Review:
Destroy All Monsters (1968) [International Version]

Class: Staff
Author: Miles Imhoff
Score: (2/5)
Published:
April 3rd, 2005 [Review May Contain Spoilers]

There is only one word that accurately describes the majority of this movie: dull. Destroy All Monsters is dull, plain and simple. However, the fans of the kaiju genre will still adorn this movie with a great deal of superlative compliments, and the only reason why is obvious: monsters galore! This movie presents eleven monsters throughout its course, from the well known to the obscure, and the final fight is one of the most climactic in the series! Unfortunately, it's tucked away under many grueling minutes of a stale plot and sub par acting.

The year is 1999. Technology has advanced greatly. In space, a base has been formed on the moon. Back on Earth, another remarkable feat has been accomplished. Ten monsters: Godzilla, Minilla, Rodan, Anguirus, Mothra, Gorosaurus, Manda, Kumonga, Baragon, and Varan have all been captured and are being studied at Monsterland on Ogasawara Island. Out of nowhere, strange things begin to happen on the island. Contact is lost with Monsterland, and the terrain of the island becomes very unstable. Even more remarkably, the monsters start to attack the Earth's major cities! Rodan attacks Moscow, Gorosaurus attacks Paris, Mothra attacks Beijing, Manda attacks London, and Godzilla attacks New York.

In order to investigate this odd turn of events, astronaut Katsuo Yamabe and his crew are summoned to return to Earth in their spaceship: the Moonlight SY-3. When they land, they learn the awful truth; Monsterland has been taken over by aliens bent on world domination. They are the Kilaakian, a race of aliens from one of many small planets in between Mars and Jupiter. The Kilaaks have taken control not only of the Monsterland personnel, but the monsters as well. The brainwashed staff of Monsterland is sent to destroy the crew of the Moonlight SY-3, but the hypnotized scientists are quickly defeated. Katsuo's crew escapes with Dr. Otani, one of the brainwashed scientists from Monsterland.

Back in Japan, Katsuo Yamabe and Dr. Yoshido question Dr. Otani, but he commits suicide before they can extract any real information. Down on the beach, a number of brainwashed humans, led by Kyoko Yamabe from Monsterland, attempt to abscond with the corpse. Their actions are interrupted by the “Special Police”, and they are forced to retreat.

Later on, surgery on Dr. Otani's corpse reveals that a transmitting device was implanted in his neck. This was controlling him. Katsuo takes the Moonlight SY-3 into the sky to track down similar transmitters. Several are recovered across the world, hidden in numerous settings. Their radio range of 2000 kilometers allows the Kilaakian to effortlessly control the monsters across the globe.

As this new piece of information is discovered, tragedy strikes. Rodan, Godzilla, Manda, and Mothra appear in Tokyo and cause major destruction. After the attack, it is discovered that the monsters' appearances in other countries were a diversionary tactic, allowing the Kilaakian to set up their new base near Mt. Fuji. Kyoko Yamabe suddenly appears among the scientists, reporters, and military men discussing the attack. She says that if mankind accepts the Kilaak's rule, then the monsters will stop attacking. Katsuo viciously removes her earrings and reveals that transmitters hidden inside were controlling her. Kyoko, having lost her memory upon removal of the transmitters, can reveal nothing more about the Kilaak's hidden base.

The military scrambles to the region near Mt. Fuji, but Godzilla, Rodan, and Anguirus intercept them. The following day, Katsuo leads a small party into the region on foot and finds a cave. There, the Kilaak's again give their peace terms. This time, Katsuo is allowed to leave with no opposition.

Back on Ogasawara Island, a new control center is formed to try to bring the monsters under human control. It is determined that the radio waves used to control the monsters come from the moon. The Moonlight SY-3 returns to the moon and heads toward the Cassini Crater in the Alpine Valley. Katsuo's crew decimates the Kilaak's moon base, and they manage to destroy the transmitter.

On Earth, the monsters are brought under human control and are sent to Mt. Fuji, where the Kilaakian order King Ghidorah to fight them. Godzilla, Anguirus, Gorosaurus, Rodan, Mothra, Kumonga, and Minilla participate in the battle, as Manda, Baragon, and Varan watch from the sidelines. King Ghidorah is brutally attacked, and as it is hit from every corner and angle, it slowly begins to weaken. Finally, it drops dead.

Suddenly, Rodan is attacked by a fiery craft in the sky. The craft is revealed by the Kilaak's to be the “Fire Dragon”. The Fire Dragon hurries to Ogasawara Island, where it destroys the controls on Monsterland. Luckily, Godzilla still knows who his enemy is without human control. He kicks away at the Kilaak's hidden base (exposed during the battle) and the aliens are defeated.

Meanwhile, the Moonlight SY-3 grapples with the Fire Dragon and ultimately reveals it to be a UFO. The Moonlight SY-3 finally destroys it, and peace is restored.

In the end, Katsuo, Kyoko, and Dr. Yoshido watch the victorious monsters that have returned to Monsterland. They get a glimpse at each and every monster, and finally end on a touching scene of Godzilla and Minilla.

The acting in this movie is sub par. Just about everyone comes across as stiff and far too dramatic at times. Akira Kubo doesn't translate into a serious role very well. He is far too unnatural, and is much more suited to the roles he played in Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965) and Son of Godzilla (1967). Yukiko Kobayashi and Yoshio Tsuchiya‘s characters are on screen, for the most part, while they are brainwashed. Since their characters are meant to be cold and stiff in this state, it is difficult to judge their true acting talent in this film. In the short periods of time that the audience does see their characters “un-brainwashed”, they too seem to suffer from the same flaws as Akira Kubo. Jun Tazaki and Andrew Hughs are also paralyzed by their roles. They are the “solemn scientists” of this movie, and unfortunately blend in with the other bland roles. Kyoko Ai's character comes across as a rather forgettable alien leader, and it is simply because she is not given much to work with. Overall, everyone did a somewhat satisfactory job with what they were given. At least it's not as bad as it could be.

While the actors are relatively blasé, the monsters really shine in this movie. Godzilla is looking the best he has since his first movie. Unfortunately, every movie between Godzilla Raids Again (1955) and Son of Godzilla(1967) features a Godzilla that attempts to look ferocious. This unfortunately fails each time. Destroy All Monsters embraces the fact that Godzilla is no longer the ferocious, mindless mutant of the first movie, and Godzilla's new personality finally shows in his facial features: a heroic monster with an attitude.

The other suits are also right on the money. Anguirus is looking absolutely phenomenal. Given a few adjustments and the right lighting, it could pass off as a Heisei-style suit. Perhaps that's an exaggeration, but Anguirus truly has a refreshing look in this film. It is definitely an improvement over the floppy, unrealistic suit presented in Godzilla Raids Again (1955). Rodan is looking about the same as always. There are no real changes, and thus no real complaints. The Gorosaurus suit is looking great, and the hunch in the costume gives an impressive illusion of a dinosaurian stance. Kumonga is also looking fantastic, as is Mothra. Manda is looking rather sophisticated as well, and luckily has lost the gaudy horns that the character sported in Atragon (1963). From what little is seen of Baragon, the suit appears a little aged, but it still looks nice. Varan has an excellent prop in this movie, with a reptilian-green color that was non-existent in his black-and-white 1958 classic. It is unfortunate that it's used so minimally.

The special effects as a whole are absolutely superb in this movie. The pyrotechnics are fantastic, the miniatures are detailed, the suits are organic, and the matting is flawless. As far as the rotoscoping is concerned, Godzilla's beam is looking nice, and King Ghidorah's beam is actually improving. It's brighter on the inside and smoother on the outside, giving it a plasma effect. Despite all the good, the major problem with the special effects in this movie is the rotoscoping of all of the technological beams. From the magnetic rays, to the lasers, and the force fields, this movie has some big rotoscoping problems. The specific complaint is that the beams look too cartoonish, and the minimalist approach used in Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965) was far more believable.

The music is rather pleasant in this movie. It is a compilation of Akira Ifukube's classics, and the most prominent theme is the music that plays during the opening credits. It has a nice “marching” quality that fits a kaiju movie perfectly. King Ghidorah's theme also makes a triumphant return. As for the Godzilla theme, it suffers the same structural problem that it did in Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster (1964), merely because it flows too quickly and too directly into Rodan's theme. The Godzilla theme in Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964), which fed into a very dark score, is greatly desired. It would be out of place in the atmosphere of this movie, however. The only real downfall in the music category is the theme that plays as the astronauts destroy the transmitter on the moon. It sounds like the sort of theme that would accompany a moving train in an old movie. The scene it is attached to lasts far too long on its own merits, but coupled with this ineffective theme, it just goes on and on.

The dubbing is very different in this movie. It's more pronounced and louder, giving it a very unnatural flow. Concerning what is actually said in the dubbing rather than how it sounds, the names of several monsters are different from the spelling and pronunciation that they would take in later years. Anguirus is pronounced “Angilas,” and would continue to be pronounced this way until Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974), when it would change to “Anguirus”. Kumonga is called “Spiega”. This would change in the upcoming dub of All Monsters Attack (1969). Also, the “King” in King Ghidorah is not extant. This is the third alteration of the creature's name. King Ghidorah was pronounced, “Ghidrah”, in Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster (1964); the creature was called “King Ghidrah” in Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965); the creature is called “Ghidorah” in Destroy All Monsters; and finally the creature would come to adopt the modern English pronunciation, “King Ghidorah”, in Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972). Some monsters' names weren't even addressed in this movie. Minilla is referred to as simply “the son of Godzilla”, and Varan appears so infrequently that he his name never comes up.

There are a few moments in the movie that are confusing. A news reporter mentions that “Baragon” attacked Paris, when it was obviously Gorosaurus. Another confusing moment occurs when Jun Tazaki's character refers to an incident 20 years earlier, “Remember that typhoon? We must be on our guards!” This statement is so out-of-the-blue that it makes no sense. Apparently in the Japanese version of the movie, it is revealed that a typhoon ravaged Monsterland in 1979 and caused several technical problems. Unfortunately, this elaboration is left out of the International version. The arrival of the Special Police is another dead end in the plot. There is neither mention of the Special Police prior to nor after their appearance, and their techniques and technology don't seem to warrant the adjective “special” at all. Other errors seem to occur when the missile launchers are released before the battle in Tokyo. The scene looks so far removed from the correct scenery for a metropolis that it looks almost as bad as the stock footage errors in Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972). The use of King Ghidorah's theme during this scene is also rather confusing. During the ensuing battle, Mothra suddenly appears from inside what appears to be a landlocked train station. At least Rodan, Godzilla, and Manda appeared as though they could have easily come ashore, but Mothra just seems to materialize in the middle of the city. Finally, there seems to be a slightly minor mistake in the Kilaak's moon base. After the entrance is destroyed, and it is assumed that the air would simply escape, the laser's wire catches fire. Even without any oxygen to feed it, it blazes brilliantly. This one may be nitpicky, but it is worth mentioning

One of the more disappointing aspects of this film is the extremely ineffective and infrequent use of two of the monsters. Baragon and Varan are simply ignored during the course of the plot. Baragon's name does come up a few times, but it is often in passing. Baragon seems to show up only during the final battle and in the final scenes at the end. Looking closely, it also appears as though Baragon appears in the far left monitor in the Monsterland facility, but it is difficult to tell for sure. Varan appears even less frequently than Baragon. To the untrained eye, it looks as though Varan is only thrown in during the very ending scenes. Looking closely at the left side of the screen, Varan's right half can also be seen descending toward battle just before the final fight. Even still, these monster cameos are far from satisfying, and their lack of movie time seems to have bred some pretty intense and frustrated fan followings for each.

It may be weak in many areas, but this movie does have a massive fan base. Destroy All Monsters has caught major attention for just one reason: eleven monsters. Perhaps it is a shallow reason to rate a Godzilla movie so highly, but one has to face the fact that the entire genre would lack potency without monster fights. Making a movie that revolves simply around an all-out, several monster brawl is a necessity from time to time. It may not be a solid movie, but the fights it brings to the series can be solid fun.