Welcome to the far flung future of 1999, Toho style. You know, the closer we get to the year 2000, the more of those classic "futuristic" movies actually end up taking place in the past. Like the Lost in Space TV series and Terminator 2, both of which predicted events that would occur in 1997.
...but back to our movie. Welcome to the far flung future of 1999, where the people of Earth have managed to imprison all of the Earth's monsters on one small island somewhere in the Pacific. Actually, one of the highlights of the films is an early scene where a helpful narrator explains to us all of the cool techniques that are being used to keep the monsters in check. The narrator also explains that the monsters have plenty to eat, highlighted by a shot of Rodan capturing a dolphin and then eating it. Besides the fun of pretending that Rodan just scarfed down Flipper, this begs the question, why don't we ever see any other monsters eating? In any other movies? We saw a baby Rodan eat giant bugs in the original Rodan (1956), but the rest of the monsters seem to be able to live without eating at all, kind of like Kate Moss.
The plot hinges around the fact that aliens called Kilaaks, looking like fugitives from a Billy Idol video, come to Earth and decide to use the monsters against humanity. Again. As if this didn't happen every five minutes during the 1970s.
Our mission: capture Curious George!
A monster roll call:
Godzilla - You know who he is.
Minilla (Son of Godzilla) - This bizarrely cheerful spawn of Godzilla and the Pillsbury Doughboy first appeared in Son of Godzilla. Why he hasn't grown up at all in the 25 years that have apparently lapsed between Son and Destroy All Monsters is not clear.
Rodan - Rodan first appeared in his own movie, fought Godzilla in Ghidorah the Three Headed Monster, and then fought alongside Godzilla in Godzilla vs Monster Zero.
Mothra - Mothra first appeared in her own film, then fought Godzilla, died, was replaced by two of her larval offspring in Godzilla vs Mothra, then showed up again as an adult in Godzilla vs the Sea Monster. Here, Mothra is again a larva.
Angilas - Godzilla's first monster opponent, this is his first appearence as Godzilla's ally.
Gorosaurus - The dinosaur who fought King Kong in King Kong Escapes.
Baragon - Baragon first appeared in Frankenstein Conquers the World. Interestingly, he was probablty supposed to have a larger role in Destroy All Monsters than his cameo in the finished film. In both the Japanese and English version of the film, a TV commentator refers to the monster that burrows under the Arc de Triumph as "Baragon," despite the fact that it's actually Gorosaurus that appears. Given that Baragon could burrow, it seems that Gorosaurus was probably a last minute substitution, probably because the Baragon suit was in awful shape after having been modified at least three times to become different Ultraman monsters.
Manda - Manda is a giant snake that appeared in Atragon. He never really fights in Destroy All Monsters, though he does take a crack at Tokyo.
Kumonga - A giant spider that appeared in Son of Godzilla.
Varan - From the movie Varan The Unbelievable. He only cameos in Destroy All Monsters, as a flying puppet.
King Ghidorah - Godzilla's most frequent opponent, and the Kilaaks secret final weapon.
(There is also a "Burning Monster" that appears towards the end of the film. It kinda looks like the cartoon representation of a hemmorhoid from an old Preparation H commercial.)
"Hot diggity! I can get the
Sci-Fi Channel on this thing!
Oh, and there are humans in Destroy All Monsters too. Probably the only one you need to remember is Captain Katsuo Yamabe, played by Akira Kubo (and in the international version, dubbed with a ridiculously macho voice), Toho's goofy guy extraordinaire. (See Gorath for more on Kubo.) Captain Yamabe gets all the good lines and all the important things to do, whenever a serious scientist-type isn't required.
Destroy All Monsters is one of our favorite Godzilla films for a few very simple reasons:
1. Monsters, monsters, monsters! This film really delivers on the monsters. Godzilla attacks New York, Rodan trashes a few skyscrapers, and King Ghidorah shows up at the end for the World Championship Wrestling No-Holds-Barred Monster Bout. No kidding, folks, the fight at the end of this one is pretty spectacular, in a brutal sort of way. Not for the squeamish.
2. The jumpsuited aliens really go all out on their fashion statement. Forget jumpsuits, these aliens wear full body suits -- cowls and all! And they have spangles!
3. There is a neat-o spaceship called the SY-3 that our (human) heroes use to fight the Kilaaks. As with all such spaceships, it is actually a model, but it's pretty cool looking. Dig that planet-rover!
In many ways, DAM is guilty of the sins of lesser films, like Monster Zero, but the presence of all these monsters really ramps up the enjoyment factor. We're much more willing to forgive a sluggish plot and silly dialogue when a fight scene involving eight monsters comes along. Destroy All Monsters represents a high water mark in the Godzilla series for its sheer spectacle. More monsters, more city destruction (without stock footage!), and more cool scenes than almost any film in the series. All that, and the "people talking" scenes are very watchable. It's Godzilla movie heaven.