|Godzilla vs. Megalon (Power
Multimedia / Tailent Video & Multimedia)
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|Japanese Title: Gojira Tai Megaro (“Godzilla vs. Megalon”)
Director: Jun Fukuda (Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla)
Original Release Year: 1973
Running Time: 82 minutes
DVD Released By: Power Multimedia / Tailent Video & Multimedia (Taiwan)
Audio: English mono, Mandarin mono
Extras: Summary (in Chinese)
Subtitles: Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese
Closed Captions: None
UPC #: 4714295990149
Catalog #: PW0184-006D
Status: Out of print
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|The Film: Goro, his friend Hiroshi, and his young brother Rokuro are picnicking near a lake. However, their countryside repose is interrupted by an earthquake! The once-tranquil waters of the lake are drained into a fissure that opens up in the lakebed. They learn from a news bulletin on the radio that widespread violent earthquakes are the result of underground nuclear testing. Even Godzilla and the other titans living on Monster Island are shaken by the seismic event.
Upon returning home, Goro and company find that their art-deco bachelor pad has been ransacked! They confront two intruders, who escape. The inventor Goro is relieved to find that his latest creation, a colorful humanoid robot called Jet Jaguar, has not been damaged or stolen. After the construction of Jet Jaguar is complete, however, the mysterious men return and take control of the robot.
It turns out that the robot-knappers are agents of the Kingdom of Seatopia. Like Atlantis, Seatopia is a legendary continent that sank into the ocean thousands of years ago. This advanced subterranean society has been severely damaged by the recent nuclear tests. Vowing revenge on the surface world, they invoke their monster guardian Megalon. The Seatopian agents use Jet Jaguar to guide Megalon to their targets.
Eventually, Goro manages to regain control of the robot and dispatches him to Monster Island. Using some kind of robot / monster sign language, he convinces Godzilla to come to Japan. However, it’s a long swim, and Megalon is still wreaking havoc! Flying ahead to confront the monster himself, Jet Jaguar grows to giant size and engages Megalon. The battle escalates when the evil space monster Gigan is summoned to assist the Seatopian cause. Godzilla himself finally arrives to even the odds and engage in an all-out monster tag-team battle!
Godzilla vs. Megalon is widely considered the low point of the Godzilla series. Like most of the 1970s Godzilla films, it’s a low-budget quickie made for kids. Megalon’s attack on Tokyo consists entirely of stock footage (including the same Mobil station that is destroyed in half of Toho’s kaiju eiga). As a cost-cutting measure, the monster battle is staged on a barren landscape. Jet Jaguar bears an obvious resemblance to Ultraman (who was immensely popular on Japanese television at the time). Megalon (a bipedal beetle with drill arms) and Gigan (a one-eyed cybernetic bird / dinosaur) also look like TV Ultra-kaiju. Godzilla has long since ceased being the nuclear terror of the 1950s and '60s. In this film, he has a simplified design with a friendly puppy-dog face. He also shakes hands with his robot friend and utilizes such silly tactics as the infamous sliding-tail drop kick.
Ironically, Godzilla vs. Megalon is probably one of the most widely seen Godzilla films in the States due to it being public domain for many years. The film’s negative reputation is somewhat undeserved. Its status as a VHS bargain-bin staple means that most people have only seen the film looking its worst. This is a shame. There’s also a lot to enjoy in it. There are a few impressive effects, such as the draining of the lake and Megalon’s destruction of a dam. The entire final third of the movie is dominated by monster battles. Godzilla vs. Megalon, in spite of its many shortcomings, manages to be a colorful, fun, and entertaining popcorn flick.
A welcome bonus for U.S. fans is that this version of Godzilla vs. Megalon is UNCUT. Until recently, the film was only shown in an edited form in the States. The credits, Rokuro’s kidnapping, the deaths of the two Seatopian agents, and some dialogue scenes in the cab of a truck (with topless centerfolds hanging in the background) were cut. While these edits were not as intrusive as the ones made to Terror of Mechagodzilla (which was also released uncut on Taiwanese DVD), it’s always preferable to see the full version of a movie. Grade: C+
Video: Godzilla vs. Megalon is presented in cropped fullscreen. The sides of the original widescreen image have simply been eliminated, with no regard for composition. As such, speaking characters are sometimes out of the frame. Important action scenes also suffer. For example, when Jet Jaguar grows to giant size, he’s not even onscreen!
Most of the time, video quality is decent. There are intermittent speckles and lines, especially at the very beginning of the movie and during the stock footage action sequences. There’s also a fair amount of grain. Darker scenes are very murky and lacking in detail. At least color reproduction is good. Being bright and colorful is one of the film’s strong points, and this transfer at least tries to get it half right. Grade: C-
Audio: The English mono track is okay. There are a few crackles and pops here and there, but it’s no big deal. The music and sound effects are well reproduced. The dubbing isn’t bad, except for the annoyingly shrill voice given to Rokuro (called “Roku-chan” in the film, and re-christened “Roxanne” on Mystery Science Theater 3000). The quality of the Mandarin track is comparable, though the voices are recorded louder and there are a few added music cues and oddly re-looped sound effects. Grade: C
Extras/Menus: The only “extra” (I’m hesitant to call it that, since it adds nothing of value) is a brief summary. It’s one page of text, all in Chinese. There is also a “Copyright” (sure thing!) screen, also in Chinese. The menus are basic and static, with most of the text in Chinese. Grade: F
Final Analysis: Sadly enough, this mediocre, cut-rate disc manages to outperform both U.S. editions of the film (from Alpha Video and Passion Productions). Being uncut, and superior in both audio and video to either of those versions, earns this “Real Action Godzilla” disc a reluctant recommendation (until a quality, licensed region 1 DVD is released). Final Grade: C
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