Destroy All Planets (1968)

Destroy All Planets

Directed by Noriaki Yuasa

Run Time: 75 minutes


NOTE: This review assumes that you are already familiar with Gamera, the gigantic, flying, fire-breathing turtle. If that concept is new to you and makes you uneasy, or the thought of giant turtles battling giant squid-birds frightens you, then you should skip this review.

Destroy All PlanetsOK, fine. In case you don’t know, Gamera was created in 1965 by Daiei Studios in an attempt to cash-in on (and compete with) Toho Studio’s über-successful icon: Godzilla. Whereas Godzilla was somewhat…somewhat, plausible, at least physically (i.e., he’s a giant lizard), Gamera is so bizarre that it beggars the imagination. (As an unforeseen and fortunate side effect, Gamera makes great fodder for goofy movie web sites…heh heh.) You see, Gamera is not only a giant turtle, but he

1) Has two giant tusks protruding from his lower lip

2) Roars

3) Walks upright on his back legs

4) Breathes fire

and if that weren’t enough:

5) Flies like a spinning cartwheel by pulling his legs into his shell and spewing flames out of the holes!

(You may wonder how Gamera manages to propel himself in any given direction since each ‘leg hole’ spews fire in a direction opposite to all the others, resulting in a ‘spin’ rather than forward propulsion….yes…you may indeed wonder.)

Contrary to the early ‘evil’ Godzilla, Gamera is portrayed as Earth’s protector and the "Friend of All Children", mostly in a bid to make him more palatable to audiences in general. Furthermore, a "good" monster can always battle new adversaries thus generating fresh revenues from a potentially endless line of new films. On the other hand, a "mean" monster will typically stomp around smashing buildings before being killed: not leaving much room for further sequels. (This was also one of the main reasons Godzilla became humanity’s ‘friend’ in his later films.)

The film opens in deep space where we have the pleasure of watching a space ship (comprised of 5 bright ping-pong balls) spinning around towards an unknown destination. Inside the ship, a voice comes over the speaker system and informs us that the final destination has been reached, "The planet most similar to ours in all the universe…the Earth!" (Man, they even have the same name for our planet as we do…what are the odds?)

Anyway, the aliens need to colonize our planet for some reason, lack of women, lack of water, who knows, so the ship’s captain orders an immediate attack on our unwitting planet. Unfortunately for our bellicose visitors, just as the attack is to commence, Gamera, our favorite giant flying space turtle, cart-wheels out of nowhere and attacks the ship. (I assume he was just out patrolling the skies for alien craft, lucky for us, eh?)

Destroy All Planets

Gamera’s primary mode of space attack appears to be bonking the bottom of his shell on the ship’s balls (so to speak) while the aliens ineffectually fire their laser guns out into space hitting nothing because they are mounted on the ship’s perimeter and can’t pivot up or down. (Idiots.)

So far, so good…this is looking reeeeeal bad!

"Put out its jet flames!" the alien Captain shrieks as Gamera flies into the center of the ship’s hub. The aliens, with their vast intellect, had the foresight to equip their ship with giant fire-extinguishers (!!!) which they squirt on Gamera’s fire-holes, thus extinguishing Gamera’s only mode of outer space mobility: shooting fire out of his leg-holes and spinning around in circles.

OK, my bad, it was only Gamera’s front-leg fires that were snuffed out. (Boy, it’s not often you get to type a sentence like that!) Rather pissed off, and still having his rear fires in working order, Gamera zips around and smashes his head through the ship’s hull and gives a mighty roar. (Yes, a roar in the vacuum of outer space…I know, I know.)

Destroy All Planets

Anyway, I guess the mighty Gamera has gotten his head stuck because the aliens simply jettison the damaged ship section into space with Gamera still attached and trying to wiggle out. After a brief struggle, Gamera does manage to pull his head out of the hole (what an impressive beast) and flies around to roast the damaged alien ship with his fiery breathe…but not before the ship’s Captain radios to his home planet of Viras and warns headquarters that Earth is protected by….all together now: GAMERA!!!

Man, all this before the opening credits! This is going to be good.

After the credits, we see some sort of Scouting Jamboree where all the scouts are falling into ranks for inspection. Well, all the scouts except for our two happy-go-lucky trouble-makers and all around sweet-kids, Masao and Jim. (Yes, the Japanese / American pair of friends…sure to please audiences on both sides of the Pacific.) After sneaking around a bit, the two precocious youths discover the mini-sub that their scout leader is to demonstrate to the others, so they decide to play a prank. To make a long story short, Masao and Jim sneak into the sub and "switch the polarity" on the batteries so that "all the controls will be reversed." For example, pushing forward on the controls will actually send the sub backwards, etc., which seems a rather dangerous prank to play in a submarine! But, hey, the boys are cute, so what the hell.

Destroy All PlanetsDestroy All Planets

Anyway, after the demo, the confused Scout leader can’t figure out what went wrong with the sub. (Cue merriment.) Masao and Jim volunteer to ‘fix’ the sub and after getting permission, they quickly jump into the vehicle, reverse the cables back into their original positions, and zip out under the waves for a joy ride while everyone else stands on the beach and admires the boys’ technical prowess. (Yuk, yuk)

After a brief period of cruising around, the boys spot Gamera swimming along beside them. At first Jim is nervous upon seeing the gargantuan reptile swimming mere feet away from the sub and chomping its teeth, but Masao assures him that Gamera is "The Friend of All Children", so, yeah, it’s all good, baby, it’s all good. Still, I can understand why Jim would be a little nervous, ‘Friend’ or not.

Destroy All Planets

And yes, this is all, really, really goofy.

Meanwhile, high in the sky, a second wave of aliens has arrived. Well, another ship at least. (I guess budget constraints limited the alien fleet to only one model ship.) Realizing that they have to be rid of Gamera before any sort of Earth attack can take place, the Virans quickly locate our heroic space turtle and capture him with their, and this is a quote, "Super Trap Ray". With Gamera immobilized at the bottom of the ocean, the aliens plug into his mind and start going through his memories with the "Video-Tron" in order to try and find a weakness which they could eventually exploit to destroy him. This ‘memory replay’ sequence initiates an absolutely shameless re-hashing of video clips from Gamera’s previous movies…lasting for 20 minutes!!! Talk about padding! Robert Lippert, eat you heart out, baby! To add to the ridiculousness of this ploy, some of the ‘borrowed’ scenes are from Gamera’s earliest film which was in black-and-white! Ha Ha, I guess the dumb audience would never notice that.

Anyhoo, it turns out that Jim and Masao’s mini-sub is also trapped in the capture beam or whatever the hell it’s called. But never fear, with Gamera’s help, Jim and Masao escape from the Super Trap Ray and rejoin the other Scouts on the beach just as the Gamera breaks free and opens a can of whoop-ass on the Virans.

Destroy All Planets

Since the plot demands it, Jim and Masao watch the battle from the beach and manage to get their dumb asses taken hostage by the Virans. The Virans, somehow realizing that Gamera would never allow the boys to come to harm, telepathically command the mighty turtle to cease fire and return to the ground or else it’ll be lights out for the kids. Honor bound by his vows as "Friend of All Children", even stupid ones that don’t get off the beach, Gamera relents and lands, rather clumsily, on the ground to await further orders.

Meanwhile, up on the alien ship, Masao and Jim realize where they are and immediately start sneaking around. (What…nobody could be bothered to actually guard the prisoners?!) Alas, the boys’ escapades are quickly halted when an alien spots them. (An alien that looks a lot like a Japanese actor in surgical scrubs.) Oh, no, I guess he can’t be bothered to secure the prisoners either: he just jumps into some sort of transport tube and floats off down a hallway. Intrigued by the <cough> aliens, Jim and Masao follow them from a safe distance.

Jim and Masao eventually reach some sort of control room (which looks suspiciously just like all the other sets, er, rooms on the space ship) where they watch in horror as the aliens affix a brain-control device on Gamera’s neck. After quickly ensuring that the device is working properly by barking a few test commands at Gamera, ("Fly around the space ship! Obey!"), the Virans lift off for outer space in order to set their plans for colonization in motion. (Jim and Masao scurry off to explore the ship, once again, without anybody bothering to keep an eye on them. Man, that’s really maddening.)

After an interminable ‘cute’ scene in the ships’ cafeteria, the aliens finally confront the boys. Indicating the apex of this movie’s special effects, the aliens now sport spooky (Japanese shaped) glowing eyes that flash when they talk. Unfortunately for us, this amazing special-effects illusion evaporates when we quickly realize that the actors are just wearing goggles with little lights attached to them. (Look at the guy to the right.)

Destroy All Planets

To make a long story short, the aliens grant Jim and Masao free roam of the ship as long as they behave themselves and don’t try to escape. (!) The only catch, however, is that in return for their relative freedom the boys must promise to help keep Gamera under control if the brain-control device should fail. (Since, you know, Gamera listens to kids, I guess) Having no choice, the boys accept the offer and, after the stupid aliens leave the room, begin trying to trick the ship’s ‘telepathic machinery’ into helping them escape. Alas, the ship is too smart to be tricked into helping them, so the boys set off to explore the ship.

Destroy All Planets

After discovering a caged space alien, "from another planet" (no shit!), Jim and Masao decide to release it because it looks friendly (…it does?!) and it might help them to escape in return.

(Oh…don’t even get me started on how stupid this all is.)

Unfortunately, the children’s effort to free the bizarre, beaked beast are frustrated by the lack of any sort of visible locking mechanism. "We’ll free you when we get back," Masao promises as he and Jim scamper off to find a way to release it. The boys’ luck finally runs out when an alien discovers that they’re up to no good and restrains them to the floor to prevent them from starting any further mischief.

Meanwhile, the other alien dudes are eagerly sending orders to Gamera and having him fly around and lay waste to Japan. This all leads to some perfunctory shots of a rather stiff, lethargic looking Gamera mindlessly bashing his head into chintzy table-top models of buildings, highways, etc.

Anyhoo, after laying waste to a hydro-electric station, Gamera is charged with destroying Tokyo, which sounds like a bit of a tall order for our shelled friend since we just watched him work his ass off for the last 5 minutes just to wreck a dam, but we’ll see.

Destroy All Planets

Yeah, I dunno, it’s all pretty chintzy here. Toho Studios seemed to have spent a bit more time on their models then the ones shown here, I mean, it’s pretty easy to see that the ‘buildings’ are just hollow boxes (you can see straight through them), while most of the time poor old Gamera only manages to hit himself in the face while flailing around his stubby rubber arms, but I guess if you use your imagination you can sort of get the idea. (I also suspect that most of these scenes were lifted from previous films in order to save money just like in the earlier ‘Video-Tron’ scene.)

After a modicum of mediocre mayhem, the aliens call off Gamera’s awesome attack and demand that the Earth’s population surrender to them or else they’ll kill the boys.

So yeah, there’s a huge debate at the United Nations about whether or not to sacrifice the two boys or unconditionally surrender the entire Earth’s population to the aliens.

I hope that you’re thinking what I’m thinking: Screw ’em!!! Let them die!

After a few moments of ‘tension’, the United Nations calls Tokyo HQ and relays their decision: The boys cannot be sacrificed: the Earth must surrender.

Oh.

My.

God.

Fortunately for Earth, Jim’s scout leader has a bright idea: Have Masao reverse the controls on Gamera’s mind control device just like he did on the submarine. Then, and I’m quoting here, "Gamera’s controls should work in reverse on the thought device!" (Yeah, I was going to say something smart-assed here, but I couldn’t think of anything worthy of such a goofy conclusion.)

OK, let’s just get this over with. Jim and Masao distract the aliens long enough to switch the controls around (by swapping two wooden blocks on a giant kaleidoscope) and then teleport themselves back to Earth. The alien captain, understandably pissed off at having been duped by a couple of boy scouts, spitefully orders Gamera to kill the boys who are now cowering on the beach. (You’d think that Gamera’s time would be better utilized by continuing with ‘Operation Destroy the World’ instead of chasing a couple of brats around a beach trying to stomp on them, but whatever.)

Destroy All Planets

However, unbeknownst to the aliens, Masao reversed the brain-control device so that when they give Gamera the order to "Kill the boys" he instead turns and attacks them. (So the opposite of "kill the boys" is "kill us?") Happy to be free of his mental bonds, Gamera attacks the alien ship with renewed vigor, which is still pretty apathetic compared to, say, some of Godzilla’s rampages. Then again, we are talking about a turtle.

Back on the ship, the aliens retreat to the last undamaged room: the one with the weird, beaked squid-like alien-in-a-cage. As it turns out, this monster is actually the aliens’ Master and they beg him for help. (Why was the Master kept in a cage?) Alas, not even the Master can pull off an emergency escape, what with Gamera wailing away at the ship’s balls (you know what I mean), and vows to destroy Gamera at all costs.

Now if I’m seeing all this correctly, the Master has the crew members stand at attention then rather unceremoniously slices off their heads with a quick snap of a tentacle. The headless alien bodies immediately sprout little grey, beaked heads similar to their Master’s, and then they all merge together with some pretty cheesy special effects and transform into a single gigantic squid monster. (You probably should never watch this scene while on LSD.)

Destroy All Planets

So now we’re about to embark on the final Giant Monster Battle Royale in all its goofy glory.

OK, yeah, giant squid-bird-alien thing battles Gamera in typical Japanese giant-monster fashion. To be fair, this battle does offer nearly 10 minutes of pure rubber-monster goofiness, which is pretty fun if you like this sort of thing. (Much to my surprise, the squid-monster violently impales Gamera causing an extremely nasty chest wound; Gamera, however, manages to overcome this obviously fatal puncture and wins the fight.)

Here are some hi-lites for you:

Destroy All Planets

Destroy All Planets

Destroy All Planets

Anyway, the good monster wins. The bad monster loses. Earth is saved.

What did you expect?

I gotta get some sleep.

Dennis Grisbeck (October 2008)

Afterthoughts

OK, yeah, this flick was obviously made to be kid friendly, so I can’t be too harsh, can I? (Maybe I’m just getting too kind in my old age.)

I found this film as part of a 50 Sci-Fi "Classic" box set, so it’s too bad the color was so washed out because I bet the color in the original prints was gorgeous. It’s really too bad.

On the whole, there was a lot of fight footage if you can get through the dull middle part of the film where the kids spend all their time sneaking around the space ship getting into trouble. The movie is fun, very goofy, but unfortunately just a bit too goofy to really make it worth watching more than once.

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6 comments to Destroy All Planets (1968)

  • guts3d

    I remember anxiously awaiting a new Godzilla or other monster movie when I was a kid. Then they brought in Godzooky, Godzilla’s son, and ruined it for me…

  • Was that the name of Godzilla’s son? I love “Son of Godzilla” with all of its delightful 60’s campiness, but I don’t recall ever hearing what the baby Godzilla was called. (And by the way, where is the “mama” Godzilla that laid the egg?)

  • Sean

    I’m almost ashamed to say that I know the name of Godzilla’s son from the movies – it’s Minya. Then there was Godzooky from that awful American cartoon, who was some sort of mutant combination of Barney from the Flintstones and Scooby Do. Funny the things that stay with you and haunt your dreams….

  • What about “mama” Godzilla? Is there ever any mention of her?

  • Sean

    Are you kidding?

  • Guts3d

    Perhaps Godzilla had the Japanese scientists clone him, thereby negating a need for a female. Or, the military tried cloning him to make an adversary as strong as Godzilla himself, but younger. Or, most likely, they just didn’t care.

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