August 21, 2002

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Monster mash
By Patrick Macias

IMAGINE IF "We Are the World" was not a song but a Japanese monster movie with Cyndi Lauper mashing Moscow, Lionel Richie decimating Paris, Bruce Springsteen pulverizing Beijing, and (of course) Michael Jackson taking Manhattan. This generous all-star approach is the modus operandi of 1968's immortal Destroy All Monsters, which features an amazing 11 giant monsters on tap, from the heavy hitters (Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan) to the second-stringers (Varan, Baragon, and Manda, anyone?). It was proudly produced by Toho of Japan as the studio's 20th kaiju eiga (that's "monster movie" for genre gaijin), so it is only right and natural that the Red Vic has seen fit to book Destroy to celebrate the theater's 22nd birthday this week. In the far-flung, futuristic, and barely conceivable year of 1999, "all the monsters in the world" (the Son of Godzilla we do get to see, but sadly, Dracula and Loch Ness's Nessie are unaccounted for) have been rounded up on a god-size penal colony cheerfully called Monsterland (better known by the more populist sobriquet Monster Island). Everything is peachy keen for the inmates and the place's pint-size keepers – until a batch of grinning female space invaders from planet Kilaak decide to spring the prisoners and make them attack the major cities of the world, thus bringing about a new, ill-defined (but sure to be humiliating) "scientific civilization." All that separates the human race from domination by a bunch of silver-clad sushi hostesses from hell equipped with force fields and mind-control devices is Japan's military-industrial complex and a magnificent starship called the Moonlight SY-3. But most viewers will probably hope the path to victory is a leisurely one, because it will mean more screen time for marauding monsters and miniature cities reduced to smoldering ruins. Destroy All Monsters was the last masterwork by the filmmakers behind the original 1954 Godzilla (which also plays at the Red Vic this week), and future generations should thank them for leaving behind such a massive endeavor – and one without a cloying theme song featuring vocal contributions from Hall and Oates.

'Destroy All Monsters' plays Thurs/25; 'Godzilla' plays Fri/26-Sat/27, Red Vic, S.F. See Rep Clock for show times.

Patrick Macias is the author of TokyoScope: The Japanese Cult Film Companion.