“Attack of the Super Monsters” is a junk-drawer movie. For starters, it’s not technically a movie, but rather a handful of episodes of a Japanese kids’ show stitched together. It gets stranger than that, because it’s a weird combo of hand-drawn animation, Godzilla-style rubber monster suits and live-action backgrounds. If Osamu Tezuka and Ralph Bakshi ever worked together, it might look like this.
Cobbled together out of four episodes of “Dinosaur War Izenborg,” “Attack of the Super Monsters” is about a race of super-intelligent dinosaurs who emerge from the center of the Earth to wage war on mankind. They do this mainly by mind-controlling other animals and sending them to kill people. The human race’s only hope for survival is the Gemini Force, a team led by brother and sister Jim and Gem Starbuck. They have a transforming spaceship that turns into a tank and an arsenal of futuristic weapons. But that’s not all – Jim and Gem also have bionic implants that allow them to merge into a single super-powered hero named Gemini. The dinosaurs talk, did I mention that?
Because this is really a TV show mashed together to make a feature-length movie, the same thing happens four times. The dinosaurs take over a bunch of animals. Those animals attack humans. Gemini Force arrives. They fight, but they don’t have enough power to win. Jim and Gem form Gemini, who does. If you’ve ever seen Power Rangers you know the drill.
The real treat of “Attack of the Super Monsters” is how unpredictable the same old story gets presented. In the first segment, they fight dogs. The dogs are animated. In the second, they fight bats. This time, the bats are rubber toys that flop around on strings. Any time a human being has to be in the scene, it’s a cartoon. Any time the dinosaurs are on screen, they’re men in suits. Sometimes the backgrounds are drawn, sometimes they’re still photos. The effect is hallucinatory, and you can tell why this technique hasn’t been used very often.
Tsuburaya Productions, the studio founded by “Godzilla” special effects creator Eiji Tsuburaya and also the birthplace of “Ultraman,” produced “Dinosaur War Izenborg.” Those who study Japanese genre films are quick to note that the Japanese mindset when it comes to special effects is that realism is overrated. What’s really important is telling a story and evoking an emotion in the audience. Still, the way “Attack of the Super Monsters” bounces from miniatures to animation to photographic collage and then sometimes combines all three is too distracting even by these standards. It doesn’t help that the animation is below “Speed Racer” quality and the live-action portions look worse than “Thunderbirds.” That said, you’re not likely to find anything that comes close to it as a viewing experience. Here’s where “Attack of the Super Monsters falls on the Schlock Index:
Blood – All of the action is of the Saturday-morning-superhero variety. The worst that happens is a pterodactyl gets its wing sliced off by a giant buzzsaw. It sounds cooler than it looks. 1/5
Breasts – Because this is a kids’ cartoon, there’s zero salacious content. 0/5
Beasts – If you like rubber monsters, you might be into this. There’s a healthy amount of guys in dinosaur suits stomping around tiny Tokyos. Sometimes it looks like they didn’t wait for the paint to dry on the models to start smashing them. 3/5