Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster (Review)

Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster

aka San daikaiju: Chikyu saidai no kessen


Yosuke Natsuki as Detective Shindo
Yuriko Hoshi as Naoko Shindo
Hiroshi Koizumi as Professor Miura
Akiko Wakabayashi as Mas Selina Salno, Princess of Sergina
Emi Ito as Shobijin (Twin Fairy)
Yumi Ito as Shobijin (Twin Fairy)
Takashi Shimura as Dr. Tsukamoto
Akihiko Hirata as Chief Detective Okita
Hisaya Ito as Malmess, Chief Assassin
Ikio Sawamura as Honest Fisherman
Kenji Sahara as Editor in Chief Kanamaki
Directed by Ishiro Honda

It’s a Special Edition of Ghidrah – The Three-headed Monster! From the depths of the 1980’s comes a flash from the past, TBS Superstation’s Super Scary Saturday! Yes! Back when TBS would show monster movies every Saturday morning, hosted by none other than Grandpa Al Lewis, from The Munsters! Several select movies from the Godzilla series still survive with the Grandpa Al Lewis hosting on VHS tapes of mine. As they were part of the experience when I saw some of these for the first time as a tyke, I am including them in the recaps for March of Godzilla so you, too, can join in the experience. This is the first one of the series to be on TarsTarkas.NET, so it will get the most introduction.

The actual film is Ghidrah – The Three-headed Monster, a classic in the Godzilla series. This film introduced the most notable monster villain in the history of the G-series. It also features the first monster team-up against a greater monster force, as well as Rodan and Godzilla’s first meeting, and the introduction to the theme Godzilla saving Earth from greater threats. Mothra, Rodan, and Godzilla were Toho’s big three, and this star-powered film set a large standard for films that later entries in the series couldn’t match. Films directly following this one still came off great, but by the Showa-series’ later years, the Godzilla formula had gotten pretty stale. In keeping with theme, we’ll call those the “Jet Jaguar years.”

The Super Scary Saturday Logo Commercial plays, with graphics of various monsters, aliens, and ugly people flying by as the words “Super”, “Scary”, and “Saturday” float by in red. Finally, after a buzz by the 1950’s War of the Worlds‘s Martian craft, we get a scream, followed by the conclusion “Super Scary Saturday” graphic, as the TBS theme plays. This jumps us right into Grandpa, who opens with his line “It’s me, Grandpa!” which he seemed to say every week. This week, it’s light on the skits, as Grandpa digs through dusty old film reels, searching for this week’s film. We get some lame jokes on the caliber of “Heaven Can Wait. Believe me, it can wait, it can wait, it can wait, it can wait, it can wait, it can wait!” We get to our film, promised as “One of the monstrous tag team battles of all time!” and “This creature is living proof three heads are better than one!” Grandpa rattles off all the monsters that will soon be stomping across the screen, then remarks “If I had a dollar for every monster in this film, I’d have more money than Transylvania T&T!”

I love Grandpa.

Grandpa sits in his movie set, the one next to him always empty (only two seats) because it’s the seat for you, the viewer at home. “Roll it, Igor!” he shouts, to the often unseen Igor (I can’t remember if he ever shows up, but I have some more of these on tape, so maybe he does pop in on one.) and the movie begins…

Ghidrah The Three Headed Monster!

This is the American TV cut, which seemed to be complete when I saw a Japanese print of this a year ago, so we’ll forge ahead without looking for Grandpa Munster-less versions. After the credits give us a preview of the monster action forthcoming, we jump right to a group of serious-looking Japanese gentlemen of ripe age (aka old guys) who have just failed. Failed what? Why, waiting for flying saucers to fly by! It’s hard to fail at waiting, but the Japanese are too efficient not to. Like all Japanese men, they blame women for their problems; in this case, it’s the woman who was sitting in watching them, reporter Naoko Shindo. She’s played by Yuriko Hoshi, who starred in the previous film as a different character that’s also a reporter, and wouldn’t revisit the G-world until Godzilla vs. Megaguirus 36 years later. Her expression of disbelief in UFOs seals her fate as the blame, as one cranky old guy says in response to her saying UFOs are interesting: “If that’s the best you can do, forget it!” They blame her negative brainwaves, and she says “There’s no such thing as brainwaves!” which is completely wrong. Of course, the old scientists blame the January heat wave on UFOs, which is a novel spin on anti-global warming propaganda that the Right hasn’t adopted yet, but probably will as they get increasingly desperate now. The old men say they wish to meet the Saucer People so they can warn them if something bad will happen. Keep in mind this is before aliens try to conquer Earth like it’s the galaxy’s slut, so their naivety is forgivable.

A meteor shower distracts the misogyny and lunacy, and one touches down somewhere in rural Japan. Meanwhile, Police Detective Shindo is told that he is going to guard the Princess Selina of Sergina, a fictitious country that has the unfortunate name that rhymes with vagina. She’s coming into Japan secretly, to avoid a plot to kill her in her own country. Detective Shindo is also reporter Shindo’s brother, and is played by actor Yosuke Natsuki, from Space Monster Dogora fame (or maybe Godzilla 1985 fame, as those are the only two daikaiju films he’s been in besides this.) Chief Okita is Akihiko Hirata, who’s famous for one-eyed Dr. Serizawa in Godzilla, as well as Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster and tons of other Toho monster films, until his untimely death in 1984. He’s in and out of this film in a few scenes, so don’t pay much attention to him.

Back in Sergina, Assassin Malmess is ordered by Princess Selina’s uncle to kill her via a bomb on her plane. This plan would normally be a failure, what with the plane already in the air, but Malmess is a forward thinking guy an already put a bomb on the plane, so it’s good for him he got hired for the job. Malmess likes dressing like a stereotypical yakuza thug. The best part of this scene is the background guards, who look like Nepalese soldiers dressed up in Christmas Land uniforms. On the plane, the Princess is attended to by what looks like a 500 year old man that walked off of the Jack of Spades card. A UFO flies by the airplane, and telepathically commands the Princess to leave the plane, and she does so, walking off a flying plane as it explodes. Princess Selina (who will be called The Prophet from now on) is played by future Bond Girl Akiko Wakabayashi, who also starred in Space Monster Dogora as well as the more relevant King Kong vs. Godzilla. Hisaya Ito as assassin Malmess was previously seen here as a Red Bamboo scientist in Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster, as well as appearing in about a dozen other daikaiju flicks, including Varan the Unbelievable and Destroy All Monsters.

I hope you’re enjoying the cast information, because there will be more. Out to scout out and study the meteor is Professor Miura, a character that was in the previous film Godzilla vs. Mothra and is played by Hiroshi Koizumi, who starred in the original Mothra and reprised that role forty years later for Godzilla, Mothra, Mechagodzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.. I’ve actually met Hiroshi Koizumi, when he visited San Francisco in 2004 for the fiftieth anniversary of Godzilla film festival there. Nice guy. So after some hiking, Prof. Miura and his group locate the meteorite, but proximity to the rock causes compasses to act funny. To top that off, all of the expedition’s pick-axes are drawn magnetically toward the meteorite.

Reporter Shindo is told by her boss (played by Kenji Sahara of dozens of Toho films) to cover a new prophetess in the park for their new show, Mysteries of the 20th Century. Japan in the world of Godzilla is so hard up for mysteries that they have to interview crazy people in the park. I had a guy in the park tell me he was Captain Boingo of the Starship Toaster, but that wouldn’t make a TV show, except to illustrate the sad plight of mental illness in the homeless. Hey, could the crazy Prophet be the Princess? Of course, since I gave it away earlier, so this was just a test to see if you’re paying attention. The Prophet has a very large crowd around her, showing how starved for entertainment Japan was in the 1960’s, or at least starved for crazy people. She claims she’s possessed by Martians (or, if your watching the Japanese version, Venusians) and tells of the end of the world. The first sign will be an accident in the mountains. This causes a large group of reporters to swarm the local Mountain Accidents In Charge Of Guy, who denies there have been any mountain accidents.

Back at the meteor, there’s no more magnetism, but the meteor grows in size! Professor Miura is also chatting with reporter Naoko Shindo, as they sort of have a thing. Both Naoko and her brother Detective Shindo are having dinner at their mother’s, and both tease Naoko about Professor Miura being a good husband for her. They watch TV, which is a way of introducing the next characters. Two goofy Japanese hosts, one tall and lanky; one short, bespectacled and whiny; who host the local program Where Are They Now? Two children want to know where Mothra is, so they bring out the twin fairies of Infant Island. The twin fairies are only one foot tall, and are played by the popular (at the time) former singing group The Peanuts, which were identical twin sisters Emi and Yumi Ito. The group ended when the sisters retired to get married, but this is all before that, so they’re here in their singing glory! They were the original twin fairies, and kept up the role for three films. They sing the Mothra song for us, and tell us that if you close your eyes, you can see Mothra. Because the song is in Japanese, a Miss Annie Tsiaki will translate it for us. So we get the lyrics, including such gems as “Why are you weeping, Happiness? You must remember to always smile!” Yeah, Happiness, what’s your damn problem?

Detective Shindo sees a photo of the Prophet in the paper and instantly recognizes her as the Princess. The Princess is supposed to wear a royal bracelet at all times, but the Prophet doesn’t have it. The Assassin also finds out the Princess isn’t dead, and must finish the job, or else he’ll be killed as well. Malmess the Assassin’s three goons are in Tokyo as well to try to help him. Meanwhile, the police have discovered the bracelet, the Princess traded it to a fisherman for some clothes. The fisherman is played by Ikio Sawamura, who was the head Infant Islander in Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster. We can see why he probably left, as the cops throw him in jail for a week for being honest and telling them about the bracelet. I guess it’s Martial Law in post-Godzilla Japan or something. Reporter Naoko and Detective Shindo meet for lunch, and Naoko also meets Professor Miura. Meanwhile, the Prophet has made her way to the Mountain, and says there is danger, because Rodan is there. The people laugh, until one of them loses his hat to the wind! It blows down below, and another guy goes to get it for 200 yen or so (about $0.21.) This guy was also in King Kong vs. Godzilla as the translator, he is actor Senkichi Omura, and was in three other G films as well. In this case, he’s yelled at by the Prophet (as much as yelling can be with a monotoned dubbed voice saying “Stop, you foolish man!”) The ground starts shaking, it’s Rodan! He emerges from the mountain, which is the volcano he got trapped in in Rodan. Ignore that there were two Rodans in that movie and only one here. Everyone sprints to the buses and seems to drive away (except hat getting guy.) Meanwhile, the Twin Fairies are preparing to go home via boat, when the Prophet shows up there to say the boat will sink. The Captain throws her off, and as Reporter Naoko Shindo was also there, she leaves as well to interview the Prophet, taking her to a local hotel. The Fairy Twins snuck into Naoko’s purse, and escaped the boat as well.

The Assassin and his men follow to the hotel. One of his men is badly dubbed as a Mexican Gangster type, and all three of them have makeup on to make them look darker. One of the men also is in Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster as the missing brother Yata Kane, billed here as Short-Tie Assassin (the best assassin name is Showoff Door-Opener Assassin.) All three of the assassin assistants are in Destroy All Monsters as “Kilaak Controlled Staffer”, the stormtrooper of the Godzilla series. Meanwhile, Godzilla pops up out of the sea, and fire breaths the boat seconds later. The Reporter Naoko will help the Prophet talk to the nation, but gets a call downstairs from her brother. Why he knows she goes to a regular hotel is disturbingly troubling, but it gives an opportunity for the assassins to enter the room and threaten the Princess. She doesn’t recognize the Head Assassin, and even asks “Are you a Martian, too?” The Twin Fairies turn off the lights to try to help her, and yell warnings to Detective Shindo outside that the killers are there. A brief fight ends as the assassins escape out the window, forgetting to just kill the Princess.

GODZILLA! He wanders ashore smashing buildings, people flee, but soon Big G is distracted by the sound of Rodan flying by. Godzilla must fight him. At the meteorite, something is afoot. It cracks open, and out pop flames…which form into…King Ghidrah! Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster. Three heads, one bad attitude.

COMMERCIAL BREAK!!!! Eat Kudos Granola Bars. Electrifying, Granolafying! Kudos Granola Snacks!

Grandpa Munster returns! He gives us a quick quip about Mothra: “Stay tuned and see how Mothra corners the Japanese silk Market!”

I love Grandpa Munster.

Back to the movie, they take the Prophet to Dr. Tsukamoto, who’s actor Takashi Shimura from Seven Samurai and Godzilla fame. She tells them that the new monster is named Ghidrah. In the Japanese version, this scene happens before Ghidrah hatches from the meteor, which explains why in the very next scene the police are using their megaphones to tell people the new monster has been identified as King Ghidrah. They give no other information, like telling people the monster’s name is supposed to make them know what to do. The Prophet continues to tell them that Ghidrah killed everyone on Mars except a few people who escaped to Earth. The radio mentions that Godzilla and Rodan are heading to where the psychiatry place that they’re at is, so we get to see some fighting. Rodan buzzes Godzilla, knocking him down!

Back in Tokyo, Politicians demand answers! Why is Godzilla attacking? What is the military doing about it? Who is this new monster? Why is Japan the only country ever attacked? Should we bomb Pearl Harbor again? A General Watto (!) says he is developing a new technical plan to stop Ghidrah, but needs help. This plan is never mentioned again, as is to be expected from Anakin Skywalker’s former owner. Mind tricks don’t work on him, only money. Professor Miura brings the Twin Fairies to the meeting, and his sister manages to give away the location of the Prophet to the assassins watching the proceedings in the local cafe. The two say they’ll ask the Fairies to ask Mothra to help. Why they couldn’t ask the Twin Fairies ahead of time if that plan might work is another mystery. Anyway, the Fairies have some doubts Mothra can deal with Ghidrah, as Mothra is still in larva form. They deduce that if all three monsters worked together, then they could defeat Ghidrah.

Ghidrah attacks! Good job holding government sessions when a monster is attacking the same city! Our Congress would never do something so brave, they’d be taking bribe money back in their home districts faster than you can say “Jack Abramoff.” The Prime Minister asks the Twin Fairies for help again, and they begin to sing the Mothra song.

COMMERCIAL BREAK!!!! See Road House, in theaters this Friday! Swayze! “It’s my way, or the highway!” Road House!

Grandpa Munster returns! The new joke: “They named a street after Rodan in Hollywood! What, you never heard of Rodan Drive?” Where do they come up with this stuff? I have the odd suspicion my 9 year old self had no clue what Rodeo Drive was. The next scene is Grandpa Munster hanging upside down, telling us to “hang on” for more Super Scary Saturday. Back to the movie…

Godzilla and Rodan are still fighting! Meanwhile, the Prophet goes into detail about how the Martians came to Earth, became human, their brains shrank, but they still have the power to tell the future. They must also have body-taking-over powers, or else she wouldn’t be taken over, would she? And they can’t all be dead, as they build a UFO that picked her up in the beginning. There’s some story problems here with the whole “Martian” thing. Dr. Seven Samurai thinks so as well, so it’s electroshock therapy time. Detective Shindo is there as well, and set the device for 500 volts, (any more will kill her.) The Assassins are listening at the window, and the Lead Assassin sets the machine for 3000 volts. Also, there is no way any movie made nowadays would have electroshock therapy treated with such casualness. Plus, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes completely ripped off this scene! Right before they’re about to zap her Martian behind, Godzilla gets picked up into the air by Rodan, who drops him on a power transformer, cutting of the electricity to the psychiatry ward. The Assassins just start shooting, and Detective Shindo shoots back. The Professor and Reporter arrive then, and Professor Miura helps drive away the assassins. They say to call the police, but I’d imagine the police would have their hands full dealing with the three giant monsters destroying the country.

More Monster Fight time! Godzilla tail whips Rodan, then body slams him. Rodan bites Godzilla’s tail, and seems to be immune to Godzilla’s atomic breath. Rodan flaps, kicking up wind and dust as Godzilla kicks rocks back. Rodan is having a good time taunting Godzilla here, when….could it be….Mothra arrives! Mothra looks as Godzilla and Rodan kick a giant rock back and forth between each other, Mothra’s head bobbing back and forth like at a tennis match. Finally, Mothra realizes the only way he’ll get paid attention to is if he sprays his web. First he hits Godzilla, much to Rodan’s pleasure. Second, he sprays all over Rodan, who’s suddenly in a much worse mood, and Godzilla starts dance-taunting him. The monsters start chatting, but thankfully it’s not with goofy voices like in Godzilla vs. Gigan, and is just with monster grunts. Thankfully for us, the Twin Fairies can translate for our heroes. Godzilla and Rodan don’t want to save the Earth, as mankind has always brought them trouble. Godzilla is sitting while waving his head around, looking like Stevie Wonder. Meanwhile, Ghidrah is nearby, and destroys the car the assassins are riding in, but the head Assassin escapes. Godzilla and Rodan begin to fight each other again, ignoring Mothra. “These monsters are as stupid as human beings!” says Detective Shindo. Meanwhile, what sounds like an Irish Japanese cop tells the humans to move to a different location, they do, and continue to listen to the Fairies. Why this useless scene is included, no one knows. The guy must have been the director’s cousin or something. At least we get Irish dubbing in the American version. “Ooh, Godzilla, what terrible language!” say the Twins.

The monsters are impossible, so Mothra will fight Ghidrah himself. Godzilla and Rodan stop fighting long enough to watch Mothra go with a “Did he just say that?” look on their faces. Mothra heads to Ghidrah, who is like 100 feet away or something. Mothra gets blasted around by Ghidrah’s lasers. Mothra goes flying up into the air with each blast, as he’s terribly outmatched. It’s doom for Mothra, unless….Godzilla shows up! Godzilla is inspired by Mothra’s bravery and Ghidrah’s muscling in on his territory. Big G stomps his way over, and starts pounding into Ghidrah. Ghidrah blasts him with lightning rays (even below the belt!) Rodan strikes as well, knocking Ghidrah, who takes off to attack. Godzilla helps Mothra, who bites onto Godzilla’s tail so Big G can pull him toward the action quicker. Ghidrah knocks Rodan out of the sky, but Godzilla tosses rocks, distracting Ghidrah.

Back to the non-monster action, the Prophet/Princess has wandered off, Detective Shindo finds her, the Assassin shoots, she remembers who she it, Shindo is wounded, the Assassin is crushed, and the Prophet/Princess and Shindo are saved. Exciting, now we can see the monsters fight without interrupting again. The Monsters Triple-Team Ghidrah, who is outgunned. Mothra bites one of Ghidrah’s tails, as Godzilla attacks the front and Rodan the rear. Then, Mothra gets a boost from Rodan into the air, getting on Rodan’s back. Mothra can now coat Ghidrah in web from the air, as Godzilla keeps laying into Ghidrah. Finally, Godzilla throws the web-covered Ghidrah around, then tosses huge boulders at the three-headed foe, who finally gives up, and flies away, defeated. Hooray!

Epilogue time, the Princess goes back home, and Mothra and the Twin Fairies go home, saying goodbye to Godzilla and Rodan. The End!

Ghidrah was one of the best Godzilla films for years, until surpassed by Destroy All Monsters. It’s still one of the top films. It introduces Ghidrah, features the first monster team up, and the first indication of Godzilla being the good guy he grew to become in the seventies, and in some versions of his latest films. The only major thing missing from the film is actual invading aliens, as the aliens here are benevolent mind controllers. Ghidrah is seen here free of alien manipulation for the only time in the old series.

Ah…now…more Grandpa Munster!

Grandpa Munster gives a heavy recap of the fighting. It’s also laced with jokes, such as “One head isn’t enough for him, can’t contain his evil!” Grandpa Munster acts like a referee, saying he’ll kick monsters out for dirty fighting. Grandpa suggests you pay attention to the fighting, because it’s good advice for what to do in case you meet people down a dark alley.

It’s closing up time, so Grandpa Munster says he had “the time of my lives with you today in the ‘screaming room!'” We must end with his traditional closer…”Be there, or Be..WARE!”

Join us again, for another Super Scary Saturday!

And now our Bonus Interview!

Greeting, Y’all, once again we have a special guest. It’s the larval form of Mothra! Welcome to TarsTarkas.NET!
Thank You. This is a nice change from Infant Island.
First of all, how are the Twin Fairies?
Sad news to report, the latest pair of Twin Fairies got crushed when the drunken chief collapsed on them right after our Festival of Love.
Oh my goodness!
Yeah, but we have a colony of tiny Shobijin fairies, each time they need new twins, they seed all the eggs in the hive so they produce twins. The first pair that emerges destroys all the other eggs.
The best part is when two eggs hatch. Then we get four tiny girls fighting each other to the death. Sometimes the winners aren’t even the same twins, so they looks different. Once, we even have an albino twin, with a normal partner. It was freaking weird.
Hey, didn’t you have a twin once?
That was one of my ancestors. New Mothra hatch every 2 years or so normally, unless accelerated. That year, there were two Mothras to fight Godzilla. Mothra B went off to Other Infant Island to start a second Mothra Cult. But soon the normal rivalries between religions happened, and the Other Infant Islanders nailed a letter to the door of our Church.
This is getting bizzare.
What’s even more bizarre is we nuked their island, killed their Idol Mothra, and enslaved the survivors. Infant Island has grown up, and we’re kicking butt!
Shocking! Cannibalism, murder, girl fights, crazed albino twins! I can’t believe what I’m hearing.
Stupid UN sanctions got us down now, but soon I’ll be back in moth form, and after wiping out a few cities we’ll be back on step. Infant Island must protect our processor chip industries.
It looks like Intel better be stocking up on some bug spray. For TarsTarkas.NET, Minya out!

Rated 8/10 (Godzilla tosing, Santa Guards, Walking Face Card, Jerry Lewis- Japan style!, I’ll get the hat!, Ghidrah forming, Laughing Rodan, Below the belt.)

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