Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster (1964) – Movie Review

It’s time for a return to the King of the Monsters guys! While I sit here slowly becoming one with my sofa as I wilt away in lockdown, I remembered I had a Godzilla boxset. Hungry for some kaiju goodness, I eyed a movie I hadn’t seen yet, one that I heard was loved by many a Godzilla fan too. The movie is question was the debut of Godzilla’s arch-nemesis, Ghidorah The Three-Headed Monster. So did this movie live up to the expectations? Well…

Story


This is one confusing plot, and by confusing I mean so in a bad way. But what is that plot you might ask? Well, it does something like this…

In the midst of a meteor shower, a police officer and his reporter sister encounter a mysterious woman claiming to be from Venus, who bears a likeness to a missing princess. While she warns of the oncoming destruction of earth, she must avoid a group of assassins sent to kill her. As all this transpires, the monsters of earth begin to stir. Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra, three feuding kaiju, must join forces to combat a new threat to the planet, the three-headed plantet destroying dragon King Ghidorah!

Did all that talk of uniting against a large imposing monster, rousing talk of protecting a princess from assassins sound cool to you? I assure you it is not. The plot is the epitome of boredom, it is so unbelievably dull that its frankly exhausting to get through. They constantly hype up the coming threat of Ghidorah and it isn’t until the third act that he even makes a real appearence in the movie, which is pretty shameful when this is technically his movie.
Speaking of the kaiju, it’s not until the second act that a kaiju even shows up and does some real damage when Rodan pops out of a mountain. Mothra appeared beforehand but all she did was sit there during a lengthy rendition of the Mothra song. This movie feels like a lame rescue/adventure movie but they shoved a couple kaiju in at the last minute, the monsters have next to no involvement in the plot. When your kaiju have next to no involvement in the plot until the last few minutes, you know there’s a problem. This movie also packs in a metric ton of plot holes and issues, so many in fact that I’ll make a list!

  • The Mothra twins appear on a TV show, so does this mean Infant Island is just ok with people knowing about them?
  • The venusian claims that the princess is the last of their kind, then how is the venusian who possesses her still alive and in their pure form?
  • Why was only one Ghidorah in amongst the meteors? 
  • At one point, the assassin villain is about to kill the princess/venusian, but after they close the door, they just leave her and run out of the window. There was no one there you could have killed her and then left the room!
  • Why does no one identify the Venusian as the princess other than Shindo. The Princess’s face would be over all the papers due to her aparant death, is a hat just that good of a disguise?
  • If anything over 500 Volts of electrotherapy is fatal, why does the main control panel for the electrotherapy have a setting for 3000?! That is a serious hazard.

I could go on but frankly this is where I feel I need to end for my own personal health, this movie just cannot decide on its own rules.

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How it feels watching the plot

Characters


The characters are so unbelivably dull that I feel it isn’t necassary to talk about each one individually. Aside from the brother sister duo of Shindo and Naoko (played by Yosuke Natsuki and Yuriko Hoshi) who have a cute chemistry, a majority of the other characters really fail to stand out. Akiko Wakabayashi plays an interesting but ultimately boring and bland character as the possessed princess, I honestly got bored of her repetitive shpeel and dull warnings, not to mention her charcter making no sense as highlighted above.
The only other chararacter I even remotely remember was Malmass (played by Hisayo Ito) who plays a somewhat entertaining albeit a little non-descript assassin. Every other character in this movie is so amazongly dull that I can’t really think of things to say about them, they just seem to act how and when the plot needs them to and it leads to a muddled cast of characters that fails to stick the landing. 

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Even with a knife at its throat, this cast shows no life.

Presentation


I make a note to myself to be a tad more gracious when it comes to dicussing the presentation, being from the 60s means it it automatically dated with regards to its appearence. The monster suits look cheesy and silly, especially in the case of Rodan, who’s forward facing eyes really give him a dumb look. Godzilla looks as silly as he did in Son of Godzilla, although at least this time without the thunder thighs and an annoying son in tow. Mothra is by far the worst in terms of looks, as is tradition. She just looks so unbelivably robotic and while I’m willing to suspend my disbelief when it comes to the other kaiju in this movie, I just cannot with mothra and her robot like movements and weird segmented vehicle like body.
However, I will say, this move does have a big boost when it comes to presentation in the form of King Ghidorah. The way they managed to make him move in such a random, eratic and free flowing manner really did sell me on his presence as a monster, and even to this day I’d say these effects make this itteration of Godzilla’s nemesis the best looking when it comes to movement and puppet work. He does look a little silly up front, but his imposing size, impressive range of movement and innovative puppet techniques means the presentation gets a pass.  

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This right here? This looks awesome. Props to the…props on display.

The Monsters


  • King Ghidorah: You know, despite the movie being named after him, Ghidorah really doesn’t get a lot of screentime, not to mention not really putting up much of a fight in the long run. Despite the impressive puppet work and the fact that this movie introduced the hydra-esque kaiju to the world, Ghidorah isn’t given enough time to truly shine in this movie. Considering he literally wimps out and runs from the fight at the end, he doesn’t really come off as a major threat. 
  • Godzilla: I know this movie technically isn’t even a ‘Godzilla’ movie since his name isnt in the title, but even then Godzilla really is lacking in this movie. He shows up randomly and spends the majority of his screentime chasing Rodan, and while I do think the fight itself is honestly pretty funny and has some really hilarious moments, such as Godzilla getting his junk tasted by a powerline, everything else he does in the movie makes him seem more like a passage. He doesn’t even want to get involved in the main fight for the first few minutes of the climax, which while it does give us a unique insight into the motivations of this primordial giant, it does nothing to further the plot since he just joins in mere minutes later. His screentime is enjoyable, but it’s also disjointed, pointless and frankly it makes sense why this movie doesn’t feature his name.
  • Mothra: Mothra is so amazingly pointless in this movie that its kind of hilarious. She spends the majority of her time sitting on a rock on Infant Island and even then, doesn’t exactly do anything major in the final fight until Godzilla and Rodan aid her in her struggle. I also a not a fan of her movement, I know it’s kind of petty to critique this movies presentation considering its year of release, but I just feel like Mothra’s design and movement is the least immersive and has the least realism to it. She may look cute, but this bug doesn’t really do antyhing but pester me throughout the movie.
  • Rodan: Oh rodan…why do you look goofy in this movie? I was all ready to praise your puppet work but no you had to go any be the ugliest looking prop in this movie. First off, Rodan appears kinda out of no where, and while I don’t exactly mind that, what I do mind is how unbeliebably goofy Rodan looks. I will admit he is entertaining in his fights with Godzilla, but out of all the kaiju in this movie he feels the most…pointless.

So in conclusion, the kaiju factor in this movie is heavily neutered, and what we got isnt exactly the full package. It has its moments, but for the most part these kaiju have all the intimidation and stage presence as a fart in the wind. 

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Square up!

Grades


  • Story: 2/5 – Why is this plot about a three-headed space dragon fighting a nuclear dinosaur so gosh darn boring? This plot drags its feet and leaves nothing on the bone by the time its supposed to get to the meat of things. A dull story with no real investment, and not to mention a slew of plot holes that make for an ultimately draining and exhausting plot that leaves you feeling bored.
  • Characters: 3/5 – While the plot is boring and slow, the majority of characters actually do make it somewhat tolerable. Naoko was a fun and bubbly character, Shindo was a passable hero and the princess was an incesantly dull and annoying character. Pairing this with a goofy looking villain and a dreary set of motivations the characters fall short.
  • Presentation 3/5 – Rodan looks goofy, Godzilla looks passable and Mothra looks like a toy. The movies saving grace when it comes to presentation is Ghidorah. The effects on him work surprisingly well and I love the movement that he has. Ghidprah alone is what’s carrying this grade.
  • Enjoyability: 2/5 – This movies biggest sin is that its just boring. Nothings engaging or exciting and while I’m all for a human plotline in these movies, when the plot itself is a boring road trip/survival plot rife with inconsistencies and seemingly neverending dullness, it leaves you so drained you have barely any energy to enjoy the kaiju.
  • (Unique Grade) Kaiju…ness: 2/5 – Even for a kaiju movie the monster factor is low. We wait a solid half an hour at least for any actual kaiju action, and even then it takes a sideline to focus on the already boring human plot. Despite the creative puppetry with Ghidorah and the admittedly fun fight at the end, this movie failed to live up as a true titan when it came to the kaiju content.

Final Grade: 2/5


I tried to like this movie, I went in with high hopes after hearing the many positive things people had said about this movie. However I just found myself mostly bored throughout most of the runtime. It has its moments, but that can be said for all of these movies, however you need other entertaining aspects to help carry those moments in these movies. I’m glad this movie has fans, it’s always good to see people enjoying something I don’t, but my personal reccomendation? I’d say watch it for the novelty factor, but lower your expectations before going in.

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You and your brother when mom sees you fighting

With that, this review is done. It felt good to get back into a Godzilla review again after such a long time. I hope to return to kaiju reviews on a semi-consistent basis soon, but until then stay safe and stay awesome friends! If you liked this post be sure to leave a like and follow my blog for updates on future posts. Also follow me on twitter @joe_reviews for further updates and general nonsense. Until next time, stay above average! 

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