As the 1970s approached, the Godzilla film series went on a roller coaster ride of pros and cons. It’s no surprise that I’ve seen many of these movies numerous times but always dubbed, not in their original Japanese. So, upon recently revisiting Destroy All Monsters (1968) for the first time in years, it was also the first time watching it in Japanese. Without a doubt, this is my preference as dubbing often just takes me out of the moment. Growing up, Destroy All Monsters was only one of my favorites because of the sheer number of monsters in the film. Watching it again showed it still stands on one of the best of the original Godzilla series.
Officially the ninth Godzilla film, Destroy All Monsters was also intended to be the last of the series. Therefore, director Ishiro Honda and special effects wizard Eiji Tsuburaya were blessed with a bigger budget in order to bring out all of the monsters from eleven of Toho’s Kaiju films. The plot sets our story at the end of the 20th century. All of the Earth’s monsters have been captured and now live on Monster Island, where they are monitored by the United Nations Science Committee (UNSC). Scientists live underground, observing the monsters while making sure they don’t escape. Our monster cast includes Godzilla, Minilla, Mothra, Rodan, Gorosaurus (King Kong Escapes), Anguirus (Godzilla Raids Again), Kumonga (that creepy spider from Son of Godzilla), Manda (looking better here than in Atragon…but not much), Baragon (Frankenstein Conquers The World), and Varan (Varan The Unbelievable). An alien race known as the Kilaaks gain control of the monsters and make the scientists their unwilling slaves. Their plan is to force the human race into submission or be destroyed. Godzilla attacks New York City, Rodan hits Moscaw, Mothra heads to Beijing, Gorosaurus goes for the French cuisine in Paris and Manda visits the queen in London. The UNSC learns how the Kilaaks are using radio signals to control the monsters and force the aliens to bring King Ghidorah to Earth. A monster battle royale ensues with Godzilla and friends finding on our side for once.
While the plot of Destroy All Monsters is, on the surface, one of the weaker efforts in the series, it stands out as one of the most fun. While there are very few plot twists or developments for that matter, you’ll get more than your fill of battle sequences. There’s no denying that there is a great deal of nostalgia present when I watch this one as it takes me back to those early days of cable television. Seeing all of these monsters in one place was a big treat because some of them never graced our local channels. I just recently discovered Manda in Atragon and Varan The Unbelievable is on my shelf waiting to be viewed for a first time. Needless to say, Destroy All Monsters has always been in print in one format or another. Sadly, the most recent 2011 Tokyo Shock version, which was in both DVD and Blu-Ray, is now out-of-print and demanding prices of close to $100 or more. Reportedly, Toho was unhappy with the print quality and dubbing sources, leaving fans to scramble to acquire a copy. Some due diligence and searching on sites like eBay may result in a cheaper copy. It’s worth tracking this one down. That said, it wasn’t the end of the series after all as the dark period of the 70s was waiting. Hang on folks, it’s going to get a little bumpy from here on out.