Blast from the Past: Godzilla vs. Megalon
My dad put up with a lot from me when I was a kid in the ’70s. It’s not that I was a bad kid, but he was more of a Roy Rogers and Lone Ranger kind of guy while I kept wanting Star Trek and Star Wars toys between dragging him to science fiction and horror movies.
In the summer of 1976, when I turned seven, I made him take me to yet another film I’m sure he did not want to see. We parked downtown and walked the distance to the only local theater that showed foreign films.
I don’t remember what it was that drew me to his movie. Perhaps I had heard of the main character, or maybe I had been mesmerized by the newspaper advertisement artwork which showed two giant monsters battling it out atop the World Trade Center towers (a scene which is nowhere to be found in the movie).
I’m talking about the epic Godzilla vs. Megalon, originally released in Japan in 1973 though it didn’t make it to the U.S. until 1976.
This is not everyone’s favorite Godzilla movie. In fact, it tends to be one of the lower rated of the big guy’s series of films, but for the seven-year-old me, it was simply awesome. See, this was my first Godzilla experience, and I would be something of a fan for the rest of my life.
And what wasn’t to like? First off, you’ve got the big guy himself, Godzilla, leading a monster-packed story with the likes of Gigan, a beaked and hooked horror; Jet Jaguar, a robot who can perform martial arts and change size (and looking vaguely like a later generation’s Power Rangers); and the other star of the title, Megalon, a giant bug-like monster with a star-shaped spike sticking out of its head and some kind of earth-digging drills in place of hands or claws. Even Anguirus makes an appearance, a somewhat rare site, with his dinosaur-like body with armored plates and spikes sticking out everywhere, along with Rodan, a flying, dragon-like beast.
Then you’ve atomic weapons tests, an undersea civilization (called Seatopia, if one can believe it), the infamous Monster Island, a little bit of spy work, air battle, and plenty of monster-stomping action.
The tale revolves around the Seatopians (stop laughing) trying to use Megalon to bring vengeance upon the rest of the world for atomic tests which have damaged the oceans. Godzilla and Jet Jaguar, along with a handful of humans, team up to take on the villainous Megalon, but Gigan steps in to also play a bad guy.
Unfortunately, this movie is usually not a fan favorite. Bad special effects combined with overuse of stock footage have hurt this movie. But come on! It was the ’70s! And as a kid back then, I loved the stuff. Plus, being my first Godzilla movie, the stock footage was new to me, and the special effects didn’t seem any worse than a lot of movies and TV shows I had seen (though Star Wars would be coming in a year to raise everyone’s expectations).
Also, Godzilla vs. Megalon does feature one of the most famous Godzilla scenes of all time. I’m talking about the amazing flying kick Godzilla does against Megalon during the big fight towards the end of the movie.
Godzilla vs. Megalon was the 13th film in the franchise, and was part of the original Showa period of Godzilla films (roughly 1954 to 1975). Since then there have been many, many more movies featuring the big guy and his friends and enemies, though Megalon has rarely appeared except in a handful of video games. With this year’s release of a latest Godzilla film, dubbed Godzilla Resurgence in the U.S. but titled Shin Godzilla in Japan, it seems giant monsters aren’t going anywhere, and Godzilla remains as popular as ever.
I can imagine if my dad were still around, he would probably be shaking his head and occasionally giving me funny looks out of the corners of his eyes. But hey, Godzilla is in his own way sort of a modern Lone Ranger. Dad probably wouldn’t get that, but the fans will.