Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)
Directed by Ishirô Honda
Eight months after Mothra was introduced to the “Godzilla” franchise, Toho released another sequel in which Mothra (baby Mothra, at least) and her two teensy representatives (the Itō twins) feature prominently. But with “Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster,” the franchise took a turn for the weird. Not only are we introduced to Ghidorah, an über-powerful destroyer of worlds, but we’re also introduced to Rodan, a pterodactyl-like monster who (like Mothra) had been introduced to Japanese audiences in a standalone Ishirô Honda movie prior to his introduction to this franchise. Plus, there’s a woman who claims to be thousands of years old and from the planet Venus. What was that all about? And I nearly forgot the assassination plot!
When a self-described Venusian woman (Akiko Wakabayashi) appears in Japan warning the people about the end of the world, they don’t dismiss her entirely—probably because of the frequent meteor showers they’ve been seeing and the unseasonable heatwave they’re experiencing…plus, you know, all the monsters that have attacked over the years. To predict the end of the world when there’s a Godzilla living right off your shoreline isn’t exactly unreasonable. Anyway, the awakening (or uncovering…it was under some rocks in the middle of a dormant volcano) of Rodan only seems to confirm the weird woman’s ramblings. But she’s more worried about an even stronger creature—Ghidorah, which she claims destroyed Venus right after she fled the planet. A detective (Yosuke Natsuki) and his kid sister, a broadcast journalist (Yuriko Hoshi), both feel they need to follow and protect this Venusian woman, who, they think might have the answer to stopping Ghidorah before it destroys Earth.
Another victim of a rushed production schedule (when one upcoming movie dropped off the release schedule, Toho needed something to take its place quickly), “Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster” isn’t as bad as “Godzilla Raids Again,” but it isn’t great, either. Mostly, it’s just strange. The idea to bring back the Ito sisters to accompany the main characters might have been due to their popularity as fan-favorite characters (I don’t know if they were fan favorites, but personally I think they’re great and so I assume audiences at the time agreed), but there’s no logical reason for their being around. Obviously, it was easy to bring in Rodan, as a known entity for fans of kaiju movies, but I don’t know if that was due to the rushed schedule…there’s a good chance that that monster would have crossed over to the “Godzilla” franchise one way or another. I took umbrage with the character design, though. It’s a flying creature, but unlike Mothra, Rodan has a person inside (Masanori Shinohara). Well, in order to fit a human inside the suit, it couldn’t have the correct proportions of a bird. Its long torso gives away the presence of a human and entirely ruins the illusion. With no shortage of imaginary creatures to come up with, why create one like Rodan that can’t realistically look like it’s supposed to?
The characters of Detective Shindo and Naoko Shindo, the brother and sister pair, work well for the story, and I appreciate that the film stuck to its plot…however strange it was. The mystery surrounding the Venusian woman, and an odd political plot to assassinate her, were actually fascinating. I wanted to know what was going to happen next. For the first forty minutes of the movie, we don’t see a monster. I didn’t mind that at all. In “Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster,” the least exciting events were the ones that featured monsters. It’s an outlier, but I won’t knock the filmmakers for thinking outside the box.