Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)


Superman has Lex Luthor, Batman has the Joker, Spider-Man has the Green Goblin…

…and Godzilla has King Ghidorah.

Following the success of “King Kong vs. Godzilla”, Toho wanted to capitalize on Godzilla, who they were hoping to make their star monster.  He was featured as the villain in both “King Kong vs. Godzilla” and “Mothra vs. Godzilla”, but it was decided that if Godzilla was going to be Toho’s recurring star, he needed to be made into a hero.  This way, he could appeal more to children, and he could be brought back again and again to fight various enemies.  Since Godzilla was going to be made into a hero, it only stood to reason that he needed an arch-enemy to fight.  And thus, King Ghidorah was born.


Detective Shindo is assigned to protect the Princess Salno, a visiting diplomat.  Unfortunately, her plane is destroyed by a bomb en route to the airport.  Meanwhile, a meteor lands in the countryside, and a team of scientists convene to study it.  The head scientist is Professor Murai, who also studied Mothra’s egg in the previous movie.  He notes that the meteor has strange magnetic properties.  After Shindo returns home, he is shocked to see the supposedly dead Princess Salno preaching to a group of people.  She claims to be from Mars, makes prophecies about the reappearance of several giant monsters, including Rodan and Godzilla.  Rodan appears from the crater of the volcano he supposedly died in at the conclusion of his own movie, and Godzilla appears from the sea and attacks a passenger ship.  As it turns out, Mothra’s twin priestesses were supposed to return to Infant Island on that ship, but were warned off by Salno’s prophecy.  The pair decide to help Shindo protect the princess from assassins sent by her uncle.  After hiding her away, the Princess reveals that she has been possessed by the spirit of a dead Martian.  The Martian society was destroyed by a three-headed space dragon named King Ghidorah, and now that same monster had come to Earth!  As the prophecy is made, the magnetic meteor cracks open to reveal the three-headed dragon, who begins his reign of destruction.

The military decides to ask Mothra for assistance.  The twin priestesses call the larva from Infant Island, who makes its way to the battling Godzilla and Rodan.  Mothra attempts to reason with the two giants (the twin priestesses translate the monster speak), but Godzilla and Rodan do not care about humans and are only interested in fighting.  Mothra gives up and leaves the two to their own devices.  She then makes her way to King Ghidorah and attempts to battle the dragon.  Mothra is clearly outmatched, and it looks like Ghidorah will kill the larva, when Godzilla and Rodan reappear and help battle the space monster.  The battle climaxes when Godzilla grabs Ghidorah by his tails, and Mothra covers Ghidorah in webbing as the dragon is thrown into the sea.  Ghidorah flies off to space, and the Martian spirit leaves Princess Salno as she is returned to her people.


This movie completes Godzilla’s transition from symbol of nuclear war to more light hearted monster movie fare.  Godzilla ceases to be menacing in this movie right about the scene where the twin priestesses translate the conversation between the monsters (and complain about Godzilla’s coarse language, to boot!)  Thus begins the parade of laser-enhanced wrestling matches between Godzilla and an ever-increasing pack of powerful (and occasionally outlandish) opponents.  This is the type of movie that is commonly associated with Godzilla even to this day.

While a point such as this might be noted as the “jumping the shark” moment, the monster battling formula established in this movie helped propel Godzilla to new heights of fame in Japan and America, and kept him relevant until the end of the original, or Showa, series in the next decade.  One of the things that helped keep the movies popular was the well-designed and animated monsters.  King Ghidorah is based on the Chinese concept of a dragon, albeit with wings in place of arms.  His actions seem to convey a creature that revels in destruction by the way he whips his heads around as he flies and fires beams from his mouths.  It is almost as if his path of destruction is random, and he doesn’t care where his beams land or what they destroy.  Even his roar, a series of high-pitched squeals, seem to evoke laughter.  All of these combine to create an image of an insane being that destroys anything unfortunate enough to be in his path, perfect for a creature that supposedly destroyed an entire civilization.  Godzilla and Rodan are similarly well acted.  Their interactions during Mothra’s discussion with them convey their mood and attitudes toward each other with nods of the head and other body language.  As the movies continued, the monster costumes became more complex, and much effort was put into establishing the attitudes of these giant monsters.  These characterizations have helped to keep these monsters popular for several decades.

“Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster” is an important film in the Godzilla canon, both for establishing Godzilla’s new role as the heroic protagonist, and for introducing his most famous foe, King Ghidorah.


In the original Japanese version, King Ghidorah was responsible for the destruction of civilization on Venus.  This was changed to Mars in the American version.

Ghidorah was originally supposed to have rainbow-colored wings and fire breath.  This was changed to “gravity rays” later in production.

This was the final Godzilla movie for the actor Takashi Shimura, who is most famous for appearing in Akira Kurosawa’s films “Seven Samurai” and “Rashomon”.  Shimura played Dr. Yamane in the original “Godzilla” and “Godzilla Raids Again”.



~ by Chris on April 22, 2014.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: