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Godzilla's Revenge

Godzilla's Revenge, known in Japan as All Monsters Attack!, has garnered a reputation as one of the most derided Godzilla films. True, it was obviously made on a low budget-many of the monster fights are taken from earlier films-but the film's unabashed aim to appeal to children is a direction that not all Godzilla fans embraced.

Now Sony has begun releasing a number of the early Godzilla films on inexpensive (about ten bucks) but no-frills DVDs, and Godzilla's Revenge is among them. (Others in the series include Rodan, Godzilla Vs Mothra, Terror of Mechagodzilla, and the original 1958 Godzilla, King of the Monsters; they're even available as a boxed set.)

Godzilla's Revenge Godzilla films - especially the less overtly scary ones-have an unmistakable appeal to children. In the eyes of a child, surrounded by bigger, more powerful adults, the image of a giant green lizard wading through a city at whim while grownups cower in badly dubbed fear must offer a vicarious thrill.

Godzilla's Revenge takes this notion one step further, by casting a child as the protagonist. This step makes clear that Revenge is a different sort of Godzilla film. Rather than science bases on the moon, global domination plots by mysterious high-tech societies, and scientists feverishly perfecting powerful weapons, you get a ten-year-old kid in shorts and a yellow cap beset by bullies, a pair of bumbling bank robbers holed up in an abandoned factory, and a toy inventor who doesn't look like he's liable to whip up an oxygen destroyer any time soon.

Young Ichiro (Tomonori Yazaki) is a lonely kid whose parents both work, leaving him to let himself into their sparse apartment in a run-down neighborhood - or, more often, drop in on his disreputable-looking but benevolent neighbor (Eisei Amamoto), who makes toys (look for a couple of Godzilla models among the bric-a-brac in his apartment). Worse, a bully named Gabera and his pals constantly subject Ichiro to savage taunting.

Like anyone in this situation, Ichiro turns to Godzilla adventures for escape. Unlike most of us, who simply watch kaiju flicks on TV, Ichiro actually imagines himself on Monster Island with a front-row seat as Godzilla hands out beatdowns to all comers. (The latter comes courtesy of footage from earlier movies; one doesn't have to look too closely to notice differences in the Godzilla suit at various points in the film.)

While on Monster Island, Ichiro meets Minya, the rotund Son of Godzilla, who obligingly shrinks himself down to kid size, gaining the ability to talk as he does so. The two commiserate about their workaholic parents-Ichiro's dad is a train engineer and Minya's dad goes around stomping on Spiga and company. It seems Minya has his own bully to deal with, in the form of Gabera, a cat-faced, full-sized monster who can generate shock power from his hands and delights in giving the Son of Godzilla electric noogies.

Minya grows to monster-size - although still shorter than Godzilla and Gamera-and gets some lessons in kaiju fighting from Dad. This process involves Minya blowing ineffective smoke rings until Dad stomps on his tail, summoning a blast of Godzilla-style flame. At Godzilla's prodding, Minya takes on Gabera, only to receive a humiliating beating. A flight of jets (originating from an earlier movie, apparently) appears out of nowhere, attacking Godzilla for no apparent reason. Minya and Ichiro cheer Godzilla as he slaps out of the sky any plane that gets too close... which, of course, they all do.

Back in the real world, Ichiro runs afoul of his own nemesis when he stumbles upon a pair of bank robbers (led by Sachio Sakai) holed up in the abandoned factory where the boy likes to scavenge machine parts. Bound to a chair, Ichiro escapes.to Monster Island, where he shouts encouragement to Minya as the pint-sized monster finally gets the better of Monster Gabera. Awakening in the factory, Ichiro duplicates Minya's moves, befuddling the bandits and making his escape. Armed with greater confidence, Ichiro then fights Bully Gabera to a sloppy draw, earning the respect of his gang. He then joyfully runs to greet the arriving railroad engine driven by his father to complete the film's happy ending.

The movie is plainly a child's fantasy, not a grim tale of nature's wrath unleashed. This concept actually works along with the film's low budget, as only half the movie involves monster suits an miniature sets (and no busted balsa buildings; all the rumbles take place on Monster Island). Even with the fight scenes from earlier films, Godzilla's Revenge clocks in a few seconds shy of 70 minutes. Sure, Ichiro is annoying at times. But the film is rarely boring; there's plenty of action, even if it is recycled, and while Bully Gabera isn't really much of a menace, the bank-robbing thugs do present a credible threat.

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