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
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
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
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
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)
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.
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
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
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
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...