Where the Kaiju Things Are:

All Monsters Attack

After Destroy All Monsters, Toho took the Godzilla franchise in a controversial direction. The studio decided to throw their biggest director at their smallest film yet, birthing one of the least popular Godzilla movies ever. The film, known as All Monsters Attack in Japan and Godzilla’s Revenge in America, is the first clip movie made by Toho. Perhaps noting the success of Gamera vs Barugon despite that movie’s reused footage Toho decided to make a Godzilla film that cycles through clips from past Godzilla movies before building to a single new fight.

What really sets this Godzilla film apart however is the strange framing device for the clips. While something like the latter, similar, Daiei film Gamera: Supermonster, that creates a framing device around a new big adventure faced by Gamera, All Monsters Attack eschews that sort of thing in favour of a much stranger film with much smaller stakes. All the kaiju scenes in All Monsters Attack are quickly established to be the dreams of a small boy who’s using them as a coping mechanism. There are no real kaiju in the film, and it seems like the film might be set in the real world, where kaiju are merely fictitious.

The protagonist is a young boy. He’s bullied at school and his parents are always at work and never home. He comes home from a hard day at school to find his house empty. He sits and kills the time with his neighbour, a poor toy maker. He can only find refuge in his dreams of Monster Island. When he sleeps he dreams of the kaiju filled isle, where he’s guided around by Minilla. There he hides in the bushes and watches Godzilla fight his enemies and try to teach Minilla. There’s a smattering of new footage woven into the recycled kaiju scenes. The movie is weirdly up front with the imagined nature of Monster Island. It never attempts to imply these dreams are real, or even imply the main character thinks they’re real. When the protagonist is awakened he complains about not getting to finish his dreams of Minilla. The boy bonds with Minilla because they’re both young, and this allows Minilla’s experiences and learnings to mirror lessons the boy needs. So most of the new footage consists of scenes between Minilla and Godzilla, and the film’s one new kaiju.

The new kaiju is an awkwardly bipedal creature with a long upright neck. He has a stubborn canine like face and a single jutting horn. He also has an awkward tuft of hair perching on the top of his head, making him one of the very few hirsute kaiju depicted by Toho. The creature is named Gabara, a name suspiciously identical to the nickname given to the film’s chief human bully. This is a strangely forgotten feature of the character. In the climax of the film the protagonist uses lessons learned from Minilla’s fight with Gabara to beat an entirely different physical threat, was opposed to the bully.

This is because the protagonist eventually gets embroiled in a subplot involving two bank robbers hiding out in his neighbourhood. He accidentally spots them and then gets kidnapped. After that he uses what he learned from his dreams of Minilla to best the bank robbers, freeing himself, breaking one of their legs, and getting them arrested. It further separates this Toho film from its contemporaries, marking it as one of the most unusual kaiju movies made to date. It’s easy to see why many viewers still don’t warm to the film, despite the fact that Honda and Sekizawa put in a fine effort.

After this film, Ishirō Honda and Eiji Tsuburaya collaborated for the very last time. The film was Latitude Zero, a movie shot in English and written by Ted Sherdeman, who wrote Them!, the classic 50s science fiction film. The film revolves around a reporter who ends up in an underwater techno-utopia named Latitude Zero. There science has evolved the community past the need for money, and past the fear of death or aging. The leader of Latitude Zero is a 200 year old scientist who also happens to be at odds with a past colleague. This similarly immortal past colleague (played by Cesar Romero, better known as the Joker the sixties Batman TV show) takes on a Dr. Moreau-esque bent, kidnapping people and animals and creating monstrous chimeras. This allows Tsuburaya the opportunity to do a few monster effects, including some humanoid bat creatures, giant rats, and a griffin (all played by Haruo Nakajima). The film’s heavy handed political message and serious tone fits in nicely with Honda’s creative preferences, even if it’s a relatively minor Tsuburaya effort. The film’s quality is very consistent, making it an unusual standout in Toho’s sixties output.

After a relatively shoddy effort, Daiei decided to do another cosmic Gamera movie with Gamera vs. Guiron. The film starts similarly to Gamera vs. Viras, opening on two kids, one Japanese and one American, hanging out. The Japanese kid drags his little sister along with them. They go exploring, running into a police officer played by recurring Gamera actor Kon Ohmura.

The exploration continues and the kids come across their goal – a flying saucer that landed in the forest. The two boys leave the sister behind and get into the ship. They play around with the controls, miming takeoff. In a shocking turn of events the ship actually takes off and they’re taken into space. In a fairly clever development, it turns out the ship was basically waiting for people to show up to take off back to its point of origin.

When the kids are in space they come across a flying Gamera. They then proceed to reenact the opening scene with Gamera in Gamera vs. the Space Monster Viras. They race Gamera and generally pal around with him, until he has to save them from a suddenly developing danger. In this case it’s not a story-based threat, instead it’s a random encounter with an asteroid. The flying saucer leaves Gamera behind and he slowly follows them, recognizing the need to save them.

This movie continues the franchise’s increased characterization of Gamera. The creature may have debuted as an unstoppable threat, but with every passing Daiei film he seems more and more altered, becoming a unique character. He’s strangely kind-hearted and genial, and a little bit goofy. It’s clear that despite the series’ comparatively harsh violence that Gamera as a character is aimed at children. He wouldn’t feel out of place in a Saturday morning cartoon, and it lends the Daiei films a lot of personality.

So the little flying saucer takes the kids to a planet. They end up on the surface. They can see a spider web of buildings, a river, and some alien-looking protuberances and landscape and stuff. It’s not as convincing as Toho’s sets, which tended to have a bit more budget behind them, but it’s not abysmal either. Noriaki Yuasa would later talk about the limitations of this set. They didn’t have the budget to make a proper miniature version for Gamera to interact with.

A different cost-cutting trick is used in the same scene. Rather than create a new kaiju for this scene the filmmakers spray painted the Gyaos suit silver and rechristened the beast Space-Gyaos. The vermeil Gyaos appears threateningly, and there’s an immediate response. The river starts running backwards and a hatch opens and this movie’s new kaiju appears. Guiron bursts from the ground, as he is given a pretty fierce introduction. It’s kind of like that superhero trope – prove how cool the new villain is by having them dramatically defeat a fan favourite. It actually works pretty well. Guiron ends up jumping and decapitating Gyaos with ease. It’s unexpectedly violent and fast. Then the stubby monster even starts mutilating the deceased remnants of Gyaos. This scene was so violent it didn’t make it into the American edit of the film. Guiron (the name is sorta meant to resemble guillotine) then kills a second Space Gyaos.

Guiron is at first glance fairly odd looking. The monster is a stubby grey quadruped with some fins on his back legs and a giant knife extending from the top of his head that’s close to the length of his body. Director Guillermo del Toro watched these movies as a kid and this design was a clear influence on his kaiju in Pacific Rim, Knifehead. Guiron’s proportions make his more agile moments come across as jarring. For instance he leaps an incredible distance through the air to decapitate space Gyaos, which is unexpected given his girth. Guiron’s bladed head is not his only weapon either. He has a little hatch in his head that opens and has throwing stars in it that he can shoot out.

The kids get ushered into the nearby structure by two space aliens. Two space aliens who look remarkably like normal Japanese women. They begin explaining the situation to the boys, expounding on the basic set-up of their planet. The planet they’re on is called Terra. It is in our solar system, but has never been spotted by Earth scientists because it orbits “exactly opposite to Earth”. The Space Gyaos is around because the tech the aliens use to control everything on the planet mutates the surrounding flora and fauna uncontrollably and dangerously. Guiron is their watchdog, made to keep them safe. There are some mysterious glances shared when the kids ask about other inhabitants on the planet.

The kids are pretty impressed by the supposed utopia these aliens have built. Specifically the Japanese kid is impressed by a world “without wars and traffic accidents.”

The space aliens usher the kids into another room and proceed to hypnotize them and examine the contents of their mind. This allows the film to pad its runtime with past clips of Gamera. They inspect memories of Gamera. After skimming through Gamera’s past highlights the aliens let the kids wander freely.

The space aliens, named Barbella and Flobella, have an ulterior motive for keeping these kids on their planet though. It turns out their food of choice is actually brains. They ran out of food on their planet, and now they need earthlings to survive. They actually start shaving the Japanese boy in preparation for their feast. This is when Gamera shows up, finally catching up to the kids he wanted to save. So we get two scenes running sort of parallel. The kids start trying to escape from the cannibals using pathways, teleporters, and ingenuity. It’s a little slapstick. It culminates in Flobella and Barbella getting in their spaceship and heading for all the tasty brains on Earth. Guiron slices the spaceship in half and Barbella dies. Flobella dies later.

The main draw is the fight between Guiron and Gamera. The whole series dances around the line between cartoon and serious, but this scene just barrels right past it. Gamera gets violently beaten by Guiron and has to heal and come back a second time, continuing the ludicrous and over-the-top fight. Gamera and Guiron leap around like the goofiest wrestlers ever. At one point Gamera gets thrown through the air and grabs a bar between two towers and proceeds to swing around it way too many times like some sort of gymnast. Noriaki Yuasa actually talked about this choice in an interview, saying:

I did that because the production budget was so limited. We couldn’t build a large miniature set, so we were forced to make the most of what we had. Besides, the Olympics were being held at the time, and I thought that children would enjoy seeing Gamera act like an Olympic athlete.

Films featuring special effects require a production budget two to three times larger than a standard one, but the budget for Destroy All Planets was only slightly larger. So, we could not construct as many miniature buildings as we had for Gamera, Gamera vs. Barugon, and Gamera vs. Gyaos.

After this fight Gamera uses his fiery breath to fuse together the halved spaceship and take the kids home. The Gamera theme plays as they travel back to earth. There are a few more minutes with the kids returning and espousing a message of peace and safe roads.

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Harry Edmundson-Cornell is obsessed with comics and film and writing, and he fancies himself a bit of an artist. He's dabbled in freelance video production, writing, design, 3D modelling, and artistic commissions. He mainly uses Tumblr to keep track of what he's watching and reading and listening to. Occasionally he uses it to post original works. You can find his email and junk there too, if you want to hire him or send him hate-mail.

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