could provide to casual audiences – The film was Ebirah Horror of the Deep. Fast forward to 1973 and TV has all but taken over the entertainment industry in Japan and, once again, Godzilla’s popularity is seemingly on the decline. In an event that made it seem as though history was repeating itself, Toho once again asked Jun Fukuda to direct a new Godzilla film that would draw the attention of the sorts of young audiences who were ensnared by popular Television – This film ended up being the one, the only and the infamous Godzilla vs Megalon.
Angered by humans performing nuclear tests on the ocean, a secret society of underground sea people send the monster known as Megalon to the surface world to wipe it out with the help of the space monster, Gigan. To stop the world from being destroyed, a scientist sends his robot, Jet Jaguar, to team up with Godzilla so that the two can fight the evil monsters and save the world.
Godzilla vs Megalon is an unusual entry in the franchise because of the wide spread criticism surrounding it, coupled with how many people – including some of its critics – tend to hold a soft spot in their heart for it. A lot of the criticism surrounding this film revolves around the budget which was obviously incredibly low. The entire film feels cheaper than any Godzilla film to precede it. Mainly, there is the (sadly) to be expected use of stock footage plaguing the film. Most obviously, some of the finale features footage from Godzilla vs Gigan, and a lot of the city destruction scenes are taken from any number of the previous entries that featured King Ghidorah since he and Megalon share a similar beam attack that makes the footage easy to mix together. In one comical scene, Megalon is fighting the air force and whenever he swats a plane out of the sky you can see that his drill arm is instead replaced with Gigan’s claw arm – well before Gigan is introduced into the film, I might add – for a few frames, which is another distracting use of stock footage. But that isn’t where the cheapness ends: Without fail, every single scene with a monster in the air will put the strings holding them up on display for all to see. In previous entries there had been only one shot or two where the film makers seemingly couldn’t hide the strings of flying monsters, but in Godzilla vs Megalon it is as though they didn’t even try to do that. On top of that, this might be the most un-immersive Godzilla film yet since it is overtly obvious you are watching men in rubber suits fight and not monsters. There is no sense of scale in this film and thus, despite the new designs for Godzilla, Megalon and Gigan all being unique and imposing individually, they all just look like idiots in suits when together. I think Jet Jaguar is the one to blame for this since he is a humanoid robot whose suit keeps wobbling and falling apart despite the fact he’s supposed to be made entirely of metal. Suffice it to say that when it comes to providing spectacle, Godzilla vs Megalon does little to deliver.
Aside from budgetary issues, one of the main flaws is that Godzilla’s main appearance in the film doesn’t happen in the film until 30 minutes before the end. After that he doesn’t reappear until twenty minutes before the ending. Baring in mind that the film is only roughly 80 minutes long, it’s very hard to describe this as a Godzilla film at all. Jet Jaguar is clearly the star here; The underdog who holds his own and saves the world by getting Godzilla’s help, and one has to wonder whether Jet Jaguar is nothing more than a shameless knock-off of another Japanese Kaiju known as Ultra Man, who was popular on television at the time of this films release. Personally, I think that’s exactly what Jet Jaguar is since Fukuda’s purpose as a director in the franchise has always been to compete with TV. As a side note, I have read theories that the film was meant to launch a Jet Jaguar series if the character proved popular enough – Despite Jet Jaguar being well regarded by the fanbase, this didn’t happen. However, a recently released anime called Godzilla Singular Point has started airing, and a lot of its marketing featured the return of Jet Jaguar for the first time since Godzilla vs Megalon. Just a fun bit of knowledge for you.
But for all the flaws of this film that are more numerous and apparent than all of its predecessors, I would never go as far to say that it is as bad as Godzilla Raids Again, All Monsters Attack or even Fukuda’s previous film, Godzilla vs Gigan. The reason is that this film is incredibly silly and, in the same vein of Godzilla vs Kong, accepts and owns this identity rather than fighting against it. The result is a film that knows what it wants to be and I consider that to be a good thing. And while, yes, what that film wants to be is complete childish schlock with a paper thin story that makes literally no sense at all, the benefit it gets is a sense of charm and heart that is unlike any of the other Showa Era movies.
Most of this charm comes through the action which is completely whacky and over-the-top. Megalon is capable of drilling under the ground and Gigan can fly, which is a challenging combo to counter for our heroes Godzilla and Jet Jaguar. Whether it’s Megalon kicking Gigan’ blade into Jet Jaguars chest, Jet Jaguar throwing Gigan into the air so that Godzilla can blast him with atomic breath, or Jet Jaguar holding Megalon in place so that Godzilla can perform his infamous dropkick, this movie’s action doesn’t disappoint despite the budgetary constraints. Much like King Kong vs Godzilla, there is a lot of creativity at play that makes the action memorable despite the previously mentioned issues of the monster suits not really being all that immersive.
Although this may be one of the worst Godzilla films ever made, the fact that it embraces that fact is what makes it stand out to me and is what elevates it above films that might be objectively better in other areas. For that reason I would confidently crown this the best of the worst Godzilla movies since, at the end of the day, this movie was made for children and when I first saw this as a child I was enthralled and considered it my favourite Godzilla film. Say what you want about how bad the effects are, how meaningless the plot is, how shallow the characters are and how this film exists for literally no reason other than to have Godzilla team up with a robot to fight alien monsters… It still succeeds, in the dumbest possible way, at entertaining an audience. And if that means Godzilla vs Megalon is a ‘so bad that it’s good’ type of film then so be it. I personally would agree, and wouldn’t see it as an entirely bad thing. So yes, I would recommend this film and would rate it higher on the list below than you might be expecting.
At the end of every Godzilla review, I rate the films I have reviewed so far from best to worst. Find the updated list below:
- Destroy All Monsters (1968)
- Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965)
- King Kong vs Godzilla (1963)
- Mothra vs Godzilla (1964)
- Godzilla (1954)
- Ebirah Horror of the Deep (1966)
- Son of Godzilla (1967)
- Godzilla vs Megalon (1973)
- Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster (1964)
- Godzilla vs Hedorah (1971)
- Godzilla vs Gigan (1972)
- All Monsters Attack (1969)
- Godzilla Raids Again (1955)
Funny, I did grow up watching a lot of the Japanese monster movies on TV but there are actually a fair few of the Toho Godzilla films that I haven’t seen…this being one of them, I’m sure. Strange thing is, I didn’t realise that Godzilla Raids Again was considered one of the worst entries…I actually kind of like it to be honest!
Your ranking is very interesting, for me Godzilla 1954 is far an ahead at the top – but everyone’s preferences differ. I actually rewatched King Kong vs Godzilla last night, that is such a fun, silly but entertaining film…I can’t help but chuckle (good naturedly) when Kong gets “high” on the berry juice!
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Raids Again has a really fun finale, but for me the rest of it feels to generic and tiresome to make it worth it. But each to their own! And I do love the original 1954 movie a lot, I guess my preference leans towards the more absurd Godzilla movies. As for the brilliant King Kong vs Godzilla… Godzilla vs Megalon is like a team up version of that given how dumb and tongue in cheek it is. I mean it’s cheaper, and a lot crappier but no less fun.