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DVD SAVANT

ALL MONSTERS ATTACK!


All Monsters Attack!
All Day Entertainment
2002 / Color & b&w / 1:37 / 120+/- min. / Street Date November 12, 2002 / $24.99
Trailers and featurettes provided by Ted Newsom, Heidelberg Films
Graphics by David K. Landis, Shake It Loose; Out of the Past Collectibles, Ron Collier
Produced by David Kalat, with

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

Finally, what the world needs most comes from intrepid David Kalat's All Day Entertainment. A man whose academic excellence has enlightened us to the world of Doctor Mabuse, Kalat apparently also has full-blown credentials as a giant monster fanatic. Face it, a collection of Hammer trailers can be a fairly repetitious experience - but giant monsters have the kind of scope and variety that full-grown monster fans just don't seem to, uh, outgrow.

All Monsters Attack! is a collection of trailers charting most of the highlights of the giant monster genre, and includes a fair number of rarities.

Synopsis:

It's two hours of in-your-face coming attractions from giant monster movies big & small, American & Japanese, with a Danish on the side. Starting with King Kong, the noisy, hyperbole-soaked trailers go through giant apes, dinosaurs, Japanese monsters, monsters from space, blobs, monsters from under the sea and the desert, giant insects, radioactive mutants, titanic females, and fantasy monsters.

Attitude is everything with Giant Monsters, and All Monsters Attack! is basically 101 variations on how to sell movies that have screaming females and panicked populations menaced by animation puppets and men in rubber suits. Since the chronology starts in 1933, we also get a good look at changing trailer styles: sophisticated, naive and inane. King Kong (which might actually be a reissue trailer from a few years later) has those giant text blocks crowded into every other shot, telling us to "Look at these scenes RIGHT OUT of the picture!" The 1960 The Lost World gives a special billing text credit touting the appearance of "Frosty the Poodle."

Even if the movie in question is a sequel, the voiceover and text blocks scream that this particular picture's thrills are "Never Before Seen", or that we've "Seen Nothing Like It." It's always the biggest, the most spectacular, the greatest.

The prize for sloganeering goes to the trailer for the American release of Godzilla. Its narration flings out hyperbolic superlatives non-stop, almost to the point that they contradict each other. "Titanic Tower of Terror!" is only one alliterative zinger. Watching the trailer for The Beast of Hollow Mountain (a nice rarity, I don't think MGM even has one), you'd think the show being advertised was the best Western drama - with a monster - ever made. Then the arthritic stop-motion beastie makes his appearance, and convinces us otherwise.

Publicity copywriters must have tapped their pencils on their teeth and realized that King Kong was the benchmark to beat, even in the 1960s. Son of Kong obviously has to compare itself to the original, but the pitiful Konga starts out with a devious copy line that proves that their rip-off of the old movie was conscious: "The KING of KILLERS - KONGA!" Even further down the giant monster food chain, the Texas-produced Giant Gila Monster calls its very lethargic menace an, "Amazing KONG-LIKE Monster!" More often than not confusion reigns, as when we see the title Monster from Green Hell in giant text letters, but the narrator talks about "Monsters from the Green Hell.

They're almost all here, and the list includes some great trailers, and some real rarities. Them!, Gorgo, and Rodan! still make you want to run out and buy tickets. Rare-ish trailers for The Mysterians and Atragon are included; Atragon has killer main title animation and great music, but allows us to think that the giant triphibious craft is a weapon of the villainous Mu Empire. Savant's seen a lot of trailers, but never ones for The Thirty Foot Bride of Candy Rock or Caltiki The Immortal Monster. Also included are two pre-release Mothra teasers, using the title Mothra, the Monster God. The first features a montage of artwork misrepresenting the story.

In Mothra and Godzilla vs. The Thing, care is taken not to show an actual full-on shot of the giant moth monster, which rather goes against the grain of these show-'em-everything monsterfests. I think Monster from Green Hell shows all but one of the feature's effects shots, and we certainly see almost all of the good animation angles from The Giant Behemoth (a title, which, come to think of it, is redundant - how can there be a Small Behemoth?). The Cyclops ruins the suspense of its grotesquely effective makeup by revealing it far too casually. But The Night of the Lepus tries to hide its silly monsters, which of course are nothing more than giant bunny rabbits.

The thread kind of peters out in fantasy films, ending with Atlantis, the Lost Continent, where there's only a large submarine. Thanks to today's digital animation, we're once again up to our armpits in giant monsters, but the old thrill isn't there. Jurassic Park has used up the dinos pretty badly, and Spayed Kids, I mean, Spy Kids 2 has takeoffs on Harryhausen monsters, and nobody seems to care.


All Day's All Monsters Attack! is a fun collection of trailers in reasonable condition. Some of the earlier ones are obvious 16mm dupes, and there are a fair number that are pretty beat-up, faded to red, or splicey. A few can be found in perfect shape on other discs, like Them!, but the fun is seeing them all here together. All Day's encoding and mastering process is still an iffy propsition - some flashes to white result in minor or major digital pixillation, depending on what machine the disc is played.

A clever presentation is All Monsters Attack!'s biggest tickle. The overall theme will be a puzzle to anyone under 30, as the package top and insert mimic the look of a 1960s Aurora monster model kit.  1 The actual cover monster is one of the twin shaggies from War of the Gargantuas, for which there's no trailer in the collection. But he's close enough to pass for one of the awful Japanese Kong monsters. The insert is a takeoff on an Aurora model kit instruction sheet, with art showing how to assemble what looks like a Lost in Space cyclops. The instruction text tells us to glue the monster to the 'realistic Bronson Caverns base!' I think All Day should adopt the 'Aurora' lampoon logo permanently, you know, in a company-wide coporate makeover.

The special extras area is a grab bag. The same 7th Voyage of Sinbad dynamation featurette that's available on most of the Harryhausen discs appears, along with a lengthy featurette for the incredibly lame The Land that Time Forgot. Following that is a US government film about what kind of protection needs to be given foodstuffs so they won't become irradiated in an atom blast. Last up is producer Kalat's student animation film, about a boy who turns into a scaly King of the Monsters lizard overnight, which irks his Evil-fighting superhero sister.

This collection of trailers is sure to please. David Kalat has pitched his monster rally with just the right sense of nostalgic humor.


On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, All Monsters Attack! rates:
Trailers: Good
Video: Good to Fair
Sound: Good
Supplements: Short subjects: The Land that Time Forgot & 7th Voyage of Sinbad featurettes; Government Atomic test film; Mega-Morphosis student cartoon.
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: November 11, 2002


Giant Monster Foot Note:

1. These were beauties when new. The original boxes had mysterious four-color artwork of Frankenstein, Dracula, or the Creature, the monster's name in dripping letters across the top, and just the oval 'Aurora' logo on the bottom - almost nothing else, except maybe a Universal copyright somewhere in tiny letters. In 1962 there were tall stacks of them at the hobby store - they were a 10-year-old's dream.
Return

David Kalat's book on Godzilla movies is called A Critical History and Filmography of Toho's Godzilla Series



DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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