GHIDRAH THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER
AKA: Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster
Japanese Title: Three Giant Monsters: The Greatest Battle on Earth
Directed By: Ishirō Honda
Written By: Shinichi Sekizawa
American Distribution By: Continental Distributing
Though technically the fifth film in the Godzilla series of films from Japan, Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster (as it was originally entitled by Continental Distributing) had in it a lot of firsts for the franchise. To start with, it was the first Godzilla film to feature not only Godzilla but Mothra and Rodan as well, the later of whom had only been featured in his own titular film while the former had combatted, and bested, Godzilla via her two offspring.
Think about that for a moment people. Godzilla, King of the Monsters, the walking nuclear disaster, bested by a pair of overgrown caterpillars.
Moving on from that though, this was the first film to hint that Godzilla possessed a significant amount of intelligence contrary to the American scenes interjected in the earlier film King Kong vs. Godzilla. It is also the first film to start the long series of films that showcased Godzilla as a hero rather than a villain by presenting his main antagonist for years to come, King Ghidorah.
The basic summary of the film goes that the titular monster of the film, Ghidorah, has come to Earth to lay waste to it just as he had done previously for Mars and it up to the likes of the monsters Godzilla, Rodan, and Mothra to stop it. The only problem is… Well, more on that in a bit.
The human side of the film is technically speaking, divided in two. One side focuses on a police detective and the princess of a fictious land whom is assigned to guard from any attempts at assassination while she visits Japan. The princess, Selina Saigo of Selgina, is fortunately ensnared by the likes of a Martian spirit and is safely whisked off her plane just as the bomb aboard it explodes. The princess later turns up, in alternate garb and in full sway to the Martian intelligence whom tries to warn the people of Earth of the oncoming disasters that its psychic powers predict will soon occur. The first several of these disasters involve the awakening/reemergence of the kaiju Rodan and Godzilla respectively.
In a ironic twist of fate, the Martian’s predictions inadvertently save the lives of the handmaidens to Mothra, a pair of twin girls commonly reffered to as the “Fairies” of Mothra due to their small stature but are more often than not named by their Japanese title of “Shobijin,” which means “small beauties” in Japanese.
The other side of the human story involves a team of scientists trying to analyze a strange meteor that had recently fallen to Earth. The meteor not only possesses intense and constantly fluctuating magnetic properties, but it is also growing larger overtime until the truth is revealed. The meteor is actually a vessel and contained inside it is the very monster that laid waste to the Martian’s people and home the golden dragon of death King Ghidorah.
This takes us to the monsters’ side of the film wherein Rodan and Godzilla, both having terrorized the country of Japan, have finally encountered each other and proceed to fight their way across Japan.
Of course, being a part of the Showa era, the fight between the two goes from being seriously deadly to seriously silly. Godzilla’s fiery breath is severely lacking and though Rodan does his best to peck out Godzilla’s eyes, the best he manages to do is seriously annoy the King of Monsters.
Still, one of my two favorite moments in the fight are when Rodan manages to grab Godzilla and haul him up high enough into the air to drop him down onto a series of power lines, inadvertently saving the life of the Martian possessed princess. The other moment is what I affectionately refer to as kaiju volleyball, a segment of events that happens more often than you think in the Godzilla franchise. The game, as it were, is played when one of the two kaiju, Godzilla more often than not, kicks and/or tosses a rock at the opposing kaiju who delivers it right back in a similar manner. Rinse and repeat and presto!
Mothra is eventually summoned by the Shobijin, at the behest of the Japanese government no less, in the hopes that she can try to convince the two titans to cease their quarrel with each other and together combat against the larger threat that is posed by King Ghidorah.
Recall earlier when I stated that Godzilla’s true intelligence is at last made clear in this film, or at least in this the Showa era of films. It is in this particular scene that we learn that Godzilla is not only intelligent enough to be sentient but both he, and Rodan, recognize our species and states outright that have gotten nothing but trouble from us and that we hate them. Heck, the Shobijin even go so far as to try and scold Godzilla for his horrible language as they translate for the watching humans.
Eventually, talks break down as Godzilla and Rodan state that they want to continue fight each other, demanding an apology from the other for prior actions and Mothra, fed up with their bullheadedness, leaves to combat Ghidorah on her own, much to the surprise of the two larger, and far stronger kaiju who watch the giant caterpillar crawl off to combat against Ghidorah.
The ensuing fight between the two goes as well as can be expected with Ghidorah effortlessly dealing with Mothra without even laying a direct hit upon her. However, much to the surprise of the watching humans, both Godzilla and Rodan come in to the rescue with the King of Monsters himself running down the mountainside to put himself between Mothra and Ghidorah’s deadly blasts. The fight, which is surprisingly well done considering the level of effects at the time, eventually ends with Ghidorah fleeing for space.
The human side has its ups and downs and is rather unfortunately ruined by the English dubbing that, as of yet, hasn’t been rectified since. The dub is certainly no the worst I’ve ever seen but… they just can’t seem to find the right women to due the female voices for these films and they always just sound so… Annoying and/or grating to me.
Despite this though, the human side does play at some part to the kaiju side. It was the humans, or rather the Martian, who had saved the lives of the Shobijin whose death would no doubt incur Mothra’s wrath upon Godzilla, the cause of their sunk boat, and the humans that swore to protect them until they returned to Infant Island.
Oh, and for those who are no doubt wondering as to what became of the princess, she is eventually freed from the Martian’s hold, ironically, by the very assassin sent to kill her, who in turn is killed via the collateral damage dealt out by the giant monster brawl happening not even a mile away. Though it is heavily hinted at it, no actual romance occurs for between the princess and her detective bodyguard.
Between the two, the kaiju side of things is arguably the bigger draw with King Ghidorah posing as the biggest threat that the planet had ever seen up to this point what with him having laid waste to Mars in less than an Earth month, as quoted by the Martian. If such a creature like King Ghidorah were to arrive on Earth, I doubt that we could do anything to truly stop it as the Martian quoted that our technologies, including weapons, are several centuries behind theirs and considering Ghidorah can withstand Godzilla’s atomic breath, to a point at least, that means nuclear weaponry is a big no-no.