Monday, 3 August 2015

Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)

Possibly because this film got its own US version and release, my Godzilla boxed sets don't include this movie, so I skipped it when I was working my way through the franchise a few months ago.  It's a pretty important film in Big G's progression however, as it is the one where he goes from villain to hero (at least until the franchise rebooted about 15 years later, anyway), so when I found a copy available as an individual disc, I picked it up.

As with all Godzilla movies, we've got parallel kaiju and human stories here.  The giant monster action revolves around the titular Ghidorah, a three-headed space dragon that destroyed all life on Venus 5000 years ago and now intends to do the same to Earth.  The human-scale narrative meanwhile focuses on the princess of a fictitious country, who not only becomes the instrument through which the remnants of Venusian civilisation attempt to warn humanity, but is also being chased by assassins due to political upheaval in her homeland.

Big G's face turn also saw the franchise head in a much more kid-friendly direction than it had previously followed, and this film really marks the beginning of that change.  The kaiju battles are largely played for laughs, rather than drama.  For instance, at one point Ghidorah's lightning breath hits Godzilla in the butt, and Big G leaps into the air, holding his posterior.  For seven year old boys, that's comedy gold.  For the rest of us, though ... meh.

The rather light-hearted, slapstick air extends to the assassination plot as well, believe it or not.  Although "let's murder someone" is a fairly serious kind of sub-plot in general, the would be assassins in this are so bad at their jobs that it feels more like they are playing at being killers rather than actually trying to harm her.

Ultimately, despite the fact that the dialogue claims that humanity will be destroyed if Ghidorah isn't stopped, the whole film feels very lightweight.  The comedic fight scenes ensure that there is no sense that there is any risk, and the 'dramatic' moment where Big G decides to fight on the side of good is pretty much bungled: watching the monsters bellowing at each other while someone 'translates' their conversation is not exactly riveting entertainment.

This one is for Godzilla completists only.

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