Friday, April 23, 2010

All Monsters Go Home

All Monsters Attack (Oru Kaiju Daishingeki,
a.k.a. Godzilla's Revenge, 1969)

DVD Description:
Released by Classic Media; additional material: commentary, trailers, Ishiro Honda biography

Directed by Ishiro Honda

Starring Tomonori Yazaki, Eisei Amamoto, Sachio Sakai, Kazuo Suzuki, Kenji Sahara


Welcome to my least favorite Godzilla movie....

Ostensibly made for kids, Godzilla's Revenge is unique in that all the monster action occurs within the context of a young boy's dreams. One could go so far as to say that it's a "real world" movie, with Godzilla and the other monsters appearing only as the fantasy characters they actually are.

The landscape in which the little boy, Ichiro (Tomonori Yazaki), lives is a bleak one; it's set in Tokyo's industrial district, both of his parents work long hours and are never at home, and the older kids bully the poor little sod to the point that his retreat into fantasies of Monster Island is pretty danged sad. In his dreams, Ichiro meets Minya, Godzilla's son, who is similarly tormented by a big rubber beast named Gabara. Over the course of the movie, Godzilla attempts to teach Minya courage, the lessons from which Ichiro brings back to the waking world with him. This comes in handy, because some inept bank robbers, seeking a safe house in Ichiro's neighborhood, end up abducting him. By remembering the lessons Godzilla taught his son, he is able to stand up to them—and finally, he even faces down the rotten bastard kids who have been bullying him since the beginning of the picture.

Despite the fact that the lessons Ichiro learns about defending himself are dubious at best, some well-timed moments of levity manage to temper the film's bleakness, which—particularly for a kid's film—has the potential to be truly depressing. Ironically, some of the humor works better in the English version, just because the silly dubbing ramps up the movie's goofiness quotient. In the Japanese version, Minya's voice (yes, Minya talks) sounds not unlike a squeaky girl, whereas in the English version, he sounds remarkably like Barney the purple dinosaur after a few bourbon and ginger ales.

The other monsters in the film appear primarily by way of stock footage, from Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster, Son of Godzilla, and Destroy All Monsters, among others. The only new monster scenes of any note are those with Gabara—a turquoise, tail-less, warty, dog-like thing that walks upright and sounds like my lawnmower when I try to crank it for the first time after a winter's hibernation—and even these are not much to write home about. Gabara does have an electrifying grip, which he uses to shock poor Minya into submission on an occasion or two, a move that prompts Godzilla to take serious offense and mete out the revenge that one gathers the original English title must reference.

Minya, of course, looks just as he did in Son of Godzilla: just plain bad. The intercutting of stock footage from various films, all of which featured distinctively different Godzilla suits, is oftentimes jarring. The new monster scenes use the suit from Destroy All Monsters, which is still in fairly good repair at this point in time (by its final use, in Godzilla vs. Gigan, the suit had just about fallen apart). One could say, I suppose, that it's only natural for Ichiro to dream about Godzilla in his various incarnations, since, as a fan of the movies, he would have stored images of all those different suits in his subconscious. We'll go with that, okay?

Domestically, via United Productions of America, Godzilla's Revenge made its rounds of the drive-in circuit in 1971, originally paired with the U.P.A. release, Island of the Burning Damned (a.k.a. Island of the Burning Doomed), and later Toho's own War of the Gargantuas (also released in the U.S. by U.P.A.). The Classic Media DVD release presents both the U.S. and Japanese versions of the movie, which are mostly the same except for the language and the opening titles; in the Japanese version, there's a very silly monster march sung by hellishly obnoxious children, whereas in the English version, the titles are accompanied by a frenetic jazz number.

I never saw Godzilla's Revenge during its original run; in fact, I'm not sure exactly when I saw it for the first time, but I know I felt as if I'd been sucker-punched. This movie strikes me as one that adults think their kids would love; the real little kids are thinking, "This is stupid as shit," but they can't say that out loud because they'll end up getting whooped. I suspect that if this movie had been my juvenile introduction to Godzilla, I might not have ended up the die-hard daikaiju freak I am at age 50 (all too soon to be 51). Maybe I'm wrong, though; I saw Santa Claus Conquers the Martians when I was about four years old, and I still like Christmas.

As a Godzilla completist, it is necessary for me to own this film; it is not, however, necessary for me to view it frequently. Best I can say is that I applaud Classic Media for giving it as respectable a DVD release as it did with the other movies in their Godzilla series.

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