Saturday Afternoon Matinee ’76

I saw this on a double bill with THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION way back as a Tadzilla, and even then I knew the Godzilla series was not what it once had been. Suffice to say, Toho’s GODZILLA VS MEGALON, directed by Jun Fukuda in 1973, was originally intended to be a film solely about the robot hero, Jet Jaguar, but at the last minute, the Big G. was brought in as insurance, and the whole thing was shot in three weeks! Which doesn’t surprise one if you’ve seen what is widely considered the Worst Godzilla Movie Ever. Cinefantastique trashed it as did kaiju fans, mourning the shameless stock footage, and especially the awful muppet-faced Godzilla suit, soundtracked by a waddling duck march amid the general kiddie shenanigins. Yet the film was a US matinee hit (the infamous poster above was whipped up to exploit Dino’s KING KONG) with even Vincent Canby praising the transformation of Godzilla from villain to hero. NBC premiered the film the following year in a one hour slot (!) cutting it to the bone as John Belushi, wearing the suit used for SNL and HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD, presided over the remains as goofy host (and where is that amazing footage? I can’t even find a photo anywhere on the web….). While fans did major face-palms, this broadcast exposed a wide national audience to the Japanese giant leading to the success of Mattel’s Shogun Warriors figures, which included a rather dopey Godzilla. Still, GODZILLA VS MEGALON is undeniable fun, with non-stop action; hilarious dubbing (“I guess he realized he had to help the monster, so he just programmed himself in some way to increase his own size”); one excellent destructive set-piece as Megalon takes out a dam; and the most choreographed, WWE-style battles in any Godzilla film. Jet Jagaur!

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8 Responses to “Saturday Afternoon Matinee ’76”

  1. The first and only time I’ve seen GODZILLA VS MEGALON was on opening weekend, and no amount of acid could make it seem any better than it was.

    GIANT SPIDER INVASION, however, I have very fond memories of. I drove down from Niagara University to visit friends at Buffalo University, and we loaded up the car with brews and a few joints and headed for a local drive-in where it was playing with NIGHT OF THE COBRA WOMAN. The VW Beetles outfitted with eight hairy legs was an amazing sight, as was Alan Hale whose first line is, “Hello, little buddy!” (re: GILLIGAN’S ISLAND). Good times, good times.

    • christian Says:

      My sister and I bailed on THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION because spiders creeped us out. I still haven’t seen the whole thing. Spiders still creep me out.

      GODZILLA VS MEGALON still looked awesome on the big screen to me, and I have an excellent widescreen version whose subtitles are far more literate than the Hong Kong dubbing. A new DVD release is imminent.

      And I do love the “Highway Road” cue from Richiro Manabe’s score:

  2. I love this flick. Megalon, with his mouth-dung grenades and implausible drill-arm action – Godzilla launching himself across the Kanto Plain feet first – Jet Jaguar! I’d heard rumors of a legal battle over the resemblance of Jet Jaguar to Ultraman, but a cursory google search finds nothing. Urban legend, I guess. The MST3K episode featuring this flick is legendary.

  3. christian Says:

    Since Jet Jaguar was the result of a Toho contest, it’s doubtful there was a lawsuit as Godzilla also showed up in an episode of Ultraman in the 60’s…Jet Jaguar was way cool, and the new Green Goblin sure bears a resemblance…I haven’t seen the MT3K version, it’s almost too easy…

  4. i’m fairly certain i haven’t actually seen this

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