Destroy All Monsters (1968)

Destroy all monsters is a 1968 kaiju movie featuring the entire lineup of every damn monster that had appeared in the franchise. The movie is predictably absurd, but the first few of those kaiju flicks are legitimate classics. Does this one hold up to the scrutiny of the originals or of time? Well, check out the trailer below, and then continue on down for our review. But be warned, there are spoilers for this nearly fifty year old movie.

Reviewed by: Jack

 
 

Plot Synopsis

The plot of this particular film is simultaneously stupidly simple and laughably absurd. Additionally, your entire exposure to the story is delivered by way of raw, unadulterated exposition.

The year is 1999. Japan has taken it upon itself to round up all the world’s kaiju and store them on “Monster Island” where they are sequestered and unable to wreak havoc upon the rest of humanity. And I know what you’re thinking: what’s keeping all of the monsters on Monster Island? They’ve got that covered too. First, there’s plenty of food for them, and second, there’s systems to deploy gasses which have pheromones that make each individual monster not want to leave the island . . . or something.

 
It’s a system we like to call “too big to fail.”

It’s a system we like to call “too big to fail.”

 

Well, shockingly, something goes wrong. What is legitimately shocking is specifically what goes wrong. An all-female alien race called the Kilaaks comes to town, mind controls the scientists in control of Monster Island, and releases all the monsters.

 
We were powerless in the face of their sequin hoodies.

We were powerless in the face of their sequin hoodies.

 

Then, the Kilaaks mind control the monsters themselves to attack Earth’s most recognizable cities. There’s some laser battles as we humans try to beat back the monsters, and all the while the Kilaaks are trying to take over Mt. Fuji and eventually the world.

Luckily for the home team, a group of astronauts (?) find the mind control device and sort of destroy it, freeing Earth’s monsters to team up to fight back the aliens. The aliens send their best champion, King Ghidorah, who ends up being no match for Godzilla and co. We beat back a flying saucer, and Earth is saved. Yay Earth!

 
King Ghidorah ain’t shit. Look how bored Godzilla is.

King Ghidorah ain’t shit. Look how bored Godzilla is.

 

What the Movie Does Right

The fucking monsters. Old kaiju movies rule, and this thing has all of the god damn kaiju jammed right into one experience.

 
One Earth, under monsters . . .

One Earth, under monsters . . .

 

The effects are also pretty great considering the time. Yes, there are some regrettable things in the way of some of the worst green screens I’ve seen to show the monsters across the world’s cities, and the lasers, and the sci-fi stuff, but dammit, the monsters are great. The costumes and miniatures are blended really well with the stop motion and claymation that is also used. Maybe it’s some kind of primacy bias variation, but I love this shit.

Also the exposition. I’m not typically a huge fan of lazy exposition, but there’s something super charming about just fucking going all the way for it. The exposition here is so over the top blatant that it kind of works. They have exposition via unexplained narration, via scientists telling each other things they should already know, and by damn sportscasting when the final fight rolls around. It’s kind of great.


What the Movie Does Wrong

A lot. Here’s the thing. This is my guilty pleasure for a reason. It’s objectively not a great movie. For example, the vast majority of this movie features exactly zero monsters. There is one forty minute chunk in which there are literally no monsters on screen whatsoever.

 
“Ehh, how much do we really need the monsters in this monster movie?” - The director, apparently.

“Ehh, how much do we really need the monsters in this monster movie?” - The director, apparently.

 

Add to that, only one monster is destroyed, and that’s being generous because the thing definitely shows up in later flicks. The acting is rough, too. It may be a foreign film for me, but robotic and terrible acting knows no cultural barriers, and this is a great example of that.

There’s also one scene where the astronauts are laser-ing their way through the obviously plastic mind control device, and there is an uninterrupted shot of at least four minutes showing the laser. And when they finally cut through the thing, it’s the most anticlimactic thing I can remember ever since I didn’t give a flying fuck what was happening in that hatch in Lost. It tilts slightly. That’s it.

As rough as all those things are, though, they kind of add to the campiness and fun of the flick for me.


Ratings (1-10)

Story: 3 - There’s not a whole lot of effort put in here. The effort that was put in was guided almost exclusively by exposition. And while I commend them for just fucking going for it with the exposition, it’s still exposition. The story is by no means why you’re watching this.

World-Building / Immersion: 4 - Most of this score is for world-building rather than immersion. I have a large history with this flick and it’s great. It spawned in me a continuing love for the kaiju movies in general. Some of the credit here has to be from the backstory of the other eight films in the series prior to this, but this isn’t bottom of the barrel territory by any means for me.

Scare-Factor: 1 - You’re not coming here for scares. Even if Godzilla or some of the other first movies brought some level of fear, none of that exists here. Any fear of giant monsters destroying the world is ruined by the goofiness of the thing and the race of all-sequin female aliens.

Effects (or Judicious Lack Thereof): 7 - Look. This came out in 1968. As I mentioned above, the green screen and lasers are off in places, but this is about the fucking kaiju, okay? And the kaiju look awesome. I’m certainly correcting for the era, but this is peak guy-in-monster-suit-bashes-miniature territory.

Overall: 6 - Like any guilty pleasure, this doesn’t deserve this grade, but dammit, if I don’t just love it. It’s a ton of fun, and worth a watch. It’s hard to give it an unconditional recommend, but I can say that it’s a fun as shit.