Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Numbers game: Destroy All Monsters(1968) revisited

As part of my message board's fast approaching fifth anniversary on the internet I have taken it upon myself to offer some additional "revisits" of the various Showa era Godzilla(and other kaiju) films, movies I have cherished for a lifetime and will still be watching when I'm an old geezer. Last week I offered some additional thoughts on 1966's War Of The Gargantuas. This evening I submit some additional musings on Destroy All Monsters, a film first released to theaters in Japan back in August of 1968, the film reaching American theaters in 1969 courtesy of American International Pictures(AIP). The film is directed by Inoshiro Honda, the movie's score composed by Akira Ifukube and with special effects directed by Eiji Tsuburaya.

Some of my insights and observations may look familiar from previous posts and there is(I hope) some new material for the inspection of the Godzilla fans among this message board's community.

Thumbs up:

1. Akira Kubo's character of "Katsuo Yamabe", a straight faced and no nonsense guy. I figure he has to be since he commands the sophisticated Moonlight SY3 spacecraft, this piece of hardware playing an important role in humanity's ability to deal with the onslaught of the giant monsters who have been loosed by the Killaaks. Yamabe is clearly a take charge guy and also refuses to be intimidated by the lead Killaak alien female.

2. the "Shosengeki" Godzilla suit used to render Godzilla in this movie. I've seen some criticism of this suit as having an overly long neck and altogether too slim profile. Maybe but I like the leaner look of Godzilla which serves the monster well, especially the final battle between the monsters and the Killaak's monster mercenary for hire King Ghidorah. This suit had an excellent run.

3. Godzilla's role as the leader of the monsters in DAM: the role fits Godzilla well, I think though fans of Godzilla as the antagonist and enemy to mankind no doubt would feel some disdain for Godzilla's role at the end of DAM.

4. I found many of the special effects in DAM to be uneven but overall I still consider the effects solid, including:
-the rendering of Rodan as it dives into the ocean off Monsterland's shore to snatch an orca out of the water
-Godzilla's rampage through the city during the monster assault on Tokyo, especially the shots where both G and Manda are shown in close proximity
-the shot of Godzilla's beam flashing across the screen as he fires at the Killaak launched, airborne fireball towards the end of the film, the remaining monsters around him

5. the score by Akira Ifukube is marvelous. I especially liked the score during the moon base scenes.

6. The miniature sets look solid, especially the sequence where we see the Moonlight SY3 on the launch pad with the buildings and runway around it.

7. Gorosaurus and Angilas, who both get to strut their stuff, so to speak, in DAM. Gorosaurus is arguably the most active combatant in the final battle between the monsters and King Ghidorah besides Godzilla, complementing Godzilla's actions well in the fight. Gorosaurus also has IMO the best entrance scene in DAM, erupting out of the ground right under the Arc De Triomphe in Paris(France), the creature plowing through the structure as it appears out of the ground. 

Thumbs down:

1. I hesitate to criticize this scene because given the options Toho's effects staff had at the time I doubt this scene could have been rendered any better in any other way. I'm referring to the scene where Yoshio Tsuchiya's character, "Dr. Otani", and under Killak control, nonchalantly walks to the hotel window and launches himself out of it. Obviously a dummy was used to show Otani's free fall to the beach below but the dummy looked, well, too much like a dummy.

2. the firearms deployed by the "special police"(as they were referred to). The police engaged the Kilaak controlled Monsterland staffers(including Kyoko Yamabe) on the beach. The weapons themselves resembled toys and sounded like something out of a "Buck Rogers" TV episode. The "special police" also appeared to lack in the most basic of marksmanship skills, unable to hit any of the fleeing Kilaak controlled staffers.

3. Godzilla's oral beam suffered that (now infamous) curve as he waded into New York harbor, firing the beam at the United nations building. As to how the monster's beam suffered this "curve" effect I couldn't answer. It didn't look very good, that's for sure.

4. the local military again appeared fairly inept. In one scene, during the initial part of the monster's attack on Tokyo, the JSDF commander and his comrades sat together at a table and appeared remarkably relaxed and nonchalant given the fact the Tokyo was under siege by giant monsters. Maybe they forgot their morning coffee before the monster's attack. ?

Regrettably, Varan and Baragon would make only cameo appearances in DAM by virtue of the deteriorated conditions of the suits of these two monsters.

It is my supreme hope that Toho remakes this film one day, perhaps with Shusuke Kaneko in the director's chair. This film, with updated effects could look awesome.

Hopefully we'll see someone like Shout! Factory or Mediablasters buy the North American rights to DAM and release a quality R1 DVD release with some extras.

The Toho trailer for Destroy All Monsters: