MERRY (belated) MINYAMAS EVERYONE! Minya, the Son of Godzilla, the Prince of the Monsters turned 50 last month! I kicked off the celebration of this auspicious occasion here, but of course I knew that wouldn’t be enough!
Since I’ve already reviewed Minya’s debut film there was really only one choice for my MINYAMAS movie review: 1969’s Godzilla’s Revenge (or All Monsters Attack in Japan)! Revenge is debatably an even Minya-er movie than Son of Godzilla and it has quite a reputation within the hardcore Godzilla fan community.
Which is to say, a lot of people hate it. I’ve always disagreed with Revenge’s naysayers, but this most recent viewing has absolutely solidified it as one of my favorite entries in the entire series. That’s not me being a contrarian wiener or pimping some clickbait bullshit, I just really love the sweet goofball soul of this incredibly unique little movie.
Round up all your vacuum tubes, get ready to fight your own battles, and force yourself to fall asleep, because we’re taking a psychedelic imagination-jet to Monster Island!
First, here’s the US trailer!
Godzilla’s Revenge was released on a double-bill in the States with Island of the Burning Damned. Burning Damned got top billing, but the trailer is all about Revenge. The trailer also makes (burning) damned sure to hide any and all traces of the movie’s actual (Minya-riffic) story, pitching it instead as a more traditionally apocalyptic creature feature. It took the US a lot longer to embrace the idea that monster stories don’t have to be horror flicks, which is weird considering the success of Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein all the way back in 1948 (and its follow-ups like Abbot and Costello Meet the Mummy). The Japanese trailer gives you a more accurate snapshot of the movie:
The first minute plays it straight like the US trailer, but the rest is all about Ichiro, Minya, and Gabara! We hear the iconic Monster March and get some announcements (I think) about Toho’s Champion Festival. The Champion Festivals were huge, tri-annual triple+ features Toho put together to lure kids away from their TVs and back into movie theaters starting in 1969. Most of the films featured were re-releases of older kaiju flicks edited for maximum kid appeal, but Godzilla’s Revenge was new(ish, more on that later) and anchored the first Champion Festival! The festivals also featured cartoons and episodes of giant hero shows like Ultraman and Mirror Man.
It sounds amazing. Yes OF COURSE I’m jealous. The only thing that comes close here is the double-double feature every year at G-Fest.
If you watched the trailers you probably also noticed the rad music. Here’s the previously mentioned Monster March:
It perfectly captures the spirit of being a monster-loving little kid. It’s composed by Genta (or Gendai?) Kano, with lyrics by Revenge’s screenwriter Shinichi Sekizawa. I’ve gushed about Sekizawa in previous reviews, so I’ll keep it quick and just say he’s:
- My favorite Godzilla writer
- Written many of the best, most innovative kaiju films: Mothra, King Kong vs. Godzilla, Mothra vs. Godzilla, Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster, Invasion of Astro-Monster, Son of Godzilla, AND MORE.
But there’s more to Godzilla’s Revenge’s soundscape than the Monster March! The whole score by Kunio Miyauchi is a groovy, jazzy slam dunk.
Miyauchi’s no stranger to scoring monsters having also made music for The Human Vapor, Ultra Q, Ultraman, Godzilla vs. Gigan and more! PLUS there’s one more piece of music I have to give a shout out to:
That’s “Crime Fiction” by Ervin Jereb. It replaces the Monster March in the US cut of the film, which is a bummer… but it’s also fuckin’ awesome and works really well within the context of the movie. Like the Monster March, it captures the feeling of being a latchkey kid daydreaming about kaiju while navigating the perils of everyday life, just in a very different way. The big takeaway is that no matter what version of Godzilla’s Revenge you watch, it is stacked with great, evocative music. So who else is in charge of this thing?
Yep, Ishiro Honda’s in the director’s chair bringing a personal, human touch and a sharp compositional eye to the proceedings. And despite Eiji Tsuburaya’s name in the credits, Honda and Teruyoshi Nakano handled the special effects scenes. At this point Tsuburaya was fully balls-deep in his television work, so Honda gave him the honorary credit out of respect. Nakano was the first assistant special effects director at the time (having worked on most of Toho’s classic monster output), and after Godzilla’s Revenge he would go on to to direct special effects for Godzilla vs. Hedorah, Zone Fighter, Terror of Mechagodzilla, Return of Godzilla (a.k.a Godzilla 1985), Pulgasari, and a BUNCH more!
So Revenge has killer tuneage, the best Godzilla director calling the shots, and Tsuburaya’s protege working on special effects! What other beloved series talent could possibly pop up in this much-maligned, kid-centric Godzilla flick? OH JUST HARUO NAKAJIMA AND LITTLE MAN MACHAN (or Marchan as he’s listed by some sources?). Nakajima is the original (and for my money best) Godzilla suit actor, and Little Man Machan is the first (and for my money best) Minya suit actor. Machan was a midget pro wrestler earlier in his career, which explains his awesome physicality. Both of these dudes turn in terrific performances as their respective kaiju. Nakajima’s Godzilla is both the savage king of Monster Island and a gruff but deep down loving and kind dad. Machan’s Minya is a lovable, cowardly little oaf that can take a trouncing hilariously and dig deep for the courage to finally fight his own battles.
Enough background, let’s run through this thing! Revenge kicks off with stock footage of Godzilla whippin’ ass under the opening credits accompanied by either the Monster March or Crime Fiction depending on what version you’re watching. If you already know this movie you might be surprised that it took me just over a thousand words to finally get to that dreaded phrase, stock footage. Revenge’s heavy reliance on stock footage is one of its two cardinal sins, with the other being its Minya-centric, kid-friendly story. But considering that the tagline/slogan/whatever for this blog is MINYA LIVES it’s probably not a huge surprise that I am 100% onboard with a gooftastic fantasy adventure starring Minya.
And frankly I’m not really upset about the recycled scenes either. It’s not ideal obviously, but Revenge integrates them much better than any of the classic-era Gamera films did. It’s a surprisingly natural fit for the story, and Honda does a commendable job of stringing them together to build a whole new tale instead of just recounting old ones. If you haven’t seen this movie before, this whole discussion might not make a lot of sense, so I’ll dig into it as we run into re-used footage. Even if you do feel spicy about the way Revenge pads its running time with stock footage, I think we can agree that the opening credits are a pretty innocuous place to relive some old battle scenes.
After the action packed credits we dive headfirst into one of my favorite recurring genre themes: slice of life place-making! In sharp contrast to the quaint fishing village of Gamera the Brave or the majestic Scandinavian wilderness of Trollhunter, our young protagonist Ichiro calls a bleak, smoggy, busy, industrial district home. As a rust belter myself here in the US I think it looks cool and surprisingly homey:
I’ve always loved settings like this and have practically swooned when they’ve popped up in Gamera vs. Jiger and episodes of Ultraman, but I think Godzilla’s Revenge beats ’em both at depicting them. It’s easy to see why a kid growing up surrounded by loud, dangerous, huge, stinky machinery would connect with loud, dangerous, huge, stinky monsters. These polluted, mechanized vistas are uniquely beautiful on their own, but they’re even more dramatic when Ichiro and his friends traverse them looking like brightly colored specks. The kids pop against this murky landscape and it looks awesome:
We get to know Ichiro’s world and we also get to know Ichiro. Walking home from school with his little friend (in the US version she sounds like niece Denise from Kroll Show), Ichiro insists that a nearby car’s squealing tires sound like Minya. The comparison is a bit of a stretch, but the real point is to establish what an imaginative, monster-loving kiddo Ichiro is.
After that either Crime Fiction or the Monster March kicks back in, accompanying the kids on their perilous walk home. It’s the first big blast of Revenge’s sweet, funky soul. It’s a potent juxtaposition: this shit just works for me. Ichiro crosses paths with his dad who drives an industrial tram all goddamn day. A less original, less kind movie would make Ichiro’s dad too busy or even too mean to address Ichiro, but Godzilla’s Revenge posits that *gasp* just because a parent is out there working his or her fucking ass off doesn’t mean they don’t care:
I’m being weirdly defensive here, but it’s because there are a ton of movies (including plenty of movies I love!) from the 80s and 90s that push this idea that parents that spend a lot of time at work do it because they don’t love their families. It’s like, mother fucker do you think parents are working for free? Just for the hell of it? Do you think clothes, food, housing, school supplies, college savings, toys, etc. are free? This is the only movie I can readily think of that doesn’t demonize hard working parents. Shortly after Ichiro’s dad excitedly, happily says hi to him from the tram, he has a break with his coworker where they discuss Ichiro’s quiet, thoughtful nature. Ichiro’s dad also laments not having enough money to raise him someplace nicer. This movie has shitloads of heart.
This scene establishes that Ichiro’s dad is a good dude and introduces the bank robber subplot by having his coworker read about it in the paper. Goofy kid’s movie or not, Revenge is tightly plotted and features plenty of set up and pay off. I fucking love set up and pay off. Speaking of set ups (to later be paid off!), we also meet (human) Gabara and his gang of bullies when Ichiro tries to explore an abandoned building!
They surround Ichiro, call him a dork, steal the vacuum tube he found on his walkabout, and then claim they’ll give it back if he goes and harasses the dude up the road painting a billboard.
Ichiro’s shy and small so he high-tails it the hell out of there… to his empty home. Ichiro and his parents have worked out a system: when they work late, Ichiro goes next door after school to check in with and get a key from their neighbor Shinpei (a kindly toy maker!). Shinpei’s played by character actor Hideyo Amamoto, who up to this point had made his career playing vicious villains and hardened criminals.
Shinpei’s latest creation is a kid’s computer that’s loaded with infotainment about the moon (which I think is achieved using stock footage from Destroy All Monsters?). Ichiro thinks it’s cool enough, but is really just into Monster Island (relatable). Specifically and tellingly, Ichiro loves Monster Island because (according to him) the monsters there are all tougher than that vacuum tube-stealing bitch Gabara. Shinpei encourages Ichiro to fight back, but Ichiro is resigned to his perceived lot in life as a shrimpy nerd.
But TV’s kind of lame (to Ichiro at least, to us it sneaks in another update about the robbers!), so Ichiro goes into his room and starts working on his own computer. Or radio? It’s kind of both? Either way, the fascination with vacuum tubes makes a lot more sense now.
Ichiro asks his computer where Monster Island is and how to get there. I really can’t stress enough how relatable Ichiro is.
Ichiro imagines his own answer: you get there by jet plane! More specifically, you get there by super psychedelic jet plane acid trip/dream sequence!
As soon as Ichiro materializes on Monster Island we hear Godzilla’s roars and see him doing battle with a trio of Kamacurases!
As fun and impressive as this fight is, observant viewers will recognize it as being recycled footage from Son of Godzilla. I get why people might feel cheated by reused scenes, but this fight is too cool for me to be pissed about it. Plus it’s the start of a stock footage montage that does an awesome job of establishing what a kick-ass, chaotic, monster mosh pit the island is! Ichiro scrambles up a tree and spots a bevy of killer critters that call Monster Island home!
So yeah, it’s technically stock footage (pulled from King Kong Escapes, Ebirah, Horror of the Deep and Destroy All Monsters), but it serves the story so well (while hardly calling attention to itself) that it’s never bothered me. I almost wish they would’ve pushed it even further and included more kaiju cameos, but I think it was a smart call to stick to a handful of B and C-list creatures: it makes the reused footage a little less obvious. Speaking of stock footage (oh my god there’s a lot),
Hey You Over There Giant Eagle picks an extremely ill-advised fight with Godzilla!
It’s a scene reused from Ebirah, and while it lacks the exciting action and technical wizardry of the Kamacuras fight, it makes up for it with comical, frantic awkwardness and an abrupt, slapstick curbstomp ending. I don’t know if it’s funny intentionally, but it’s pretty goddamn funny. I chalk it up as another effective, inoffensive use of stock footage. I love micro-fights like this: they continually establish that this is a savage, wild world, and Godzilla has earned (and is constantly fighting to keep) his role as its mighty, monstrous king through combat cunning and brute force. It’s also the kind of delightfully insane “smash your favorite action figures together”-type mayhem you’d expect from the imagination of an elementary school kid.
After back-to-back battles and a kaiju role call Ichiro has to escape the hungry clutches of the surviving Kamacuras! In his haste he takes a tumble down a trippy hole in the ground:
Stuck at the bottom of a chasm, Ichiro
is trapped between a couple rocks and eventually has to amputate his own arm to escape tries to climb out to no avail. Just when it looks like all hope is lost, a mysterious figure at the surface lowers a vine for Ichiro to grab onto. I’ve seen this movie before, I know it pretty well, and I know what’s coming next. That said I truly, honestly got really excited at this part. They build up just a little bit of suspense and milk that little bit of tension as the helpful stranger lifts Ichiro up to safety. Who could it be? Surely not Godzilla, right? Are there humans living on Monster Island?
It’s such a fun reveal, made doubly so when Minya starts fucking talking. In the US cut he sounds like a wonderful, vaguely bumpkin-ish doofus:
In the Japanese cut he has more of a traditional kid’s voice. Japanese Minya tends to have deeper, more substantive stuff to say, while US Minya sticks to “aw shucks” country-fried mannerisms.
Bonus: Japanese Ichiro and Minya talk like I do!
I love both versions, but I still find sweet dim-bulb US Minya a little more endearing, vulnerable, and awkwardly charming. In either version, Ichiro and Minya become fast friends: both are lonely kids with bullies named Gabara. Speaking of Gabara, holy shit there he is!
Gabara scares off Minya and a ringing phone zaps Ichiro out of his fantasy adventure. Ichiro’s mom is calling to say she’s pulling an all-night shift, and Shinpei invites Ichiro to have dinner with him tonight. We also see the robber subplot getting closer to home: a pair of detectives ask Ichiro’s mom and her coworkers if they’ve seen the two thugs around or know anything about their whereabouts. These regular check-ins with the robbers might border on overkill, but it makes their story feel like a real, organic thing that’s happening right alongside Ichiro’s story, just off-screen. Ichiro tries and fails to force himself back to sleep, so he packs up to go fuck around in that abandoned building he had his eye on earlier.
Ichiro is stoked to find more vacuum tubes, a crusty old pair of headphones, a hole in the ceiling/floor above him (more set-up and pay-off!), and… a driver’s license? When Ichiro hears sirens, he grabs his newfound treasures and ducks out of the building… just barely missing the robbers in hiding! The license he picked up belongs to one of the robbers!
When Ichiro gets home he makes sure to hump this car outside his apartment building:
Ichiro has dinner with Shinpei but is too bummed out about his parents being away to eat. Shinpei manages to cheer him up by dubbing him his official toy tester and assistant. Getting a “job” just like his parents peps Ichiro up and he goes crazy on his dinner to make sure he has enough energy to help out. I’ve already said this once and will probably say it a few more times before the end of the review, but Godzilla’s Revenge has shitloads of heart.
The detectives we met earlier crash Shinpei and Ichiro’s dinner party. They encourage Shinpei to keep his car locked (you better believe it’s the same one Ichiro was grinding on earlier!) because the robbers may be hiding out in the area and looking to carjack a getaway vehicle. The robber plot continues to get closer and closer to vulnerable little Ichiro!
After dinner Ichiro sleep-a-ports back to his imagination version of Monster Island, but warps in right next to Gabara! Ichiro barely escapes in a cool cross-fade composite shot chase:
Ichiro ditches Gabara and finds Minya dicking around with flowers. It’s adorable to imagine Minya derping around Monster Island picking and playing with the prettiest flowers he can find.
We get one of Minya’s funniest (in a bleak, Eeyore-ish sort of way) lines and one of his most iconic ones back to back: “Just feelin’ lonesome ‘cuz I got no friends.” ” Godzilla says I should learn to fight my own battles, ya know?”
Minya says he’ll introduce Ichiro to Godzilla (amazing), but when they go down the mountain to make pleasantries Godzilla’s busy duking it out with Ebirah!
In the grand scheme of this movie it’s a relatively small detail that makes the recycled scenes break the immersion for me: Godzilla looks a lot different from one scene to the next! The Godzlla suit from Ebirah is pretty close-ish to the one from Destroy All Monsters (also used to shoot new scenes for Revenge) but the Son of Godzilla suit is way different (and butt ugly)! Here’s a side by side by side comparison:
Plenty of Godzilla movies re-use older Godzilla suits for quick shots of water scenes or hazardous stunts, but Revenge puts this menagerie of different-looking Godzillas front and center. It’s a detail that can take you out of the illusion that this is the adventure of a single, persistent Godzilla, but it’s also a detail that supports an interesting fan theory about Godzilla’s Revenge.
The fan theory is that Godzilla’s Revenge actually takes place in our world, the real world. Here, Godzilla’s adventures only exist as movies that a kid like Ichiro would have voraciously gobbled up, loved, and day-dreamed about. Godzilla’s Revenge is regurgitating old battle scenes because they’re Ichiro’s favorites and he’s stringing them together into his own sort of imagined fan-fiction!
It’s actually a pretty solid concept: Godzilla and his monstrous ilk only appear in Ichiro’s fantasies and (unless I missed something) no reference is ever made to previous monster encounters or attacks. One of the funny things about this fan theory is that the opposite is never explicitly stated either: nobody ever tells Ichiro to stop day-dreaming about movie monsters or anything like that. Ultimately, the true nature of reality isn’t important: no matter what universe it takes place in, Godzilla’s Revenge is 100% the story of a lonely kid that finds strength, inspiration, and confidence in the characters that spark his imagination. Like all the best fan theories this is really just a fun thought exercise and an interesting way to re-examine the movie.
But yeah, Godzilla stock footage fights Ebirah! Minya adorably becomes Godzilla’s hype man as he and Ichiro watch from a safe(-ish) vantage point. We get some boulder volleyball, some splashing, some nuke-breath, they exchange punches, and the fight wraps up with Godzilla tearing off one of Ebirah’s claws. It’s not as technically astounding as the Kamacuras fight or as (accidentally?) hilarious as the Giant Eagle fight, but it’s a fun rumble. We’ve now seen Godzilla kick ass by land, by sea, and by air! If you ask me though, they cut this fight just a little too short. Here’s the finale we missed from the original battle:
It’s funny and bad-ass, but maybe it’s too mean and vicious for Godzilla’s Revenge?
Godzilla comes ashore, but he can’t hang with Minya and Ichiro yet because here comes Kumonga!
The fight is footage pulled from Son of Godzilla, and it’s no less fun here than it was there. The Kumonga fight changes things up by throwing Minya into the mix. Kumgona nails Godzilla in the eye with a projectile stinger, so Minya gets all wound up and blows a smoke ring at the sinister spider!
It’s ineffective, but we get another classic Minya line: “How do you like that, weirdo?!” he warbles indignantly. Minya is the best. Minya and Ichiro bail and leave the monster mashing to Godzilla. It’s always a treat to watch a master practice their craft.
It’s even more of a treat to watch Ichiro and Minya dance around when Godzilla wins:
But their celebration is cut short by the re-appearance of Gabara!
I dig Gabara. Up to this point in the Godzilla series, the majority of kaiju have had some kind of real-world inspiration: dinosaurs, insects, arachnids or sea animals. Even King Ghidorah and Manda feel kind of earthly and natural with their classic, dragon-y looks. But then here comes Gabara, a weird, warty, pug/cat-faced, humanoid, horn-headed, hairy, frog, ogre, troll… thingie. He’s a got a bright, unique color palette, fun lightning-touch powers, and an odd, tailless bod. I couldn’t get a consistent answer on who plays him though: Wikipedia says Yasuhiko Kakuyuki, but IMDB claims Yû Sekita. Whichever actor portrayed Gabara did a fine job, but it’s no surprise that he was overshadowed by Nakajima and Machan. I’m bummed we never saw Gabara again, but since he very possibly only exists in Ichiro’s brain (and considering this movie’s reception), I get it.
Minya’s all pumped up from watching his dad trash ass so he decides he’s going to finally take on Gabara! When Minya rolls up (in the the US version) he delivers a strange and hilarious “Yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah!” before he begins his… awkward self-induced super-sizing. Let me show you what I mean:
Just a big screen full of Minya crotch. Thankfully he doesn’t have a horrible knobby little penis like the titular beast in Galgameth, just sort of a vague, nondescript mound. Yes I consider that a major improvement. ANYWAY!
Minya tries his darnedest, but Gabara takes his little gray ass to school in a major way. After getting slapped around by the bully kaiju, Minya turns tail and shrinks back down to recuperate with Ichiro. But there’s never a dull moment on Monster Island (or at least not on Ichiro’s imagined version of it), so a squadron of fighter jets scream by overhead! In the US version Minya just says that they’re scary, but in the Japanese version he says that it’s some pesky humans trying to invade again. It’s neat getting a glimpse into how Minya views humans, but it’s even more interesting knowing that humanity is actively trying to colonize Monster Island and Godzilla has to keep fighting them off. Fleshing out the world of Monster Island is one of the things Godzilla’s Revenge does best, and despite their similar names, appearances, and high concentration of kaiju, it’s clear that Monster Island is distinctly different from the Monsterland facility we saw in Destroy All Monsters.
Like a lot of the action scenes in Godzilla’s Revenge, this sequence is recycled from Ebirah, Horror of the Deep. It’s a good thing this scene kicks as much ass as it does, because if it didn’t I would be KO’d by stock footage fatigue by now. Thankfully this is one of the coolest, craziest encounters Godzilla has ever had with the military! Godzilla boogies through their opening salvo, slaps the shit out of some planes, then crushes one in his hands and tosses the charred fuselage:
Then Godzilla busts out a strange technique that I don’t know if we’ve ever seen again. A pair of planes fly (IRRESPONSIBLY!) close to his mouth, so he pops his maw open and the jets ignite right then and there!
So it’s like a point-blank shot of atomic fire instead of the usual raging stream? Maybe even just a super-heated puff of air from his nuclear-powered lungs? Was it meant to look like this, or was there supposed to be a breath effect added in later? Whatever the case I think it looks cool as shit. It reminds me of the burst-breath fireball attack Godzilla had in the video games that came out in the early- to mid-2000s.
Godzilla finishes off the jets with a tail-whip and another breath-bomb and then finally has a chance to wave Minya over. Revenge has the cutest version of Minya and the most fatherly version of Godzilla. Look at this dad-squat!
Minya reluctantly waddles over to his bad-ass dad, who gives him a lesson in breathing atomic fire! I love that when he’s teaching Minya he does the same arms up “wind-up” motion that Minya’s always done. It’s like training wheels for spewing nuclear death!
Of course Minya hasn’t figured out atomic fire yet, so after huffing out a few smoke rings Godzilla steps up the curriculum:
If that seems kind of cruel, I’ll have you know they hug right afterward and Minya is so jazzed he starts juking around with delight!
Ichiro cheers on his monstery pal from (what he thinks is) a safe distance, but even the shrubbery on Monster Island is murderous!
It’s an eerie segue back into reality and the story takes a darker turn. The thugs haul Ichiro back to their lair, just missing Shinpei as he comes to check on Ichiro. Shinpei assumes Ichiro’s konked out for the night, so he steps out to have a beer with the detectives from earlier. Ichiro’s situated near the hole in the floor he spotted earlier, so he stealthily covers it up with a newspaper.
It takes a little longer to pay off than I expected, but it’s another awesome piece of set up and pay off in this movie. It also drives home what a clever kid Ichiro is. Clever or not, this whole scenario is scary as fuck, so Ichiro copes with it by re-channelling Minya. The Min-man’s in deep shit too!
Of course it’s sad to see Minya getting his ass kicked, but Machan’s hilarious physicality keeps it from being too depressing. Now that Ichiro’s back on Monster Island he can help! Ichiro knows slamming Minya’s tail will unleash blue fiery hell, and there’s a teetering boulder nearby:
Right in Gabara’s ugly fuckin’ face! With Gabara thoroughly stunned, Minya’s able to nimbly dodge him and run back to Godzilla. Godzilla’s not wavering on his “fight your own battles!” stance though and “encourages” Minya to return to the brawl:
Gabara keeps kicking Minya’s ass, but Minya keeps on coming back! Small size and goofy demeanor be damned, Minya’s got his dad’s fighting spirit.
Minya and Gabara trade zaps and chomps, and Minya holds his own for a while, but eventually he has to retreat. Luckily, Ichiro’s got another plan! This one’s crazier and awesomer than the last! First, they have to wait for Gabara to step on a conveniently seesaw-like log:
Minya and Ichiro wait with bated breath for just the right moment, especially Ichiro:
Gabara derps into position, then blammo! Minya leaps off the mountainside, size-changes in mid-air, and launches that freak-bitch half a mile!
It’s simple, effective, and super entertaining. Minya and Godzilla meet each other next to Gabara’s lifeless, shitty body, and for a second there it almost looks like it’s going to go full-on nature documentary: “Father and offspring gather to feast on the corpse of their fallen foe.”
But of course that’s not the case, they just have a sweet lil hug instead:
UNTIL GABARA FUCKS IT UP
As far as Godzilla’s concerned, Minya has fought and won his own battle: this is now Godzilla’s fight, and Gabara’s about to learn the (hilariously) hard way what a bad idea that is:
To be fair, Gabara gets some licks in too:
But Godzilla quickly wraps it up with a spectacular 100 yard judo flip that sends Gabara face-first into the pavement like the fucking idiot he is.
Gabara shambles home while Ichiro merrily shit-talks him from the mountainside (calling him a loser in the US cut and a cripple in the Japanese cut, which, uh, yeah). Everything’s looking pretty grand… until Godzilla unexpectedly and angrily reaches for Ichiro, sending him back into reality.
One of the goons has successfully stolen and brought Shinpei’s car back to their hideout, so they tie up Ichiro to drag him along as “insurance.” They throw him in the back seat and threaten him with a knife to keep quiet: shit is intense. Luckily the car craps out and both robbers take a look under the hood to try and get it running again. It’s just enough time for Ichiro to wiggle out of his bindings and get one more imaginary pep talk from Minya:
Ichiro bolts out of the car and channels his inner Minya (his inya? his minner?) and chomps into one of the robbers’ arms.
Then he sprints back into the abandoned building and leads the robbers on a wild goose chase. While Ichiro stays one step ahead of his assailants, Shinpei notices his car running in front of the old warehouse (with a sack of money in it!) and calls the cops. Ichiro’s not in the clear yet, but he’s getting close! One goon falls for his newspaper-hole trap (SET UP AND PAY OFF BAYBEEEEEEEEEEE), pushing Ichiro into a showdown with the other one. Ichiro channels his Inya (Minner?) one last time:
With the other goon extinguished, Ichiro dashes out of the building and into the arms of Shinpei and the cops. It’s a relief that Ichiro’s safe, but it’s not quite a happy ending (yet). “Let’s go home now” Shinpei says kindly. “No one’s there” Ichiro replies with tears in his eyes.
Things lighten up the next day though! Ichiro has breakfast with his mom, who promises not to work late any more. Ichiro is chipper and very maturely says that it’s okay if she works late, knowing now he really can look after himself. Ichiro’s mom puts on a brave face, but (UNDERSTANDABLY) breaks down when he’s out the door.
Reporters(?!?!?!) stop Ichiro outside his apartment and ask if he was scared facing the robbers alone. Ichiro cheerfully tells them that he was never alone, Minya was there helping him the whole time.
Gabara (the human kid version) and his gang of dickheads stop Ichiro and his mousy little friend on their way to school. But Ichiro’s no push over any more! In a series of odd, partially animated freeze frames (kind of like the evacuation scene in Gamera 2: Advent of Legion!), Ichiro and Gabara tussle, with Ichiro coming out victorious:
This would have been a fine place to end the movie! Ichiro’s learned to stand up for himself, to never back down from bullies, and to walk on with his head held high…. but then he gives in to Gabara’s dare from the beginning of the movie and honks the horn on the billboard painter’s motorcycle.
So Ichiro’s learned to stand up to bullies… and become one himself? Thankfully this isn’t where the movie ends either! Ichiro hauls ass, finds his train-dad, admits his indiscretion and apologizes, then keeps running. Train-dad proves he is just the coolest by accepting Ichiro’s apology and stopping and calming down the pissed painter.
Ichiro walks to school with the other kids, having earned their respect and having (more or less) learned a (now pretty muddled) lesson.
So that’s it! That’s Godzilla’s Revenge! I’ve always had a big soft spot for it, but this most recent viewing solidified it as one of my top 10 (maybe even top 5?!) favorite Godzilla films. It’s extremely unorthodox, but it’s also one of the most personal Godzilla stories. Revenge is literally a movie about loving kaiju, so the hatred and/or dismissal it inspires in die-hard series/genre fans is a little surprising.
Revenge’s two most-cited issues, the Minya-centric, imagination-based story and the heavy reliance on recycled footage are fair(-ish) criticisms, but I’m not bothered by either of them. At all. I think it’s especially important to point out that while stock footage feels like penny-pinching bullshit to us in the post-VHS world (and I mean, it is, Toho had slashed the movie’s budget), in 1969 the mass public didn’t have the means to buy or rent and rewatch movies whenever they desired. A first run Godzilla’s Revenge viewer very well could have been seeing Godzilla fight Kumonga, Kamacuras, Ebirah, and the rest for the first time. Especially when the target audience for Revenge is children. Godzilla’s Revenge is a pretty awesome kaiju sampler platter, giving new viewers a taste of the variety of wild monster mashing action the series has to offer.
Revenge’s sampler platter status is another big reason I have so much love for it. That, coupled with its unabashed strangeness and silliness have made it one of the most effective kaiju gateway drugs I’ve ever pushed on my family and friends (the other is War of the Gargantuas, FYI). It’s weird, it’s funny, it’s accessible, it gives you a lot of quality kaiju action, and it’s bursting with heart. If you come at this movie with an open mind and some funny friends it’s functionally impossible to not have a blast. I’ve got many fond memories associated this flick, and it’s probably why I love Minya so Goddamn much in the first place.
At the end of these reviews I like to talk about my subject’s lasting legacy, but it’s been threaded throughout the entire review: audiences rejected Revenge and continue to today. It did well enough to keep the series alive (Revenge is followed by another one of my divisive favorites, Godzilla vs. Hedorah), but it tellingly marks the final appearance of dear, sweet, hideous, beautiful, clownish, derpy, superstar Minya until Godzilla Final Wars in 2004. Godzilla’s Revenge ain’t for everybody, but it super is for me. I was Ichiro growing up, maybe you were too.
I saw this one years ago on WTBS. Didn’t realize it was largely stock footage as kaiju were hard to come by in that era!
Loved the review as always.
Thanks! That’s a pretty perfect example of a circumstance where stock footage can be a force for good: it wasn’t always this easy to check out the kaiju movies you missed!
Real talk– we recently discovered “Godzilla’s Revenge” was Ishiro Honda’s favorite (or one of his favorites) Godzilla movie.
Everybody bitches about the movie being filled with stock footage. But to me, that’s when the movie’s great. Whenever Ichiro’s on Monster Island, it’s aces. It just the real world that’s a slog to get through. I just don’t care much about Ichiro and what he’s up to. I like the side characters like Inami and the cop played by Yoshifumi Tajima or Ikio Sawamura’s kindly bar owner. But Ichiro just can’t hold my attention. Also, this is coming from a latch-key kid.
“Island of the Burning Damned” (Island of the Burning Doomed on U.S. TV) is a damned fine Christopher Lee/Peter Cushing/Terence Fisher outing. If you haven’t seen it, it would be a perfect candidate for your blog. And I have a version of the U.S. trailer that actually features footage from “Burning Doomed.”
Ishiro Honda directed the special effects himself. Teruyoshi Nakano was Honda’s assistant for the effects scenes just as he’d been for Tsuburaya. Tsuburaya, meanwhile, was not balls-deep in anything but his deathbed. Having worked himself to death instead of taking it easy like his doctors told him, he became too ill to work on “Revenge” and had to bow out and died a month after the film was released. Honda gave him special effects credit because they used so much of his footage.
So, there were a couple of reasons why “Godzilla’s Revenge” became riddled with stock footage. The first is that “Latitude Zero” was an massively expensive film for Toho that they were left to pay for entirely when the American co-producer stiffed them (that seems to happen a lot). “Latitude Zero” bombed at the box office just as “Revenge” was going into production. Secondly, Tomoyuki Tanaka saw that “Gamera vs. Viras” had done massive business because most of it was footage from older movies, so he thought that if Gamera could do it, so could Godzilla and he asked Shinichi Sekizawa to pen a story that could revolve around the use of scenes from the previous films. The results were not so good for Godzilla. “Gamera vs. Viras”, meanwhile, the original finale for the series was so successful that it singlehandedly kept the Gamera movies going until Daiei itself collapsed in 1970/1.
Did you notice that the American version of “Godzilla’s Revenge” inserted Minya’s hiss into the shot of the car squealing away?
I love it when you break out that cap of Kenji Sahara as Torahata.
Inami’s (or Shinpei, his first name) computer features a stock image from “Destroy All Monsters.” A stock photo, if you will. Not really “stock footage.”
OH SNAP! I never noticed Nelson’s henchman in this movie! Thanks for pointing him out!
Ichiro identifies Kamakiras/Kamacurus/Gimantis as “Gamakera” in the dub. Likewise, he calls Spiega/Kumonga “Gomogula.” The less said about Brosaurus, the better. In the Japanese version, meanwhile, Ichiro identifies the Giant Condor/Eagle with, “Whaa! Oowashi-da!” (Whaa! It’s Oowashi!).
I only JUST noticed this watching the film again last month– did you notice in the stock shot of Angilas from “Destroy All Monsters”, for this movie, they matted in a shitty-looking palm tree? It looks a lot better in your screengrab there than it does in motion.
The movie does feature one brand new shot of Kamakiras as he strides over the pit and looks down at Ichiro before moving on.
Sadly, most of those subs on the Classic Media disc are just wrong. Minya doesn’t say “Godzilla’s a hell of a fighter.” When Ichiro asks about Godzilla, Minya replies, “Daijoba daiyo”– “It’s okay. Godzilla’s strong underwater.”
Real talk– that Gabara/Ichiro chase sequence? It’s a callback to Kurosawa’s “Drunken Angel” where the same exact thing happens to Toshiro Mifune’s character… er, with dark, evil Mifune standing in for Gabara, of course. That was ALSO in a dream, to boot!
Those aren’t flowers Minya has. It’s an orange! He’s eating half an orange. Look at the way it thunks to the ground when he sees Ichiro. Also, a nice little callback to Minya’s fruit-fiending in “Son of Godzilla.”
It’s entirely possible Ichiro wasn’t allowed to see “The War of the Gargantuas” when it came out– that movie scared the hell out of the Japanese (adults!). They weren’t used to monsters just zipping along and looking all creepy-humanoid like that.
Did you notice for that footage of Godzilla’s rock hitting Spiega, that they matted a little hill into the shot to cover up Minya?
The Japanese opening titles credit Yasuhiko Kakuyuki as Gabara. I can’t find Hiroshi Sekita (that’s his name, not “Yu”; I tried to get IMDB to change it back but they won’t) credited anywhere.
Humanity is not trying to colonize Monster Island. Those are just bad subs again. Minya merely remarks, “The humans in them attack us whenever they pass over the island.” Just man still being dicks to Godzilla for no good reason.
While Monster Island and Monsterland are entirely different locations (Monsterland is in the Ogasawara Island chain 1000 kms away from Tokyo. Also, Monsterland does not exist yet). Monster Island is in the South Pacific, and is likely Sollgel Island from “Son of Godzilla.” In the Japanese dialogue in that film, Goro Maki dubs the island “Monster Island”, which when he got back to Japan, is probably how the name stuck. Cause you know for damned sure the name “Monster Island” was used in his newspaper article headlines.
In the sequence with the planes, it looks like Godzilla is dancing because… “Singing in the Rain” was Haruo Nakajima’s favorite movie. And he tried to incorporate dance movements into Godzilla on the D.L. any chance he could. He even tried to shie in “Destroy All Monsters”, but Old Man Honda just had to cut it out (Nakajima probably messed with his Trans Am…).
Godzilla is supposed to be blasting the jets out of the air. But they were too cheap to bother animating the ray (those rays cost money!).
Godzilla’s dad-squat as you put it (which is Godzilla’s sitting pose– he first strikes it in “Ghidrah, the Three Headed Monster”) is actually a callback to samurai. Samurai would sit on their haunches like that when no chairs were about. You can see Toshiro Mifune in such a pose at the end of “The Hidden Fortress.”
In DAM and Revenge, the writers just completely blanked that at the end of “Son of Godzilla”, Minya was spraying radioactive fire like a pro, didn’t they?
More real talk– that plant that grabs Ichiro is considered an actual monster by Toho! “Maneater” it’s called in one of my Japanese books.
I just love that little dubbed-in “Yeah!” Ichiro hisses as he manages to toss the boulder over the cliff.
Are we not gonna talk about Godzilla kicking Minya into going back and fighting Gabara? No… ? Alright…
Do you notice that just before Minya enters the shot to hug Godzilla, Godzilla kicks Gabara for being a dick?
You have to question Gabara’s intelligence at this point. He couldn’t handle Minya… but he thinks he’s got what it takes to take down the King of the Monsters? Even Kamakiras wasn’t that dumb.
Ichiro calls Gabara a chicken in the Japanese dialogue. “Gabara’s a chicken! Gabara’s a chicken!” I’m telling you man, those subs are horrible.
Did you notice the quick cut shots between Minya and Ichiro and the robbers are not stock footage? They’re alternate takes!
I’d always heard that when Honda recut Revenge for a later Champion Matsuri screening, that he ended the movie then with the mom crying. I’ve never heard Toho insisting that he carry the movie out further during shooting. I don’t grasp why Revenge would need cutting… it’s only 69 minutes long as is!
Ichiro vs. Gabara: filmed in thrilling Toho-Freeze-Frame-Scope!
If it makes you feel any better, Godzilla’s Revenge (or Oru Kaiju Daishengeki, whatever) doesn’t have the rep in Japan that it has over here. It’s not hugely popular (like say, “Godzilla vs. Mothra ’92”), but they get what it is and what it’s supposed to be. See, here in America, kaiju fans have a problem– they want/expect/demand that every damned movie be “Godzilla ’54”. And that’s just not the reality and it’s never been the case. “Godzilla Raids Again” isn’t “Godzilla ’54”. So anything that isn’t dark, harsh, or brooding, they don’t like. Meanwhile, the Japanese are far more open-minded, accepting kaiju eiga for what it is and embracing it all.
I was never Ichiro growing up, but goddamn, do I still wish Minya were my pal.
Great stuff Ted, thanks!
That’s awesome that Revenge was among Honda’s favorite Godzilla flicks! It makes a ton of sense to me: Revenge is one of the most intimate and personal Godzilla films, something a director like Honda could really chew on.
It’s fascinating to narrow the genesis of Godzlla’s Revenge down to two specific movies (Latitude Zero and Gamera vs. Viras). It’s especially interesting that a Gamera movie had so much influence, especially considering how Toho is so adamant about Godzilla and Gamera never crossing over.
That’s so sad about Tsuburaya. The special effects credit makes a lot more sense with that context. Between him and Jim Henson I really need practical effects wizards to fucking take their health more seriously.
I just read a plot synopsis for Island of the Burning Damned and it sounds rad! There had to be some SERIOUS mood whiplash going from it to Godzilla’s Revenge on the double bill though!
I did notice Minya’s hiss being overlapped with the car’s squealing tire! It’s a cool touch. 60s dubs are crazy good (until they have to pronounce monster names :D).
Didn’t know we got a new shot of Kamacuras, that’s cool as hell! Speaking of new footage, do we know what happened to the Gabara suit?
I’ve got all the Classic Media kaiju DVDs, so I’ll be sure to take their subtitles with a big-ass grain of salt going forward. It’s a uniquely odd experience parsing out all the different versions of these movies. In a weird way I’m glad it’s still the case though: there’s almost always something new to discover. Every time there’s a home video release there’s something new to discuss!
I’d heard the idea that Monster Island was Solgell Island, but I didn’t realize there was Japanese dialogue backing it up: I dig that! It’s nice to think that the island and it’s monstery inhabitants thawed out and went back to normal after a while.
I noticed the matted-in hill and the crappy little tree! Is the tree there to cover anything up?
I guarantee you Honda dropped the shie from Destroy All Monsters because Nakajima kept fucking with the stereo settings in Honda’s Trans Am. I love how much dancing Nakajima tried to work in though: it’s funny to imagine Godzilla being graceful and light on his feet. You know, like Spider-Man! https://media.giphy.com/media/7isbcNAx367qU/200.gif
Editing the movie to end on Ichiro’s mom crying for the Champion festival is BONKERS to me. “Let’s make the movie even shorter and way sadder! You know, for kids!”
It is SO cool to me that War of the Gargantuas freaked out Japanese viewers of all ages. The Gargs are freakishly nimble and shockingly expressive but still truly monstrous. I fucking love War of the Gargantuas.
Hanging out with Minya would be pants-shittingly awesome. I’m curious Ted, do you prefer the cornfed goofus Minya we get in the US cut or the smart but shy kiddo Minya we get in the Japanese cut?
Gabara… became Gabara in Godman. Or Greenman. Maybe both.
Honda did once comment that editing his movies down for the Champion Matsuri festivals was “akin to self mutilation.” Yargh. Strangely enough, his Matsuri edit of “King Kong vs. Godzilla” peculiarly follows the edits from the U.S. version…
I tend to prefer the Minya of the Japanese version. I think it’s a brilliant dichotomy that they gave Godzilla’s son the voice of a woman (Midori Uchiyama, to be exact). Plus, as you pointed out, he’s just got better dialogue.
There’s one little bit in “Revenge” that gets me every time… just before the fight with Spiega, Ichiro and Minya are wandering through the jungle and Minya just whaps this fern out of his way. I don’t know why, but I love that little bit. “Outta the way, fern! We got monster fights to watch!”
Oh my god Greenman/Godman Gabara looks like a perfect “Meth, not even once” after picture. It is crazy to me how badly and quickly kaiju suits deteriorate.
Good choice with JP Minya. I TOTALLY noticed Minya slapping away that fern! It’s an awesomely lifelike little move, especially considering how actors are nearly blind in the suits.
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This review is absolutely hilarious, I love it!
I lost it when you zoomed into Ichiro’s critical bated breath face.
Thanks, glad you dug it! I was DYING at Ichiro’s face, glad I’m not the only one!
It restores my faith in humanity to know that someone can output around 8000 words describing how great this movie really is. For a long time, Godzilla vs. Monster Zero (or Astro Monster) was my favorite, because who doesn’t love those Controller of Planet X gestures? But time and repeated viewings have clearly moved G’s Revenge into 1st place. It wasn’t far behind to begin with. I frequently say “gi gi gi gi” for no apparent reason. (That’s how it sounds to be, with hard Gs instead of “ki ki ki ki”.) And thanks for that animated gif of Ichiro bouncing on the car bumper. It never made me laugh when watching the movie, but now that I see it by itself… yup.
Xians (in Monster Zero AND Final Wars, IMO) are ICONIC villains and I am fucking crazy about them. Monster Zero’s a primo choice as a top G-flick, but there’s something special about Revenge, isn’t there? In some way or another I find myself invoking Ichiro’s “gi gi gi”/”ki ki ki” noises about once a week XD Glad you got a kick out of the review, thanks for checking it out!
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