Godzilla vs Monster Zero

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Our rating: two lava lamps.

Information about this film in the Internet Movie Database.

"Are we not men? We are DEVO!"
Godzilla vs Monster Zero was Toho's attempt to merge their Godzilla franchise with their somewhat more conventional sci-fi alien invasion movies. The results are spectacularly uneven.

Like many of Toho's sci-fi movies, Godzilla vs Monster Zero takes place in a near but decades-away future that looks exactly like the time period that the movie was made in. So this film opens with a joint Japanese-US spaceship landing on the Mysterious Planet X, a largish planet that somehow managed to sneak into our solar system with no one noticing. Landing on the planet, our two stalwart astronauts, Fuji (Akira Takarada) and Glenn (Nick Adams), stroll around until they run into aliens.

What's really strange about this is that it turns out that Planet X is actually the Planet Of Devo Impersonators With Debilitating Neck Injuries. The most unrealistic occurrance in the movie takes place when the astronauts are first confronted by the aliens, and they (the astronauts) don't laugh so hard they collapse into drooling heaps.

In any case, Planet X is apparently under constant siege by Monster Zero, which turns out to be Ghidorah ("Everything is numbered here"), the three headed monster who terrorized Earth a year earlier. Or thirty years earlier, considering that Godzilla vs Monster Zero takes place in the future. The Planet X aliens propose a deal with Earth: if Earth will "loan" Godzilla and Rodan to Planet X, then Planet X will give Earth the cure to all diseases.

Ghidrah is... Monster Zero.
Admittedly, this sounds like a pretty good deal, but the astronauts wonder the same thing that we did: how are Godzilla and Rodan supposed to get to Planet X? Well, the Planet X people can instantaneously transport the monsters to their homeworld, where they will presumably engage Monster Zero in combat and destroy him. The reasoning is sound: every other time giant monsters have come within a few miles of each other, they started fighting. Why not use that to one's advantage?

More to the point, though, if the Planet X aliens can move monsters around like that, why don't they just transport Monster Zero somewhere else? The script cleverly negates this argument by completely failing to bring it up.

What follows is standard alien invasion fare: although the aliens do indeed take Rodan and Godzilla to Planet X, the whole process was a ruse to strip Earth of its only defenses (the monsters) and leave it open to attack. The aliens land and begin their takeover, leaving the astronauts and other plucky characters to find some way to defeat them.

Speaking of plucky characters, let us examine our astronaut friends Glenn and Fuji. Glenn is played by Nick Adams, an American actor who signed a deal with Toho films to make a few movies for them. Adams was a fairly successful actor who appeared in Rebel Without a Cause and even got an Oscar nomination for Twilight of Honor. He only made two movies for Toho because he commited suicide in 1966 for reasons unknown. Adams is rather obviously speaking English in the film, though everyone else is speaking Japanese (and is therefore dubbed for the English version). Adams even takes the time to come up with cute nicknames for other characters, like calling his fellow astronaut "Fooj." Fooj, we mean Fuji, is played by Akira Takarada, who was the hero of the original Godzilla and has had roles in several other Godzilla films as well.

"Gotta dance!"
Although not quite as mind-bendingly bad as Godzilla vs Gigan, Godzilla vs Monster Zero has its own problems. To start, giant monster films should not go too long before showing a giant monster, and Monster Zero makes us wait about twenty minutes for our first glance of Ghidrah, and much longer than that before Godzilla springs into action. When he does appear, Godzilla is in full goof-monster mode, even going so far as to perform a victory dance during combat. (In truth, it is a dance called the "Jumping Shie," which was popular in Japan at the time. Still, it's darn silly looking.)

Godzilla vs Monster Zero also introduces one of the worst trends that would haunt the series from then on: the use of special effects footage from earlier films instead of shooting new sequences. Almost all the footage of Rodan destroying buildings in Godzilla vs Monster Zero is actually from Rodan (1956), though the footage is cut to obscure the fact that Rodan's look radically changed between his first appearance and those that came later.

Monster Zero may be considered the start of a slide for Godzilla -- once the big G started saving the world from alien invasions, it seemed awfully hard to do anything else. Still, it's good fun and has a few stirring moments thrown in amongst the silliness.

Rent or Buy from Reel.

Review date: 3/16/98

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