Direction: Ishiro Honda
Screenplay: Shinichi Sekizawa
Music: Kuniro Hiyauchi
Special Effects: Teruyoshi Nakano, Ishiro Honda
Producer: Tomoyuki Tanaka
I intended to watch this one again before I reviewed it, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’ve seen it several times before, and now it’s lodged in my memory like a nagging kernel of popcorn caught between one’s teeth. In this case Barbra Streisand was wrong -- what’s too painful to remember I’m not able to forget. And it’s not the laughter I remember -- it’s the agony.
Now I know it’s fashionable to diss Godzilla’s Revenge. But really, the movie practically asks for it. Maybe it isn’t bad as a monster fantasy for young kids, but it’s a total disaster as an example of kaiju eiga.
Yes, I still smart from the deception of UPA’s advertising campaign when Godzilla’s Revenge was theatrically released in the early 1970’s. I remember trekking to a downtown walk-in movie theatre in early 1972, hoping I was going to see a film similar to Destroy All Monsters. HAH! Destroy All Expectations was more like it. After all, the movie advertisement in the local newspaper depicted multiple monsters, and neither the title nor the ad gave even a hint of what the movie was really about. That’s not just false advertising – that’s prosecutable libel.
Even the opening credits play fast and loose with the movie’s actual content. We see various shots of Toho monsters such as Ebirah and Kumonga, and we see Godzilla setting fire to a factory with his atomic ray (a scene from Destroy All Monsters). But once the movie begins, the sad truth of its subject matter begins to become all too clear.
You know the premise: a lonely young boy finds himself bullied by one of his peers, and so he fantasizes traveling to Monster Island where he encounters countless reels of stock footage from previous Godzilla movies. He also meets up with Minya, Godzilla’s so-called son. (When his “child” was out of earshot, Godzilla probably told his kaiju pals that Minya was actually adopted.)
Minya not only looks like an escapee from a demented Sid & Marty Kroft kid’s show, but he also talks. Given his irritating “aw shucks” vocalizations, he obviously attended the Gomer Pyle School of Hyuck-Hyuck Linguistics. Minya, human-sized when it’s convenient, befriends the boy and of course converses with him. With Minya’s help, the boy learns that everyone has to fight his own battles, demonstrated by Minya tackling monster bully Gabara.
So the boy goes “back” to real world Japan, gets tangled up with some inept gangsters, overcomes them fairly easily, then confronts his own bully. He also needlessly harasses a billboard sign painter, indicating he has perhaps learned his lesson too well. Indeed, he appears to have become a pint-sized monster himself.
Now I realized about half-way through this movie that the title and the poster were Gorath-sized lies. But I at least enjoyed the scenes from Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster and Son of Godzilla, given that I hadn’t yet seen these films in 1972. But I still felt letdown. (Godzilla’s Revenge’s co-feature, Island of the Burning Damned, was also a disappointment, albeit for different reasons.)
The new monster footage in Godzilla’s Revenge doesn’t offer much. Gabara is an uninspired kaiju, easily one of the worst-designed monsters in the entire Toho stable. And needless to say, there is no city destruction whatsoever.
Coming after the high-spirited monster spectacle of Destroy All Monsters, the meager, low-key child’s fantasy of Godzilla’s Revenge dissatisfies on a massive scale. Apparently Japanese moviegoers thought so as well – 1968’s Destroy All Monsters sold 2.58 million movie tickets in Japan, whereas 1969’s Godzilla’s Revenge sold only 1.48 million tickets, a drop of over a million moviegoers from the previous year’s Destroy All Monsters’ audience.
Many Big G scholars have made the case that Godzilla’s Revenge is a good example of a monster fantasy aimed at young kids, and in fact is a critique of the Japanese socioeconomic conditions of late-sixties Japan. I can appreciate that view. The boy in the movie is a latchkey kid who rarely sees his parents and who lives in a dingy section of the city, his only solace the fantasy world of monsters. In fact, last time I saw this film (about five years ago in a widescreen print), I could better understand this more “serious” reading of the movie.
Yet even if looked at from this viewpoint, much of the movie consists of fairly irrelevant padding. For example, why do we need to see all the stock footage from Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster and Son of Godzilla? The answer seems to be to expand the film’s running time, not to add necessary thematic reinforcement.
Another sore point is the awful music score. Like Paul McCartney in the 1965 movie Help!, I will say no more.
If this film had kept its original title Minya, Son of Godzilla and kept its original ad campaign, then moviegoers would’ve known what they were paying for. As is, UPA conspired not just to hide the title of the film, but also the very nature of its subject matter. Such a deceptive move probably did little to heighten the esteem of Godzilla films in the U.S.
As a legitimate monster movie in the Godzilla Showa series, Godzilla’s Revenge fails miserably. On the other hand, perhaps it does succeed as a fantasy for young children, but I wonder if little kids really got (and get) the point?
Of course, some parents might not be pleased with the ethic of using violence to solve one’s problems, even if that problem is an obnoxious bully. Still, in the rough-and-tumble world of real children, it’s probably unrealistic to expect kids to always “negotiate” their way out of a fight. (Personal aside: I basically believe in the old maxim “Violence should only be used as a last resort.”).
If little kids like this movie and get something out of it, fine. But just because a film may work for the very young doesn’t mean it will work for older viewers. For this G fan, it most assuredly doesn’t.