Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Movie Review: Destroy All Monsters (1968)

When I was a kid, Destroy All Monsters was the gem in the kaiju eiga crown ... that Holy Grail that every Godzilla fan wanted to see. Luckily, back then in the seventies, TV stations actually played stuff that people actually wanted to watch. The CBS Late Night Movie, The ABC Friday Night Movie, WLUK's T.J. and the ANT (All Night Theatre), and Saturday afternoon movies on the local stations in Central Wisconsin finally got me to that goal. And then the early days of TNT and The Sci-Fi Channel (I can't being myself to call it SyFy out of deference to the days when it actually played science-fiction) Channel buttressed it in the mid-eighties by replaying it. It took nearly twenty years to see that film twice.

Of course now, I have it on DVD and can watch it anytime I want. And two nights ago, it was my Kaiju fix. This 1968 flick is what you would call a "monster fest", much like Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman or House of Dracula  twenty five years earlier. it featured almost all of the popular giant monsters created by Toho Studios, battling on both sides of an alien invasion. In the far-flung year of 1999, space travel with the moon is common and all the world's monsters have been confined to an island for study. The invading Kilaaks take control of the island and the monsters, wreaking havoc on the world's cities. Earth isn't defenseless and fights back, culminating in a monster brawl at the base of Mount Fuji. The aliens bring in the space monster Ghidorah as a last ditch effort, but hey, you know how this ends, right? Godzilla, good guy, aliens, smucked all over the place.

Godzilla is, of course, the star of the movie, but a good number of his kaiju cohorts get a lot of airtime, namely Mothra (in caterpillar form), Rodan, Angilus (a.k.a. Angurus of Gigantis the Fire Monster fame), Manda (from the sci-fi movie Atragon) and Gorosaurus, who's only previous appearance was as the dinosaur that the giant ape kills in the Rankin-Bass/Toho production of King Kong Escapes. The monsters Varan (from Varan the Unbelievable) and Barugon (from Frankenstein Conquers the World) make brief appearances, usually at a distance, since the rubber man-in-a-suit-a-saurus costumes for those two creatures had degraded to the point that they couldn't be used for close-up, active city stomping. Gorosaurus does the subterranean monster bit instead of Barugon in Paris, destroying the Arch de Triomphe. Godzilla's son is on hand for a little comic relief in the final battle, blowing a smoke ring onto one of Ghidrah's flailing heads as he gets stomped by his dad and friends.

On the whole, the special effects are pretty good in this one, with a minimum of stock footage. Godzilla gets to stomp New York for the first time, and the monsters attack cities that aren't Tokyo for the first time. The story's fine, too. Don't bother deconstructing it; I mean it is just a monster movie and if you're watching a monster movie like you'd watch a Scorsese or Tarkovsky flick, you've got something wrong in the cabeza to begin with. The plot is adequate for the movie's intentions, and gives lots of opportunities for spaceships, monsters, aliens and wanton destruction to appear on the screen.

Sure, it's dated, but this is a fun movie and wastes an hour-and-a-half quite efficiently!


  1. I love modern tech, don't you, Rich? We can go back virtually to childhood and eat microwave popcorn and watch oldies. Last night my hub and I watched THE THIRD MAN for the umteenth time. Gawd, the old movie makers had it going on, didn't they?

  2. So, wait. It would be improper to call it a monster FILM, then? Man, someday I want to raid your movie shelf. And the box of movies you hide under a tarp in the garage.