Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster (1964) Review

After the success of Mothra vs Godzilla, a sequel was not only planned, but filmed and released in theatres during the same year, only eight months following it’s predecessor. This film was Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster; Yet another Toho monster film directed by Ishiro Honda. Unlike his previous work with Toho, however, this film is more of a mixed bag.

Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster follows a policeman and his journalist sister as they try to protect a princess, possessed by an alien spirit, from assassins after she begins to prophesise the coming of an evil monster that wishes to devour the world; King Ghidorah. She tells that his power is so great that no singular monster would be able to defeat him alone, and thus Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan (Who makes his first appearance in the franchise since his 1956 debut film), must put their past conflicts aside to defeat the alien destroyer.

What makes this film a mixed bag is how different the human plot is from the story following the monsters and how switching between the two is jaunting. The human plot has nothing to do with the monster plot to the point where the two could be entirely different stories – the closest the two get to interacting is the princess prophesising the return of the monsters, and then nothing happens to make the two stories intertwine until the humans, once again, ask Mothra for help. That vast majority of the human plot revolves around protecting the alien princess from assassins. This disconnection may have been felt on set too, as this film features an infamous scene where Mothra must talk Godzilla and Rodan into helping her, because they seem more interested in fighting each other rather than King Ghidorah, and care little about the preservation of Earth. Initially Honda didn’t want the monsters to be given this amount of character or personality, but the was pressured into doing so by the studio. Finally, although there is quite a bit of destruction in this movie, we very rarely see the main characters reacting to, or being involved with it, until the finale which further drives a rift between the human and monster plots.

One of the high-points, however, is the introduction of King Ghidorah, who makes his debut in this film. He is an excellently realised monster whose presence is intimidating after following a long build-up to his reveal. Throughout the final battle he gives all three of his opponents a run for their money before they are able to unite and eventually get the better of him. And the final battle is the highlight of this film, alongside a scene of King Ghidorah flying over Japan and razing towns and villages. The rest of the film isn’t particularly bad, but it’s just doesn’t demand your attention. Even the brief fight scenes between Godzilla and Rodan aren’t particularly gripping because, while the final battle certainly is well executed, the other small fights often look very dated. Therefore the only time the monsters shine outside of the finale is when they are destroying cities, which hardly happens at all until King Ghidorah arrives in the third act.

So while this film isn’t necessarily bad, it’s not good either. If you’re a big Godzilla fan, or just want to watch a cool final battle, then you probably will enjoy this quite a lot. But for others it might be a bit of a slog, and you might struggle to enjoy the finale if you’ve failed to be engaged by the rest of the film.

At the end of every Godzilla review I’ll be rating the films I’ve reviewed so far. Find the updated list below:

  1. King Kong vs Godzilla (1963)
  2. Mothra vs Godzilla (1964)
  3. Godzilla (1954)
  4. Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster (1964)
  5. Godzilla Raids Again (1955)

Image from: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058544/mediaviewer/rm3090158080

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