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All Monsters Attack!

What's always on the bottom of the barrel when it comes to DVDs? What supplement seems to be the most commonly touted, and often the least appealing? That's right — trailers. Then again, the DVD format's most basic add-on (along with such exciting extras as "scene-selection" and "animated menus") has its devotees. In fact, we know plenty of people who will happily burn up 10 or 15 minutes in a DVD trailer gallery, eager to see what they've missed, or perhaps to glean a few insights on how these slick three-minute advertisements are constructed. If you're the sort of person who hates running late to the cineplex because you'll "miss the trailers," such could be you. We only ask you brave souls to consider this: watching a DVD that is nothing but trailers. Sixty of them, actually, clocking in at two hours even. Think you can take it? If so, get a lot of beer, because here's the catch — they're all trailers from monster movies. Old monster movies. Bad monster movies. You have been warned. Actually, the DVD in question is All Monsters Attack!, a trailer compilation gathered together by film historian David Kalat. The author of A Critical History and Filmography of Toho's Godzilla Series and The Strange Case of Doctor Mabuse, Kalat has been published in various film journals worldwide. So why did he create All Monsters Attack? Perhaps because he wanted to archive a few curiosities from moviehouse history, or because he simply loves monster movies, or because he's a bit daft. Perhaps a bit of all three. All we know is that — if monster movies are your thing — All Monsters Attack! is a potent injection of creature-features from the past. They're all here — urban commandos King Kong, Godzilla, Mighty Joe Young, Rodan, Mothra, and The Blob. Cult titles like Them! and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. Best of all is the more-obscure stuff. "Yog, Monster from Space" is a large, puffy, squid-like creature who appears to float above the ground, and also speaks perfectly when not shrieking ("You are powerless against me!"). "The Killer Shrews" pretty obviously are dogs wearing costumes to make them look like overgrown rodents, which scares everybody silly even though they run around like energetic cocker spaniels. The "Monster from Green Hell" is more or less a housefly the size of a Ford Expedition that's terrorizing folks on the African plains. With 60 trailers on the disc, such examples only scratch the surface of absurdity.

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Clearly, All Monsters Attack! is chock-full of creamy-cheese goodness — but the genre B-films touted within are for specialized tastes, nonetheless. Ardent fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 probably will recognize a lot of the featured titles, while those less familiar with drive-in fare from decades past may be in for a few surprises. Perhaps all of us simply can wonder how on earth some of these movies got made in the first place. It certainly helps to shoot with a low budget and actors sent directly from central casting — any production that makes more than it cost is a success, after all. Still, be prepared to witness acting on par with your local high school's drama department, directors who can't begin to imagine where to put a camera or how to move it, and lots of anonymous people wrestling in silly costumes (it would seem MST3K wasn't just a welcome TV show, but an inevitable one as well). More interesting is the language of theatrical trailers themselves, and how it has evolved over the years. Are today's trailers more sophisticated? Maybe — the editing is slicker and swifter, and there is far less blatant product-pitching. Then again, today's trailers have their own characteristics, not least of which being that voice-over artist Don La Fontaine is heard in most of them ("In a world...", "Only one man..."). All Monsters Attack! is a wonderful grab-bag of bygone cinematic expressions — the announcer's voice always promises we'll be terrified and thrilled, but in the same sort of way we might be promised that a new sportscar will attract women or a particular brand of toothpaste will whiten teeth. And it would be unthinkable today to see Tom Cruise's face covered up by garish headlines during a spot ("The Star Of Minority Report, Back In His BEST FILM YET!"). Fifty years ago, it would be unthinkable not throw those words up there at all. All Day Entertainment's All Monsters Attack!, distributed by Image Entertainment, offers a clean transfer of the various enclosed trailers, with the monaural audio in Dolby Digital 2.0. The quality of the source-material varies quite a bit, as should be expected from this sort of historical compilation. All trailers are chapter-indexed, and supplements include "making-of" featurettes for The Land That Time Forgot and The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, the nuclear-safety short "Operation Plumbbob," and the animated short "Megamorphosis" (think Godzilla meets Franz Kafka). Keep-case.
—JJB



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