GHIDORAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER

(aka GHIDRAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER)

(1964)
(Japanese Title: San daikaijû: Chikyû saidai no kessen)
With Yosuke Natsuki, Yuriko Hoshi, Akiko Wakabayashi, Hiroshi Koizumi,  Emi Ito, Yûri Ito, Takashi Shimura (and Haruo Nakajima as Godzilla!)
Directed by Ishiro Honda
Reviewed by JB

This review is of the original Japanese version of the film.  

   Or: "Godzilla Laughs!"

Shiny. Pretty. Venusian.    Having already introduced fantasy into the Giant Monster series with "The Peanuts" from MOTHRA and GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA, the series leaps into the world of science fiction in the first scene of GHIDORAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER as a group of Japanese UFO enthusiasts wait for contact from aliens.  Their efforts are thwarted because, according to them, a disbelieving female reporter among them is sending out negative brain waves. (Dames!). A UFO (or at least a large glowing light) does show up eventually in the film and tells a seriously hot princess to jump out of a moving airplane moments before it explodes.  This seriously hot princess returns to Earth to then reveal to everybody that she is from Venus and has bad news about Japan and the world in general. 1 

    With this bizarre and unlikely setup, you may be wondering how Godzilla figures into all this.  I am wondering too. Not only does Godzilla show up, but also Rodan, Mothra and Ghidorah, a new bad ass in town, straight from the planet Venus (or Mars in the dubbed version).  Mothra's appearance is explained in the film, as she is called in by The Peanuts to convince Godzilla and Rodan to stop bickering with each other and help defeat Ghidorah, who threatens to lay the Earth to waste. To get Mothra to come, The Peanuts sing a new "Mothra" song - apparently the way to a giant moth's heart is through a good pop tune.  Rodan, however, just suddenly rises from the ashes of the volcano in which he had previously died, and Godzilla... well, he just shows up because it wouldn't be a party without him.  Is the hot Venusian behind all this?  Never explained. Things just happen.  In fact, so much happens in this film, it's hard to keep track, let along make sense, of it all.  Wacky scenes tumble into each other, there's singing, lots of running around... it's like A HARD DAY'S NIGHT with Takashi Shimura as Paul's Grandfather!

This guy moves so much I can't even get a clear screen cap!    Ghidorah is the most impressive monster yet in the series, a masterpiece of live action "guy in rubber suit" combined with puppetry and animation.  At this point, Godzilla and Rodan had been redesigned to appear more human (and let's face it, much as we may love them, they look silly), but because Ghidorah's three heads were merely appendages to the monster suit and not designed to change expression, he looks menacing all the time, especially with the three heads bobbing up and down constantly, the giant wings flapping, the two tails swishing back and forth, and the animated death rays shooting out of all three mouths, bringing random destruction over city and country.

    It is in this film that Godzilla, for better or worse, begins his transition from feared bringer of death to beloved hero, and the monster scenes change from destructive Battle Royales to destructive comic sequences.  At one point, when Mothra gets tired of watching Rodan and Godzilla fight each other, she uses the cocoon silk she can shoot from her mouth to cover Godzilla, and Rodan finds this highly amusing, until he gets the same, at which point Godzilla begins slapping his sides and laughing!  He so overcome with the sillies, he even sits down on his tail! The monsters are humanized even further when Mothra tries to convince the pair to help her save the Earth from Ghidorah's wrath, Rodan and Godzilla argue against it (they really don't give a crap whether humans live or die), and The Peanuts translate the monster squeaks, yaps and roars into Japanese, and English subtitles. (In the dubbed American version, after Godzilla "says" something to the pleading Mothra, The Peanuts exclaim "Godzilla, such terrible language!")

    GHIDORAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER may be one of the most fun Godzilla movies of the entire series, but the "bigger, better, funnier!" attitude of the series had completely transformed the concept of the Giant Monster Movie from that of the original GODZILLA film - similar to the difference between the silly DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER and the early, more serious James Bond films like DR. NO and  FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE.  There would be more films in this vein - aliens and multiple monsters - before economic pressures and the law of diminishing returns would force the makers to scale things back. 

    One final note: the Japanese government appears to have finally just given up.  After deciding against using nukes to destroy the creatures, they never even bother to send out the toy trucks and airplanes. 4 - JB

NOTE: 1. The princess is played by Akiko Wakabayashi and she was simply one of the most beautiful Japanese actresses of her time, perhaps best known in America as Aki from the James Bond film YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE.  Just wanted to mention that.

FAREWELL, TAKASHI!

This was great character actor Takashi Shimura's last Godzilla film.  Thankfully, once he arrives midway through the film (as a doctor who immediately declares Miss "I Am From Venus" to be completely normal), he sticks around for the whole film and even gets out of the laboratory to watch the four-way monster battle.  He played Dr. Yamane in the first two Godzilla films and had a small part in MOTHRA as well appearing in several similar sci-fi films for Toho than I am not counting as part of the Godzilla series.  It should always be noted that this gentleman was, as his bio on The Internet Movie Database says, "one of the finest film actors of the twentieth century" and that these monster movies, as fun as they were, did not do justice to his true acting talents. For that, see IKIRU, or SEVEN SAMURAI, or SCANDAL, or STRAY DOG, or RASHOMON, or DRUNKEN ANGEL, or...


IN SPACE, NO ONE CAN HEAR GOOD MOVIE QUOTES

"You can read a book in the dark?"
"I am from Venus."

"Brother, how was the treatment?"
"See for yourself - she is still Venusian."

"What is she saying now?"
"Don't ask me. I never studied Monster Language."

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