Do the Monster Mash

Set in 1999, Destroy All Monsters conceives an internationally shared space headquarters on Iwo Jima. At Destroy All Monsters’ release in 1968, Iwo Jima remained under American control (the US returned Iwo Jima to Japan later the same year). There’s an immediate idealism to this film, that the space race could lead to a trusting partnership rather than a conflict between Russia and the US.

Nearby is another island. There, Toho’s monsters live together, also in peace. Of course they get loose, smashing Moscow, New York, Paris, and others. A reporter questions the Japanese doctor responsible for the monster project: “Why wasn’t Tokyo attacked?” casting suspicions, suggesting conspiracy, and displaying uncertainty that Imperialism isn’t yet defeated. Cooperation was a ruse, maybe.

Japan does save the world in Destroy All Monsters. With their super space rocket SY-3 and established moon base, the nation returns normalcy to the world. That’s a shame, actually, since previous films like Invasion of Astro Monster bridged nationalities together. That’s not true of Destroy All Monsters. That said, this is a case of Japan putting things right, atoning for their mistakes though a symbolic pop entertainment fantasy. Weird, if undeniably Japanese.

Destroy All Monsters is a case of Japan putting things right, atoning for their mistakes though a symbolic pop entertainment fantasy

Causing this ruckus is a race of alien women. They come from Kilaak, an unknown planet. In an Invasion of Astro Monster do over, they too seize control of the kaiju to destroy Earth. Director Ishiro Honda struggled with placing women in his films; Destroy All Monsters lays all blame on them, and as revealed later, they’re nothing more than silver slugs. Even peeking through ‘60s era social blinders, that’s low.

Men become heroes. Scientists, astronauts, political leaders alike, few women among them (and fewer still who matter). Bouncing between cities, islands, the moon, and underground, Destroy All Monsters conveys an event film feel, with hefty masculinity in the lead.

Often brisk, Destroy All Monsters so rarely is dull. The turn-around from Ebirah, Horror of the Deep and Son of Godzilla adds to the grandeur. Hefty visual effects place numerous creatures in the same frame. That’s dazzling when considering choreography, heavy suits, wire work, miniatures, and pyrotechnics working in sync. This is pure Toho sci-fi, a last gasp before the iconic creative team dissembled and budgets slipped to pennies. Intended as Godzilla’s closing chapter – a series transitioning from nuclear anxieties to recovery and finally unity – Destroy All Monsters didn’t end up that way. As it turned out, the series still had more to say.

Video

Compared to a prior Region A Blu-ray release, Criterion’s Destroy All Monsters fares better. The primary factor is contrast, properly calibrated compared to the washed out look prior. While black levels don’t reach pure black, they carry enough weight to add dimension.

This is also brighter, with bolder, natural color. While other prints in this set suffer yellowing, Destroy All Monsters doesn’t. Contrast gives life to the daylight finish. Primaries on space suits (red and yellow) stick out. Even Godzilla’s nuclear breath reaches an extreme.

Bringing Destroy All Monsters down is resolution. Again sourced from a release print, grain lacks firmness, and as a result, so too does detail. It’s there. Facial definition shows in close. Definition in miniature sets, models, and suits does impress. Yet that softness is always there, something a better source and newer master likely solve.

Audio

Although a little shaky on the top-end, one of composer Akira Ifukube’s grandest monster movie scores comes to life in DTS-HD here. Some dramatic lows even catch the subwoofer. That’s rare for mono.

Balance keeps each element intact. Dialog renders well, never lost in the mix.

Extras

Nothing, a shame since the previous Blu-ray offered a commentary.

Destroy All Monsters
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

Destroy All Monsters goes all-in on giant monster spectacle, but doesn’t ignore a certain idealism about Japan’s future place in the world.

Sending
User Review
0 (0 votes)

The 15 unaltered images below represent the Blu-ray. For an additional 38 Destroy All Monsters screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 100,000+ already in our library), 100 exclusive 4K UHD reviews, and more, support us on Patreon.