KAIJU KONNECTION: Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster (1965)

I started watching Godzilla movies at such an early age that to be honest, I do not remember a time when Toho monsters were not in my life. One monster that always stood out to me was Ghidorah, the three-headed space dragon. Its design is wonderful and in my opinion, it is the greatest looking of all of Godzilla’s foes. According to WIKIZILLA, Ghidorah has appeared in eight films, though for me, his design in his original appearance, in the 1965 film GHIDORAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER, is his best. For this KAIJU KONNECTION I am watching the Japanese version with English subtitles on the Classic Media DVD.

Our story begins in Japan and it is 2 AM. A group of UFO buffs are on the roof of a building watching for flying saucers. They are very dejected because none are seen. They blame it on the energy given off by Naoko, a reporter who is a non-believer. Suddenly an object is seen, followed by many more. The meteors are being seen all over the world.

Original US poster.

We then go to police headquarters and meet Shindo, a police detective and Naoko’s brother, who is assigned to guard Princess Salno of Selgina from a political assassination during an unannounced visit to Japan. On Salno’s plane, while looking out the window, a mysterious voice tells her to leave the plane quickly as she is in danger. She jumps from the plane just as it explodes.

One of the meteors crashes in Mt. Kurobe. Scientists from the Teito Institute of Technology hike into the mountain to try and find it, led by Professor Murai. As they get closer to the meteor the scientists start to notice issues with magnetism, as their compass is not showing true north. When they find the meteor it is gigantic and intact. They set up their camp nearby to study it. The meteor is so magnetic that all of their tools are pulled to it.

Back at police headquarters Shindo is told he is being pulled off of the assignment to guard Princess Salno as her plane exploded and she was killed. We then cut to Naoko, at the news station. A prophetess has appeared and she is assigned to go talk to her.

Shindo, Murai and Naoko.

The prophetess has an audience of over a hundred people and she warns of the planet’s destruction. She claims she is from Venus and says that unusual things will happen at Mt. Aso, Kyushu. The volcano is slightly active.

Behind the scenes.

Naoko and Shindo head home for the night. They discuss Professor Murai as Naoko is doing a piece on him and what he has found out about the meteor. Shindo then picks up the newspaper and sees a picture of the prophetess; it is Princess Salno. The people that bombed her plane then head to Japan after seeing her picture in the paper as well.

The prophetess then appears at Mt. Aso, warning everyone to leave because there is danger. She claims Rodan is in the mountain and the volcanic gasses will awaken him. Sure enough, he breaks through the rock cavern. Every one runs away in panic and as Rodan takes off he screeches, in Godzilla’s voice!

The Shobijin with Naoko and Murai.

As study continues on the meteorite, the magnetism comes and goes and it glows and seems to pulsate, almost growing. After participating in a TV program, the Shobijin, Mothra’s twin fairies, prepare to depart for home but are warned by the prophetess to not sail. Naoko takes the prophetess to a hotel to interview her, and discover that the Shobijin had followed them, heeding the Prophetess’ warning before Godzilla destroyed their ship. The men that want to kill her are staying at the same hotel.

They break into the room to see if she is the Princess. She does not recognize them and they decide to torture her to get the truth. When Naoko and Shindo arrive at the room, the twin fairies warn them that the killers are inside. A gunfight ensues and then the killers escape out the window. Godzilla also arrives on shore and Rodan is heard in the sky.

The prophetess is brought to a doctor and he does tests on her. She then says, “King Ghidorah will turn the Earth to a dead planet.” It is announced that both Godzilla and Rodan are heading to Mt. Fuji, which is very close to where the prophetess is being examined.

Later the scientists studying the meteor are awakened by the sound of thunder. The meteor has grown and is flashing lights. It cracks open and a fireball erupts shooting into the sky. The flames start to take shape, revealing Ghidorah, the three-headed monster!

Ghidorah’s attack on Matsumoto city is visually stunning as he flies over it not only creating wind blasts from his wings but his laser blasts from his three heads blow everything to bits. Meanwhile Godzilla and Rodan are fighting in the countryside. The Shobijin then call Mothra to come and fight, even though she is still in his larval stage.

The killers attempt to get the Princess again at the doctor’s, only to be thwarted by both Shindo and Godzilla, who falls on power lines just as the Princess is about to be electrocuted. Godzilla and Rodan continue to fight in a long, physical battle. Mothra arrives and tries to convince Godzilla and Rodan to help fight Ghidorah instead of fighting each other. The Shobijin translate the conversation between the three monsters.

As the killers try to escape, King Ghidorah blasts the side of the mountain causing an avalanche of rock to fall on their car. Only one of them survive and he goes to find the Princess to complete his mission.

After Rodan and Godzilla refuse to help, Mothra goes to fight King Ghidorah alone. Mothra is not match though and when the two other monsters see this, they join in the fight. The monster fights are really well staged and it must have been difficult at times filming them, considering how many wires it took to control all of Ghidorah’s body parts.

The Princess is then seen praying and Malmess, the lead assassin, shoots are her and she falls off the cliff onto a lower ledge. Shindo then shoots at him as he tries to rescue the Princess. Just as Malmess prepares to take a shot at Shindo, one of Ghidorah’s gravity beams hits the cliff above him, sending boulders cascading down on top of him. Shindo has saved the Princess.

All three monsters attack Ghidorah at once and finally get the upper hand. Mothra rides on Rodan’s back, blasting the three-heading monster with his webs. Meanwhile Godzilla holds him in place by his two tails. Ghidorah is completely covered in webs and Godzilla throws boulders at him. Ghidorah gives up and flies away, defeated.

Though production of this film was rushed, it is still a fun entry in the Showa series. The final battle takes place at the base of Mt. Fuji, a set that took a year to put together. This actually helped cut down the budget as if they had had the final monster battle in the city, it would’ve been very expensive.

Despite the amount of wires used to control Ghidorah, they are very rarely seen. Each of the three heads, two tails and two wings had to be controlled by a separate technician, not an easy feat, especially during a battle scene with Rodan who also required wires.

Rare image showing the original colors of Ghidorah.

In the original concept, King Ghidorah was purple and his wings were rainbow colored. Also, the creature was to breathe fire from its three heads. In the final film, they emit lightning-like gravity rays and his skin is colored gold. Various publicity stills and promo material, however, still show parts of him in their original colors. On the movie’s poster, only his body is colored gold because the suit had not been finished when the shot was taken. Eiji Tsuburaya originally wanted Ghidorah to be crimson colored, but the special effects team decided on shiny gold instead, because that would look more impressive on screen.

This was the first movie to depict Godzilla in a somewhat heroic manner. He would later gradually develop into a full-fledged hero. When Godzilla first rises from the ocean, the costume appears to be the complete suit used in the prior film (Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)), which features a longer and more reptilian looking head. This does not match the head used for the monster throughout the rest of the film. Toho commonly used older versions of their monster suits when filming scenes that take place in water, in order to avoid wear and tear on the new featured costume.

Mothra was originally planned to be an adult in the film. It was ultimately decided not to do so because it was already incredibly complex to manipulate the wires to operate Ghidorah and Rodan in a single scene.

When the assassins’ car gets crushed under the rubble, the windows of the car model snap and bend, but remain in one piece. When the camera cuts to the real car with the actors in it, the windows are smashed to pieces. When the assassins’ 1960 Mercedes 220 S is crushed by the landslide, it changes to a 1963 Toyopet Tiara for the shot of Malmess extracting himself from the wreck. When Malmess is finally killed, he literally catches the (obviously very-light-weight) boulder that knocks him from his sniper’s perch, actually raising it up an inch or two as he topples backward off the cliff with it.

When Godzilla and Rodan are throwing boulders at each other, the size of the boulders change size from shot to shot. When Godzilla is throwing the boulders, they are fairly large sized. When Rodan is volleying the boulders back, they are much smaller in size.

Make sure to read my other entries in my KAIJU KONNECTION series.

~David Albaugh

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