Michael reviews Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)

Ishiro Honda returns to direct what may be the most ambitious film in the series thus far.  Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964) not only marks the debut of Godzilla’s arch-nemesis, but it also brings back three more fan-favorite Kaiju – Rodan, Mothra, and the king of the monsters himself, Godzilla – though Mothra returns in her larva form. This film marks the turning point for Godzilla being depicted more as a hero than a villain. It also is the first to carry the more goofy, less serious tone that would carry on for most of the entries in this series. Interestingly enough, this new tone worked for me because it was still treated with respect, and everyone plays it seriously, similar to how the 1960s Batman series. The human plot was intriguing and entertaining enough but is largely unrelated to the Kaiju story, and the film suffers greatly from this as it leaves the overall plot feeling a bit disjointed.

The human plot follows Princess Maas Selina Salno, who has to keep a low profile because she is being hunted by a group of assassins. The princess becomes possessed by a Venusian spirit and gains the ability to see glimpses into the future. She uses her newfound abilities to warn various people of danger. While all this is happening, Godzilla rises from the ocean (as he always does)…however, this time it happens to be at the same moment that Rodan breaks free from the volcanic rock he was trapped in at the end of his debut film. The two Kaiju engage in battle. Meanwhile, a large magnetic meteor falls to earth and begins growing in size. So yeah, there is definitely a lot going on in this fever dream of a film, but every bit of it is wildly entertaining – and honestly, that’s what I’m here for. 

Princess Selina, (still possessed by the Venusian spirit) warns everyone that the mysterious meteor actually contains King Ghidorah, a large golden three-headed dragon that is responsible for the destruction of Venus, her home planet. Her prediction comes true, and King Ghidorah hatches out of the meteor and immediately begins destroying everything in sight – with his main two attacks being the ability to shoot lightning from all three heads, and a strong wing attack similar to that of Rodan’s. It becomes apparent that the only way King Ghidorah can be defeated is if Godzilla, Rodan, and Mothra join forces. Mothra, still in her larva form following the events of “Mothra Vs. Godzilla”, tries to convince the two other Kaiju to stop fighting and help, but the two monsters agree that humans aren’t worth saving because “they always bully us”, which is a direct quote. She is able to convince them after trying to take on King Ghidorah alone and failing horribly. So, the three Kaiju team up, and together are able to take down the intergalactic threat.

Let’s talk about how this film looks visually – the Godzilla suit used for this film is the same as the last film, which is probably the best one we’ve seen so far. Rodan looks a little goofy, but I kind of thought that about him ever since his first appearance – so that’s probably just a personal critique of the character’s design. Mothra looks the same as she always has in her larva form. King Ghidorah looks fantastic here in his debut appearance. All of the destruction scenes look great, as always. The first fight scene between Godzilla and Rodan is comically bad.  It’s very evident here that this film was rushed in order to meet its deadline. It mostly consists of Rodan pecking Godzilla with his beak, and Godzilla looking annoyed. The two kaiju throw a rock back and forth…and it looks more like they’re playing catch than fighting. That pretty much summarizes the entire fight. However, the second fight does everything right. King Ghidorah makes it immediately clear that he is a serious threat, as he effortlessly takes on all three of his foes with his lightning and wind attacks.  They were only able to defeat him by outsmarting him and working together to overcome his powerful attacks. They win the battle when Rodan picks up Mothra, and she covers Ghidorah in silk.  He is able to escape and will return in the next film. 

A few things can be said about this film. As goofy as it is, all four kaiju are treated respectfully, and the film doesn’t take itself too seriously as it leans into the natural campiness of monster movies.  Most of the action scenes are done very well, and the ones that aren’t are still quite entertaining. All in all, this film is an enjoyable experience. It does suffer from being a bit too ambitious with too many plotlines that rarely intersect, which winds up leaving you feeling like you are watching two different movies at once.  This film earns the “Not Quite Golden, Pony Boy” rating for being a great time despite its flaws, and for introducing a very important character to the Godzilla lore. Basically, if you are into fun monster movies, this is 100% for you –  otherwise, I’d skip it. Join me next time as we watch the follow-up to this film: Invasion of Astro-Monster, which like “Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster”, is available to stream on HBO Max.

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