Riichiro Manabe

Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973, Fukuda Jun)

Godzilla vs. Megalon is madness. There are two distinct portions of the film and both of them are crazy. Initially, these portions might more seem stupid than crazy, but they’re crazy. Director Fukuda gets to make an espionage thriller and a Godzilla movie where Godzilla communicates with the other monsters. He even shakes hands with the humans’ emissary, a wimpy giant robot named Jet Jaguar who Godzilla constantly has to save, which is awesome. And Godzilla is portrayed as the tough good guy. It’s nuts.

The setup is real simple. Kawase Hiroyuki is the adorable little brother of giant robot inventor Sasaki Katsuhiko. Sasaki doesn’t know the robot will grow, but the evil undersea espionage agents do so they kidnap Kawase and Saskai. Luckily, Sasaki’s best friend is a charismatic troubleshooter with a fast car and a cool leather jacket. Hayashi Yutaka takes the role seriously, which makes it all work. There are practically no other characters. Japan’s apparently empty at this point in Godzilla history.

Then come the monsters. Giant robot man, giant bug, giant other space bug, Godzilla. And a weird, friendly but still dangerous Godzilla. It’s a rush job, but the result is pleasant. Since Megalon asks the viewer to think about Godzilla as a relatable character, it’s important to have his visual “character” work. It’s not like the mask is particularly animated.

Excellent photography from Aizawa Yuzuru, excellent editing from Ikeda Michiko throughout, in both the action thriller and the giant monster sections. Some poorly inserted footage from previous Godzilla movies hurts the flow of the action sequences–which also have to deal with the problem of new monster Megalon, who looks real dumb–but Fukuda keeps it moving. He likes working with the scale of the giant monster battles. There’s some rather good miniature work in Megalon too.

Megalon is a lot of dumb fun. Thoughtfully constructed dumb fun.



Directed by Fukuda Jun; screenplay by Fukuda, based on a story by Kimura Takeshi and Sekizawa Shin’ichi; director of photography, Aizawa Yuzuru; edited by Ikeda Michiko; music by Manabe Riichirô; production designer, Honda Yoshifumi; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Sasaki Katsuhiko (Goro), Kawase Hiroyuki (Rokuro), Hayashi Yutaka (Jinkawa), Tomita Kôtarô (Lead Seatopian Agent), Ôtsuki Ulf (Seatopian Agent) and Robert Dunham (Emperor Antonio of Seatopia).

Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971, Banno Yoshimitsu)

There are two types of people in the world. People who like Godzilla vs. Hedorah and people who do not. I am in the former category. I think director Banno knows how to do what he wants to do, which is make an impassioned environmental statement with a Godzilla movie. Banno asks the audience to humor the film for a while and he incentivizes along the way–there are these reassuring odd-ball segments (somehow the news briefs are almost as strange as the animated transition sequences)–he promises it will pay off. It does.

During that humoring period, Banno tries to explain how the film is going to work. How it should be consumed. Godzilla as a symbol of Japan, of the Japanese people. He’s old-fashioned, but he’s fun-loving. He’s got a hop in his step. He’s a seventies man. Banno gets there through an annoying little kid. The kid gets less annoying, but only because Banno pairs the seven year-old lead (his name’s Kawase Hiroyuki) with his uncle’s love interest (the twenty-three year-old Mari Keiko) in the last act. This move presumably to reward all the older brothers who got stuck either bringing younger siblings with or to the film. Banno’s a considerate guy. He knows the audience. He says, let’s have this unpleasant talk about pollution. In a Godzilla movie. Better than just in a Godzilla movie, but in a good one. It’s a technically superior giant monster movie. It’s awesome.

Again, it’s because of how the film targets its audience. It acknowledges its limited reach–people who see Godzilla movies–but it’s excited to have that reach, excited to have that audience. Banno rejoices in getting to do his message in this format.

Now, the big dripping brown mess in the middle of the room. Hedorah, the radioactive, poopy sludge monster. It’s a terrible costume on the guy. The giant monster fight scenes are excellent–the miniature designers, the practical effects guys, cinematographer Manoda Yôichi, Banno, everything except the actual suit. They’ve got a great sense of scale with everything else, but not that suit. It looks like Zombie Sweetums.

But it drips. It drips toxic waste, which looks like poo. It shoots poop at Godzilla. After Banno has set him up as the symbol of Japan. Hedorah is Japan’s waste. Banno tells the audience to feel bad about themselves.

And there’s lots more with metaphors, visual and narrative ones. Banno goes all out. He’s proud of the film; everyone involved should be proud of it. Even Kawase, who I kind of picked on a little, but he’s fine. The role is really annoying, but he’s not. He doesn’t make the role not annoying, but he doesn’t make it worse. There, with that qualified retraction, I feel better.

Godzilla vs. Hedorah. I am a fan.



Directed by Banno Yoshimitsu; written by Banno and Kimura Takeshi; director of photography, Manoda Yôichi; edited by Kuroiwa Yoshitami; music by Manabe Riichirô; production designer, Inoue Yasuyuki; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Yamauchi Akira (Dr. Yano), Kimura Toshie (Toshie), Kawase Hiroyuki (Ken), Shiba Toshio (Yukio), and Mari Keiko (Miki).

This film is also discussed in Sum Up | Godzilla, Part One: Showa.
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