Destroy All Monsters (Japanese Import) (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Stephen Bjork
  • Review Date: Feb 15, 2024
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
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Destroy All Monsters (Japanese Import) (4K UHD Review)


Ishirō Honda

Release Date(s)

1968 (November 22, 2023)


  • Film/Program Grade: B+
  • Video Grade: A-
  • Audio Grade: B+
  • Extras Grade: A-

Destroy All Monsters (4K UHD)

Buy it Here!


[Editor's Note: This is a Region-Free Japanese import, but it does not contain English language audio tracks or subtitles. More on that below.]

After expanding and reworking similar concepts and themes across four different Godzilla films between 1962 and 1965 using largely the same creative team, Toho producer Tomoyuki Tanaka handed the reins over to Jun Fukuda and a different creative team for Ebirah, Horror of the Deep and Son of Godzilla. Screenwriter Shinichi Sekizawa still worked on those two films, but Ishirō Honda, effects supervisor Eiji Tsuburaya, and composer Akira Ifukube were busy with War of the Gargantuas and King Kong Escapes instead. So Sadamasa Arikawa took over supervising the effects (even though Tsuburaya is still credited), and Godzilla Raids Again composer Masaru Sato handled the scores. The rapidly shrinking budgets were tightened even further, and as a result, both stories are mostly confined to simple island settings. The box office returns had been dwindling steadily, so Toho tended to economize more and more as the series progressed.

Yet in 1968, Toho pulled out all the stops one last time for an old-school battle royale: Destroy All Monsters (aka Kaijū sōshingeki). Most of the old creative team returned as well, with the exception of Sekizawa. Honda and Takeshi Kimura contributed the script this time, although ironically enough their story is mostly a retread of elements from Sekizawa’s previous films, minus his trademarked whimsy. Destroy All Monsters is essentially a large-scale remake of Invasion of Astro-Monster with more monsters and more destruction, but less humor. Honda wasn’t entirely comfortable with the directions that the comic elements had been taking in the last few films, so this really was his own preferred way of telling this kind of story.

In Destroy All Monsters, Earth’s native monsters have been confined to an island named Monsterland, which isn’t necessarily the same Monster Island that first appeared in Son of Godzilla and would continue to appear throughout the rest of the Shōwa era. (It’s best not to get too worried about continuity with the Godzilla franchise.) When communications are lost with the scientific team studying the monsters, the crew of the UNSC spaceship Moonlight SY-3 are sent to investigate, only to discover that the scientists are now under the control of alien invaders called the Kilaaks. Worse, the monsters are under their control as well, and they threaten to destroy the world unless mankind surrenders. The Kilaaks use the monsters against most of Earth’s major cities before calling in their final trump card: King Ghidorah. The only hope against them is for the UNSC to discover the secret of how the Kilaaks are controlling man and monster alike. Destroy All Monsters stars Akira Kubo, Jun Tazaki, Yukiko Kobayashi, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Kyoko Ai, Kenji Sahara, and Andrew Hughes (as the token western character).

Eiji Tsuburaya’s health was continuing to decline at this point, so Sadamasa Arikawa took the reins of the effects unit for the film, and his crew made sure that Destroy All Monsters would respect Tsuburaya’s legacy while still pushing everything to the limit. In addition to appearances from Godzilla veterans like Mothra, Rodan, King Ghidorah, Anguirus, Minilla, and Kumonga, Destroy All Monsters also features Manda from Atragon and the Gorosaurus from King Kong Escapes, plus blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameos by Baragon from Frankenstein vs. Baragon and Varan from Varan the Unbelievable. That’s a whopping eleven total monsters, even if practically speaking it’s really only nine that have any significant screen time. That would be the most for any film in the franchise until director Ryuhei Kitamura pulled in double that amount for Godzilla: Final Wars to cap off the Millennium era. There’s still a bit of stock footage here from The Last War, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Ebirah, Horror of the Deep, and Son of Godzilla, but most of the wall-to-wall effects were created for this film. (On the other hand, Destroy All Monsters would provide a wealth of stock footage for the films that followed.) No Maser cannons, sadly, but you can’t have everything.

While most of the previous Godzilla films since King Kong vs. Godzilla had emphasized rural settings in order to minimize the human collateral damage and maximize the guilt-free entertainment value, Destroy All Monsters gleefully leaned into scenes of urban destruction again. There’s collateral damage galore to be had here, and the violence in general is a bit stronger this time. There’s more blood on display, including some gruesome surgery and even a head shot at one point. The monster action is bloodier, too—for once, King Ghidorah goes down for the count instead of just giving up and flying away relatively unscathed. Still, Destroy All Monsters is anything but a grim exercise in the human costs of all the mass destruction, and it manages to convey Honda’s humanist themes in gently humorous fashion. While the crew of the Moonlight SY-3 are desperately trying to save the UNSC moon base, the residents inside are panicking as everything falls apart around them. Yet the base commander accepts the risks with quiet stoicism, and offers the perfect solution to calm everyone down:

“If they fail, we'll be the next to die. We and this entire base may be vaporized before long.”


“Let's relax, and have some coffee.”

Love may not conquer all, but coffee certainly does.

Cinematographer Taiichi Kankura shot Destroy All Monsters on 35 mm film using anamorphic Tohoscope lenses, framed at 2.35:1 for its theatrical release. While the original nitrate negatives for Godzilla and Godzilla Raids Again no longer exist, the negatives for the rest of the franchise do. The problem is that the negatives for King Kong vs. Godzilla, Mothra vs. Godzilla, and Invasion of Astro-Monster were all cut to conform to the abbreviated Toho Champion Festival versions in the Seventies, and the missing material had to be sourced from master positive elements instead. That doesn’t appear to be the case with Destroy All Monsters, but I haven’t been able to confirm that with certainty. In any event, the original negative and any necessary dupe materials were scanned at 4K resolution, with all digital restoration work being performed in full 4K.

No High Dynamic Range grade has been applied to any of Toho’s 4K restorations for the Godzilla franchise, but they do take advantage of 10-bit color in the BT.2020 color space. Depending on how your display is set up and calibrated, SDR BT.2020 may require some adjustments in order to work properly. Some displays will default to BT.2020 for HDR but automatically switch to Rec.709 for SDR material, and that can cause the colors to look pale and washed out. Manually switching to BT.2020 instead should restore the colors to their intended glory. (You’ll need to remember to switch back later or else colors will distort on other discs.)

While some people may be disappointed in the lack of HDR, as with Toho’s other 4K Godzilla restorations, the grade in BT.2020 is good enough that you shouldn’t miss it. Colors, contrast, black levels, and shadow detail are all quite good. Damage is minimal, mostly some light scratches that aren’t really noticeable from normal viewing distances. Some light noise reduction has still been applied to the image, but with a pretty delicate touch this time. Textures like the clothing are well-resolved and they look smoother in motion than with some of the others. The overall level of fine detail is hampered a bit not so much by the noise reduction, but rather because of the Tohoscope lenses that Kankura used. The focus was extremely shallow, so everything outside of the actual plane of focus tends to be blurry, and there’s significant softness from the lenses at the edges of the frame. That’s all inherent to the original cinematography, though, and not a reflection on the quality of this master.

Audio is offered in Japanese 2.0 mono LPCM and a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio remix from 2003, with optional barrier-free Japanese subtitles (the Japanese equivalent of SDH). Destroy All Monsters was originally recorded and mixed in mono (even the music), so this 5.1 track is processed mono rather than being a true remix. Still, unlike the previous remixes in Toho’s Godzilla collection, this one arguably has the edge over the original mono. Maybe they had better DME stems to work with this time, but there’s more directionality here than with the others, and for once the 5.1 sounds more robust than mono. The bass has been sweetened a bit, and that gives the action more impact. The dialogue in the mono track does still have a bit more clarity, but there’s more body to the overall soundstage in 5.1. Try both of them and decide for yourself, but you might be surprised by the 5.1.

Toho’s Region-Free 4K Ultra HD release of Destroy All Monsters comes in a black Amaray case with striking metallic silver artwork on the insert. Per standard Toho policy, neither the film nor any of the extras offer English subtitles. That’s not necessarily an insurmountable obstacle, however. Some players like the Oppo UDP-203 and UDP-205 offer the ability to load external subtitles. You’ll have to do a little Googling to see if your particular player does so as well. If it can, all that you need to do is take the English subtitle file (with an .srt extension) from disc like Criterion’s Blu-ray. Rename it “,” create a folder on a USB drive called “sub,” and place the file in that folder. Insert the drive into the USB port on your player, then when playing the disc, use the subtitle button on your remote to select “other,” and Bob’s your uncle. You’ll have to adjust the sync to get it to line up properly. On the Oppos, that’s accessible using the Option button.

There are other sources for .srt files, but you’ll have to discover those on your own. There’s a more drastic (and permanent) way of adding subtitles to a film that doesn’t offer them, but that’s also something that you’ll have to find out for yourself. Google will be your friend here.

The following extras are included:

  • Audio Commentary with Seiji Tani
  • Trailers:
    • Theatrical Trailer (UHD – 2:30)
    • Textless Theatrical Trailer (UHD – 2:30)
    • Overseas Trailer (UHD – 2:30)
    • Toho Champion Festival Godzilla: Blitz Operation Trailer (UHD – 2:30)
  • Toho Champion Festival Version of Destroy All Monsters (aka Godzilla: Blitz Operation) (HD – 74:07)
  • Unused Special Effects Footage (Upscaled SD – 15:04)
  • Making-of Video (Upscaled SD – 1:22)
  • All-Out Attack of Monsters: Yasuyuki Inoue’s Art World (HD – 11:48)
  • Invasion of Godzilla (HD – 18:44)
  • A Collection of Monsters and Happy Children (HD – 1:43)
  • 8 mm Digests:
    • Giant Dragon Manda (Upscaled SD – 4:46)
    • Assemble All Monsters (Upscaled SD – 4:43)
    • Monster Olympics (Upscaled SD – 4:43)
  • Picture Books:
    • Giant Dragon Manda (HD – 2:55)
    • Assemble All Monsters (HD – 2:32)
    • Monster Olympics (HD – 2:41)
  • Still Galleries:
    • Cast (UHD, 35 in all)
    • Special Effects (UHD, 75 in all)
    • Promotional Materials (UHD, 52 in all)
    • Press Books (UHD, 60 in all)
    • Storyboards (UHD, 50 in all)

Since many of these extras are in Japanese with no way to add subtitles, they’re of limited utility to anyone who doesn’t speak the language. All’s not lost, however. Google Lens with Google Translate can also be your friend in deciphering some of the text, and a few of the extras are English-friendly. The shortened Toho Champion Festival version of Destroy All Monsters appears to have been sourced from the same scans as the full-length version of the film, but without all of the rest of the work that was done to that. There’s a bit more damage visible, and none of the noise reduction. The Unused Special Effects Footage offers a montage of additional effect work that was done for the film, most of consisting of extra destruction. That includes a missile launcher that blew its own back end off, so some of this footage obviously wasn’t used due to mistakes like that. The Making-of Video is a short clip of behind-the-scenes footage, possibly shot in 16 mm.

All-Out Attack of Monsters offers comparisons between the conceptual artwork that was done by art director Yasuyuki Inoue and the final shots as they appear in the film. Invasion of Godzilla is an interview with Yukiko Kobayashi, who played Kyoko Manabe. A Collection of Monsters and Happy Children (yes, that’s the actual title) is film footage from a promotional event for Destroy All Monsters that brought eager children face-to-face with suit performers as their favorite monsters. The 8 mm Digests are three different single-reel cutdowns that squeeze as much action as they can into less than five minutes each. Assemble All Monsters and Monster Olympics both use footage from Destroy All Monsters, but Giant Dragon Manda is actually taken from Atragon instead. The Picture Books all roughly correspond to the 8 mm reels, although artists Takeaki Tsukuda and Yoshio Ishii do take their own trademarked flights of fancy. Finally, the various Still Galleries offer plenty of material that valuable with or without subtitles.

Will there eventually be a domestic release of this 4K restoration of Destroy All Monsters? Maybe, but I wouldn’t hold your breath. Toho has a long history of only offering substandard masters for overseas distribution—witness the poor-quality masters that they provided to Criterion for the Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films, 1954–1975 Blu-ray set. Time will tell, but for the time being, this disc is the best possible option. Exchange rates are currently favorable, too. That doesn’t mean that it’s going to be cheap, because physical media in Japan has always been expensive relative to North America. Whether or not it’s worth the cost is up to you. Destroy All Monsters is one of the godfathers of the entire genre, with more monster action than you can shake a stick at, so it’s definitely worth every penny for any true kaiju fan.

- Stephen Bjork

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