Friday, 30 May 2014
Invasion of the Astro-Monster (1965)
This is the sixth Godzilla film, which means the box set has again skipped an entry. Between Mothra vs Godzilla and this film came Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster. That was the film in which Big G executed his face turn, moving from 'menace to mankind' to 'protector of the planet' when he helped drive off the three-headed dragon monster, King Ghidorah.
To this film then is left the dubious distinction of being the first in the franchise to be really light on the kaiju action. "Too much time was spent on the humans and not enough on the monsters" is a common complaint about films in this genre. It's not always a justified one, I think. We need human characters to deliver exposition and be in peril, after all. Also, they give a reason for cool spaceships, mecha and tanks to be in the film, and I'm OK with that. But Astro-Monster gives us a pretty anemic pair of battles, which aren't helped by excessive 'cutesy' stuff with Godzilla. No-one needs to see Big G start actually boxing mid-fight, nor do they need to see him doing weird celebratory jumping jacks after winning a skirmish.
Anyway, the plot of this film introduces aliens into the Godzilla-verse, when humanity makes contact with Planet X. The Xians request the assistance of Earth in stopping the rampage of what they call "Monster Zero" (which is one of the film's alternate titles). They want to bring Godzilla and Rodan (a giant pteranadon) to X to drive off Ghidorah (for that's who Monster Zero is). In return, they offer the cure for cancer.
I bet you won't be surprised if I spoil the fact that the Xians aren't as friendly as they seem. Even the characters in the film aren't entirely convinced of the Xians story, but they feel they can't ignore the possibility of a cure for cancer.
In a lot of ways, this film feels like a template for the much later Godzilla: Final Wars, as that too has apparently benevolent aliens with monster controlling powers and a name starting with X. Final Wars is a lot more fun than this, though. See it instead.