Destroy all Planets (1968)
First released to Japanese theaters in March of 1968, Gamera vs. Viras was a middling commercial success. It was picked up by American International Television that same year and after some editing was released over here as Destroy All Planets. And yes, the same year Toho released Destroy All Monsters!, so the name that the Americans came up with for their version of Gamera vs. Viras screams of rip-off. I guess you can't really blame them for trying to feed off some of the positive publicity that the Godzilla movie was receiving at the time.
I should tell you that this movie is aimed directly at the 8 to 12-year old demographic. Everything about it is geared to entertain children, from the cartoony villains to the little kids saving the day. I just watched 1966's War of the Monsters, which was a Gamera movie for adults, so it's strange to see how far the series has slipped in just two years. To that end, Gamera in this movie is totally kid-friendly, the champion of the Earth and the defender of small children. This is so completely opposite of the murderous rampaging mutant turtle in the first two Gamera movies. The transition from menace to plush toy is very similar to the change in Godzilla during the same time period. Both Toho and Daiei were feeling the economic pressures of falling ticket sales and both saw the wisdom of aiming for the lucrative kiddy market. Damn them both.
And now on to our show...
We open out in space, as an alien starship approaches Earth. By "space" I mean a black background with little holes poked in it for light to shine through, and by "starship" I mean five round balls painted like bumblebee butts and linked together like a teething ring for an infant. Each of these "pods" is identical and has a laser beam emitter on the outside. An annoying "alien commander voice", linked to a panel of flashing lights, gives some exposition to get us up to speed on the plot. This voice is droll and melodramatic, like he's narrating a vampire movie. It seems that this ship is here to invade and conqueror Earth as it's the closest match in the universe to the alien's homeworld. Wow, the universe is really, really big, are they sure this is the only planet similar? Did they look around? If so, then perhaps the universe really is mostly devoid of intelligent life. Also, the voice calls the planet "Earth", which is weird that they know our name for our planet. Perhaps they have been monitoring transmissions as they approached?
The alien spaceship.
So the ship prepares for the assault. But what's this!?! Radar reports an object flying towards the ship from the planet. We see the "radar screen", which is more like a video screen, showing a whizzing object coming closer. It's Gamera! The giant flying turtle comes spinning and flaming towards the alien ship. Ugh, watch the smoke from his fire jets flowing up in a supposedly airless void, almost as if it were a prop suspended on strings above a soundstage.
Inside the ship, the alien commander voice freaks out, ordering the ship's defensive weapons to open fire on the turtle. Scratches-on-the-negative laser beams lance out, scoring several hits on Gamera, all to no effect. It's as if the beams are shot off without aiming, as many miss by very wide margins. Gamera latches onto one of the "pods" and drives his pointed nose through the hull! Watch as the hull of the spaceship crumbles like the cheap painted drywall it is as the Gamera prop is rammed through it. In a neat bit, the alien ship ejects the damaged section, with Gamera still attached, out into space. Gamera won't be having any of that, however, and circles back to roast the ship with his fire breath. The ship explodes in a nifty boom, fragments flying everywhere. Just before the end, the commander voice sends a message back to home to send another ship.
From the explosion, we go directly to our opening credits. These are just the cast and crew superimposed over shots of Gamera zipping by in space. The only thing of note is that the actor Carl Craig is listed as "Kurl Crane" for some unexplainable reason.
We go now down to Japan, to a Boy Scout "camporee" on the grounds of a research institute on the sea shore. We see that there are 115 scouts here, both boys and girls, plus a gaggle of leaders. Now I was a Boy Scout for about 10 years, and a leader for a few of those, so I have a special fondness for the Scouts. Seeing Japanese Scouts in 1968 is kinda weird, but I'm sure that America brought the BSA to Japan following WWII. Probably the sons of soldiers and businessmen stationed in Japan formed troops and continued the tradition. It wouldn't have been long before the local Japanese kids began to join troops and eventually form their own separate but similar scouting network.
Some interesting notes about the scout camp. There seem to be groups of tents with American flags outside them and others with Japanese flags, suggesting that the troops are segregated by race. I also am surprised to see girls mixed with boys. I know Japan, and much of the world, is more open to such things, but since this is a borrowed American institution it seems strange. The boys all wear standard scout olive drab uniforms while the girls wear dark blue blouses and skirts with matching berets. I can remember getting all excited as a 12-year old when a group of girl scouts were camping in the same forest, let alone right in our own camp! English patches and flags abound here, and we see that two different troops are represented here, Troop 32 for the American kids and Troop 88 for the Japanese. They also have shoulder patches that say "Tokyo" and "Far East Council Japan", which would fetch a fortune on eBay.
There are two people here who we have to get to know, the Scoutmaster and a young girl scout. Later we will meet the girl's brother and his friend. Scoutmaster Shimida is played by 30-year old Kojiro Hongo. I just saw, and reviewed, him in 1966's War of the Monsters, in which he was the dashing male hero lead. Here he plays a frustrated leader dealing with annoying kids and the stigma of wearing a scout uniform out in public.
The girl is Masako Nakaya, played by Junko Yashiro. Yashiro would only have four movie credits total in her career, the other three listed as "uncredited". She's a very pretty young girl, about 14-years old or so, and her relationship with her little brother reminds me of Lizzie Maguire. Because of her name's similarity to her brother's, I will call her "Lizzie" for the rest of the review.
She will be accompanied by two other girl scouts nearly every time she's on screen. These other two girls are just as cute, if not cuter than Lizzie, especially the one in the pigtails who looks just like Lane on Gilmore Girls. I know I'm going to jail even for typing that...
Lizzie and Lane and the other chick.
Lizzie has a younger brother in the scouts named Masao. Masao and his best friend Jim will be our film's Designated Co-Kennys, to borrow a term from the Toho Godzilla universe. Like the Kennys in those movies, our Co-Kennys wear short-shorts and goofy hats and are alternatingly fucking brats and super geniuses. Masao Nakaya is played by Toru Takasuka. This is his only screen credit on the IMDB, which is odd considering his young age and the weight of his role in this movie. I would've figured that he would've had more work after this, I have to grudgingly admit that he does a very good job in this movie.
Jim Morgan is played by 11-year old Carl Craig, a Caucasian kid with a surprisingly ugly and scary face with lizard-like lips. This would be his sole acting role of his life but he would later become an Air Force pilot, which is cool. I understand that Craig has milked this one role for many years, showing up at Gamera conventions and signing autographs and what not.
Masao and Jim.
Ok, now that we have all our cast down, let's go back to the campout. The scouts are here by the generosity of the staff of the institute, which is kind of like Woods Hole. They have built a small two-man minisub for ocean exploration and are planning on showing the scouts the sub and even giving them free rides. Man, I wish my campouts were that cool. Ah, but we see that our Co-Kennys have snuck away from the main group and are now spying on the minisub. Being imps, they wait until everyone walks away and then they creep up to the sub and climb inside. Masao, being a bastard, decides to "switch the controls around" so that they do the opposite of what they are labeled to do. Oh, you little bitch, that is funny.
Back at the campout, the Scoutmaster calls the troops together. Roll is taken and Masao and Jim come up missing. Apparently these two do this a lot, as the Scoutmaster seems frustrated but resigned to having to deal with these two brats. Lizzie says that she and her brother wear matching watches that are both compasses and two-way radios! Wow, hi-tech! I always hated the rich-kid scouts with their North Face and their Gore-Tex while the rest of us slobs made due with K-Mart canteens and blue jeans. I'm not bitter.
So Lizzie radios Masao and tells him to get his butt back. The Co-Kennys jump out of the sub and head back, but not before Masao loses his hat to a wind gust. This is to establish Jim's prowess with the lasso, as he ropes the hat off the top of a pole where it landed. [Editor Pam: All us Americans know how to use a lasso!] The boys make it back to the camp just as the lead scientist at the institute is telling the assembled kids about the minisub. A cheer goes up when he tells them that they will all be getting rides. Hmmm...115 kids, a two-man crew, a lengthy turnaround time, this is going to take all day long. The scientist says that he and the Scoutmaster will take the first dive "to show them how it's done". Hmmm...since they will be under water, just how will the kids see how they do it? The Co-Kennys debate whether or not to warn them of their mischief, but decide not to. Damn brats, sure hope no one gets killed.
So the minisub goes into the sea with the switched controls. Hilarity ensues as the stupid adults can't figure it out and go bouncing all over the place. Watch as the cheap plastic bath toy is jiggled on a string in the fish tank, it puts The Abyss to shame! Finally they make it back to shore. The scientist wants to cancel the field trip until the sub is fixed, but Masao and Jim arrogantly claim they can drive the sub better than anyone. Even Lizzie backs up her brother, claiming that he is a mechanical genius who even made those cool radio watches. The scientist and the Scoutmaster hesitate (for good reason) and then let the Co-Kennys actually give it a try! No way! Is this going to be one of those movies that the children push the adults around and manipulate them to no good? I think so.
So the kids jump in the sub and out to sea they go. Sure enough, Masao masters the controls in a jiffy and they go cruising through the water. They're in radio contact with the shore and they say they are now down to "60 meters", that's like 200 feet. Some classes of WWII U-Boats couldn't make 200 feet, which seems like a hell of a long way down to let two sixth-graders go alone in a minisub.
In the sub.
We leave the sea to go back out to space, where we see that another alien pod ship is approaching. This footage, and much of what is to follow in this sequence, is simply reused from the first five minutes of the film. This alien commander voice is huskier, more authoritative, but serves the same purpose. It tells us that they're here to give the whole conqueror-the-Earth thing another go, but first they must eliminate Gamera.
Back underwater, we see that the boys have a visitor. It's Gamera, swimming alongside them merrily. I assume his presence here is just coincidence, but it will prove to be unlucky for the kids. They "race" Gamera, who clearly isn't trying very hard. I'd think the turbulence from that big a mass would affect the sub more. They also take pictures of him with Jim's massive Polaroid camera, a true relic of the 1960s. The Gamera puppet here is just terrible, looking as rubbery and stiff as it could be. There's not one feature of the puppet that remotely looks like a living breathing creature. The eyes get me the most, as they only move back to front, never up or down. The big upwards teeth outside the gums do look cool, I'll give them that.
Up in the sky, the aliens see their opening and beam out a "super-catch ray", which is a beam that creates a force field bubble around Gamera on the seabed. The effect is dicey, looking like just a hazy film laid over the camera lens. It does, however, manage to trap both Gamera and the minisub. The air supply in the minisub is running low and the situation is critical. The Co-Kennys call out to Gamera to help them. Gamera seems to "hear" them! He reaches down a claw and "pulls up" the edge of the force field! The boys zip the minisub through the opening and head for the surface. They wave and thank Gamera as they go. Hmmm...if he could lift up a corner, maybe he should try and get himself out, eh?
Aboard the alien ship, we hear that the force field will only hold Gamera for "fifteen minutes". So in the time they have they will learn all they need to know about Gamera by probing his mind with their spooky technology. Using their "Videotron", which is just a big kaleidoscope projected on the panel of the ship, they "enter into Gamera's memories".
This, of course, is just an excuse to throw a hunk of stock footage at us from past Gamera movies. This is perhaps the most egregious overuse of stock footage I have ever seen, even eclipsing a similar travesty of film in Godzilla's Revenge. It's all lifted from 1966's Gamera vs. Barugon and 1967's Gamera vs. Gyaos. It's an abomination and I refuse on principle alone to detail any of the happenings here. All that over, the aliens now know all about Gamera's power. They also know about his fondness for children and plan to exploit that. The force field runs out of energy and Gamera is free. They made this great fuss about how the field would only last for fifteen minutes, but I timed it and it lasted a full 23 minutes of screen time, so someone goofed here.
Back on the beach, the Co-Kennys are talking with the scouts and the scientists. Their story about Gamera and the force field is laughed at, and their Polaroids come out blank as there "wasn't enough light down there". As they are being ribbed, suddenly the sea offshore boils and Gamera emerges! Vindicated, the boys cheer and shout. Then they suddenly see the alien spaceship swoop into the area. This causes the happy scouts to freak out and the leaders herd them back inside the institute. Jim and Masao, being rule breaking thugs, slip off and run towards the sea to watch Gamera.
The kids on the beach.
So the Co-Kennys run along the beach, giving us the movie's only decent composite matte of them in the foreground and the spaceship and Gamera in the sky in the background. The aliens see the kids, and keeping in mind that they know about Gamera's love of children, they zap the kids with their super-catch tractor beam. The Scoutmaster and Lizzie run after the boys, but just as they arrive, the Co-Kennys disappear! The boys reappear inside the alien ship, lying on the floor. They awake quickly and meet the ship's alien crew.
The aliens, and there are at most five of them, are Japanese men dressed in goofy pants and black turtleneck t-shirts. They have slouchy French hats and a vague Bohemian artist look about them. On first viewing, they all look like Cristof from The Truman Show. Note that they appear to be wearing Puma tennis shoes! The only things "alienish" about them are their monotonous slightly-reverbed voices and tiny glowing dots that appear in their eyes when it's dark. Their attitude towards the boys is curious. They basically ignore them, after assuring them that they can wander around freely (!!!) as long as they don't try and hurt the ship or the crew. The ship runs on "telepathy", meaning that when Jim thinks about wanting a sandwich, a panel opens up and out pops a Dagwood! The only restrictions to this marvelous technology is that they can't wish for anything dangerous, as they try to get a pistol or a sharp knife and are denied.
Jim and Masao on the ship.
Ok, let me describe this spaceship interior. It's just one large room set, with a hexagonal theme throughout. There's a panel of flashing lights which is also the "radar screen" and a few other smaller panels set in the walls. There are two corridors on opposite ends, leading to other similar rooms. When I say similar rooms, I mean exactly the same room. They clearly only built one set and try to pass it off as multiple rooms by tricky camera work. I guess you can say that with the symmetrical nature of these aliens, all the "pods" will look the same, but it still annoys me.
There's one part of one room that is different, however, and the boys find it quickly by following an alien carrying a big silver container. In the room is a hexagonal cage about seven-feet high that contains a bluish squid-like alien. The creature has a few articulated tentacles, some freaky slanted eyes and a large brain case. The Co-Kennys make the assumption that this mute but active creature is a prisoner like them. The consider freeing the creature, but they can't find a way how.
The "captured creature" in the cage.
Ok, I jumped sequence a bit there, but now let's go back a bit. When the boys were transported up into the spaceship, Gamera was just about to put a turtle-hurtin' on them. Using their nifty brain wave technology, the alien commander tells Gamera that he better not attack them as "the two kids will die!". Gamera, being a friend to kids and fluent in Japanese apparently, veers off. He circles around the ship for a bit, waiting for an opening before coming to land. The spaceship lands nearby also, coming to rest on extendable landing pads.
Inside, the aliens ready a "mind control device", which looks like a cricket ball painted yellow and black. The plan is to stun Gamera with some laser hits and then shoot this device at his neck. If that works, then they'll be able to control Gamera against his will. And it does work, the device thudding into Gamera's neck (though it looks much, much bigger on his neck than when we saw it before). To test it, they have Gamera take off and fly around the ship a few times. So the aliens order Gamera to go off to wreck the "Okumusashi Dam". This attack is lifted totally from War of the Monsters and I refuse to detail it. After that, they sent him to "destroy Tokyo!". This attack on Tokyo is stock footage from 1965's Gamera Super Monster and, again, I flatly refuse to detail it. Remember that the 1965 movie was in black and white, but they get around that by tinting the footage blue and red in an effort to mask it. It doesn't work.
Back aboard, we see that the Co-Kennys are plotting some sort of escape. Jim whips out his lasso and ropes the arm of an alien who is walking by. What they think they're going to achieve with this is debatable, but at least they have the moxie to try something. The alien mocks them, and then his arm breaks off (!!!). The boys drop the rope and freak out. The disembodied arm then floats back to the alien, who calmly "reattaches" it to his torso with a twist. He then laughs evilly. What just happened here? Clearly these are no ordinary aliens!
One of the aliens.
The alien says that because the Co-Kennys tried to escape, they are now locked against the floor by some stiff metallic bands. These bands cross their chests and feet and really don't look all that tight. In fact they are loose enough that they are soon able to shimmy out of them. Stupid aliens. Just then, Masao's compass radio comes to life. It's the Scoutmaster and Lizzie on the other end, and they exchange stories. The boys are angered to hear that their beloved Gamera is now being forced to wreck Tokyo and are determined to do something about it.
Back to Gamera we go. After some smashing and rending, the aliens call off Gamera and make an announcement to the people of Earth. They give the ultimatum to surrender to them or they will sic Gamera on the entire planet, and that wouldn't be good. They also warn that any attack on the spaceship would result in the two kids getting killed.
We now go into the Military Headquarters, where the soldiers and scientist are monitoring the situation. I think this is a redress of the institute lab set we saw before. The general in charge is lamenting how nothing can stop Gamera, though we never see the military even try. They stole so much stock footage already, couldn't they toss in a few stolen shots of tanks and planes just to make it look like the military gave it a try? The general says that they have two choices: to surrender, or to attack the spaceship and risk killing the Co-Kennys. Seems like a no-brainer to me, but the general says that the choice is to be made by the United Nations Security Council, which is meeting at this moment.
Debating at the HQ.
Just then Masao and Jim's parents arrive, along with the Scoutmaster and the three jailbait girl scouts (yum). Masao's dad is a portly man who's acting way too over the top for this fluffy a movie. Jim's parents are typical 1960s white folk, his mom especially June Cleaverish in pearls and a dress. They wail and gnash their teeth but are aware that they can do nothing. Radio contact with the Co-Kennys is reestablished, and they're told of the coming vote on their fates. To their credit they implore that they should attack the ship immediately, regardless of them. Very noble of the boys, though I'm not sure that any real-life kids would do this. But the choice is up to the UN.
And so the UN Security Council comes back with its vote. They state firmly that the lives of two people are miniscule compared to the totality of human civilization, they will attack the alien ship with every weapon capable, even i...wait. What? What? Did they just say that they're going to surrender unconditionally to the aliens to save the lives of the Co-Kennys? WHAT THE HELL? You can't tell me that one single nation on the UNSC would make this call, not one. But this is a kid's movie, and one that's highly favorable to the United Nations. The adults at the HQ are sullen and depressed. To their credit, the Co-Kennys once again offer to sacrifice themselves for the planet. The general says it's out of his hands, the UN has made the call.
Just then the Scoutmaster has a brilliant idea. Remembering how freakin' clever Masao was when he reversed the controls on the minisub, he tells Masao to see if he can do the same on the alien ship. So the Co-Kennys sneak up to the control room where some aliens are watching on the big screen. To get them out of the room, the boys come up and say that the "alien has escaped", referring to the creature that was in the cage. The aliens run out of the room immediately, leaving the boys alone! Stupid aliens. Hmmm...how come they didn't ask, "Hey, weren't you two locked up?"
Now surely an ultra-sophisticated alien starship would be nothing like a minisub, right? And you wouldn't assume that you could "reverse the current" on the brain control device just by switching two unmarked triangular rods pulled completely at random from a bank, right? And they would never be able to get this far as the ship's computer would read their telepathic thoughts of sabotage and sound the alarm, right? Wrong on all counts.
Jim and Masao monkey with the machines.
So Gamera's brain control device is now reversed. They boys now devise a way to get themselves off the ship. They see another random display screen and immediately identify it as the controls for the transporter beam. Using the same random-switching-of-rods trick, they "reverse the beam". We see them now materializing back down on the beach. They get up and cheer, yeah for them! But the aliens now realize they have escaped and they land the spaceship nearby. Gamera also arrives and the aliens order him to kill the kids! Well, so much for protecting your bargaining chip with the UN.
Just when it looks like our turtle is going to munch Masao and Jim, he turns on the spaceship and smashes into one of the pods. Inside, the aliens go crazy and run through the ship as Gamera's fire breath begins to destroy things. They run to the chamber that held the creature in the cage. Here we learn the Big Secret, that what we thought was a prisoner is indeed the "Master". They beg him to save them, and the cage opens up. The beast speaks, telling them that the invasion is a bust and they must escape. The pod they're in detaches and attempts to escape.
Gamera is not going to let that happen. He grabs a hunk of the spaceship and tosses it at the fleeing pod, striking it squarely! The pod crashes back to the ground, damaged. Inside, the five aliens and the squid are now really desperate. Hmm...now we see the squid decapitate (!!!!) the aliens, claiming that he "needs their bodies". From the corpses emerge squid creatures like him, slowly squirming out of the bodies. Masao and Jim have by this point snuck up and are watching through a hole in the wall and they provide some explanation. Masao, now an expert on exobiology, says that the aliens were really humans that were captured by the squids, who needed human bodies as husks to survive. "They wear them like a suit." says Masao and I begin to think of the Edgar-suit from Men in Black.
The aliens emerge from their man-suits.
Now the six squids combine into one giant squid, through the use of flashing lights, sparking sounds, and trick photography. This finished product is massive, violating the Law of Conservation of Matter to become a little bigger than Gamera. This sets up our film's final monster-on-monster fight.
The squid is a nasty fighter, tossing rocks, undercutting, choking and tossing Gamera around brutally. Gamera is having a hard time, getting in some good hits, but apparently outmatched by his opponent. In what seems like a finishing move, the squid impales Gamera in the soft underbelly with this thick spike on top of its head. Ouch, that has to have caused some terrible internal injuries. Is this the end of our mutant turtle?
At the constant urging of the Co-Kenny's, Gamera somehow finds the strength to take to the air, the squid still stick in his belly. Up, up he flies into the lower reaches of the atmosphere. Hmm...I've seen this before. Oh yes, The Hulk from a few years ago, when the F-22 took Hulk up into the sky where the cold and lack of oxygen knocked him out. In our movie the squid gets so high that he starts to freeze over. The cold kills him off and he falls down into the sea to never emerge. Yeah! The kids cheer and jump up and down with joy. Gamera flies off into the sun to await the next sequel.
Gamera holds the frozen Viras.
And that would be the end. Thanks. Hmmm...I didn't see where any planets were destroyed here...
[Editor Pam: This wouldn't have been a bad movie if the boys' abilities had been somewhere even remotely within the realm of the possible. I've heard that when you write children's adventure, you should make your hero the same age as the audience you're trying to reach but have him act like an adult, but this is ridiculous. 11-year-olds who invent radio wristwatches, pilot submarines without any training, and "reverse controls" on an alien spaceship? Please. As though there's an adult out there who could do all this. I think this movie might have actually been written by 11-year-olds. But if you can somehow overlook the glaring impossibilities, this isn't too bad a movie, as Gamera movies go. I liked the concept of aliens wearing human suits. It does, however, foretell the making of more and more idiotic movies intended to appeal to children, not adults.]
Written in April 2005 by Nathan Decker and edited by Pam Burda.
comments powered by Disqus
that's between you and the vengeful wrath of your personal god...