This film opens in the once-distant year of 1999, when all of the world’s monsters are segregated to Monsterland in Japan’s Ogasawara island chain. Thanks to sophisticated technology, the monsters are unable to leave their island prison and wreak havoc on the fragile planet.
Alas, this situation is disrupted with the arrival of the Kilaaks, a hitherto unknown alien race inhabiting a tiny planet somewhere between Mars and Jupiter. The Kilaaks are eager to conquer and enslave Earth’s population, but that may be somewhat complicated as this alien military force consists of five Japanese women wearing glittery shower caps and capes. But the Kilaaks are wise enough to recognize the utter stupidity of the Earthlings – when they arrange for poison gas to seep through a door into the laboratory controlling the Monsterland operations, the supposedly brilliant scientists running the lab pull open the door and run face first into the noxious fumes.
With very little struggle, the Kilaaks take control of Monsterland and liberate its oversized captives, who then scatter to destroy the world’s greatest cities. Rodan knocks down the golden domes of Moscow’s celebrated churches, Gorasaurus pops out of the ground beneath Paris’ Arc de Triomphe, and (in what might be the most subversive sight gag in movie history) Godzilla happily wades through New York’s East River before incinerating the United Nations headquarters with his radioactive death breath.
While all of this mayhem occurs, the team on Japanese spaceship Moonlight SY-3 is dispatched to make sense of what is going on and to bring order to this new age of chaos. The astronauts shuttle between the lunar surface and below the Earth’s surface in a race to save the Earth – or, at least, Japan, which faces annihilation when the Kilaaks dispatch the three-headed flying dragon Ghidorah to wipe out the country.
“Destroy All Monsters” features all of the vices and virtues of the Toho Studios’ kaiju flicks: toy spaceships, tanks and helicopters used to fight monsters that look like men in rubbery costumes, Akira Ifukube’s bombastically misplaced music score, the inevitable destruction of Tokyo as dozens of agitated extras run down the streets ahead of the latest monster mash, and a plot overstuffed with scenarios that could never possibly exist in a universe where sane people reside.
This 1968 film is special because Toho brought together nearly all of its celebrated monsters for one big blowout: Godzilla, his chubby adopted son Minilla, Rodan, Mothra (in his caterpillar persona), Ghidorah, Anguirus, Manda, Gorasaurus and Spiga. (Varan and Baragon are briefly glimpsed before the closing credits, having nothing to do with the action that preceded their cameo appearances, while the Toho version of King Kong is nowhere to be found.) Oddly, the monsters are absent from long stretches throughout the film in favor of the astronauts’ attempts to defeat the Kilaaks. And while some of the human action becomes a bit dull around the edges, there are some visually striking moments (the too-calm suicide of the Kilaaks’ human pawn, the aliens’ retreat to a serpentine form when their environment becomes too cool) to compensate for the Godzilla-free running time.
And, of course, having all of the monsters together for a Mount Fuji-based smackdown is a riot of noise and mayhem that should appeal to every movie-loving child and every inner child within adults that never jettisoned their fondness for Toho-fueled science-fiction.