Review:
All Monsters Attack (1969) [Maron Films]

Class: Staff
Author: Miles Imhoff
Score: (2/5)
Published:
November 10, 2005 [Review May Contain Spoilers]

What can I say about All Monsters Attack, more commonly known in the United States as Godzilla's Revenge? Hmm... to sum up the movie in one word: "flawless". Now, try to imagine me saying that while rolling my eyes, lilting my voice, and crossing my fingers behind my back. I guess there is no fitting adjective I can think of for this movie. Maybe "weird" works. But you'll ask: "Isn't this Ishiro Honda? Doesn't he know how to make a Godzilla film?" My answer is simple. A wise, anonymous reviewer on another movie site once stated, in reference to an Akira Kurosawa film, that he does not "blindly endorse" every one of that director's films. Let me say the same about Ishiro Honda. Honda, from a critical standpoint, hit home runs quite frequently. However, he struck out on occasion: Destroy All Monsters (1968), All Monsters Attack, and Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975) are just three examples. So, what is All Monsters Attack, this strangely nonsensical, stock footage-collage of a pseudo-entry in the Godzilla franchise? To which demographic does it appeal? Is it truly the worst Godzilla movie of all time? In due time, the merits, or lack thereof, will be shown in their full details. Personally, I'm a sucker for this film on some level that I can't identify. In fact, it's far from my least favorite Godzilla film. It's quite a perplexing situation. So, let's examine, or more appropriately dissect, All Monsters Attack and figure out what it's really all about.

In a semi-industrial district in a dirty section of Tokyo, young Ichiro Miki and his friend Saichiko witnessed from a pedestrian bridge a car screeching into a turn. Ichiro (the world's first and possibly last Minilla fanboy) gleefully pointed out that the sound of the car was similar to the roar of Godzilla's son. As the duo continued home from school, Ichiro's father called out to him from a passing train and broke the news that he would be late that night. Nevertheless, Ichiro's spirit was still high, as he happily discovered a vacuum tube shortly thereafter. He came under great distress when, near an abandoned warehouse, the neighborhood bully Gabara appeared with his gang of miscreants and absconded with Ichiro's newly-discovered article. The troublemakers leveled a deal with their victim: if he dared to honk the horn on the motorcycle of a nearby billboard painter, then they would gladly return the item. Ichiro retreated in defeat.

Arriving at the home of the toy consultant Shinpei Inami, Ichiro was intrigued by the mini-computer that the inventor was developing. However, Ichiro found the prerecorded moon-landing program rather uninteresting, for he dreamed instead of being whisked away to the distant Monster Island, the home of most of the world's monsters. Leaving Shinpei somewhat intrigued by the suggestion, Ichiro returned home and learned that his mother too would be working late that night. In his solitude, he brought out his play radio and imagined he was communicating with a super computer. As he delved deeper into his fantasies, he began to dream...

In the vivid spectrum of his imagination, Ichiro soared to Monster Island, and witnessed a vicious struggle between Godzilla and three Kamacurae. Upon their defeat, Ichiro heard a strange roar. Exploring the source of the cry, Ichiro gazed in wonder at just a few of the monsters who inhabited the island: Gorosaurus, Manda, and Anguirus. As Ichiro continued to discover the secrets of this exotic playground, a giant condor swooped down and engaged Godzilla in battle. Unfortunately for the immense avian beast, he quickly becoming the next victim of Godzilla's thermonuclear heat ray. Suddenly, a Kamacuras began to approach Ichiro! The insidious insect was too close for comfort, and in his attempts to escape, the young boy fell into a deep pit. A mysterious vine began to descend into the chasm, and Ichiro was lifted to the surface by a new friend: Minilla. The human-sized son of Godzilla was concerned that Ichiro's parents would become concerned at his absence, but Ichiro sadly assured him that they would barely notice as they were rarely around. As the monster and the boy talked, a terrible creature appeared, and it turned out that this beast was the bully of Monster Island, appropriately named Gabara. After Ichiro's introduction to the Monster Island equivalent of his real-life bully, he began to awaken.

Shinpei explained to Ichiro that his mother would be held up even later that night, and that he would have to dine at his house. The lonely child wandered through his neighborhood and only just avoided another confrontation with Gabara and his gang. Trying to regain some courage, he wandered into the old warehouse, and discovered an abandoned wallet. Little did he realize that this was, in fact, the wallet of Okuda, one of the bank robbers who had recently stolen 50 million yen from a local bank. The robbers followed the boy to Shinpei's house. After dinner, Ichiro once again began to dream...

Gabara was waiting this time, and poor Ichiro was forced to run for his life! Finally, he escaped the monster and spotted Minilla leaning against a rock. The two lonely wanderers saw Godzilla, and witnessed his victory over Ebirah offshore. As Godzilla trudged back onto land, he faced Kumonga, and despite a temporary eye injury, he quickly dispensed with this challenger. As Godzilla finished off his opponent, Gabara returned. Minilla, mustering a great deal of courage, grew large and attempted to fight Gabara, to no avail. Eventually, he and Ichiro were forced to retreat. As they escaped, they witnessed a squadron of incoming jets, all of them poised to take down the monster king, yet not one of them escaped Godzilla's wrath. Hesitantly, Minilla grew to a monstrous size and approached his father, who wished to instruct his son on the art of utilizing his heat ray. Minilla's first two tries only generated a wispy heat ring, but when Godzilla stomped on Minilla's tail (now that was uncalled for), a full atomic ray burst forth. As Minilla was bursting with pride, Ichiro was suddenly kidnapped by a humanoid plant.

In truth, the bank robbers were abducting Ichiro in an attempt to recapture Okuda's wallet. Stealing Shinpei's car and bringing Ichiro to their warehouse hideout, the frightened child could only call for Minilla in his distress. And once more, he dreamt...

As Ichiro arrived at Monster Island, an epic battle was waging. Minilla was at Gabara's mercy, and the young monster was twitching helplessly on the ground due to the severity of his opponent's electrical attacks. Ichiro, rising to the occasion, tipped a boulder off the side of the cliff onto Minilla's tail (the weight difference concerning all factors of this scenario doesn't seem to make much sense, but by this point, the audience is blissfully unfazed). The resulting thermonuclear beam singed Gabara's face. Minilla ran to his father for help in the ensuing conflict, but Godzilla forced him to continue the fight alone. When Gabara began to electrocute Minilla once more however, Godzilla intervened and shot a beam at his foot. Minilla sank his teeth deep into the arm of his nemesis, and then retreated, reverting to the size of a human. Ichiro had concocted a plan, and when the time was right, he had Minilla leap off the cliff, grow to giant-size, and trigger a lever-like tree trunk. Gabara was on the other end, and he was sent hurtling into the air. As Godzilla congratulated Minilla, Gabara attacked once again. After a fierce exchange of blows, Godzilla threw Gabara over his shoulder and sent him running scared. Godzilla and Minilla celebrated their victory, and Ichiro awoke...

The bank robber Senbayashi castigated Ichiro for talking in his sleep, and threatened him with the sight of his knife. As the bank robbers prepared to take Ichiro as their "passport", the child remembered something Minilla said: "Godzilla says we have to fight our own battles and not be cowards." Gaining strength from his monstrous dream companions, he untied himself and escaped into the darker corners of the warehouse. While he fought off the knife-wielding Senbayashi with a fire extinguisher, Shinpei discovered his misplaced car outside and contacted the police. When the authorities arrived, Ichiro ran out of the warehouse, with the robbers in hot pursuit. Young Ichiro had outsmarted them and had risen to the occasion, and now the police could take over the situation.

The following day, the press bombarded Ichiro with questions, and he innocently explained that Minilla had helped him defeat the robbers. Shinpei provided further insight as to the fact that the creatures of Monster Island were Ichiro's symbolic heroes. As Shinpei continued to speak with the reporters, Ichiro caught up with Saichiko on her way to school. Gabara and his gang suddenly appeared, but Ichiro bravely fought the bully with his newfound courage and strength. Gabara was defeated. That wasn't the end of it, however. Ichiro honked the billboard painter's horn, causing him to tumble to the ground. With white paint covering his face, he ran after the troublemaker in close pursuit. Ichiro managed to meet his father, passing by on the train. Ichiro declared that he would admit to whatever the painter told him, and that he was sorry. His father stalled the man, while the confident boy reunited with Saichiko and Gabara's gang. Together, they would walk to school, with everyone having gained a newfound respect for one another.

Ok, so maybe the movie isn't all that bad. There are some noticeable flaws, but maybe there is something underneath those little faux pas. Tomonori Yazaki's acting is very underdeveloped, but he really can't be blamed. He's just a kid, for crying out loud! Even still, his Leave it to Beaver look and attitude add a dimension of charm to his role. Also, who can't identify with his character? As Godzilla fans, we are all in one way or another obsessed geeks. Perhaps some of us hide it better than others, but we can't really escape it. Ichiro Maki is the spirit of the Godzilla fan (compressed into one very tight, upsetting pair of shorts). Who among us hasn't tried to imitate Minilla's roar? That aside, you really can't help but like the kid. He's the underdog who triumphs, and we all had our bullies when we were younger, so who can't help but feel a little empowered by Ichiro's bid to rise above? Although admittedly, the eye-for-an-eye attitude isn't the best thing to teach kids (or adults for that matter), but Ichiro's revolt against his kidnappers is an admirable lesson. Ichiro is dynamic; he changes; we learn about his character and empathize with his situation... wait a second, is this turning out to be a good story?!? Nah, couldn't be... could it?

Minilla! Minilla is Ichiro, and Ichiro is Minilla. It's actually a little interesting that Ichiro translates to "first son", which basically describes Minilla's relationship to Godzilla. The Prince of the Monsters is the scared little boy of the kaiju world (who unfortunately when dubbed, sounds like the illegitimate lovechild of Barney Feif and Barney the Dinosaur), and he too learns and overcomes. Perhaps Godzilla's teaching style is a little harsh, however (if there were a Child Protective Services for monsters, someone should have placed a call, at least for the stomped tail incident). Overlooking that aspect, Minilla perseveres with the help of his father and learns how to become strong and confident. He proves that he is developing into a fine “Godzilla”, the next King of the Monsters, much like Ichiro is developing into a fine adult. Right of passage. Wait a second, more literary elements? Isn't this supposed to be the worst Godzilla movie of all time?

Gabara and Gabara. Gabara is Gabara, and Gabara is Gabara. The only difference is that while Gabara (the monster) runs away scared from the combined firepower of Godzilla and Minilla, Gabara (the human) gains respect for and joins Ichiro. At first glance, this fact could be completely lost, ignored, and overlooked. What is the significance? Gabara, the monster, symbolizes the spirit of the bully, while Gabara, the human, is the bully. When Gabara the human loses the spirit (that is to say Gabara, the monster) then the tangible Gabara develops, grows, and gains acceptance, tolerance, and a sense of respect. Confused? Gabara, the human, is dynamic; Gabara, the monster, is static. Gabara, the human, is a sentient being, Gabara, the monster, is a personified (or monsterfied) attitude.

Kenkichi Miki and Godzilla. These are the fathers of the two main characters of the film. How are they alike? Both fathers are encouraging and want their respective sons to succeed in a harsh world. How are they different? Kenkichi's duties lie in his ability to make an income and provide, while his abilities to encourage his son to gain confidence are limited by his lack of availability. Godzilla too is limited by his availability, as he constantly fights off monsters in order to secure safety for his son, though unlike Kenkichi, he directly teaches his son confidence and strength. Minilla gained his power through direct tutelage, while Ichiro gained his through his own experiences in his imagination, and in the forced situation in which he was forced to fight off bank robbers. Nevertheless, like Godzilla, Kenkichi still protects his son directly when he the opportunity arises, as shown by his encounter with the billboard painter.

Hideyo Amamoto's role as the kindly toy consultant Shinpei Inami is easily among the most admirable of the characters in the film. What's not to like about a toy maker who takes young Ichiro under his wing as the "monitor" for his toys (every child's dream, including mine)? The interesting part is that the relationship is not limited to toys, but to a sort of trans-age comradery that has a very natural flow. Shinpei's ability to understand the intricacies of a child's mind, something that is difficult for many adults, might explain this connection... but it went even deeper to a point where it seemed as though the actors hit the mark here.

The remaining characters (and the actors who play them) aren't given much development or much screen time, but most (save the bank robbers) manage to give a solid performance. First, let's start with the bank robbers. Sachio Sakai plays the lead robber, a crafty, knife-wielding, problem-drinker with a mean streak that doesn't end (and a dub that sounds like John Wayne meets Mr. Ed). Kazuo Suzuki plays the bumbling robber, the ever incompetent, never-quite-so-crafty addition to the cast (who's dub sounds like Nute Gunray on a sugar high). What is their significance to the plot? They're the ultimate baddies... who drag the story into a grueling anticlimax past the final monster battle. But, their Home Alone II style defeat is still worth a grin. Crazy references aside (at least for now), the bank robber characters don't destroy the story; they only drag it down... a lot. There are other characters and actors who could be quickly mentioned, I guess... but perhaps a few only for the awful dub job on the US version. The landlord, played by Shigeki Ishida, is a character who is acted well, but whose dub sounds like Uncle Arthur from Bewitched meets Pat from SNL. The detective, played by Toho veteran Yoshifumi Tajima, also gives a good performance, but the unfortunate dub job gives him that J.K. Robertson from Time Chasers persona (MST3k fans, take note of this extremely obscure reference researched for your satisfaction). And then, there is poor Saichiko. Midori Uchiyami is a child actor, and like Tomnori Yazaki, is also underdeveloped in her craft. The dub, however, is just plain awful. Wait, I'm sure I can avoid yet another unnecessary reference... well, no I can't. She sounds like Mrs. McDougal from Everybody Loves Raymond. There, I said it, and I'm not very proud of it.

If you can't tell, I'm not a fan of the dubbing for this movie. It is single-handedly the worst dub-job in the history of Godzilla. Allow me to repeat that for those of you skimming through this... THIS IS SINGLE-HANDEDLY THE WORST DUB-JOB IN THE HISTORY OF GODZILLA. I can't comment on how close the content of the dialogue is to the true translation of what they're actually saying, but I can comment on this... this movie actually seems to go so far as to parody the whole art of dubbing. Prepare yourself for an unnecessary side story… whenever I used to tell people at school I was a fan of Japanese monster movies, some of them would smile and make fun of the dubbing by making exaggerated mouth movements and continuing the gyrations long after sounds were made. Godzilla's Revenge, the American version of All Monsters Attack, doesn't need the audience to make fun of the dub. It's already very, very, very bad. The dialogue just wasn't lengthened or shortened enough, depending on the scene, to make it even barely believable. What's worse, as I mentioned several times earlier, the voices for the dubs are cartoonish and strange. This is the kind of movie that really makes one yearn for the Godzilla (1954) and Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964) days. If an American company is going to take the unnecessary time and effort to dub a movie, at least do it right. Although, I guess I'm over three decades too late at really warning anyone of anything. Just be glad for the subtitle renaissance we're experiencing right now people, that's all I'm saying…

Acting, characters, and comical dubbing a review do not make. We still need to cover music. Ah, the music for this movie may not be among the most illustrious soundtracks in Godzilla history, nor even the most bizarre for the most part, but it's still far from dull and uninteresting. To describe the style, it's basically like taking Maestro Masaru Sato and Maestro Riichiro Manabe and finding some way to fuse their talents. While the end result isn't necessarily the most memorable work in Godzilla history, Kunio Miyauchi fails to disappoint. There is one really memorable theme that stands out as a semi-earworm, and three lesser themes that make up the better part of the soundtrack. The most memorable theme is the battle music, which is sort of a high tempo Big Band meets Hawaiian style. The second to the most memorable theme is the Gabara (monster) theme, which accompanies the creature whenever he is in the throws of his sadistic passion of terrorizing weaker beings, just for the fun of it. It's a little more straightforward, and somewhat suspenseful. Ichiro's theme (a Game Boy tune with a lullaby tempo) is pleasant but hardly memorable. Finally, there is the opening theme, which is just all-out in its wacky spontaneity. Its unorthodox sound could even give one of Manabe's ever entertaining, though highly unusual, themes a run for its money.

Finally, when all is said and done, this is a Godzilla movie, and the effects will always have that special and significant importance. Ehem, for commentary on special effects, please consult reviews for Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966) and Son of Godzilla (1967). Seriously, much of this film's action is recycled footage from those two films (clumsily altered to fit the time of day of the adjacent footage), so it makes my job of reviewing these aspects far too easy. The actual new footage, while minimal, is relatively reminiscent of the style and proficiency of the time... which is to say, it's basically average for a Godzilla movie. The beams are pretty much the same as always, although Gabara's electricity has a nice look and flow. Gabara himself, however... well... what can I say about the hypoallergenic alligator-feline hybrid? He stands upright, doesn't have a tail, and has a strange blue tinge; he's just odd. Not that I necessarily have a problem with "odd", per se, but he's so... weird. The Minilla costume is looking a little ragged, and Godzilla's sporting the Destroy All Monsters (1968) suit this time around (which is luckily still holding up pretty well only one year after its debut). The backdrops, foliage, and environments are pretty interesting, but nevertheless, it's all rather fakeish. What's worse is just how bad the continuity is between the new scenes and the stock footage scenes. Can Godzilla really change that much in just a few moments? It's obvious however, that cinematic mastery was not really the goal here...

What's the final verdict, then? Good or bad? It's... weird. It's a weird movie; it isn't like your run-of-the-mill Godzilla flick. It has some interesting literary elements, perhaps a backwards moral that is admirable to some degree, and maybe uses just a tad bit too much stock footage. While it's certainly not the best, it certainly isn't the worst either. All Monsters Attack is, at its heart, a fun, yet bizarre film. As a child, I didn't really like it. As an adult, I'm starting to warm up to it. So, All Monsters Attack is perplexing... it's target audience is lost, while the unintended older demographics manage to draw connections. What is it, then?

Enigmatic! That's the adjective I was looking for. If you love it, if you hate it, if you feel neutrally about it, it's hard to deny that it just has that certain Je ne sais pas? I'm now confident enough to say that All Monsters Attack is, in a single term, an enigma... a fun enigma...