Alternate Title: Godzilla's Revenge (US Title)
Review Date: 3/9/20
Director: Ishiro Honda
Cast: Ichiro Miki
Toho had planned to retire Godzilla after "Destroy All Monsters" (1968), but plans to make an animated series failed to materialize and they ended up making more movies instead. However, this isn't quite a Godzilla movie. In the film, Godzilla and all the other kaiju on Monster Island exist only in the imagination of a young boy named Ichiro. He's a shy and lonely boy whose parents both work, so he spends a lot of time alone, daydreaming about visiting Monster Island. He's also bullied by one of his classmates nicknamed Gabara, which further fuels his imaginary retreats. Ichiro's daydreams turn into revenge fantasies, as he befriends Minilla (baby Godzilla), who is also being bullied by a monster named Gabara. Godzilla teaches Minilla to face his fears and fight back, which is a lesson that Ichiro takes to heart in the real world. He gets to show off just how brave and resourceful he is when he's kidnapped by two hapless bank robbers as a hostage. Ultimately, Ichiro wins the respect of the neighborhood kids by beating up Gabara and proving that he's not a cowardly sissy. Such a resolution leaves a bad taste, but you have to take into consideration the age of the film as well as its cultural roots.
As a Godzilla film, it's absolutely deplorable and is arguably the worst film in the entire series. It shamelessly recycles footage from both "Ebirah, Horror Of The Deep" (1966), and "Son Of Godzilla" (1967), and only the scenes of Gabara and Minilla are new. Minilla also speaks Japanese and is inexplicably the same size as Ichiro (he is fantasizing, after all), but grows to giant size when facing off against Gabara. The music is also appallingly bad. And yet, putting aside the kaiju aspect, it works remarkably well as a children's movie. Ichiro is a fully realized character with real problems that any child can identify with. Director Ishiro Honda handles the material with heart and care, and is never condescending towards the children. Apart from the goofy bank robbers, it's arguably the most serious and least campy film in the series, outside of the original "Godzilla" (1954). Which is why I reluctantly gave it an optional 2-star rating. The decision to go with a child-centric film was probably to directly compete with the "Gamera" series, which was growing in popularity at the time. If you're a serious Godzilla fan, then you're probably better off avoiding this juvenile adventure. But if you're a fan of Japanese cinema, culture, and/or Japanese oddities, it might be worth checking out.