1969’s entry saw the Godzilla franchise return to the child-friendly tone of Son of Godzilla, here telling the story of Ichiro, a young boy who dreams of visiting Monster Island (the location of the previous year’s Destroy All Monsters) to see Godzilla and co. for himself. Meanwhile there are two gangsters on the run who’ve just robbed a bank of 50 million yen (about £300,000 in case anyone was wondering). I’ll leave it up to you to guess whether or not their stories eventually collide. While the childish tone is far removed from how I normally picture Godzilla, I did really enjoy Son of Godzilla so I was willing to let myself enjoy this similarly. Unfortunately it’s utterly appalling.
The film opens with the strangest, most painful-to-the-ears theme tune I think I’ve heard. It’s apparently called “Monster March”, and it accompanies the first 5 minutes of the film, setting up what turns out to be a test of endurance; something that feels less like an actual film, more a bad dream. Ichiro is bullied by his peers and lives a pretty lonely life with his parents having to work all hours to not only make ends meet but to try to move out of the city for a better life. He retreats to his dreams where he visits Monster Island with Minilla as his guide. It’s hard to decide where to start with these sequences; firstly, Minilla is inexplicably the same size as Ichiro, and talks in Japanese to the boy throughout the film. Yes, yes, “it’s a dream” and all that, but the first time Minilla opened his mouth I was ready to burn my entire Godzilla DVD collection.
A large number of monsters challenge Godzilla in this film, however the majority of the fights are stock footage from various previous films in the series, with just one entirely new Kaiju; Gabara, who looks like a mix between a traditional Japanese dragon and a deformed cat, covered in pea soup. It embodies bad dreams or something. There is one scene where Ichiro, still in his Monster Island Dream, it grabbed by a couple of leaves. It turns out this is a canon monster too, named Maneater. It doesn’t do anything else, and it doesn’t feature in any other scenes, so that’s that.
Ultimately this is a film about a boy and a couple of gangsters. None of the monsters have any bearing on the plot as they exist purely in the boy’s dreams. While some of the Godzilla films have skirted the realms of quality, this is the first one that I’d say is completely “so-bad-it’s-good”. I can’t say anything good about it, even the stock footage fights are re-cut and mashed in purposelessly that they make very little sense. The newly filmed visual effects are totally ridiculous, the highlight being Minilla jumping from a great height to catapult Gabara in the air. There are glimmers of some deeper themes about providing for your family in a couple of depressing, melodramatic moments that feel completely out of place. The film finishes on a reprise of the unbearable Monster March, leaving the best point of this film being the mercifully short 66 minute runtime.