Thursday, May 15, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Ghidorah: The Three-Headed Monster (1964) ***

NR, 85 min.
Director: Ishirô Honda
Writer: Shin’ichi Sekizawa
Starring: Yôsuke Natsuki, Yuriko Hoshi, Hiroshi Koizumi, Akiko Wakabayashi, Emi Itô, Yûmi Itô, Takashi Shimura, Akihiko Hirata, Hisaya Itô, Minuro Takada

Now things start getting a little weird for the Toho Studios Godzilla/Kaiju films. You know that “more sophisticated storytelling” I was talking about in my “Mothra vs. Godzilla” review? Well, they’ve developed it to a high level for this new film with a plot that involves a princess from a small sovereign nation and an assassination plot that is complicated by the fact that an alien being possesses the princess before she can be killed. In another seemingly unrelated plotline, a strange meteor falls to Earth and scientists are baffled by the strange phenomenon that surrounds it.

Where do the Kaiju fit into all this? Godzilla and Rodan awaken from their slumbers and set to fighting each other, destroying everything in their paths. As it turns out, the alien presence inside the princess is trying to warn the people of Earth that Ghidorah, a Kaiju from space, is coming to destroy Earth, which it has already to the alien planet. Well, Ghidorah is already here inside the meteor.

“Ghidorah” is when the Kaiju films reached their zenith. The plots around the Kaiju from this point on are more elaborate. There are more human characters. The Kaiju themselves begin to take on human characteristics, as when Godzilla stops to laugh at something that happens to Rodan in the middle of their fight. Oh yes, and the Kaiju fights become something more akin to professional wrestling, often involving multiple Kaiju who team up to take on one or a group of other Kaiju that are some sort of threat to the planet. Godzilla begins to build his hero status beginning with this movie with a good push from Mothra.

In this sense, “Ghidorah” is one of the very best of the Kaiju films to spring from the Godzilla phenomenon. This is the movie that really sets the mold for the rest to come. The previous films, save for possibly “Godzilla Raids Again”, all were trying to make some sort of commentary about the post-nuclear world. With “Ghidorah”, all political and social commentary disappears from the series and it begins to take on its own mythology. It’s a fairly silly mythology, but it’s the source of any obsessions that built these films into the cult status that has kept them being made for so many years. The foundation has already been laid. Now, the Kaiju take on a life of their own, and this first one along those lines is kind of fun.

No comments: