Sunday, September 25, 2016

#2,202. All Monsters Attack (1969)

Directed By: Ishirô Honda

Starring: Kenji Sahara, Machiko Naka, Tomonori Yazaki

Line from the film: "Godzilla says that I should learn to fight my own battles"

Trivia: Director Ishirô Honda intended the movie to have a somber ending, but was forced to add a more cheerful final sequence

You would think that a Godzilla / Kaiju movie directed by the great Ishirô Honda would be reason to celebrate. Alas, you would be wrong. Instead of the giant monster goodness we’ve come to expect from Toho studios, which, by 1969, had been producing these films for 15 years (starting with 1954’s Gojira), we get, with All Monsters Attack, a morality lesson geared towards young kids.

Now, that alone isn’t enough to sink the picture; Godzilla has always been popular with the kiddies, so building a story around a youngster who turns to giant monsters to solve his problems must have seemed like a good idea at the time. But combine this with the fact that it also borrows most of its fight scenes from earlier films, and you have a movie sure to disappoint even the series’ most die-hard fans.

Left alone most afternoons while his parents are off working, 10-year-old Ichirô (Tomonori Yazaki) passes the time by imagining himself on Monster Island, where he comes face to face with his all-time favorite creature, Godzilla, while also forming a strong friendship with Godzilla’s son Minira (played by Little Man Machen, with the voice provided by Midori Uchiyama). It seems that Ichirô and Minira have the same problem: neither one is particularly good at standing up to bullies. But Ichirô will have a chance to prove his bravery when a pair of bank robbers (Sachio Sakai and Kazuo Suzuki), on the run from the law, kidnap the boy out of fear that he may turn them in (walking through an abandoned building, Ichirô found a driver’s license belonging to one of the crooks, and put it in his pocket). Can the lessons he learned on Monster Island actually help Ichirô in the real world, giving him the strength to take on the lawbreaking duo? Or will the thieves get away scot-free?

From the moment its annoying theme song began (“Kaiju Machi”, sung by its young star Tomonori Yazaki), I had a bad feeling about All Monsters Attack, and it didn’t improve much once the film got underway. My first issue was how the movie handled its monster scenes; unlike most Kaiju flicks, All Monsters Attack takes place in a world where giant monsters are imaginary (Ichirô only encounters them in his dreams). Also, I wasn’t a big fan of Minira, the pint-sized Godzilla offspring who befriends the lead character (the scenes with Minira and Godzilla, as well as Minira’s big fight with the cat-faced Gabara, were ridiculously cloying). As for the giant monster battles, they’re entertaining even if they aren’t new (footage was lifted from 1966’s Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster and ‘67s King Kong Escapes, among others).

The basic lesson of standing up for yourself is timeless (Ichirô is bullied by kids at school, a problem that’s just as prevalent today), and the Monster Island sequences are, for the most part, fun to watch (the exceptions being when Minira joins the fracas). But even if modern youngsters do get a kick out of All Monsters Attack, its general silliness will surely have their parents rolling their eyes through much of the movie.

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