I’m back at it again folks and this time, I promise that I won’t have the hate-filled vitriol spewing from my fingers as I did with the last one. Today I am going to bring you another much-maligned Godzilla film but for many different reasons than the one that shall not be named. That’s right, we’re going all the way back to 1969 and covering All Monsters Attack, aka Godzilla’s Revenge (Gojira-Minira-Gabara: Oru kaijû daishingeki)
Right off the bat, I don’t understand why the US named the film Godzilla’s Revenge. It makes no sense at all. Even the Japanese title doesn’t really make sense when you watch the movie. I’ll save all that for when I get into the heart of this.
I am going to do my best to actually review a fair bit more of the movie this time, as I don’t have the same level of hatred for any other movie in the series. That said, I will continue to give you facts about the film as well as interject my own opinion. It’s my style and if you didn’t like it, you wouldn’t be here reading this now would you? Get your kaiju pyjama’s on, grab a bowl of popcorn and let’s do the damned thing.
All Monsters Attack is a 1969 Japanese kaiju film directed by Ishirō Honda, written by Shinichi Sekizawa, and produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka. The film, which was produced and distributed by Toho Co., Ltd, is the tenth film in the Godzilla series and features the fictional monster characters Godzilla, Minilla, and Gabara. The film stars Tomonori Yazaki, Kenji Sahara, and Hideyo Amamoto, with special effects by Honda and Teruyoshi Nakano, and features Haruo Nakajima as Godzilla, Marchan the Dwarf as Minilla, and Yasuhiko Kakuyuki as Gabara.
All Monsters Attack was released theatrically in Japan on December 20, 1969. It received a theatrical release in the United States in 1971 by Maron Films, under the title Godzilla’s Revenge, on a double bill with the 1967 film Night of the Big Heat. The film is often retrospectively considered one of the worst Godzilla films, although Honda had come to consider it as one of his favourites in the series.
When you go over to the Criterion website for this film, they give you a little bit of information about the plot but nowhere near enough for most people to understand what they are getting into. Criterion gave this for the plot.
All Monsters Attack tells the story of Ichiro, a lonely latchkey kid who finds solace in his dreams of befriending Minilla, the titular progeny of Son of Godzilla, whose parent is also often absent. In this thoughtful, human-scale story, boy and monster learn together what it means to grow up.
When you look at the plot that Criterion gave, you probably think to yourself that this is gonna be a weird, trippy movie that doesn’t make a lot of sense given the title. Well, you’re not exactly wrong there. But for the sake of saving some time, All Monsters Attack doesn’t have all of Toho’s monsters in it. In fact, the title is very misleading. Outside of Minilla, Gabara and Godzilla, any other monster in the film makes a brief cameo in the form of stock footage.
Ishirō Honda saved a lot of money when making this film by reusing footage from previous films, like Destroy All Monsters, Ebirah Horror of the Deep and Son of Godzilla. I can’t really blame the guy, most of the Godzilla films back in the day were made on a very small budget and this one was no exception. This was also the first time that Toho tried to market a Godzilla film specifically for children. I believe they were trying to capitalize on the success that Gamera was having, but I digress. The foray into this territory likely led to the lack of success for the film.
I don’t blame the company for wanting to try this. After all, childrens films will always have a massive market for them. Until the human race perishes, there will be children that need movies catered to them. But when you look at this film and you watch it, you can’t help but wonder what they were thinking. The plot does revolve around a young boy named Ichiro who, due to his very absent parents, often escapes into a dream land where he befriends Godzilla’s “son” Minilla. So far so good, right? Well, Ichiro finds himself dealing with bullies and flees into an abadoned factory where a bumbling bank robber dropped his ID. He then soon finds himself kidnapped by those very bank robbers. Yes, you read that right. The criminals that he accidentally stumbled upon kidnap this poor boy.
I know some kids movies deal with different issues like bullying and what it’s like to grow up, but why kidnapping? I can’t recall many, if any, childrens movies that I watched growing up that delt with the main character being kidnapped. It’s such a weird plot device to use in a children’s film and I don’t understand at all. So, yes, Ichiro gets kidnapped and held hostage by the bank robbers who want to use him to make their escape. While held captive, Ichiro frequently escapes to his dream world where he helps Minilla overcome his own bully which is Gabara, ironically the same name as Ichiro’s primary antagonistic bully. It’s in the dream world helping Minilla that Ichiro develops the confidence to stand up to his own bullies and escape the situation he finds himself in.
All in all, the film does deliver a positive message as it is very anti-bullying and shows how someone can overcome anything, even apparently being kidnapped as a young child. But the reality of things is that this movie did very poorly. In Japan, it was the first Godzilla film to sell less than two million tickets, in fact it only sold one million, four hundred and eighty thousand tickets. At the time, this was considered to be a big loss for Godzilla as no film had ever screened this poorly.
The film is commonly regarded by critics and fans as being one of the worst Godzilla films, with many criticizing the film’s tone, characters, and overwhelming use of stock footage. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 25%, based on eight critic reviews. Anthony Gramuglia and Nicholas Raymond of Screen Rant each named All Monsters Attack the worst Godzilla film, with Gramuglia calling it a “downright painful film”, and Raymond referring to it as “universally disliked by Godzilla fans, and for good reason”.
Matthew Jackson of Looper.com ranked the film among the worst Godzilla films, criticizing its usage of stock footage, referring to Minilla as “annoying”, and writing that “There’s nothing necessarily wrong with the premise, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired”. Jacob Knight of /Film ranked the film as the 27th best Godzilla movie out of 31 films, writing that “While it’s almost universally accepted that Godzilla’s Revenge is the ‘worst’ Godzilla movie by enthusiasts, there’s an audacious ‘so bad it’s good’ element to the proceedings that makes it endlessly watchable”.
Patrick Galvan of Syfy Wire defended the film, calling it “a rather sweet little movie and one of Ishiro Honda’s most earnest efforts in the Godzilla series. A poignant gem dealing with serious issues — many of them still relevant today — providing food for thought for adults while entertaining its target audience.” Honda once called the movie “one of my favourites”.
As you can see above, critics are extremely split on this film. It almost seems like you either love it or you hate it and there is no inbetween. Now, for me, I rank it 35th out of the 36 current films in the series. I know I ranked it as one of the absolute worst in the series, but I still can’t bring myself to hate the film. Outside of the very misleading title and the clear catering to a younger demographic, the film isn’t all that bad. It has a very positive and poignant message that still stands to this day and shows young children that they can overcome serious social issues like bullying. It’s a message that a lot of young children and teens need to be reminded of these days.
When you compare it to the Tristar effort, this film feels like a masterpiece that doesn’t deserve the level of hatred that it gets. I get it, it’s not a film that is for everyone and it clearly has its issues, but it is still a million times better than that 1998 piece of crap. You can be overly critical of the use of stock footage, the change in target demographic and any other issue the movie had but you need to be able to appreciate a movie for what it is. Could this movie have been better? Absolutely it could have. But for a movie with a run time of just over an hour, it does give the audience a lot of monster action for a movie like this.
All in all, I give this film about two and a half stars out of five. It’s definitely the worst of the Toho Godzilla films but it’s realistically not as bad as people think it is. You have to understand why Toho and the director did what they did and what their goal was. Fifty-four years later, this film still has one of the most poignant anti-bullying messages a film has ever produced and is a movie that all young children should be able to view. Godzilla purists may hate the film, they may decry it as a piece of garbage, but enjoy this movie for what it is and not what you expect it to be. I’ll watch this film any day of the week if it means that I never have to watch Tristar’s Iguana effort ever again.