Sunday, April 27, 2014

ALL MONSTERS ATTACK (1969): 30 Days of Godzilla

DAY 11
ATTACK (1969)

aka. Godzilla's Revenge

All Monsters Attack is largely considered within fan circles to be one of the worst Godzilla movies ever made. But is that being too harsh?

Original Gojira director Ishiro Honda returns to direct All Monsters Attack, his second to last Godzilla film, with Kunio Miyauchi providing a bouncy surf-rock score. From the get go, it's clear that Attack All Monsters will be a far cry from the spectacle of Destroy All Monsters. Set in a real-world Japan where Godzilla may or may not exist,  All Monsters Attack follows a young boy named Ichirô (Tomonori Yazaki) who lives in industrial Japan and fantasizes about monsters as a way to escape his alienated latch-key existence and the torments of some local schoolyard bullies. All the monster action happens exclusively within his dreams, and a lot of it is stock footage compiled from Son of Godzilla and Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster. In his fantasies, Ichirô travels to Monster Island to cavort with Godzilla's son Minilla (who talks) and to watch Godzilla beat up on other monsters. However, just like Ichirô at home, Minilla is also having bully troubles. He's being picked on by a bigger monster named Gabara, which just happens to be the name of Ichirô's bully. You see where this is going right?

Dadzilla to the rescue
Meanwhile, back in the real world, Ichirô gets a taste of real danger when he's caught up in a subplot concerning a pair of thieving fugitives on the run. Learning from the monsters in his fantasies, however, Ichirô discovers new depths of bravery and self-reliance within himself that he draws upon to stand up to his bullies and outsmart the thieves in a sequence of comedic mayhem and pratfalls that pre-dates the kid vs. burglar antics of Home Alone.

Surprisingly, Ichirô is the least obnoxious of the two
Coming off of the epic Destroy All MonstersAttack All Monsters is clearly a huge step down in quality. The Japanese film industry was going into a deep recession by the time All Monsters Attack went into production, and the success of the kid-oriented Gamera series clearly influenced Toho's decision to make Attack All Monsters a parable for 6-year-olds. With a downturn at the cinema, Toho took the kid's route in a valiant attempt to remain profitable as audiences were abandoning the cinema for television. Unfortunately, that also means that almost all Godzilla's fight sequences in All Monsters Attack are patched together from disparate movies in order to cut costs. The stock footage is painfully obvious, so much so that the Godzilla costume changes two or three times depending on the movie from which the clips were pulled. Lower production values also necessitated a smaller cast and an absence of miniature sets (aside from the ever-present mini-greenery). At least some budget was allotted to remake the Minilla suit so it would be somewhat less disgusting. Somewhat.

Take your kid to work day
I'm not going to defend All Monsters Attack as a worthy Godzilla installment. That's a bit much. I admit that All Monsters Attack may not be a good Godzilla movie, but I will maintain that it's the most socially relevant Godzilla movie since the original Gojira in 1954. If you're willing to put aside your monster movie expectations and focus on the real-world scenes, I think you'll find that All Monsters Attack has something important to say not only about Japanese life in the late 1960s but also about the redeeming power of fantasy. Honda's depiction of post-war industrial Japan paints a genuinely sad picture of families isolated by economics. For any kid who grew up feeling like an outcast and therefore gravitated towards monster movies, toys, and comics as away to play out power fantasies and escape reality, the themes in All Monsters Attack ring too true to disregard. Attack All Monsters is clearly a well-crafted and creative fantasy film if viewed as it was intended to be: an entertaining fable for children that just happens to feature appearances by Toho's stable of monsters. If it's one of the worst Godzilla movies ever made, then it's still a pretty solid fantasy adventure for kids.


Attack All Monsters is truly a low-point in the Godzilla franchise and a sign of the decreasing production values in the years to come. However, before Godzilla films would fall completely into the tired mediocrity of the 1970s, one film would emerge to fight against the tide and deliver something original. Something so insanely original, in fact, that it would become almost inexplicable. For our next chapter in 30 Days of Godzilla, we'll attempt to explore the psychedelic, the bizarre, the baffling, and the altogether schizophrenic anti-pollution monster movie GODZILLA vs. HEDORAH

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