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 Minilla (referred to as 'Minya' in the American version), 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 (Anguirus, 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 fantasy musings, he finds that Minilla is likewise bullied by a monster who, like the boy's own bully in the real world, is called Gabara, and that Godzilla insists that his surrogate son learns to fight his own battles. This is not completely successful, and Gabara's much larger size and strength enables him to easily smack Minilla around during their initial confrontation. However, during their second sparring match, by utilizing his small size to his advantage, as well as his natural wits, Minilla finally manages to topple mean old Gabara. Godzilla then beats the hell out of the bully monster after the latter 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 Minilla, 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'].
Note: I previously referred to Minilla as 'Minya' throughout this and other movie reviews featuring him, because that was the name of the little kaiju I grew up with while frequently watching the American version of the movie on TV whenever it played. I have since deferred to changing this to the most common Japanese version of his name, as it has since gained widespread usage and acceptance among G-fans in North America and internationally. The same is the case in regards to why I used to preferentially refer to Kumonga as "Spiga" (which I spelled with an "e" between the "i" and "g") throughout every section of this site - I grew up used to referring to the giant arachnid as "Spiga," and still think the name is aesthetically cooler than Kumonga - and how I used to preferentially spell Kamacuras as "Kamakiras" (the way I first saw it spelled in American references to this film long ago). I acknowledge the many alternative American & international names and spellings for the kaiju throughout the site - but particularly in the Glossary - though I strive to put a preference to their currently most acceptable spellings in North American G-fandom, which these days tend to try to use as many of the Japanese names that the English lingo can reliably pronounce.
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 flick was also the ultimate G-film budget-saver, as the Godzilla sequences were more than 80% stock footage lifted from Godzilla’s two previous island films, Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster and Son Of Godzilla. In fact, this movie was the third and final installment of Godzilla's relatively low budget late 60's island movies, where the Big G's activities through the course of the film were entirely confined to a small South Seas atoll, but this time being even more of a departure than the preceding two. Godzilla’s battles with Ebirah, the daikondura, the Red Bamboo’s fighter jets, the three Kamacaras (now actually referred to by their Japanese name), and Kumonga (likewise finally referred to in this film by his Japanese name, and not his American/international name "Spiga," though the pronunciation is poorly rendered) 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 already saw these battles in the films from which they were lifted over the past three years). Perhaps even worse, all of Godzilla's kaiju allies on Monster Island were only seen via quick stock footage snippets of about two seconds in duration that were clipped from various Toho films where these monsters previously appeared (Rodan was mentioned, but entirely denied even a quick stock footage snippet, an extremely glaring oversight!). This must have come as an enormous disappointment to audiences on both sides of the Pacific, since the rather elaborate artwork on the coming attraction posters for this film that were commissioned by Toho featured renditions of the entire kaiju pantheon in a manner suggesting that they would all play a major role in the film's storyline, and this, along with the previous year's bold and kaiju-filled Destroy All Monsters still fresh on the minds of many G-fans across the world, along with the presence of Ishiro Honda in the directorial seat and his attendant track record for producing a quality product, must have had audiences convinced that they were going to get another fairly extravagent venture featuring multiple kaiju mayhem from Toho, and that the studio's cost-cutting days were perhaps over for good. Instead, they were cheated in numerous different ways by a film that may better have been titled "Godzilla Trapped In Stock Footage Hell," as Toho gave audiences its greatest effort in cost-cutting yet, including heaps of battle footage that most people in the audience had already seen (and recently, at that), along with a rather small amount of original footage featuring an inane adversary with less than competantly presented battle scenes that were more silly than suspenseful, and a storyline that was hardly earth-shattering in its scope (it was confined to the imagination of one tween boy, and revolved entirely around his own personal problems, none of which were atypical for a boy his age). Thus, it's not surprising that G-fans at the time probably wanted their money back after viewing this movie along with the feeling that Toho kicked them below the belt, no matter how much some of them may have sincerely appreciated what Honda and his crew were trying to accomplish here. In fact, Honda can hardly be blamed when you consider the miniscule budget he was handed, along with being placed in the position of directing aspects of the film in which he lacked experience (his expertise was in directing human drama, not sfx sequences). Regardless of whether or not one agrees with the direction he decided to take the film as a response to the restraints he had to work under, he obviously did his best to deliver a quality product that was unfortunately not the "type" of quality that his audience was looking for. This is not to say that the film has no real merits based upon Honda's intention, only that this movie was not destined to please too many G-fans at the time for all of the reasons I described above, and who were likely expecting or at least hoping to see Toho return to the quality and bigger budgets marked by Destroy All Monsters to continue. Instead, the budgets were retracted further than ever, and the Showa Series never recovered from its budget and quality slump that began in the late 1960's. This was likely due to the fact that after the slap in the face G-fans felt they were given with this movie, they simply gave up on Toho's G-films altogether, and the poor audience attendance of most of the rest of the Showa Series flicks appear to bear this assertion out. After this, it was suddenly no longer cool to be considered a G-fan, at least not if you were over the age of 10.
Despite all of the stock footage lifted from Godzilla's two previous island films, the scene of Godzilla training Minilla in the use of his atomic breath, which appeared in Son of Godzilla, was re-filmed at Ishiro Honda’s insistence, and there was also a brief original scene of one of the Kamacuras stepping over a chasm that Ichiro falls into, before he was rescued by Minilla.
The small amount of original footage featuring the Big G consisted mostly of his fight with Gabara (if you can actually call it a fight, considering how the battle was virtually one-sided). As for Gabara, he gets my vote as Godzilla’s lamest foe ever (and following the original version of this review, Gabara was voted Godzilla's least memorable foe during a late 2002 poll taken in G-FAN magazine, so it seems my opinion on this point is very widespread among G-fans, for what that's worth). Other than being able to beat up on smaller monsters like Minilla, 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 fantasy 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 tween boy, 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 major chore to sit through (even though it doesn't really talk down to its target audience like many American "kiddie" films do).
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 for the vast majority of the monster scenes, and to have Honda himself direct the marginal scenes of original monster footage used in the film (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 the grandiose 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 reportedly 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 showing 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 movie 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 simply consider it as the fantasy film for children that it was intended to be, then 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 curious 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 initially intended to be a completely different sort of monster than his rival Gamera (i.e., entirely destructive and non-sympathetic), the change didn’t work, and only served to alienate the Big G's already waning 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 Mothra was compelled to leave her spiritual home on Infant Island, for example. After this movie, due to its rather poor box office response, Toho wisely stopped featuring Minilla in the G-films. In fact, with the exception of Anguirus, none of the classic Toho kaiju of the '50s or '60s were ever given a significant role in the G-films of the '70s (not even fan faves like Mothra or Rodan), instead showing a preference for either introducing new allies for the Big G, or using none at all. The G-foes of the '70s all turned out to be alien menaces and bizarre creatures taken from the King Ghidorah mold, rather than the mostly mutated dinosaurs and insects/arachnids seen in the G-films of the '60s.
This was the final G-film produced during the 1960s, and the last film to depict Godzilla’s nature as ambiguous to the human race. Following this movie, Godzilla fully evolved into a bona fide hero for the '70s, and though the budget for subsequent G-films in the Showa Series were never as low as this movie, they never again became as high as they were prior to Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster (1966), and the further changes in Godzilla's character, lower budget sfx, retention of stock footage usage, and relatively poor scripts insured that the Big G's glory days of the '50s and early '60s were over. After this movie, the Showa Series entered its final phase, that being Godzilla the Super-Hero, and also the beginning of the end for the Showa Series.
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