A scene from GHIDORAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER, directed by Honda Ishirô for Toho Company Ltd.

Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964, Honda Ishirô)

Maybe half of Ghidorah is interesting. Or has the potential to be interesting. After the giant monster-heavy opening credits (stills of Godzilla and Rodan in battle), that aspect disappears for a while. Instead, Ghidorah is a strange mix of reporter and political intrigue movies. Hoshi Yuriko is a reporter for a news program covering strange occurrences and brother Natsuki Yosuke is a police officer charged with protecting a foreign princess in trouble (Wakabayashi Akiko). Eventually–inevitably–the two story lines do cross, but it takes a lot longer than I would have assumed and really highlights the problem with Ghidorah. The giant monsters.

The first half hour is filled with doomsday predications and public interest in it. Wakabayashi goes amnesiac and ends up proclaiming the end of the world to whoever will listen. Sekizawa Shinichi’s script handles this part–maybe not the lead-in to it–beautifully. Watching Ghidorah, I kept wishing they’d played it straight, because the handling of her character and her effect on modern society, it works.

The movie’s hit with Natsuki’s underwhelming performance as the bodyguard, however. He’s at his best in the comedic scenes, which are good and too few. His problems in the action scenes might stem more from Honda’s direction. Honda has one or two shots for action scenes and he repeats them throughout.

Hoshi is a far more engaging protagonist, so it’s too bad she loses her story after the movie gets going. The little fairies from Mothra show up and assume her screen time. Those two actresses, Ito Emi and Ito Yûmi look so incredibly disinterested, I’m wondering if they just can’t act or what… It’s unfortunate, because Hoshi’s maybe slash maybe not romance with Koizumi Hiroshi was amusing and is forgotten. Koizumi doesn’t have a big part, but he can keep a straight face and is affable.

So Ghidorah isn’t exactly brimming with potential–it can’t overcome Honda’s poor interior direction and his action scenes and the acting–but it isn’t uninteresting. It’s a definite attempt at something and not a dumb one. Then Godzilla and Rodan show up and I started wondering how a ninety minute movie could be so long. The giant monsters are the big problem with the movie. After forty-five minutes of proclamations about Ghidorah destroying the world, it turns out it all gets resolved after a lengthy wrestling match with Ghidorah fighting the other monsters. They don’t even destroy him. He just runs away. He could have flown to China and destroyed it. That resolution makes no sense.

But then, neither do the other two endings (the one for the police officer and the princess and then the good giant monster ending).

I haven’t seen the immediate series predecessor in fifteen plus years (Mothra vs. Godzilla) so I can’t say for sure if this film is the one where they start playing the giant monsters for laughs. The opening scene with Godzilla, when he destroys a ship, doesn’t even address the hundreds of lives lost. It’s just a guy in a costume destroying a model ship–because thinking about it in the movie’s context would just make Honda glib. The giant monster fights have a lot of humor in them (who knew Godzilla had a butt?) and it’s all for kids. It’s probably not terrible for kids, but then why delay the giant monsters for half the movie and fill it with thoughtful–if poorly executed–narrative.

Usually Godzilla movies leave me mildly amused or better. This one did not.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Honda Ishirô; written by Sekizawa Shinichi; director of photography, Koizumi Hajime; edited by Fujii Ryohei; music by Ifukube Akira; production designer, Kita Takeo; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Natsuki Yosuke (Detective Shindo), Hoshi Yuriko (Naoko), Koizumi Hiroshi (Professor Miura), Wakabayashi Akiko (Mas Selina Salno, Princess of Sergina), Ito Emi and Ito Yûmi (The Twin Fairies), Shimura Takashi (Dr. Tsukamoto), Hirata Akihiko (Chief Detective Okita) and Ito Hisaya (Malmess, Chief Assassin).


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