Ghidorah The Three-Headed Monster
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Ghidorah The Three-Headed Monster

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Audiences have always loved a good old fashion monster flick. From the early thirties with the likes of Frankenstein, Dracula and the Wolf-Man to the modern terrors including Freddie Kruger and Michael Myers, we flock to see man fight against monsters. In the annals of cinema few creatures have the popularity or staying power of one over sized lizard, Godzilla. There are about 28 films featuring Godzilla, more if you are a true fan and consider the Japanese and American versions as different films. In Japan Godzilla sired a whole new genre of film, tokusatsu entertainment, literally a monster flick made famous by the Toho Studios. One of the latest to hit DVD is Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster. While not considered one of the best examples of the Godzilla series it does have a good deal of historical significance for the die hard fans of the series. This was the first film where the monster was the hero. Fans have been cheering the creature for years even though he was generally wrecking havoc with the population of Japan. Now, he gets a chance to save the day and mankind. It is also one of the few installments of the series where human intervention using tanks and artillery was not necessary.

The film opens in a small Himalayan country of Sergina where Princess Mas Selina Salno (Akiko Wakabayashi) has become a victim of mind control. A Venusian spirit has inhabited the fair damsel helping her to escape a plane just before it explodes. Just then a meteorite falls, opening to reveal the monster Ghidorah. The monster was recently responsible for the destruction of the spiritís home world and it looks as if earth is in for the same fate. This moment in earthís history seems to be a very hectic one. About this time Godzilla and Rodan awaken from their hibernation to resume their fight with Mothra. Back in the realm of humans a Japanese covert operative, Detective Shindo (Yosuke Natsuki), is assigned to protect Princess Salno during her state visit. There have been assignation threats against the princess and her death could lead to Sergina becoming a communist puppet state. We certainly canít let some tiny, unheard of country go red! The Communist agents were the ones responsible for the explosion of the Princessí plane. The Princess was considered missing but a clue comes in from an unexpected source. Shindoís sister Naoko (Yuriko Hoshi) tells him that there is a street prophetess claiming that she came from Venus and is here to warn humanity about a monster that will destroy the planet. Naoko runs a popular television talk show and wants to get the girl as a guest. Shindo realizes that the street girl is none other than the missing princess. Shindo is determined to protect her from the nefarious commie agents.

We go back to Godzilla and Rodan as they start their fighting between themselves and Mothra. Mothraís tiny twin fairy priestesses, The Shobijin (YŻmi Ito and Emi Ito) try to convince Godzilla and Rodan to forget their grudge match and join with Mothra to take on and defeat the new threat. In a very funny scene the monsters have a conversation, discussing the next course of action. Fortunately, the Shobijin speak numerous dialects of monster and can translate for us less informed audience members. After more bargaining than found in a labor union strike they agree to protect the earth from the newcomer. It may seem that three against one is unfair odds but consider the adversary. Ghidorah is a three headed dragon with huge, bat-like wings and a double tail. He is more than up to the challenge of taking on three of earthís biggest monsters in combat. Of course, the monsters all live since there has to be a number of sequels to do.

This film represents a major turning point for the Godzilla series. Not only does Godzilla wind up the savoir of humanity but it also starts the trend of monster co-operation. The earthly monsters put aside their natural animosity to work together. This is also the initial appearance of Ghidorah, who would become one of the most popular Ďvillainí monsters of the series. Another trend that takes hold here is moving the focus of the plot from a thriller to a tongue in cheek flick aimed more towards the younger set. There are plenty of fights between the monsters but most of the action seems to be straight from the Three Stooges. Even in the scenes with the human cast the feel here is lighter, especially considering the fate of the world is in the balance. The original Godzilla was an indictment against the use of nuclear weapons, an understandable theme for Japanese film makers. Now, a thin plot just provides the setting for the monsters to duke it out. It also takes a long time for the action to get going. It is almost thirty minutes before we get to see the first battle on the fight card.

Like other installments of this series there are differences between the original Japanese release and the one shown here in the States. Most of the differences are relatively minor. The running time of the Americanized version is only about 7 minutes less than the original Japanese cut. The most regrettable omission was the loss of the musical score by composer Akira Ifukube. The American replacement just didnít seem to work nearly as well. A more puzzling change was the planet of origin for Ghidorah. In the Japanese version it was Venus but this was changed to Mars for us American. Perhaps itís because of all the Mars invader flicks that have been popular here since the fifties.

This is part of the Godzilla DVD line from Sony Pictures and once again they do things right. They care about the fans and all the releases in this series show it. You not only get the original Japanese version but they include the Americanized one as well. The Japanese version is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic video in Japanese with English subtitles. The quality of the picture holds up fairly well as does the sound. The American version is also in anamorphic widescreen with English dubbing. Both have Dolby Stereo audio mixes. There are some interesting extras with this release. There is a commentary track by noted Toho film historian, David Kalat. He has a knowledge and love for the subject matter that is entertaining and informative. Also included is a biography of the special effects supervisor, Eiji Tsuburaya, the original Japanese trailer and a slide show of all the variation of film posters for the flick. This is a fun flick, nothing serious here but it will take you back to the childhood days of monster flicks.

Posted 05/31/07

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