Godzilla Goodness: GHIDORAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER (1964)
By Witney Seibold on May 2, 2014
Day six in Nerdist’s Godzilla marathon, and we finally encounter a monster even worse than Godzilla. #6: Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster.
Godzilla has been, to date, the villain of the series, and I’ve already compared him to a character like Freddy Krueger. To elucidate on that: Godzilla is a destructive monster who must be stopped at all costs, but he’s also the reason we go to see these movies. There are human characters in each Godzilla film, and while Dr. Serizawa (from the 1954 original) may be fondly remembered, most of the human characters seem incidental to the soul-soothing sight of endless monster mayhem. Something happens to Godzilla in Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, however. When Godzilla is faced with a creature that is even more evil than he is, Godzilla suddenly becomes a hero of sorts. This is the first film in Godzilla’s eventual change from a monster into the police force of the Earth.
This is also the first film where the plot officially spins into wonderfully bugnuts territory. Godzilla has long ago abandoned all the of the seriousness and somberness of the original, and now we are dealing with a kid-friendly, Saturday matinee type of story, complete with Venusians, miniature fairies with a TV contract, missing princesses, assassins, and no fewer than four monsters. It is during this period of Godzilla’s span that we’ll see some of the best films in the Godzilla series.
The story involves a missing princess (Akiko Wakabayashi) who has been taken over by a Venusian intelligence, and who becomes a doom-sayer, claiming the world will be destroyed by a monster. There is an assassin (Hisaya Ito) on her trail. Mothra’s miniature psychic twins (Emi Ito, Yumi Ito) now sing songs on TV. Oh, yes, and there’s a mysterious meteor that just landed on Earth, and it is said to contain a golden dragon named King Ghidorah. Takashi Shimura has a cameo. Godzilla has been out of the picture for years, last seen being pushed into the ocean by Mothra’s larval children. Luckily, Godzilla only went into underwater hibernation, and emerges from the ocean soon enough.
Oh yes, and Rodan is also in this film. Rodan is a giant condor/pterodactyl who was first seen the 1956 film Rodan, and who may not have been originally considered to be in the same universe as Godzilla. This may be the first case – at least since 1941’s House of Dracula – when pop culture characters began appearing in one another’s films.
How is King Ghidorah more evil than Godzilla? Godzilla was more like a clumsy animal that stumbled through cities, blowing up things that got in his way. King Ghidorah has mouth lightning, can fly, and specifically targets living things. Indeed, King Ghidorah already destroyed Venus and is now working his way through Earth. Although the monsters hate one another on a fundamental level (remember the rule: Monsters gonna do fight), Godzilla, Rodan, and Mothra (in larval form) team up to beat King Ghidorah. Mothra is always good. King Ghidorah is always bad.
The weird bliss of 1960s and 1970s-era Toho monster fights is ineffable and indescribable, and seeing three monsters team up to fight a three-headed dragon is an amazing, amazing sight. It may be a personal thing, but I feel like someone broke into my skull when I was nine years old, pulled out every bizarre fantasy I ever had about monsters, aliens, and cheap-looking destruction, and made a movie about them. I like this one a lot. The next one is good too.
Up next: Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965)