Director: Ishiro Honda
Classic Media

In 1968, Toho Company Ltd. producer Tomoyuki Tanaka announced what had originally been planned as the end of the Godzilla series. The creative powers of Tanaka, director Ishiro Honda, special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya, and composer Akira Ifukubie combined once again (they had not worked all together on a Godzilla film since 1965’s MONSTER ZERO) on the ultimate monster party which soon evolved into DESTROY ALL MONSTERS, an epic monsterama which featured nearly all of Toho’s stable of monsters (Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, King Ghidorah, Manda, Anguiras, Speiga, Minya, Gorosaurus, Varan, and Baragon). Box office receipts were good in Japan and exceptionally good in the United States where American International Pictures aggressively promoted the film which later became a staple on American television in the 1970s and early 1980s. However, in 1969, Tanaka apparently had a change of heart (i.e. more money to be made) and Godzilla and his gang returned in one of the strangest monster stories ever told…ALL MONSTERS ATTACK (aka GODZILLA’S REVENGE). Now as part of their Toho Master Collection, Classic Media has released this bizarre and often unjustly maligned film they way it was intended in a beautiful anamorphic widescreen presentation featuring both the Japanese and American versions.

Ten year-old Ichiro (Tomonori Yazaki) is a lonely and imaginative latch-key child whose parents often work late hours in order to make ends meet in modern Japan. Ichiro’s sole companion is the eccentric, but friendly neighbor/toymaker Shinpai Minami (Eisei Amamoto, Dr. Who from KING KONG ESCAPES). During the hours Ichiro is alone, he invents imaginary daydreaming games which involve adventures on Monster Island where he is a personal friend of Minya (Godzilla’s son). It seems Minya and Ichiro have many things in common such as being victimized by bullies; Minya by other giant monsters like the ugly, troll-like Gabara and Ichiro by a playground punk by the same name.

Ichiro’s imaginary world is invaded by two bumbling, but nasty bank robbers (Sachio Sakai and Kazuo Suzuki) who regard the boy as a threat when he accidentally finds one of the robber’s driver’s license in an abandoned building. The thugs kidnap Ichiro, but using the defense skills taught to him by Godzilla and Minya, the young boy uses his ingenuity and manages to escape and becomes a hero as he finally learns to stand up for himself.

GODZILLA’S REVENGE is unique among the series as it is probably the only Godzilla film which takes place in the “real” world. It seems that the monsters were indeed only fictional beings that have made an impression on this young boy who has seen all the movies and set his own fantasies on Monster Island. Whenever life gets tough for Ichiro, he retreats into this fantasy world to escape his own harsh life and socialize with his Number One idols, Godzilla and Minya. Ichiro looks to these “friends” as guardians, advice givers, and surrogate parents/siblings. Looking at it from this viewpoint, GODZILLA’S REVENGE is a strangely touching, character-driven film.

The cast of GODZILLA’S REVENGE features some familiar Toho faces. Kenji Sahara “stars” as Ichiro’s train engineer dad although he has almost nothing to do. Sachio Sakai and Kazuo Suzuki play the bumbling robbers in an overacted, comic book style. Eisei Amamoto so brilliant in bad guy roles here plays the kindly inventor in a role that the actor himself did not really like. The real star of GODZILLA’S REVENGE though is young Tomonori Yazaki as Ichiro. He is a likeable kid who really carries the film well for someone so young who is in almost every scene.

GODZILLA’S REVENGE has often been criticized for being too cheaply and sloppily made. This is evidenced in the Monster Island scenes which are mostly mismatched footage from 1966’s GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER and 1967’s SON OF GODZILLA. The Godzilla costumes are so totally different in these two pictures that the effect is jarring to the eye when the footage is spliced together. There are also a few snippets of Anguilas from DESTROY ALL MONSTERS and Gorosaurus from KING KONG ESCAPES. One of the major reasons for all the stock footage aside from cost cutting is the fact that Eiji Tsuburaya was seriously overworked (between feature films and his Ultraman and Ultra “Q” television shows and the fact he was developing ideas for the forthcoming Expo’70) and even more seriously ill with a heart condition. He simply could not juggle all these responsibilities to direct all the scenes required for the latest Godzilla film. In fact, Ishiro Honda supposedly directed the few new special effects scenes featuring the Godzilla, Minya, and Gabara battle. Mr. Tsuburaya died in January 1970 a mere three weeks after the Japanese release of GODZILLA’S REVENGE (December 1969).

Classic Media’s new DVD presentation is probably the best version of GODZILLA’S REVENGE released in the United States. The Simitar DVD of 1998 was at least letterboxed, but was non-anamorphic for 16x9 televisions and suffered from severe pixilation. In 2002, Classic Media released a terrible pan and scan version which was just a re-issue of the old Paramount VHS version from the 1980s. Here, the folks at Classic Media have redeemed themselves and have presented both the Japanese language version and the U.S. theatrical version in beautiful 2.35:1 transfers with anamorphic enhancement. The Japanese version has easily readable removable subtitles. The audio is crisp and clear on the Japanese version with a slight hissing on the American version which does not diminish the enjoyment, but is present nonetheless. There is also an audio commentary conducted by journalist Richard Pusateri. Extras include the original Japanese trailer, a short documentary, ISHIRO HONDA: THE SOUL OF GODZILLA as well as an image gallery and a poster slide show.

No true Godzilla collection would be complete without GODZILLA’S REVENGE and this Classic Media presentation is definitely the way to go. After they finish the GODZILLA series (with TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA…to be reviewed here soon!!!), the company plans to do special editions of RODAN and arguably one of the most requested titles on DVD, WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS. (Joe Cascio)