It’s important to understand the context surrounding the creation of All Monsters Attack in order to ‘appreciate’ it. With films such as Seven Samurai (which was famously remade as the Western The Magnificent Seven) and Roshomon being international hits, and Tokyo Story regarded as an instant classic – the 1950s are often called "The Golden Age of Japanese cinema". Godzilla was a big part of that too of course with the American re-edit enabling the film to reach audiences twice (the “Raymond Burr” cut was also popular back in Japan). There was a boom in the Japanese film industry and record numbers of films were released well into late sixties. Like any bubble though, it has to burst eventually and by the end of the ‘60s there was a dip in the industry. The quality and quantity of films were waning and there were cultural shifts too, television was becoming commonplace and entertainment for younger audiences was big business. Tsuburaya’s time was being taken away from Godzilla films, instead of creating the visual effects for Toho movies he wound down his role to that of supervisor as most of his energies were spent on his own Ultra Q (and later Ultraman) TV series which would eventually become bigger than Godzilla in popularity.
So, by the end of the 1960s the Japanese film industry is a shadow of what it was in the mid-1950s, lower budgets and less risky ventures become the norm as many theatres close with people finding television sets providing the bulk of their entertainment needs. This is why Godzilla became more island-bound and there were lower budgets for special effects (Destroy All Monsters being an exception). In an attempt to draw in cinema audiences, seasonal specials were created for children – these were collections of animations, films and even TV episodes of Ultraman which could be viewed on the big screen and in full colour. Over the years Godzilla films would be included in these child-centric events, to make the films more child friendly the films would be edited down, essentially showcasing the Kaiju action rather than showing the full original film. The first attempt at this was particularly more ambitious though, rather than just cutting the films down – the fight scenes of several films were cut out from several Toho Kaiju movies and a thin narrative wrapped around them to create a hodge-podge movie designed for kids, All Monsters Attack was born!
Initially I was surprised that Ishiro Honda directed this film, I just assumed some other director would have been given the task as Honda took his Godzilla films quite seriously, but if you see this as a film purposefully designed as a novelty picture for a children’s season of monster action then it makes sense. Both Honda and the film successfully fulfill the remit, this isn’t meant to be a masterpiece or a serious piece of cinema, it’s like a holiday special – a bit of fun. Besides which, Honda only directs the new bits (and the parts cut from his own films), so he can only really be attributed with a partial directing credit, kind of!
The film opens in an industrial looking city, with factories belching out smoke, roads fully of heavy traffic and uninspiring landscapes.
It’s enough to make you forget reality by daydreaming for a while, and that’s exactly what Ichiro does to escape his dreary existence. He’s being bullied by a kid called Gabara, but thankfully he is seemingly able to force himself to sleep at will via a trippy dream sequence (see screenshots below) and once in slumber he dreams about being on an island where Godzilla and some of his Kaiju companions live.
The first time the Ichiro ‘visits' monster island in the film we see a Son Of Godzilla fight scene with the Gimantis. Ichiro then hears another monster and climbs a tree to see Gorosaurus (not even footage from a Godzilla film, but from Terror of King Kong), he then turns around to see Manda! And who’s that over there? Anguiras! (Again, from Destroy All Monsters.) And then the battle scene between Godzilla and the flying birds from Godzilla Vs The Sea Monster. Within a minute we’ve seen 5 different Toho movies with Godzilla looking completely different every few seconds (the Son Of Godzilla costume was really bad!).
Playing "spot the movie" was quite easy for me because I've recently watched the previous few Godzilla movies and they were still fresh in my mind but part of the fun in watching this film is identifying the stock footage, some is obvious but some less so - take a look at these screenshot comparisons: One is from an educational kids computer, the other is from Destroy All Monsters which is set 30 years after this film!
It's not all stock footage of monsters though and we do get some brand spanking new cinematic moments to enjoy. Usually in these write-ups I look at the featured Kaiju one by one, here though I'll focus solely on the footage which is new for this film as my comments of the various Godzilla suits, etc can be found on the specific film links on the Godzilla: 28 Movie Challenge page. Let's start with Godzilla...
This is the same suit from the last movie (Destroy All Monsters) and it's a good suit, I didn't notice any changes to it here and the quality of the suit is obvious when compared to the one in Son Of Godzilla. There's not much to say about it because Godzilla features very little, Minilla is the main monster, but he does get to battle with the new baddie and does manage to kick Minilla (yay!).
So then, let's look at the star of the film - everyones' favourite Kaiju (full sarcasm mode), Minilla. He looks terrible. Now I tried to defend the suit in Son Of Godzilla where we saw different versions as he aged and at points it didn't look bad. But here it looks like a poorly made suit and it's not convincing at all, when he talks (with a human voice) the jaw movement looks bad, the eyes move mechanically and the suit looks as though it is stretching around the poor human inside.
The truth is that Minilla represents Ichiro on Monster Island. Ichiro projects his own fears into his imaged version of Minilla which means he behaves in a very human way.
The scale of Minilla seems decidedly odd, usually he's about half the height of Godzilla (see the image below from Son of Godzilla)
...but he’s also the same height as a ten year old kid when really he still ought to tower over him, if you apply the same relative height to Godzilla it only makes him about 10 feet tall!
Clearly this is crazy and so is addressed later in the film when Minilla uses a new ability to grow at will back to 'proper' kaiju size. The audience is given the treat of witnessing this with the shot focused on his wrinkly crotch! Maybe this was part oft he inspiration behind Jet Jaguar who would eventually also exist at both human and giant monster sizes.
Ichiro's imagining of Monster Island reflecting his own life is perhaps most obvious where the baddie is concerned. Sharing the same name as his real-life bully Gabara, the monster Gabara intimidates the young Minilla who suffers regular beatings from the freaky brute. Gabara is one of the strangest looking Kaiju in the Toho universe. With his orange hair, disproportionately small cat-like face, baggy costume and blue-ish warty skin - it's not a design to endear.
The truth is that had the Gabera suit appeared more fierce rather than, well, a bit lame, then we may have felt more inclined to cheer on Minilla. However when the two battle it feels too much like two second rate Kaiju sharing the odd tumble.
Fighting consists of Minilla making clumsy comedic movements and constantly being rebuffed by Gabera, with some ‘training’ scenes from Son of Godzilla showing the Big G demonstrating how to breath atomic breath so that Minilla can fight his own battles. I did genuinely laugh though when Gabera stuns Manilla by electrocuting him for what seems like an overly drawn out length of time, only to then punch him full on in the face! I guess the ability to electrocute does give Gabera a cool ability, and it's one he even uses against Godzilla when he joins the fight.
Aside from this Monster action there is a subplot too involving a bunch of thieves on the run from police, both Ichiro's and the thieves' plots intersect at some stage, given that this is a film aimed at children, it's not the most sophisticated of plots and the main story outside of the monster island is a parallel tale of bullying and gaining the confidence to stand up and fight back. Ichiro’s story arc can be summed up thus – lacks courage but eventually stands up to his own Gabera.
It's not possible to review this without mentioning the English language dub. Although I watched the original language version with subtitles, the Godzilla's Revenge English language version is the most readily available and easily one of the worst dubs in cinematic history. Minilla is given a dumb "old man" voice like which sounds like that annoying pink Barney Dinosaur thing which was big over in America a few years ago. Fake Japanese accents are used to which sound like they are mocking the actors rather than trying to convey alternate versions of the voices. I suspect that one of the reasons this film is held in such low regard (despite it actually not being that good!) is the terrible dub.
Another interesting point to make is that this film is actually set *outside* of the Godzilla film universe. In this film Kaiju don't exist, they are fictional beings within their own films and have their own merchandise. So when Ichiro dreams of being with Godzilla and the other Kaiju beasts - it's not because he knows about them because of news footage, scientific research, etc - it's because he is a fan of them as fictional characters. That also helps to excuse the film and re-affirms that this isn't a standard Godzilla film in a canonical sense, it's a bit of fun created to utilise existing Godzilla footage into an inexpensive feature for kids.
Cult Kingdom rating: 1.5 / 5
I was expecting to give this 0.5 out of 5. I was prejudiced from the start - I knew the film was bad, I hated the dub and I was resistant to enjoy a film which mainly consisted of footage from films I've watched just very recently. But when you view All Monsters Attack in context of what it is, it’s actually not completely awful. It was intended to be a showcase of monster fights within a title designed specifically for child audiences and the truth is it succeeds there. As a standalone Godzilla film it fails to impress because of the jarring changes in visuals, the flimsy plot and the complete lack of maturity. But the truth is that other Godzilla films would be equally as poor and don't have the excuse of being cobbled together as a 'special feature' to pad out a seasonal cinema special. Hedorah, the film which followed this had a terrible soundtrack, and the Gigan and Megalon films which come after that are seen as poor films in the franchise. All Monsters Attack is a pretty bad film, but it was never intended to be an original piece of work, it even takes place outside of the established Godzilla universe.