Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)

Own it!

review by Scott Hamilton and Chris Holland
See also:

Destroy All Monsters (1968)

Godzilla (1954)

Godzilla (1998)

Godzilla (1984)

Godzilla 2000 (1999)

Godzilla vs Biollante (1989)

Godzilla vs Gigan

Godzilla vs Destoroyah (1995)

Godzilla vs Hedora

Godzilla vs King Ghidrah

Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla (1974)

Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla (1993)

Godzilla vs Monster Zero

Godzilla vs Mothra (1964)

Godzilla vs Mothra (1992)

Godzilla's Revenge

King Kong vs. Godzilla

Rebirth of Mothra (Guest Review)

Rodan (1956)

Son of Godzilla (1967)

Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)

War of the Gargantuas

Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster

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Our rating: three LAVA® motion lamps.

"You've got terrible breath today!"
"Well, it's only because you don't brush my teeth."
"Oh, stop bitching and let's go have tea."
If there's a moral to Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster, it's that weird stuff happens, and you just have to roll with it.

In the tone-setting first scene, a bunch of Japanese UFO nuts are standing around waiting for the "saucer people" to give them a sign. When no sign comes, the disappointed believers begin blaming it on the "brainwaves" of a lone cynic among them. Who is this nattering nabob of negativity? Why it's adorable visiting reporter Naoko (Yuriko Hoshi), who proceeds to believe absolutely everything anyone tells her for the rest of the movie. The fact that it sounds like she is dubbed by Audrey Hepburn doesn't exactly create an aura of skepticism around the character. ("I simply adore Teriyaki's!") If James Randi were there, the saucer people would probably burst into flames.

Naoko's brother, Agent Shindo (Yosuke Natsuki) has been assigned to protect the Princess Salno (of the made-up but real-sounding country of Selgina) while she's visiting Japan. The few scenes that take place in Selgina are a highlight of the film, because the male inhabitants of the small Asian country all wear harlequin outfits with huge neck ruffles, even the badass Malmass who also wears sunglasses to denote just how evil he is. Salno's flight never makes it to Japan because it explodes over the ocean thanks to a bomb placed by Malmass.

"Apparently we're now
allowed to wear white after
Labor Day, too!"
Before the plane exploded, Salno (Akiko Wakabayashi) heard a voice tell her to open the plane door and jump, which she did. She shows up in Japan a few days later and comes to the attentions of both Shindo and Naoko because now she claims to be a Martian prophetess. Salno predicts (in a robot-like voice that, at times, sounds an awful lot like Ingrid Bergman) that the Earth will be destroyed, and that the first harbinger of destruction will be the appearance of giant monsters. Of course, in Japan these might not be so much prophecies as educated guesses.

Soon the monsters appear. Godzilla destroys an ocean liner for no reason at all. Rodan emerges from its prison in the volcano at Mt. Aso, and engages Godzilla in battle. Mothra comes into the mix because the Fairy Twins are visiting Japan to make a guest appearance on a Japanese TV show. You would think that having a hotline to a monster/god would mean they'd have more important things to do than pal around with the Japanese equivalent of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, but apparently this is not the case. Just to slow things down a little further, the Twins perform a song in praise of Mothra, and we are treated to images of the monster's island home, which is alternately called "Infant Island" and "Peace Island."

"Let me get this straight–
you're not hobbits?"
Finally, a large meteor crashes in Japan causing two things to happen. The first is that Naoko gains a vague love interest in the form of Professor Murai (Hiroshi Koizumi), a geologist who is studying the meteor. Secondly, the meteor hatches into the space monster Ghidorah, a spectacular three-headed monster who immediately begins laying waste to the countryside, as it has apparently done on other planets before. Meanwhile the Princess, with the assistance of all the major characters, avoids nearly constant assassination attempts on her life by Malmass, who has traded his clown suit for something from the Don Rickles collection. The most amusing murder plot involves the great Takashi Shimura and an electric generator.

Ghidrah is one of the talkiest giant monster movies you'll ever watch. In fact, with the exception of the tacked-on credits sequence, it's nearly half an hour before the first monster shows up. That's not to say that the people-centric portions of the story aren't entertaining, but the screen time weighs heavily in favor of Japanese actors standing around talking to one another. What monster footage does exist is almost completely disconnected from the human action, which is really a shame given that it's fairly elaborate. At one point Ghidrah lifts Godzilla into the air and drops him onto an electrical tower. Is this one of the movies in which Godzilla is made stronger by electricity, or weaker? We couldn't tell.

"The transformation of Michael
Jackson is now complete!"
Rodan and Mothra also get a turn to tangle with the big G. The pteranadon puppet forgets that his biggest advantage is in the air and earns himself a faceful of rocks for the trouble. Strangely, Godzilla's fire breath peters out and looks more like halitosis than nuclear death, but that's nothing compared to the sedative goo expelled by the larval Mothra, which calms the quarreling Godzilla and Rodan long enough to hold a kaiju pow-wow. Given that Mothra's larval form already looks something like a hand-rolled cigarette, we began to wonder: just what sort of vegetation grows on Peace Island, anyway?

Can two city-eating monsters share a world
and not drive each other crazy?
Throughout all the alien strangeness and monster battles, the human characters take the film's moral to heart and carry on as if it were all part of a day's work. There are even occasional conversations which point out the logical fallacies in the average giant monster scenario. One of our favorites occurs when Naoko turns to her brother and asks what the monsters are talking about. He replies:

"Huh? How should I know? I don't speak monster!"

(Fortunately, the Fairy Twins do.)

Let's see a Fear Factor contestant eat this.
Of course, all three monsters eventually team up to take on Ghidorah in a monster battle to end all monster battles . . . at least until the next year when Ghidorah returned in Godzilla vs Monster Zero. Ghidorah has been one of Godzilla's consistently popular villains, appearing in five more Godzilla films, one Mothra film, and even two episodes of Zone Fighter. It's not difficult to see why: he's all gold and shiny, belches lightning bolts with that teriffic chirpy roar, and he's got three heads. Three heads!

The emphasis on the human portions of the film is given further weight during the story's climax, which involves a gunfight on a mountainside. Malmass and Shindo exchange potshots across a ravine, with the princess' life at stake while the battle between the four monsters rages nearby. Shindo is denied a complete hero's victory by the deus ex machina (or rather, deus ex teras) ending. As for Malmass, well, at least he won't have to wear those ridiculous clown outfits anymore.

Own it!

Review date: 11/13/2002

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Yes, we are using the more accepted spelling of "Ghidorah" for the monster, as opposed to the spelling in the US title of this film, "Ghidrah." It's kind of like the Gammera/Gamera confusion from the US release of Giant Monster Gamera. Go back!