Ghidorah: The Three-Headed Monster (1964) Movie Review
If there is any Godzilla movie that deserves to be regarded as one of the best, it’s Ghidorah: The Three-Headed Monster.
This one starts out with a meteor crashing into the earth. A police detective is assigned to guard Princess Selina Salno (played by the ill fated Bond girl from You Only Live Twice, Akiko Wakabayashi) due to a suspected assassination plot on her life. As this is going on, a being from Venus (Mars if you are watching the American version) takes control of her mind and body to warn the world about three on coming disasters. The first is that giant pteranodon, Rodan is still alive (thought to be dead with his mate from the film Rodan), the second is Godzilla who appears after his embarrassing defeat at the hands of Mothra’s offspring, and last but most importantly, the appearance of a space monster named King Ghidorah. Sure enough all of the monsters appear with Godzilla and Rodan fighting each other at Mount Fuji and King Ghidorah coming out of the meteor to destroy the world. Our heroes ask the two Mothra fairies from the last movie (played once again and for the last time by The Peanuts) to try to have Mothra only surviving offspring from the last movie convince Godzilla and Rodan to help her in defeating King Ghidorah.
This is one of my favorite Godzilla movies, easily in the Top 5 for me. This is one of the few Godzilla movies where the human element interests me and I actually care for what’s going on. It also gave birth to the monster rumble that involved more than two monsters in the movie, but most importantly, it introduced the world to Godzilla’s arch-nemesis, King Ghidorah. King Ghidorah is three headed dragon from outer space that shoots lighting from its three heads and next to Godzilla and Mothra, is Toho’s most famous monster. There is even a term called Toho’s “Big Five” which refers to the five most popular monsters that the studio has created. Four of these five monsters (Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah) are featured in this movie and the fifth one would be the yet to be created Mechagodzilla. It also marked a turning point in the series. Near the end of this movie, Godzilla turns into a protector of earth and Rodan becomes one of his most popular allies.
This is also another a rare case when the U.S. made some very noticeable modifications for it’s American release, yet it doesn’t ruin the movie. The dubbing is still pretty bad and I’m not exactly sure why they renamed misspelled Ghidorah as Ghidrah. Unlike the American version of King Kong vs. Godzilla, only half of Akira Ifukube’s score is either replaced or mixed with library music. While I consider the Japanese version to be the superior version there is one very noticeable change that some would argue makes it slightly better in the U.S.
The sequence that I’m about to describe comes around the time King Ghidorah is first revealed. In the Japanese version, the Princess warns the people of earth that Ghidorah has arrived to earth (the day before he breaks free of the meteor), then Godzilla and Rodan meet at Mount Fuji to start fighting each other (again at day). After that we quickly cut to Ghidorah’s epic reveal (at night). Finally we cut back to day to see Ghidorah’s rampage through Tokyo and then back to Mount Fuji where we see Godzilla and Rodan still fighting. Did they just keep fighting each other all throughout the night? The American version however make this entire sequence better in terms of continuity by having Ghidorah break free from the meteor at night before Godzilla and Rodan meet at Mount Fuji and just before the Princess warns everyone about Ghidorah’s presence. This makes a little more sense as if she sensed Ghidorah breaking free from the meteor.
Despite that strange continuity error, I find Ghidorah: The Three-Headed Monster to be one of the best Godzilla movies and after the first movie, it’s my second favorite of the Ishiro Honda directed Godzilla movies. It is also a very important movie considering that it’s the debut of his arch-enemy as well as the turning point for the rest of the original Godzilla series.
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