Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster (1964) – Godzilla 60th Birthday Challenge

This post is part of my Godzilla 60th Birthday Challenge

After the series vastly improved with Mothra vs. Godzilla, I was enthusiastic about going further into the series. However, on seeing that Ghidorah was produced immediately after it, completing in the same year, I did wonder if it may be a rushed effort. Unfortunately it does seem so. While Mothra vs. was completely baffling in an enjoyable, loony way, this film simply makes no sense for the most part. Opening on a UFO Society, they’re spotting UFOs while chastising the non-believers as their brain waves will prevent the aliens from showing themselves. They spot some UFOs but they turn out to be meteors which some other characters spend about a fifth of the movie pointing three different scientific instruments at. Meanwhile, Princess Selina Salno of Selgina (say that quickly ten times) is visiting Japan for some reason, where a policeman is put in charge of protecting her from ‘the opposition’ who are plotting to assassinate her. Incidentally, the inhabitants of this made-up nation look like a really bad Shakespeare society. Her plane is blown up half way, but she is saved by some mysterious voice telling her to jump off the plane. When she finally makes it to Tokyo, however, she has no recollection of Selgina and believes herself to be sent from Venus to inform us of the impending doom the Earth faces – probably something to do with the meteors that landed earlier.

Those tiny twins are back as well, with even less explanation than before

That isn’t actually a particularly spoilerific paragraph – I’ve summed up the first 20 minutes or so. There’s never any explanation about these events; everything is taken at face value and we’re expected to simply accept it, so while so much happens in the time, it makes such little sense that it really drags. If the film ever veers close to being coherent it’s saved by something bizarre, such as one or two songs from The Peanuts that seems to last 15 minutes and have no bearing on absolutely anything. It goes without saying that Godzilla shows up before too long, and Rodan also makes an appearance, as predicted by the Venusian Prohpet/Selginan Princess rising from the ashes of Mt. Aso. It goes further without saying that each creature is none too pleased at one another’s presence, but whenever a fight starts to break out it frustratingly cuts back to the increasingly convoluted plot.

Rodan was particularly displeased

Despite the complicated plot, unexplained events and brief moments of relatively unpleasant violence this feels like an really cheap children’s TV special rather than a “proper” film. Production values are at rock bottom and the lack of refinement to the script doesn’t help. I can’t find a figure for the budget but when the titular (King) Ghidorah eventually appears it does seem apparent where the money went. A brilliant ‘birth’ sequence reveals the awesome creature design as the golden, lightning-spitting, three-headed dragon wreaks havoc.

Too powerful for any one of the monsters to overcome, The Peanuts request Mothra try to reason with Godzilla and Rodan to team up to defeat Ghidorah before it destroys the world. Re-read that sentence if you want. The conversation between the three monsters is hilarious; seeing the monsters’ personalities is at once bizarre and brilliant. The final act is clearly what the film is all about as we see Godzilla become the good guy for the first time, with all the complicated plot threads buzzing around actually having little to no impact on this outcome.

Unimportant. Look at the monsters fight!

As a whole, this doesn’t come close to Mothra vs. Godzilla but it is oddly entertaining for the most part (perhaps not intentionally), due to the human plots being almost impossible to follow and shockingly poor production values. I’d recommend anyone but the most determined to skip through to any scenes featuring the monsters as these hilarious sequences are all I’ll remember this entry for.

5/10

For clarity, before the final act I was thinking I’d be giving it more like 2 or 3 out of 10…

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