Note: I'm reviewing the Special Edition version of this movie, which has never been officially released by Media Blasters. It's hard to find, but worth the search.
Back in 2011 Media Blasters acquired the rights to a couple of Godzilla films from Toho Studios and started preparing deluxe editions of Destroy All Monsters and Godzilla Vs. Megalon. They arranged some nice extras for each film including commentary tracks, featurettes and extensive still galleries. Sounds great, right? They mastered both releases, pressed a bunch of copies and put out Destroy All Monsters first. Unfortunately, Media Blasters did not clear the rights to the stills that they included. Still images have copyrights too, and when Toho found out that they were not pleased. They told Media Blasters to pull all of the copies of Destroy All Monsters with unauthorized images. Some got out and they're a collector's item.
But what about Godzilla Vs. Megalon? They had the disc all ready to go. They had no choice but to delay the release. They went back and wiped ALL of the extras off the disc (including the ones that didn't violate anyone's copyright), remaster it, and then put it out. And that's what people have been able to purchase since last August, a bare bones copy of the movie.
Fast forward to October, 2012. Some lucky fan bought a copy for GVM, popped it into his player and discovered that he received the disc as it was originally intended, extras, unauthorized stills, and all. It was posted and soon others started reporting that they too were able to buy a copy of the movie that included extras. It is hit or miss... some people were able to get the SE version of the film from one retailer (or e-tailer) while others purchasing at about the same time received the bare bones edition. To make it harder, there is absolutely no way to tell which version you're holding unless you open it up and pop it into a DVD player.
I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a copy of the SE, and that is what's being reviewed here.
Godzilla Vs. Megalon has a rather poor reputation among Godzilla fans. The movie is goofy, silly, and the plot is advanced by random events that just sort of happen for no real good reason. The story doesn't make much sense either. But I happen to love it. It's pure escapist fun. Bright colors, huge monsters, Godzilla whacking the crap out of his enemy with a tree... what else could you want? I remember seeing the movie when I was very young and I ate it all up. (In my defense, I realized a lot of the plot devices were silly even then. I just didn't care.)
The underground kingdom of Seatroplis has been devastated by the testing of atomic bombs that the 'surface dwellers' have done and they've had enough. The leader of Seatropolis decides to send their god, the giant monster Megalon, to the surface to destroy all of the people living there. Before he can to that however, he needs a flying robot so he can guide his creature.
As luck would have it, an inventor named Goro has just completed his robot prototype named Jet Jaguar. Seatropolis agents attack the inventor and (eventually) manage to capture the robot. Megalon is then sent to the surface and Jet Jaguar leads him to a dam, which he destroys.
Goro, with the help of his nephew Rokuro and his friend Hiroshi, manage to retake control of Jet Jaguar however, and send him off to
Yeas, this film was made on the cheap. Eiji Tsuburaya who did the special effects on the earlier films had passed away and in addition the budget was very small. To cover these two holes a lot of footage from other movies is recycled which gives the film a cheap feel to it. That's the main reason that this is often listed as one of the worst Godzilla movies from the original run.
That doesn't mean you can't have a good time though. The key to enjoying this film is to just sit back not ask any questions. If you start wondering how Seatropolis knew that Goro was building a robot, or why they couldn't build one themselves, you're missing the point. It's just a goofy, fun, hilarious way to spend the afternoon. When Jet Jaguar sees trouble, he grows to 10 times his original size! That's cool. When the subterranean dwellers get into trouble they call alien from another star system faster than you can say "Deus Ex Machina." Who cares if it doesn't make sense, it got Gigan into the rumble, didn't it? Anyone who can still remember what it was like to be glued to the TV screen when you were 7 awed by the giant monster battle unfolding in your living room will get a kick out of this film.
This disc includes three, count 'em, three audio options: a stereo English dub, the original Japanese stereo track, and a newly created DD 5.1 track. I screened the film with the 5.1 track playing and it's decent but not perfect. The rears get quite a bit of use, especially during the fight scenes, but the mix isn't as precise as I would have liked. It's more of a wall of sound coming from the rear rather than discrete effects originating from specific corners of the room. The sub gets some time in though, and that's a great improvement to the movie.
The film arrives with a nice anamorphically enhanced 2.35:1 picture. I've never seen the film look so good before. After decades of being available (on VHS and DVD) only in washed out, soft prints this new release is a joy to watch. The colors are vivid, the lines are very sharp and the picture just pops. There is one flaw that keeps this from getting a higher rating. There are several times throughout the film where a single line of static appears. It always seems to happen during edits, so I'm sure this was a flaw with the master that Media Blasters received. Still, it mars an otherwise wonderful looking disc. (I've included a screen cap of the error below. Note the static at the very bottom. Sorry the image itself isn't more exciting.) (Update: Alert reader Dave C. says that this glitch "is most like a badly made cement join on the negative." Since it's always on the edits, it sounds very plausible.)
Here's why this disc is so much better than the bare bones version. The bonus items start off with an excellent commentary track with Steve Ryfle and DVDTalk reviewer Stuart Galbraith IV. Even if I didn't know Stuart I'd still recommend this track. The two scholars talk about the film's genesis, and how Jet Jaguar came to be, what was going on behind the scenes, and generally have a good time discussing the movie. There's a lot of information (including a mention of how Greenpeace came to be) but it's never dry or boring. Later in the track Mel Maron, who distributed the film in the
Next up is an interview (audio only) with Ted Thomas who was a voice actor on the dub track as well as the narrator. He talks about the art of dubbing and discusses the nuts and bolts of changing the language of a movie. It's a nice half-hour talk.
There's also a series of TV spots promoting the movie as well as various versions of the credits from the English dub, which was a nice thing to include. Rounding off the extras is a pretty impressive reel of stills that lasts over 13-minutes. It includes production stills, movie posters from various countries, and even the pages of a Godzilla Vs. Megalon comic book.
It is really too bad that this Special Edition version of the movie was never officially released. Media Blasters claim that it was a flub on the part of the duplicator who used the wrong file to make the film, while others on the Internet hypothesize that this was the company's way of using the discs they pressed before the plug was pulled. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter to fans who should be happy that the disc is available, if only on a very limited hit-or-miss basis. If you have any interest in this movie, go ahead a buy a copy from your favorite vendor... you might get lucky. This version with the extras comes highly recommended.