DESTROY ALL MONSTERS or Godzilla: 1999 - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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DESTROY ALL MONSTERS or Godzilla: 1999

Gordon Hopkins joins in the melee!
Welcome to the world of tomorrow!

Released in 1968 in Japan as Charge of the Monsters and in the U.S. in 1969 as Destroy All Monsters, the latest Godzilla monster was Toho Studios attempt to do a kaiju Avengers: Infinity War. The plan was to find a way to put as many of Toho's kaiju in the film as possible.

Many of Godzilla's adversaries showed up (at least some of which were previously show to be dead), including Mothra, Speiga (Kumonga in the Japanese version), Rodan, Anguirus and King Ghidorah. Also included are a few kaiju from other movies, unrelated to the Godzilla franchise, such as Varan (Varan the Unbelievable, 1962; Manda from Atragon, 1963; Baragon from Frankenstein Conquers the World, 1965; and Gorosaurus from King Kong Escapes, 1967). Speaking of the big ape, King Kong was supposed to participate in Destroy All Monster, but as is so often the case, a deal could not be worked out with the rights holders.

The last few Godzilla movies had struggled not only with the law of diminishing returns but diminishing budgets as well. It seems that the Godzilla series was losing steam, as all franchises eventually do. At least, that is according to special effects director Sadamasa Arikawa, who said the studio was considering ending the series. As a result, Destroy All Monsters was to be one last hurrah, one final blow out, and given more money as a result.

A lot of that money was not spent on monsters, however, but on models and special effects to portray a future world of rockets and moonbases and aliens. Much of the movie has a Gerry Anderson (Space:1999, Thunderbirds) look to it and much of the model work compares favorably to the Master of Marionation.
In the future, all giant monsters have been confined to a single island called Monsterland (dubbed Monster Island in later movies), an idea that was foreshadowed in the previous movie, Son of Godzilla.

While setting the movie in the future allowed for some fun science fiction action, it also explains the existence of the sort of advanced technology needed to contain the giant critter.

Unfortunately, it also makes hash of the series' already tenuous continuity. The previous movies always seemed to be set in the “now,” or a version of it, or possible a very near future. The tech used by the military to battle Godzilla and other kaiju always seemed a little outside of current science, but it was not too far outside the realm of possibility that the military had these secret weapons, like those electricity-spewing guns that look great on screen but never seemed to do anything more than annoy Godzilla. This story is definitely in the future, which raises questions. We saw Minillia, Son of Godzilla, being hatched in the previous movie. So why does he not look any older more than two decades later? I suppose we can assume his species ages very slowly. After all, his “dad” is millions of years old and still looks pretty good for his age. Mothra, on the other hand, actually looks younger. The Mothra we see in Destroy All Monsters is a caterpillar, but in the previous movie, she had already become a butterfly. That Mothra was actually the daughter of the first Mothra. Can we assume this is another Mothra? The original's granddaughter?

To be fair, continuity was less of an issue in the days before video formats and internet streaming services made binge-watching a thing.
The producers of Destroy All Monsters had a bigger problem than continuity. The slow but inexorable transformation of Godzilla into a hero meant he could not longer do that thing he was most famous for: stomping on cities. They change from a giant, unstoppable engine of destruction to a kid-friendly protector took away the very thing that made Godzilla so popular. The very thing that makes Godzilla Godzilla.

The screenplay by writer Takeshi Kimura and director Ishiro Honda solves that problem by making the villains of the piece the Kilaaks, an alien race of beautiful women in metallic silver robes (who are actually small, silver slug-like creatures), with the ability of mind control. They can control the minds of both humans and monsters. They unleash the monsters on the world and they proceed to destroy New York City, Moscow, Beijing, Paris and many others, all to force humanity to submit to the will of the Kilaaks.

See, you can't get mad at Godzilla for maiming and killing hundreds of people and destroying major cities. After all, he was being controlled by the bad guys (girls). It wasn't his fault.
The story is basically a rehash of Godzilla Versus Monster Zero and it has the same problem. People go to these movies to see monster action. All that human versus aliens stuff is just to get us there. Yet, there is so much human versus alien action that the monster action gets short shrift. In Destroy All Monsters, the filmmakers attempted to mitigate this problem by distributing bits of monster action throughout the film. First we see the monsters on the island, then we see scene of the various monsters destroying various major cities. None of these scenes are particularly long or impressive. Even worse, a lot of the city destroying action is shown to the audience via the video screens that human characters observe the carnage on. This is likely an attempt to hide the deteriorated state of some of the monster props/costumes. Baragon and Varan get mere cameos because of their tatty condition. It isn't until near the end when the humans have figured out the alien's plot and broken their mind control that we finally get to see the full on monster brawl that the audience was waiting for.

So was it worth the wait?

The Denouement: Realizing that they've lost control of the monsters, the Kilaaks bring in the big guns to get both the humans and monsters back in line: King Ghidorah. The entire movie was leading up to this moment and the ensuing monster mash does not disappoint. The monsters take on Ghidorah en masse and thoroughly kick the three-headed dragon's backside. It is surprisingly satisfying. Weirdly, the fight is unnecessarily “narrated” by a newscaster who makes it sound like he's announcing a wrestling match.

But the Kilakks aren't done yet. They have one last “monster” card to play. A “Fire Dragon,” which looks like a rampaging comet, in unleashed. A bit of a let down after the monster mash, the dragon turns out to be nothing more than one of the alien's flying saucers, which is quickly dispatched by human firepower. The monsters then all return to Monsterland.

The American Version: Storywise, the Japanese and American versions are pretty much the same. There is very little editing. The big problem with the American version is that the English dubbing is terrible, even by Japanese monster movie standards. There is not a single voice that doesn't sound like an annoying cartoon character. Even the lone Caucasian character in the movie, played by Turkish businessman turned Japanese movie extra Andrew Hughes, is dubbed with a cartoonish English accent. Hughes spoke his lines in the movie in English, and his lines were then dubbed by a Japanese actor. That means Hughes' actual voices doesn't appear in any version of the movie.

The Odds:

Rodan: Two to one in favor

Anguirus: 20 to 1 against

King Ghidorah: Even money

Varan: 50 to 1 against.

Manda: 20 to 1 against

Baragon: 100 to one against

Minilla: I sure as hell hope not.

Read all of Gordon Hopkins previous Godzilla articles here.

Gordon Hopkins is an award winning reporter and columnist for The Fairbury Journal-News, a 130-year-old newspaper in Jefferson County, Nebraska (He hasn't been working there that entire time.) He has also written a couple of crime novels (“Fraudsters” and the best-selling “Broken”) and edited a few non-fiction books.

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