“Oh, Godzilla, what terrible language” – Big words from such small people.Every great hero needs a foil. Batman has Joker, Crash Bandicoot has Dr. Cortex, and Godzilla has King Ghidorah. Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster would introduce the three-headed bringer of death to the franchise and one of the greatest crossovers in history would unfold.
Let’s lay out the plot: A princess, claiming to be from the planet Venus (or Mars, depending on which version you watch), warns the people of Japan that much destruction is to come from Earth’s greatest beasts…and something worse falling from the stars.
Again, as with Godzilla Raids Again, there’s not much allegory here – just good ‘ol monster-on-monster battles. With that in mind, this was the first time we had four monsters on screen at once in a Toho film, and thus the monster rumble was born. You can tell Ishiro Honda was influenced by the classic Universal Monsters “monster rally” flicks like House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula, visual “everything but the kitchen sink” feasts for the eyes.
Design wise, Godzilla and Mothra haven’t changed much from their previous incarnations. Mothra vs. Godzilla wrapped almost immediately before this movie went into production, so the crew used the same body and sculpted a sturdier new head. As everyone recalls in the previous picture, the upper lip had come loose and became infamously ‘wobbly,’ causing the entire head to catch on fire. Since only one of the Mothra larvae made it into this movie, they could recycle one from the aforementioned Mothra vs. Godzilla.
A new Rodan was created, and although many fans have said it has a goofy look to it, I think the production behind it had the children in mind – especially if you consider how humanoid and ‘friendly’ Godzilla looked in this picture as well. Funnily enough, the original design concept for Ghidorah was to have the beast with rainbow wings and fire breath. What we got, of course, was much better…can’t beat gold!
As for the human characters, we have Princess Selina Saino of Selgina (played by the gorgeous Akiko Wakabayashi), the turncoat Malness (Hisaya Ito), Detective Shindo (Yosuke Natsuki), his younger sister Naoko (Yuriko Hoshi), Professor Miura (Hiroshi Koizumi), and Dr. Tsukamoto (Takashi Shimura, of Gojira and Seven Samurai fame). Everyone performs their roles fairly well and it’s great seeing Shimura again; everyone should see more of his work. Emi & Yumo Ito, known collectively as The Peanuts, were a very well known vocal group in Japan and got the roles as the Shobijin (The Twin Fairies).
Haruo Nakajima returned as the King of the Monsters with Masaki Shinohara as Rodan and Shoichi Hirose as Ghidorah. I want to single out Ghidorah because not many people know the hardship, time and effort it took to bring this three-headed hydra to life; one person each to control the three heads, one person each to control the two tails and wings, and Hirose inside controlling the body. In other words, it took a minimum of eight to ten people to handle one suit and when it’s at 100%, Ghidorah takes up nearly the whole frame. It’s a miracle none of the wires got tangled, which just shows you the level of craftsmanship and professionalism you could expect from the crew at Toho Studios.
In terms of the differences from the American and Japanese cuts, they are very subtle. A few scenes were cut here and there, some made shorter (or dumbed down, depending on how you see it) for the American audiences. The biggest difference is the dropping of the original score done by Akira Ifukube, mainstay composer for the Toho Godzilla series, and having it replaced with library tracks. I hate when studios do that! I wish they’d just keep the original music. If it was good enough for the home audience, it’s good enough for the foreigners stateside.
We still haven’t even hit the bottom of the kaiju barrel, so thanks for reading and as always, Stomp It.