10) GODZILLA'S REVENGE (1969)

Japanese release title: Godzilla, Minya, Gabara: All Monsters Attack
U.S. release date: 1971, by Maron Films for UPA Productions
Japanese audience attendance: 1,480,000
Director: Ishiro Honda
Screenplay: Shinichi Sekizawa
Sfx: Sadamasa Arikawa, supervised by Eiji Tsuberaya; directed by Ishiro Honda
Musical score: Kuniro Hiyauchi
U.S. version available on home video from Goodtimes Home Video.

Synopsis:

A young adolescent boy named Ichiro, who lives in the cluttered urban landscape of Kawasaki, is unintentionally neglected by both of his working parents, and bullied by a bigger classmate named Gabara. As an escape from his troubles, Ichiro periodically daydreams (using a device constructed by his weirdo but kindly inventor neighbor, which he believes is responsible for the dreams) about journeying to Monster Island where he meets a friendly, talking Minya, who can shrink down to child size, and who befriends the lonely young boy. The two youngsters watch Godzilla dispatch a plethora of (stock footage) foes, and see a bunch of other monsters living on the island (Angilas, larval Mothra, Gorosaurus and Manda are shown to be there, all courtesy of brief stock footage snippets, and Rodan is mentioned, though not depicted).

During the course of Ichiro’s musings, he finds that Minya is likewise bullied by a monster also known as Gabara, and that Godzilla insists that he learns to fight his own battles. Using his small size to his advantage, as well as his natural wits, Minya finally manages to topple mean old Gabara. Godzilla then beats the hell out of the bully monster after he foolishly attacks the Big G himself, and the reptoid tyrant retreats back into the jungle like the coward he is. Learning the value of standing up for himself from Minya, Ichiro develops the mental tenacity to outwit and escape from a couple of bank robbers who kidnap him in the real world, and who are in turn themselves captured by the police, thanks to Ichiro’s efforts. Afterwards, Ichiro uses his newfound courage to stand up to, fight and win against his own Gabara, thus earning the respect and friendship of the former bully [you just gotta love a heartwarming cliche'].

Review/Comments:

It should be noted right from the get-go that this movie wasn’t truly a Godzilla film per se. Rather, it was a children's fantasy that happened to feature the King of the Kaiju in a few dream sequences. Since it was worked on by the same creative crew that brought us previous G-films, like most other Godzilla chroniclers I have decided to include it here for the benefit of die-hard completists only. However, a warning, perhaps, is in order: this movie was not intended for adult viewers!

This movie was also the ultimate G-film budget-saver, as the Godzilla sequences were more than 80% stock footage lifted from Godzilla’s two island films, Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster and Son Of Godzilla. Godzilla’s battles with Ebirah, the daikondura, the Red Bamboo’s fighter jets, the three Kamakaras (now actually referred to by their Japanese name) and Spiega (likewise referred to in this film by his Japanese name of Kumonga, though the pronunciation is poorly done) are re-shown, with Toho obviously believing that the kiddie audiences either wouldn’t notice or wouldn’t care (despite the fact that they very likely saw these battles already when they viewed the original films they were lifted from). The scene of Godzilla training Minya in the use of his atomic breath, however, was re-filmed at Ishiro Honda’s insistence. The small amount of original footage featuring the Big G consisted mostly of his fight with Gabara (if you can actually call it that; there was also a brief original scene of one of the Kamakiras stepping over a chasm that Ichiro falls into, before he was rescued by Minya).

As for Gabara, he gets my vote as Godzilla’s lamest foe ever. Other than being able to beat up on smaller monsters like Minya, and his rather neat power to inflict electrical shocks with his touch, this ridiculous-looking dream kaiju wasn’t good for much, other than serving as a proxy for a young boy’s bully. Because of the small budget allotted to this film, Ishiro Honda decided to make this into a children's movie that reflected valuable lessons to the kids who watched it, such as displaying the effects that a family with two working parents can have on a child, and the need to stand up for one’s self, without expecting others to be around to do it for you. For this, the movie deserves a good deal of praise, and it’s perfect fare for young kids to watch in order to learn to achieve self-worth and respect. However, most adults would find this movie to be a chore to sit through.

Since Eiji Tsuberaya was extremely ill during this film’s production, he could only act as a consultant to his protege' Sadamasa Arikawa, so it was decided to use mostly stock footage, and to have Honda himself direct the marginal scenes of original monster footage here (despite his lack of experience in doing so). After this movie, Arikawa directed the sfx in one more Toho dai kaiju film, the truly awful Yog, Monster From Space (1970), and then left for other pursuits when Toho closed down its special effects division. Kuniro Hiyauchi’s score was the most annoying and horrible soundtrack that I have ever heard; luckily, UPA replaced it with a strange but much more tolerable jazz piece for its American version of the flick. Hence, the American version of the movie differed from its Japanese counterpart only in the title credits and soundtrack.

One month after the film’s release in Japan, the great Eiji Tsuberaya died, and Ishiro Honda felt that without his considerable talents the G-series should have been stopped right then and there. Since the audience for Godzilla had expected something big after viewing Destroy All Monsters a year earlier, they didn’t take too kindly to this movie, and children and adults alike were quite disappointed by it. When it was released to theaters in America two years later by UPA, it was originally titled “Minya, Son Of Godzilla,” and marketed with such audience jeering slogans as “Every boy needs a friend, even if it’s a monster.” When a preview viewing of this movie was vilified by the audience, the title was changed to the more dramatic but completely inaccurate "Godzilla’s Revenge" (in the film, Godzilla doesn’t take revenge on anyone or anything), in an attempt to make the film appear to be more serious than it actually was to prospective audiences.

This movie is largely considered an appalling mistreatment of Godzilla by most G-fans, and is certainly the least sought out G-film by serious collectors. However, if you consider it as the fantasy film for children that it was intended to be, it may be considered highly enjoyable for that age group, and even mildly amusing for adults. To the serious G-fan, however, it’s best to be considered a bizarre aberration and forgotten.

This movie was obviously inspired by Godzilla’s only rival kaiju film star at the time (other than Dai Majin, the giant stone warrior who only appeared in three movies), Daiei’s Gamera film series, as the giant turtle who was a friend of humankind and a hero to children had been surprisingly successful, and Toho obviously wanted to capture some of that audience. Since Godzilla was intended to be a different sort of monster than his rival Gamera, the change didn’t work, and only served to alienate his audience further.

The one significant contribution to the Godzilla mythos made by this film was the establishment of Monster Island in the present, though Toho never revealed how the monsters ended up there; it would have been especially interesting to see how and why Mothra left her spiritual home on Infant Island, for example. After this movie, due to its rather poor box office response, Toho wisely stopped featuring Minya in the G-films. In fact, with the exception of Angilas, none of the classic Toho kaiju of the 50’s or 60’s were ever given a significant role in the G-films of the 70’s, instead showing a preference for either introducing new allies for the Big G, or using none at all. The G-foes of the 70’s all turned out to be alien menaces and bizarre creatures taken from the King Ghidora mold, rather than the mostly mutated dinosaurs and insects seen in the G-films of the 60’s.

This was the final movie featuring Godzilla in the 60’s, and the last film to depict Godzilla’s nature as ambiguous to the human race, before he became a bonafide hero in the 70’s, beginning with the next film.

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