Godzilla Goodness: DESTROY ALL MONSTERS (1968)
By Witney Seibold on May 8, 2014
Day 10, and the Godzilla goodness has reached its height. 1968’s Destroy All Monsters is the best Godzilla film of them all. #10: Destroy All Monsters.
Superhero fans have their The Avengers. Universal horror fans have their House of Dracula and House of Frankenstein (and, of course, Mad Monster Party and The Monster Squad). Fans of Manimal have that one episode of The Night Man where Manimal showed up. And we kaiju buffs? What do we get in terms of long-awaited crossover events? We have the best of them all. We have Destroy All Monsters.
If you thought the thrill of seeing Godzilla fighting King Kong was a satisfying pop culture thrill, it seems small next to the glories of Destroy All Monsters. By 1968, Toho had realized that they had built up a rather enormous canon of giant monsters, and an enterprising executive somewhere had the bright idea to put them all in a single movie. As such, Destroy All Monsters has no less than 11 creatures to its name, all of whom appeared in previous movies. Some are standbys from Godzilla movies, while others originally had their own movies. In this film there are: Godzilla, Minilla, Rodan, King Ghidorah, Mothra, Anguirus, Baragon, Gorosaurus, Manda, Kumonga, and Varan the Unbelievable.
Destroy All Monsters also marks the return of director Ishiro Honda, who has essentially upturned the Toho toy boy, and is now slamming all the monster toys into one another while making growling noises. The bonkers plotting is also back after a few vacation films on remote islands. Tokyo is not just destroyed, but several other notable international sites as well. And we also get a new race of insidious aliens who, just as all aliens do, have the uncanny ability to control monsters by remote. I suppose if you have the tech (and the monsters), you may as well find a way to control them there monsters by remote.
Earth, meanwhile, has finally caught wise as to the constant giant monster threat, and has gathered up Godzilla and Co. (somehow), exiling them to Monster Island (or, if you saw the English language version, Monsterland). There are magnetic fields and fences in place to keep the monsters from escaping. I wonder if Monster Island is like a prison wherein Godzilla is the clear ruler, or a placid nature preserve wherein Godzilla is the clear ruler. There is no question as to who the true king of the monsters is.
But this tendency to put all our monster eggs in one basket, so to speak, allows the evil Kilaaks (led by the evil Kyoko Ai) to take control of them all and send them around the world to wreck stuff. I’m wondering if the Xians from Invasion of Astro-Monster gave them the technology. Most of the film is about either humans evading monsters and trying to do battle with aliens, or watching monsters fight. And there ain’t nothing better than watching monsters fight. The climax involves our human protagonists (only worth a cursory mention) breaking into a Kilaak base to wreck their monster-control ray. They do manage to blow up the ray, but in so doing, release King Ghidorah, the supervillain of the Godzilla universe. After that, it’s up to the 10 extant monsters to gather together and beat up the pretender to the throne.
There is a scene wherein Godzilla, leading the all-monster attack against King Ghidorah, stomps on one of Ghidorah’s heads over and over. I can’t describe how happy that makes me.
The actual filmmaking is, from an objective standpoint, a bit shoddier than some of Honda’s earlier efforts, but that is easily overwhelmed by the sheer volume of monster mayhem. I don’t think there will be this much monster in a Godzilla film until Godzilla: Final Wars in 2004. I have also only given the briefest possible description of the plot, as its actually pretty convoluted. I will say this: If you only ever see one Godzilla film, make it Destroy All Monsters.
Sadly, the series will not be able to maintain this level of thrills, as the next film will easily be one of worst in the Godzilla canon.
Up next: All Monsters Attack (1969)