BAKER STREET

by Eric J Baker

The Japanese are famously ahead of the rest of us, what with their robot secretaries and automated assembly lines and soft-porn game shows. But a little-seen, underappreciated work of East Asian cinema from 1973 suggests they have long been more accepting of alternative lifestyles as well. It’s a film demonstrating that the bond between two men can be as strong as any other and that love conquers even the greatest obstacles.

The name of this unheralded art-house gem is Godzilla vs. Megalon.

Not gay MMA fighter Norifumi Yamamoto has nothing to do with this story other than being Japanese. I just figured a shirtless dude was obligatory, given the title of this post.

Yeah, I’m talking about the same movie that once served as Mystery Science Theater 3000 fodder. I am also aware that the phrases, “one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen” and “Godzilla versus Megalon,” have often appeared in the same sentence. Well, people once said those things about The Godfather,* which is now universally considered a masterpiece.

It’s time to give Godzilla his due.

Alternate title: "Brokeback Monster"

On the surface, Godzilla vs. Megalon is about a bunch of monsters (or, if you’re a dried-up, bitter old cynic, a bunch of guys in rubber suits) smashing buildings and throwing each other around. But, in quieter moments, it is also about two guys living together and happily raising a son with nary a female in sight. The house they share is kitschy and full of pop-art inspired décor. They go on picnics together. One guy is macho, wears a loud suit jacket, and drives a convertible. The other guy is introverted, wears sweaters, and builds artificially intelligent robots. The filmmakers never say so, but it’s obvious: These guys are a gay couple.

In western films, the gay couple must obsess over their gayness. Their homosexuality has to be the central theme of their story. In Godzilla vs. Megalon, it is simply so, and onward the plot marches. And that’s one reason the Japanese are already chilling in the second half of the 21st century, waiting for the rest of the world to catch up.

Godzilla vs. Megalon’s postmodern family. You’ll get there, America.

After our heroes go for an outing by the lake, imagine a world without underground nuclear testing, and discuss whether putting red buttons on a sport jacket is a fashion faux pas, the robot they built reprograms itself to become a giant (!) and joins forces with Godzilla, a fire-breathing atomic dinosaur, to battle Megalon, a 150-foot-tall cockroach with drills for hands, and Gigan, a birdlike cyborg from outer space with a buzz-saw blade in its chest. In other words, the subtle tone established earlier in the film is sustained throughout. The whole thing wraps with a lovely “If you love someone, set him free (especially if he is a robot)” message, backed by a catchy pop song.

For the Godzilla fans who clicked here expecting monsters, here you go: (L to R) Godzilla, Gigan, Jet Jaguar, and Megalon.

Alas, this empowering, ahead-of-its-time story is the only Godzilla flick in the original series (1954-75) never properly released on DVD in the west. Home entertainment outfit Media Blasters previously announced a blu-ray edition for December, but that appears to have fallen through. Some insiders claim licensing problems with the Japanese studio. That is such a yawn-inducing thing to type, though, that I’m forced to invent a more scandalous reason: A secret gang led by ghey-loathing co-conspirators Rick Santorum and Ugandan MP David Bahati funneled blood money to right-wing lobbyist thugs who, in turn, have threatened to break Media Blaster’s kneecaps unless they bury this one in the vault forever and never speak of it again.

Good work, Rick. Mission accomplished. Now you can get back to slamming your dick in the closet door in a fruitless attempt to chase away those dirty, sexy thoughts you keep having.

When I googled ‘Sexy Japanese men,’ this picture of actor Takeshi Kaneshiro showed up. God, please don’t ever let my wife look up my search history. “Honest, Hon, it’s for PFC!”

I should probably close this story by boasting that Criterion, those cinema elitists who deal in the likes of Fellini, Bergman and early Kubrick, are releasing a blu-ray collector’s edition of the original Godzilla (1954) next month, thus vindicating my oft-stated assertion that said film is a powerful allegory for the dangers of nuclear proliferation and is not just another monster flick from the ‘50s.

But, to celebrate the holidays and mark my rare Monday appearance here at PFC, I’d rather end with a picture of lovely Japanese actress Rei Kikukawa. She co-starred in 2004’s Godzilla: Final Wars, which I am pretty sure will never be part of any Criterion Collection. Then again, neither is The Godfather.

* Disclaimer: I made that up

 

Rei Kikukawa says: Write your local congressperson and demand Godzilla vs. Megalon on DVD.