Project G-All Monsters Attack (1969)

Alternative Title: The bad one.  The really bad one.

So if you talk to anyone who knows Godzilla films, they’ll generally have their opinions.  They’ll have their unadulterated favorites.  They’ll have their guilty pleasures.  They’ll have their personal bombs.  Those lists won’t always line up.  There’s a lot of room for opinion variation on Godzilla.  And that’s really a beautiful thing.  Everyone gets their own journeys through these films, unique to them.  Except for All Monsters Attack.  Everyone, absolutely every single Godzilla fan, hates this film.  And not in a love to hate kind of way.  Not in a ‘it’s a pain, but watch it once to get it out of the way’ kind of way.  Everyone straight up just recommends you skip this one.  I told people I was writing up all the Godzilla films.  Everyone who knows Godzilla assumed I was just going to skip this one.  

So that’s how you know you’re in for a good time, right?

So lets rewind a bit.  Destroy All Monsters was the Godzilla team blowing everything they had on it.  All the monsters, all together.  The biggest, baddest conflicts they could come up with, serving as a massive denouement to their kaiju saga.  The story was resolved, and they gave Godzilla the sweetest send-off they could, before Toho kicked in its plan for shelving the movies for a while and launching the Godzilla Multinational Cartoon Universe.  Interest in Godzilla movies were waning, and it was drawing less and less money over time, so that decision makes sense.  Give the series new life in a different format.  But, said cartoon didn’t come out.  The companies Toho was going to be co-producing it with didn’t end up going through.  Meanwhile, longtime Godzilla producer Tomoyuki Tanaka was looking at the competition, particularly the Gamera series of films, who were making bank by producing incredibly cheap kaiju films and marketing them directly to children.  And he was like, you know what, we can do that too.

So he called up a screenwriter, and asked him to slap something together on the back of a napkin.  Then he called up Ishiro Honda, longtime Godzilla director, and told him to start digging through people’s couches, because whatever change he found there was going to be this movie’s budget.

And that’s how this magic was born.  A film where its questionable whether or not all the previous Godzilla movies actually happened and Godzilla et al are real in this universe, or they’re just movies in this world too.  A film where children dealing with typical kid stuff is the primary conflict.  A film where, although Eiji Tsuburaya is credited with the special effects out of respect, his health was too poor for him to work so all special effects had to be handled by his protege and by Honda on a shoestring budget, with rather poor results.  A film that makes extensive reuse of the footage from the previous handful of films rather than shooting anything new.  A film that centers on Minilla.

It’s not for nothing that this film is so hated.

Ehhhhhhhh, let’s do this.

So there’s this kid, Stupid Brat.  He’s walking with some girl on his way home from school.  She doesn’t matter.  She’s here, and then she’s gone, and then she won’t be back until the end of the movie.  I’ve already spent more time talking about her than her character deserves.  So, Stupid Brat is this big Godzilla nerd, and also loves collecting trash.  He finds a vacuum tube and it’s like freaking Christmas for him.  Stupid Brat has asthma, and he lives in a really industrial city with bad air pollution, so both his parents are working 16 hour days to try and get enough money together that they can move somewhere else.  They’re walking by some wrecked building and Stupid Brat is all like “oh hey I should go in there and look for stupid garbage because I like that stuff” but a whole bunch of bullies are hanging out there, led by Gabara, this kid who’s a particular problem for him and whose name I totally remember for reasons we’ll get into two paragraphs down.  They take his vacuum tube and won’t give it back unless he scares this totally innocent guy who’s painting a billboard off his perch.  Stupid Brat is like “no I’m not a total dickhole” and he just leaves.

There’s a couple of detectives looking around for like some bank robbers or something, and also surprise surprise Stupid Brat’s parents can’t come home because they’re working trying to give him a life where he can actually breathe sometimes but luckily he lives next to this guy, the Toy Saint, who can take care of him.  So the Toy Saint is like, “hey Stupid Brat it’s 1969 and I totally just invented this sweet computer that can teach you about the moon” but Stupid Brat doesn’t care about anything that doesn’t make monster sounds.  He talks about his bully problems for a bit with the Toy Saint, who makes toys for a living and therefore has excellent insight into child psychology, and declares that the best thing that Stupid Brat can do is kick that Gabara’s ass from here to Mount Fuji.  Stupid Brat thinks he’s too weak for that.  He gets depressed and goes and plays with a toy radio he built himself, imagining that he’s on a plane to Monster Island.  And then he falls asleep and starts dreaming that.  

In his dream, he gets to the island, and there’s Kamacuras all over.  But then Godzilla shows up, and it replays the scene from Son of Godzilla where he fights those.  Then Stupid Brat starts checking out all the other monsters, and we get a replay of the scene from Destroy All Monsters introducing a bunch of them.  And then, you remember that part from Ebirah, Horror of the Deep where a Giant Condor appeared out of nowhere and attacked Godzilla for no reason and then was never mentioned again?  Yeah, that scene doesn’t make any more sense when they replay it as part of some kid’s dream, either.  Not that all these movies used a different Godzilla suit, so by replaying them, Godzilla is changing appearance by the minute.  Anyways, even in his dream, Stupid Brat doesn’t get to be cool, and he falls down a hole.  We get some OC footage of a Kamacura from this, as it briefly looks down after him, then wanders off.  I hope you enjoyed that.  The first bit of monster stuff in this film that we didn’t see in a previous movie already.  Anyways, he’s down there a bit, but someone drops a vine down and pulls him up.  Turns out it’s Minilla!  Who’s perfectly human child-sized!  And who can talk now!  All you Minilla fans out there, time to rejoice!  Sorry, I should say Minilla fan.  The rest of us will suppress our internal groans.  Just for you, dude. 

This big derpy monster called Gabara shows up, named after Stupid Brat’s bully, in case you didn’t get the reference.  This guy is possibly the only thing on the island almost as dumb-looking as Minilla.  And of course, it bullies Minilla around, too.  Minilla’s too afraid to fight him, and so the two kids just run away.  Then Toy Saint wakes Stupid Brat up to be like “hey, I know your parents aren’t around so I made you this seriously kickass dinner” but Stupid Brat is grumpy about being woken up from this dream where he was being chased by monsters and acts like a stupid brat all over poor Toy Saint.  So Stupid Brat leaves and starts wandering around outside, heading towards that abandoned factory from earlier.  The bullies see him, and start chasing him, but then get distracted when a police car goes by.  So Stupid Brat explores the factory and picks up some vacuum tubes and a pair of old headphones and, mysteriously, a driver’s license.  Then he decides to stop being an ungrateful little punk for a while and goes back to eat the dinner the Toy Saint so generously made for him.  

Hey, you know those bank robbers the police were looking for?  Turns out they’re hiding in that factory.  And that one of them dropped their drivers license, and that’s what the Stupid Brat grabbed.  The Refined Robber sends the Rough Robber to go get it back, and Rough Robber stalks Stupid Brat back to his home.  Stupid Brat goes to sleep again, so he can dream of Monster Island some more, and immediately finds himself getting chased around by Gabara.  Minilla shows up and helps him run away, and they talk about Godzilla.  As you do.  Godzilla apparently isn’t helping Minilla with Gabara, because he wants Minilla to get his guts up and fight back.  But Minilla’s too scared.  They watch Godzilla for a while, as the film replays the scenes from Ebirah and the Horror of the Deep where he fights Ebirah in the ocean, then the fight against Kumonga from Son of Godzilla.  Then a bunch of jets attack for no reason.  Minilla says something about humanity being bad in general, but really, it’s just an excuse to replay the scene from Ebirah where Godzilla smashes them all.  Minilla decides to muster his courage and face Gabara and uses his monster powers to grow to monster size.  But that’s still only half the size of Gabara.  So he just gets kicked around a bit, through some really typical bully moves.  He tries atomic breath a few times, but sucks at it, so Gabara is unhurt.  Gabara apparently has electric eel ancestry, and shocks Minilla a few times.  Then they run away.

Godzilla watches.  Minilla’s in shame.  So Godzilla decides to teach him how to use his atomic breath.  And this is a rather interesting scene.  Everything progresses exactly as it did in the similar scene in Son of Godzilla.  Godzilla shows and demonstrates how to do his breath, using rather clear nonverbal communications, Minilla can’t do more than a smoke ring.  So Godzilla stomps on his tail, and the pain causes Minilla to get off a good solid atomic breath in surprise.  As I said, exactly as a scene in a previous movie.  However, even though they’re already ripping off earlier films rampantly, they actually reshot this one.  They wanted Godzilla to be acting more aloof, to fit in with the whole parental uselessness and children needing to stand on their own theme they’ve got going with this film, and that actually carries through pretty well.  And it’s one of the best scenes in the film for that.  Although I wonder if Godzilla didn’t go far enough.  I remember when I was a cub and other kids started picking on me.  My dad started taking me to his tae kwon do classes, and kept pushing me at it until I could crush any other 5 year olds that attacked me.  Then he’d high five me in front of them when parents would complain that their dumb kids lost the fights they started.  Then he taught me to crush the spirits of my enemies after physically breaking them by seducing all they’re significant others.  Godzilla stopped a bit short, is what I’m saying.  

Anyways the two robbers break into Stupid Brat’s house and wake him up as they kidnap him.  Which, let’s break this down here.  It’s not a good idea to do this in the first place, but let’s say you robbed a bank.  And then you hid for a while in an abandoned factory, but then some kid found your driver’s license in there.  Breaking into his house while he’s asleep, finding your license, and taking it back so that you don’t leave behind any evidence?  That’s a thing to do.  Not the best thing to do, but it’s kind of making the best of a bad situation there.  Trying to take the kid with you?  Horrible idea.  Like, not only did you elevate your crime and guarantee a lot more police after you, you’ve also added this massive uncontrolled x-factor to your plans.  Plus you have to spend time around a kid.  Nobody wants that.  Not even their parents.  No matter what they tell you.  

So they’ve got the kid for no reason whatsoever and they take him back to the abandoned factory and tie him up there.  Rough robber goes out to steal Toy Saints car while Refined Robber paces around the room.  Stupid brat uses his feet to cover a big gaping hole in the floor with newspaper, hoping Refined Robber will step into it, but nothing doing.  Then he gets bored and starts imagining about Monster Island again.  You know, as you do when you’re kidnapped.  There, Minilla is getting stomped by Gabara again.  Stupid Brat helps by hitting Minilla with a giant boulder.  Which causes him to squish out his atomic breath again.  Minilla, having scored one hit in, gets confident, and it turns out the power was in him all along, as he starts doing that float like a butterfly and sting like a bee crap, ducking and weaving in getting his little pops in.  Godzilla shows up to watch the fight.  Stupid Brat notices a fallen tree propped up on a rock, and points that out to Minilla.  Together, they lure Gabara to one end, then Minilla jumps on the other, sending Gabara flying in the absolute worst special effect scene I’ve seen in a long, long while.  Godzilla walks up to congratulate Minilla, even though he still can’t stand up for himself as Stupid Brat was carrying half the load there.  Gabara gets all salty at that, and figures that, you know, if Minilla can stand up to me now, I’ll do the next best thing and try to push around Godzilla.  I’ll take a moment here, and let you guess how that goes.  If you were a betting person, Godzilla vs. Lame Imaginary Wannabe?  Which would you go?

Yeah, Gabara gets absolutely curbstomped, here, then he runs away like a little baby after Godzilla hiptosses him.  Godzilla and Minilla then go off to go comfort Gabara’s girlfriend.  Refined Robber wakes Stupid Brat up.  Rough Robber is back with Toy Saint’s car.  They load the kid and the money into, but can’t get it started again.  They pop the hood to see what’s up, and it turns out one of the many things they’re not good at is tying up little kids.  Which, honestly, is a skill I hope people don’t practice very much, in general.  So Stupid Brat escapes, and runs back into the abandoned factory, rather than, you know, outside to try and get help.  The two robbers go after him.  Toy Saint just happens to walk by a short bit later, and notices his car is there.  Then he notices there’s a big bag of money in the car.  Then, because he’s a Saint, he calls the police rather than pocketing it himself.  

The robbers and Stupid Brat play some cat and mouse in the factory for a while.  Eventually, Rough Robber spots him, but in running after him he falls down the newspaper hole trap that Stupid Brat made earlier.  Refined Robber hears the commotion, and catches onto Stupid Brat’s trail as the kid is rushing out.  Refined Robber gets him for a bit, but Stupid Brat uses the same moves Minilla used against Gabara in his dream to break free.  Then he runs out of the abandoned factory, just as Toy Saint is showing up with the police.  The police catch the two robbers, and the day is saved.

The next morning, Stupid Brat is feeling really cool about himself.  His mother promises to stop working late nights, as maybe children shouldn’t be left to their own devices 24 hours a day, but Stupid Brat says he doesn’t need it, that he can take care of himself.  I’m not sure what moral was being given here.  He begins walking to school, because the minor issue of being kidnapped and having to fear for your life doesn’t merit any time off.  The real-world Gabara and the bullies confront him but he’s having none of it now.  He goes after Gabara, and completely takes him down.  Everyone stares at him in shock.  Then he goes up to the billboard painter everyone was was wanting him to mess with before, and harasses him until the poor guy falls off the billboard with his paint coming after him.  All the bullies love him for this.  All the audience does not.  What the hell, Stupid Brat?  That’s your character development?  You overcome the bullies, then you become one yourself?  And that’s how the movie ends.

So.  That.  I’ll say this.  It wasn’t as bad as I imagined it, given what everyone was talking about it.  I was expecting a full-blown groanfest clip show.  There was more original content there than I expected.  They were creating content with a direction.  And it does make a mostly coherent story.  I’ve watched some groaner films, and this was short of that.  No groans escaped my mouth over the course of it’s runtime.

I usually try to review things by talking about the positives first.  So that was that section.  I’m done now.  And talk about damned by faint praise, at that.  No, it’s not the worst film I’ve seen, for whatever high bar that is.  It is the worst Godzilla film I’ve seen.  And frankly, that’s saying something.  Yes, it’s worse than Son of Godzilla.  Yes, it’s worse than the first American Godzilla.  Yes, it’s worse than the film we’ll be covering here next time.  That’s called a teaser, folks.  This isn’t one of those bad movies that you can laugh at and have a good time with, either.  Nor is it one of the ones you can search for redeeming factors in, and still get nothing out of the experience.  This film is kind of a mess.  Characters make dumb decisions for no reason and the limited character development shown makes the kid a worse person.  Minilla is horrible and the film centers on him.  The best action scenes of the film were ripped from some of the worse movies in Godzilla’s past, up to this point, and really don’t fit with the scenes they’re trying to set.  This is a bad, bad, very bad film.

Let’s talk special effects.  Given that this film apparently had no budget and its head SE guy couldn’t be involved, it’s no surprise that they’re terrible.  But man, are they terrible.  The sets actually aren’t that bad, especially given that Godzilla films are usually given a couple of studios with which to work, whereas this film had to make do with just one.  They’re a little samey for the non-repeat parts, but they’re totally functional.  I can’t say the same for the suits, however.  Minilla looks awful as always, and Gabara is really… he’s something else.  Check it.

No wonder he’s never shown up in anything ever again.  Oh God, I’m looking it up now and he was in a bunch more things.  I hate the world.  Godzilla himself isn’t quite a looker in this film, but he was downright handsome in comparison to the other two monsters featured here.  At least, when he wasn’t changing appearances every couple of minutes.  A couple of scenes are angled pretty specifically to keep you from having a full view of the moving parts in it, I’m assuming strategically so.  And one scene, in particular, where they’re sending Gabara spinning, they accomplished by just spinning the camera around without doing anything with the background.  So was not set up for success, and the lack of budget definitely shows.  

The music is another not bad point of it.  I believe it was done by a new guy to the series, and you know, it does its job rather well.  Injects emotion to the scenes while being generally out of the way.  It’s not super memorable on its own, but it’s not quite a dime a dozen piece either.  So solid shot there.

Overall, though, yeah.  It’s a very bad film.  And a very bad Godzilla film, too.  Those aren’t always the same thing.  Given that it’s not even canon, and doesn’t really have much in the way of creative spark, I can’t even see making a situational recommendation for this one.  So, I guess I’ll join in the chorus here.  Skip this one.  There’s other bad Godzilla movies out there more worth your time.  And frankly, even though this is the first of a series of movies specifically targeted for children, it doesn’t do well on that front, either.  I watched it with my daughter.  Her review?  “Eh.  It wasn’t very good.” So see? This is peer-reviewed wreckage.

Previous: Destroy All Monsters

Next: Godzilla vs. Hedorah

5 responses to “Project G-All Monsters Attack (1969)

  1. You know, we could totally troll cinephiles by pointing out that, because All Monsters Attack was technically added to the Criterion Collection before Ex Machina, that proves it’s an objectively better film worthier of being preserved.

    But yeah, All Monsters Attack is frequently considered the series absolute low point, and when I hear Japanese fans praise the American-made 1998 Godzilla film over this one, I find I can’t argue with that. Even just the brief snippets I’ve seen in one video review along with your own review demonstrate just how terrible it is. It would take a dedicated, diehard fan to even see it as a “so bad, it’s good” experience”, and even that might be pushing it. Strangely, I heard it was one of Mr. Honda’s favorite entries.

    • Oh, we absolutely could. And maybe we should. But that might lead to the claim that the inclusion of both diminishes the pedigree of the Criterion Collection as a whole.

      Yeah, I heard that as well, which is really interesting. I would like to know where he’s coming from with that, because from a creative perspective, there’s a couple ways I could see that coming through. It was the first time Godzilla was unadulteratedly targetted at children, which if that’s what he was into, I could see that. Or it also had him with a high degree of creative input, doing the special effects in addition to his usual director duties. Or, this one had him making do with the least resources, which can be a good creative challenge on its own. Unfortunately, Google’s not popping up with much for that. Which means the answers to that question are lost to the ages.

      • Good point – adding Ex Machina would definitely degrade the pedigree of the Criterion brand by quite a lot. Heyo!

        Yeah, I want to know the answer to that as well. I heard his favorite work was Matango (which is one of those “not well-known, but popular with diehard fans of his” deals a la Shadow of a Doubt), but it’s weird he’d consider All Monsters Attack a career highlight. It would be like getting transported to some weird reality where John Boorman considered Exorcist II his best film. Or one where Joe Strummer thought Cut the Crap was the best Clash album.

  2. The title sounds misleading, since it doesn’t seem like all monsters attack in this one.

    Worse than the first American Godzilla is pretty god damn bad too. Do fans even consider that a “real” Godzilla movie? Not sure how the canon works in this series.

    • Very true. Fun fact, in its initial western release, this film was called Godzilla’s Revenge. Although that’s just as misleading, as Godzilla never takes revenge in this one.

      And the American Godzilla, you’ll get really mixed results as to how ‘in-series’ they consider it. Most consider it to be part of the series in some way, but tend to barely talk about it when talking about the series as a whole. General consensus is that “It’s not a bad movie, it’s just a bad Godzilla movie.” Which is a blatant lie. It’s absolutely a bad movie.

      The first American Godzilla does also pop up in a later film, though. It lasts approximately 4 seconds in a fight with the real thing. So it has that going for its canonicity, at least.

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