GODZILLA IS A TERRIBLE FATHER or Somebody Send Child Services To Monster Island - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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GODZILLA IS A TERRIBLE FATHER or Somebody Send Child Services To Monster Island

Gordon Hopkins culls the archive for a tale of morality.
Like a lot of films in the series, this one has had several names. The translation of the Japanese title is the unwieldy Godzilla – Minilla – Gabara: March of the Monsters (1969). In the U.S., it was briefly released as Minya: Son of Godzilla, before being re-released under the infinity cooler but totally misleading title, Godzilla' Revenge. These days, the official American title is All Monsters Attack, which is not as cool as Godzilla' Revenge but a bit more accurate and still a vast improvement over Minya: Son of Godzilla.

However, when I write these missives, I choose to call the movies by the titles I first knew them as, because those are the titles stuck in the nostalgia lobe of my brain. Since I most likely first saw this movie in the seventies, staying up past my bedtime on a Saturday night, watching Dr. San Guinary's Creature Feature, I'm gonna keep calling this one Godzilla' Revenge.

So let's get down to hard nails and brass tacks, as they say. Godzilla' Revenge is, without a doubt, the most hated Godzilla film in the entire Toho Studios oeuvre. It is not necessarily the worst film in the series, though there is considerable debate on the matter. But it is the most hated. (Unless you want to count Hollywood productions, in which case TriStars Pictures' Godzilla, released in 1998, takes that award hands down, but I'm not ready to go down that road just yet.)

Intended for a holiday release, Godzilla' Revenge was, more than any other Godzilla picture, made to be a kiddie movie. Unlike children's cinema of today, there was no attempt to include a little something for the parents who were forced to bring their kiddo's to the theater to watch this kaiju treacle.
Godzilla' Revenge is the story if a latchkey kid named Ichiro, whose parents are always working. He is also the victim of a bunch of bullies, as kids in these kinds of movies always are. The movie opens with Ichiro walking home from school in a depressingly industrialized Japanese city filled with factory smoke stacks and train tracks (Ichiro's father works on a train) and chain link fences surrounding abandoned buildings. Sure enough, Ichiro is soon accosted by his schoolyard tormentors.

I can't imagine parents allowing their child to wander around alone in this depressing, post-apocalyptic wasteland. Hell, I'd be afraid to walk home alone myself. Those bullies were way scarier that Scut Farkus from A Christmas Story.

One of those bullies is named Gabara, which will become an important plot point.

Ichiro is a monster buff. As a respite from his Dickensian existence, Ichiro dreams/fantasizes about visiting Monster Island. In his dreams, he meets the Minilla, the son of Godzilla, who can not only talk but shrink down to human size for no readily accountable reason. Since this is supposed to be a fantasy sequence, one isn't really needed.

Minilla, it seems, is also being bullied. The son of Godzilla's bully is a freakish, green, long-necked reptilian creature with a vaguely cat-like face and an orange mane with the power to zap his victims (mostly Minilla) with electricity. This nasty critter's name? Gabara. (See, I told you it was important.)

The more child-centric focus is certainly one reason for the vitriol poured on this film by fans over the years. But it is not the only one.

Do you remember that episode of Buck Rogers where they hook Buck up to a mind-reading machine, so they can watch some of his past adventures? Or about that episode of Happy Days, when Mork from Ork scans Fonzie's memories so he can learn more about life on Earth?

It is called the clip show and it is easily one of the most loathed traditions of American television. Usually an attempt to save money, a clip show recycles scenes from prior episodes in order to produce an episode on the cheap.

That is the problem with this movie. Godzilla's Revenge is a clip show. According to screenwriter Shinichi Sekizawa, producer Tomoyuki Takana asked him, “Well, Mr. Sekizawa, can you write up a script based on bits and pieces of other films?” Sekizawa responded, “Of course, Mr. Tanaka, that's what I do best. I am a good editor.”

So Sekizawa came up with a story in which the little boy character mostly watches various battles between Godzilla and other monsters. Most of the action was culled from Godzilla versus the Sea Monster (1966) and Destroy All Monsters (1968). Gabara was the only new monster.
It is important for modern audiences to remember that the way we watch movies has changed a lot in the last 75 or so years. Before the advent of home video and internet streaming, most people only got to watch a movie when it appeared at the theaters or on television. That was the sort of market these movies were made for. You didn't get to watch four or five or more Godzilla movies in a row, one right after another, unless a local theater was having a Godzilla marathon. My point is, you shouldn't be too critical of films reusing footage. After all, chances are, back then even the most fervent Godzilla fan probably only vaguely recollected seeing those fight scenes before and probably didn't object to seeing them again.

Because all the monster parts of the story are fantasies or dream sequences, Godzilla's Revenge doesn't really fit in as part of the chronology of the series. This does raise one interesting point that might be more debated among fans if the movie were not so detested. Is Ichiro a part of the Godzillaverse, or is he a part of the real world? Ichiro imagines Godzilla and other monsters. Is he imagining those monster because monsters like Godzilla are a part of his world, or does he imaging them because he's seen the movies?

The American Version: Another problem that American audiences have with this movie is with the voices. The dubbing had gotten progressively worse in the series and this one was especially egregious.

All the children are clearly dubbed by adults. That almost never works. I remember once watching an old TV movie and thinking the kid in it sounded like Rocky the Flying Squirrel. Later on, I realized June Foray was doing the voice. So it really was Rocky the Flying Squirrel.

Even worse was the voice of Minilla. He sounds so goofy. In fact, the sounds exactly like Goofy, Disney's eponymous cartoon character. So much so that I kept expecting him to declare, “Gorsh!”

Did the American distributors simply not care because this was a kid's movie? Well, it turns out, believe it or not, the voice in the Japanese version is actually worse.
The Denouement: Despite the low opinion of fans, director Ishiro Honda cites the movie as one of his favorites. In a way, this is actually a throwback to earlier Godzilla movies, since it is clearly a “message film.” Bullying was actual a major concern throughout Japan in the seventies.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure the message is such a good one. Through Minilla, we learn Godzilla encourages his son not to tolerate bullies and to fight his own battles. Okay, but Gabara is twice the size of Minilla and can electrocute him. Scenes where Minilla is terrified and Godzilla shoves him back into the fight are really uncomfortable. Frankly, Godzilla is a terrible parent.

Well, Minilla overcomes his bully, of course, and in the real world, the movie prefigures that wish-fulfillment scene in Jean Shepherd's holiday classic, A Christmas Story, when Ichiro beats the wasabi out of his own Gabara. With his newfound confidence, Ichiro acts like a total dick to every one around him. A happy ending.

There is also a subplot about a couple of bank robbers and, when the kidnap Ichiro, he uses the lessons he learned on Monster Island to defeat two armed an dangerous criminal. So the movie not only foreshadows A Christmas Story but Home Alone as well.

The Odds: Will Gabara return? The lamest monster in the most hated movie in the entire series? Odds are too low to calculate.

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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