Aliens love giant monsters, more so when said aliens are cockroaches, apes, or heat loving rock slugs (?). They’re prolific in these later Showa-era Godzilla films, taking over Earth’s generous helping of atomically fueled mutations for their own purpose, which for some reason is always to devastate the planet.
Billed as a send-off until it made Toho realize there was money left in the franchise, Destroy All Monsters centers itself around the Kilaaks, hostile females in need of Earth’s precious heated interior. Instead of using their mind control to whip humans into a frenzy, they gun their rays towards Monster Island, taking over the mega-giants that are selected based on marquee value.
In the scheme of things, had the franchise ended here or took a leave of absence, fans could have lived on knowing the so called “Godzilla Dream Team” poured their all into it. Special effects handled (partially) by Eiji Tsubaraya, direction from Ishiro Honda, producing by Tomoyuki Tanaka, and a score from Akira Ifukube lend the mash-up a sense of class. Much of it would be missing in future rushed entries.
There’s a lot of unique, even gutsy techniques utilized here, from camera angles situated above the miniature landscapes to a multi-kaiju city smashing session that is a full realization of learned technical spectacle. A finale plops itself to a centrally located Mt. Fuji, the perfect Kilaak hiding spot apparently, all monsters converging for a physically daunting rumble that would never be matched.
Toho wasn’t all fun and games, still focused squarely on the bottom line, Destroy All Monsters halved by human and alien confrontation. The glitzy space rocket Moonlight SY-3 would forever be realized on the toy market, mostly because it takes up more of the screen time than the creatures. Stock Toho faces from Akira Kubo and Kenji Sahara light up this dim, familiar narrative hook, although not enough to totally salvage it.
Even with its faults, most fans would probably agree that killing this first series off here instead of perpetually sinking it into a world of camp with Godzilla’s Revenge and Godzilla vs. Megalon would have been the route to take. That would have taken hours of justifying and explaining the kaiju obsession away with most who have only seen Megalon on MST 3000. There are plenty of reasons to delve into the colorful romps that took place in the Toho series, and this centerpiece for the versus films is probably the place to start. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Movie]
Media Blasters cleans this one up, provides a firm, natural source, and the end result is hard not to please. Part of it might come down to the prior home video treatment, the atrocious, Laserdisc-like DVD miserable, and they even issued the disc twice. Media Blasters clearly has things in order, although it’s not difficult to supersede ADV.
Any familiarity with the Toho yarns of old will spark nostalgia here, that slightly faded, vintage appearance pleasing to the eye. The majestic Toho Scope combined with bold color choices means the film was destined for hi-def spectacle, even if it wasn’t even a consideration back in ’68. The vivid yellow suits of the SY-3 crew, bright reds of the moon base, and stunning skyline blues push a full repertoire of color.
Print damage is a feeble impediment, held back for those multi-pass opticals. Even then much has been cleaned up without causing any visible detriment to the source. The mild, light grain structure is unobtrusive, the AVC encode dealing with any complications. There are no compression struggles here.
While naturally softer than many higher-end film stocks of the day, there’s no loss to the definition as a whole. Monster suits and their rubbery hides are pristine, offering up new found appreciation for the attention to the little things. Scaled miniatures lose none of their intricate charm, and the moon surface is gorgeously textured. Close-ups of the actors prove resilient too, even popping out a little facial detail to complete the presentation.
The sole flaw comes in terms of depth, the black levels failing to invigorate any substantial depth. Into the interior of the Earth, the SY-3 crew is basked in grays, not blacks. It’s common with all Toho sci-fi of the era whether the master used is perfect or not. In other words, that’s how it’s always looked and should, Media Blasters wise to leave this one alone and let it lie where it should. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]
There’s plenty of audio to discuss here, including multiple dubs and original language tracks. To calm any panic, the AIP dub is here, although in miserable condition. Splices are clearly identified, warble is constant, the score is all but lost at times, and it skips when data goes missing. Despite picking up as the movie pushes on, there’s a constant presence of pops and crackling. It’s there for completionists and those that grew up with it.
The dub that came into familiarity more recently, the Toho job, is offered up as an uncompressed track in 2.0 mono. Clarity is miles above the AIP dubbing, although still missing the fidelity of the original language track. The winner here is by far the Japanese 2.0 mix, presented in DTS-HD and letting Ifukube’s score soar. Lows are clean and highs are crisp, the peaks missing a total fidelity push, but still admirable. Dialogue is at its most natural (obviously) and there’s no irritation from static or other age-related defects.
A final choice is a Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 effort, mixed low and without much life. It sounds sedated other than a mild push into the subwoofer and blooming of the score. For just a little added zest, it’s beneficial. For the purist, it’s useless. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]
Media Blasters coughs up a fun slate of bonuses, beginning with a lively commentary from Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski, both detailing this integral piece of Toho’s monster legacy consistently. An image gallery repeats elements during its 20-minute life span, yet it’s worth a watch. By the end, there’s a brief selection of props to dissect. Production art and storyboards again repeat in spots, yet still produce superb results for insight into the process.
The 8mm short that AIP issued decades ago to the home market is here in its entirety, a fun little condensed version of the film that may ’70s kids probably grew up with. Trailers include Godzilla vs. Megalon and Riki-Oh. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Extras]