All Monsters Attack (1969)
Slowly, since Godzilla was made a good guy, the big lizard was stripped of being a symbol of looming nuclear destruction and retribution of mankind's hubris to being an heroic, if grumpy, father figure. By Son of Godzilla he no longer seems to have much interest in taking a stroll through Tokyo and more worried about being a parent and protecting his personal island paradise from pesky humans who are always fiddling with nature and making more monsters.
Part of making the series more kid friend was the introduction of Minilla, Godzilla's son, who emerges from an egg in Son of Godzilla and comes into his own, helping his dad defeat the giant spider Kumonga who rules the island, with the two going into hibernation as an experimental weather machine changes their home from a steamy tropical destination to a winter wonderland. The two returned, along with friends, to once again rid the earth of King Ghidorah, as Ishirô Honda also returned to directing the series with Destroy All Monsters which, despite a plethora of Toho creatures and being quite a bit of fun, was largely a remake of Invasion of the Astro-Monster.
Wanting to again jam in a number of monsters, but wanting to play on the kids' Saturday matinee market in Japan, Toho gave Honda the task of creating the next movie with hardly any funds. As a result he was forced to use stock footage, largely from Ebirah, Horror of the Deep and Son of Godzilla, with a few quick shots of Anguirus, Manda and Gorosaurus, the latter reusing footage from King Kong Escapes. Some new scenes were shot with Godzilla (Haruo Nakajima) and Minilla ('Little Man' Manchan, voiced by Michiko Hirai), one similar to the training session in Son of Godzilla and others with Tomonori Yazaki, who plays the lead character of Ichirô.
Ichirô is a young school boy whose father (Kenji Sahara) works all day for the railroad and whose mother (Machiko Naka) typically works nights. This means that he spends most of his time alone, or with his toymaker neighbor Shinpei (Hideyo Amamoto) when not at school. What Ichirô wants most of all is to visit Monster Island and hang out with Minilla and meet Godzilla. What he wants least of all is to be the target of local bully Gabara (Yû Sekita). One day while playing with his homemade radio he dreams that he is transported to the island and, after falling down a hole while evading a Kamakuras, is rescued by Minilla.
It seems Minilla has his own bully to worry about, also named Gabara (Yasuhiko Kakuko), and Godzilla refuses to make Gabara back off because he believes it's time that Minilla learns to fight his own battles. Back in the real world two bank robbers (Sachio Sakai, Kazuo Suzuki) are hiding out in an abandoned electronics factory near Ichirô's tenement, and when the boy accidentally grabs the driver's license of one of them they target him for a hostage. At that point Ichirô starts to summon his inner kaiju in order to escape.
This was never aimed at adults, and pretty much is not even really a kaiju film. If anything it gets lumped in just because of the monster footage, and the fact it was mainly stock footage got the most attention over the years, with most fans of the series seeing it as a lazy way of just churning out another film. However, since All Monsters Attack takes place in our world, and not in the usual cinematic world in which Godzilla exists, I didn't find it to be as horrid as I was expecting. I knew I'd seen parts when I was a kid (dubbed in English, of course), and this was always one I dreaded running into again. While Ishirô Honda goes a bit far in calling All Monsters Attack a masterpiece, I think it is in many ways misunderstood.
Instead, it is a message both to children to stand up for themselves, as well as to the parents that have to bring them to the theater that family is more important than work. The monsters themselves are part of Ichirô's escape from the grim reality of economic depression and feeling that he shouldn't, or can't, fight back against the other boys in his class. As for Gabara - the human kid - the bullying is quite light by most standards, and it actually seems like Gabara would like Ichirô to hang out with them rather than beat the snot out of him. In contrast, monster Gabara just wants to kick around little Minilla, who is the stand-in for Ichirô in his ultimate quest to find his courage.
The only thing I ever remembered of this film from when I was the age it was aimed at was a talking Minilla and some other monsters. I didn't remember anything about the main plot with Ichirô and the bank robbers. That said, if this was a more well-loved film in the Godzilla franchise, at least in the United States, the comparison with Home Alone would be inescapable. I'm definitely not the first to bring this up, but while the first two thirds of the movie are nothing like it, the last third, with Ichirô using his smarts to escape the bank robbers, while not as elaborate, is unmistakably an influence on Kevin's booby trapping the house. In both cases the results are the same, with the child character gaining respect for his actions.
Although it is not a terrible film it is still not really a Godzilla movie, but instead a caper film with a little kid at the center. It is slight entertainment and, even without the monster angle, it did what it intended to do and supply an inoffensive film for the kids to watch on the weekend. In all honesty the monster footage was padding instead of the human story, which in many of these films it's the opposite. While Ishirô Honda was proud of what he did with this one, it was his last in the series - and in fact his last feature film - until closing out the Showa era with Terror of Mechagodzilla in 1975.
All Monsters Attack (1969)
Time: 70 minutes
Starring: Tomonori Yazaki, Hideyo Amamamoto, Sachio Sakai, Kazuo Suzuki, Haruo Nakajim, 'Little Man' Manchan
Director: Ishirô Honda
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