What's “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog”?
Normally, “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog” is a weekly column where we try to help anime fans decide on whether or not they'd like to try out a new series by providing additional info and cultural context. But this week, because the fans demanded it, we're branching out to explore part of Crunchyroll's live-action catalog with one of the most infamous films in Toho's flagship giant monster franchise.
What's Godzilla vs. Megalon?
Godzilla vs. Megalon is a 1973 tokusatsu (“special effects”) film with direction by Jun Fukuda, special effects direction by Teruyoshi Nakano, and music by Riichirô Manabe. It is the lucky 13th film in the Godzilla film franchise, which features a giant, radioactive, atomic fire-breathing movie monster that is alternatively a terrible menace or a protector of the Earth, depending on the film. Crunchyroll describes Godzilla vs. Megalon as follows:
For a while, things have been peaceful on Earth. When the undersea kingdom of Seatopia is threatened by Japan's atomic testing, the Seatopians fear for the survival of their civilization; they send their secret weapon, Megalon, to destroy Tokyo and eliminate the human race. Earth gets one last chance when the sleeping Godzilla is rudely awakened. It becomes a titanic tag-team of apocalyptic dimensions as Godzilla and robot superhero Jet Jaguar fight Megalon and Gigan in an all-out rubber suit rumble to determine Earth’s fate.
Godzilla vs. Megalon is considered by some purists as the nadir of the Showa era Godzilla films because of its shoe-string budget, thin plot, and general ridiculousness. But for those with an appetite for cheesy movies, Godzilla vs. Megalon has a lot to offer, including but not limited to cool gadgets, car chases, and some wonderfully expressive monster suits.
The Joys of Jun Fukuda.
While the contributions of director Ishiro Honda, composer Akira Ifukube, and special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya cannot be understated in terms Godzilla's shape in film history, director Jun Fukuda is also largely responsible for shaping the public image of Godzilla in the Sixties and Seventies.
While Honda also gets the credit for first casting Godzilla in a positive light in 1964's Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster, Fukuda's films – such as 1966's Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (aka Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster) and 1967's Son of Godzilla – expanded on this theme, painting a kinder, gentler picture of the Big G that emphasizes the monster's heroic qualities and kid-friendly attributes.
When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Use Stock Footage.
The principal photography for Godzilla vs. Megalon was completed in just three weeks of shooting, so to pad out the movie's run time, the film recycles copious amounts of stock footage from earlier Toho giant monster films. Sharp-eyed fans will spot scenes lifted from Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster, Destroy All Monsters, Godzilla vs. Gigan, and even a tiny bit cribbed from War of the Gargantuas, just to name a few.
Despite these shortcuts, Godzilla vs. Megalon has several stand-out, original action sequences, such as when Megalon destroys a hydroelectric dam and the final tag-team monster bash at the film's conclusion. The dynamic and dramatic editing by Michiko Ikeda also goes a long way toward papering over the film's general lack of budget.
Godzilla Stomps the United States.
Godzilla vs. Megalon is famous in the United States for reasons that have more to do with its marketing than its aesthetic qualities. In 1977, the movie premiered on prime time NBC complete with interstitial segments hosted by comedian John Belushi dressed in a Godzilla costume, a role that Belushi reprised from an earlier skit that aired on Saturday Night Live that same year.
The American movie poster of Godzilla vs. Megalon is also the 2nd most misleading of the entire franchise, beat out only by Mothra vs. Godzilla, which was originally marketed in the United States as Godzilla vs. The Thing. In 1991, Godzilla vs. Megalon and Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster also earned the dubious honor of being lampooned on the cult classic movie-riffing show, Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Coverage Not Available in Seatopia.
Crunchyroll currently streams Godzilla vs. Megalon in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the United States Minor Outlying Islands. The film is available both in the original Japanese with English subtitles and also dubbed in English.
If you're curious about the state of dubbing during the 1970's, be sure to check out the English language version. It's a treat. Godzilla vs. Megalon was also released on Bluray and DVD by Media Blasters in 2012. At the time, these releases were plagued by difficulties and delays, and they now appear to be out-of-print.
If you're in the mood for a groovy film that reads like a time capsule of the excesses of Seventies fashion and psychedelic set design mixed with rubber monsters and American actor Robert Dunham not even trying to hide his tattoos, consider giving Godzilla vs. Megalon a try. It's a joyous little slice of kaiju history, and one that is best enjoyed with popcorn and friends.
Special thanks go out to all the Godzilla fans who voted in the Twitter poll to make this installment of "Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog" a reality. Is there a series in Crunchyroll's catalog that you think needs some more love and attention? Please send in your suggestions via e-mail to [email protected] or post a Tweet to @gooberzilla. Your pick could inspire the next installment of “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog”!
Paul Chapman is the host of The Greatest Movie EVER! Podcast and GME! Anime Fun Time.