Kaiju Kommentary: Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)
Released the same year as Mothra vs. Godzilla, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster represents a significant turning point for the series. It introduces King Ghidorah, who would become the series’ go-to antagonist, and is also the first film to cast Godzilla in a somewhat heroic light.
Much of the story revolves around the princess of the fictional country of Selgina, who is being pursued by assassins sent by an opposing political faction. The scenes with the villains discussing their plans are quite unintentionally humorous, mostly due to the apparent fashion craze in Selgina of wearing Elizabethan collars. It’s difficult to appear intimidating when you look like a walking, talking coffee filter. Oh, and did I mention that the princess is possessed by an alien from Venus? The Venusian civilization was destroyed by a cosmic monster named King Ghidorah, who conveniently is inside a meteorite that recently landed on Earth.
Speaking of convenience, Godzilla happens to reemerge from the ocean, fresh from his humiliating beat-down by the Mothra larvae (one of which somehow died in between this film and the last), ready to ravage Tokyo yet again. Even more conveniently, the pteranodon kaiju Rodan awakens from his own slumber within a mountain, encountering Godzilla soon after.
The two monsters duke it out for a while in one of the goofier battles in the series. As they fight, the remaining Mothra larva literally pleads with them, as the six-inch twin priestesses from Infant Island translate the conversation for the nearby human protagonists. It turns out that Godzilla only hates humans because he feels bullied by them, and the monsters agree on a truce in order to team up and fight King Ghidorah, who is about to emerge from the meteor that imprisons him.
The ensuing 3-on-1 battle is quite entertaining, although it isn’t as creative and fun as the climactic scenes from the last two films. The monsters use strategies that we have seen before, but that doesn’t make the fight any less fun to watch – especially because this is the first time four kaiju have fought at once. It’s difficult not to jump out of your seat with enthusiasm when Mothra crawls onto Rodan’s back, using him as a floating platform to blast Ghidorah with silk from.
Although this film makes several notable additions to the tried-and-true series formula, it falls a bit short of Mothra vs. Godzilla in terms of enjoyability. The human drama takes a campy turn for the better (or at least more entertaining) with the introduction of intergalactic friends and foes, and King Ghidorah makes a fine arch-nemesis for Godzilla and his allies. Despite these improvements, this is the first film in the series that feels like it is going through the motions, though it is still quite a bit better than most of the sequels that follow it.
Featured Kaiju: Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra (larva form), King Ghidorah
Fun Fact: This is one of the only Godzilla films in which the monsters are not attacked by military weaponry.
Memorable Moment: Godzilla and Rodan use a giant boulder for what can only be described as an impromptu game of monster volleyball.