Invasion Of Astro-Monster
One of the longest lasting staples of flicks that kids love to watch is the horror movie. There is nothing quite like watching monsters battle on a rainy Saturday afternoon. One of the most dominate franchises in this genre has to be the Toho daikaiju film from Japan. Now most kids that enjoy these films may not know them by this name; most likely they will call them ‘Godzilla movies’. Sony Pictures in conjunction with Classic Media has been bringing these films to DVD in one of the best made collections yet. The latest in this line is ‘Invasion Of Astro-Monster’, otherwise known as ‘Godzilla vs. Monster Zero’. This film was a turning point in the film series. It was the first to have humanoid space aliens as the antagonists, the only film of the series to have an American actor in a lead role and last to feature the well known team of Ishirō Honda as director, Shinichi Sekizawa as the script writer and special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. Like many flicks in this time honored series this film fits in with the overall multi-film arc as well as being a direct continuation to the previous film, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster.
At the start of the flick a mysterious new planet has been discovered somewhere out around Jupiter. Apparently the sizable Jupiter has been masking the new planet. An international space administration called the World Space Authority decides to launch a two man craft to investigate. The space ship is manned by two men; an American, Glenn (Nick Adams) and Japanese astronaut Fuji (Akira Takarada). Soon after approaching Plane X, I guess all the nifty names were taken; the intrepid astronauts meet the natives of the planet called, Xians. After a brief bout of hide and seek the men are taken to the leader of the planet, the Controller of Planet X (Yoshio Tsuchiya) who has the typical underground lair. The Controller informs the men that their base is about to be attacked. The monster on a rampage is none other than Ghidorah, known to the Xians as Monster Zero, who was recently chased off the Earth by our own merry band of creatures. The Controller admits that they need the help of Earth to defeat the menace. They want Earth to let them borrow Monster Zero-1 and Monster Zero-2, what the earthlings call Godzilla and Rodan. In return for the loan the Xians will provide humanity with the proverbial cure for all disease. It would appear that the astronauts have the ability to make decision on behalf of the planet earth and they agree to let the Xians come to earth and capture the monsters they need.
Meanwhile, back on earth we get to meet the brother of Fuji’s girlfriend, Tetsuo Teri (Akira Kubo) who is an inventor wannabe. The latest device he is working on is a ‘ladies protection alarm’ which emits an extremely loud noise. He can’t seem to get the gadget on the market which is odd since I’ve seen several versions on late night television infomercials. Of course this is a plot point that will save the day later on. The astronauts return home and help a scientist, Dr.Sakurai (Jun Tazaki), who seems to have a degree in monsterology. The three men quickly locate the two earth monsters and summons the Xians. A ship from Planet X comes to earth and take the creatures on a little joy ride to the outer solar system. When Godzilla and Rodan arrive on the planet they waste little time resuming the battle with Ghidorah. When they chase him off the Xians are pleased and tell earth they are sending a box with the details of the cure. Inside the box is a reel of tape that demands earth’s immediate and unconditional surrender. I guess they can navigate the solar system in a matter of hours but they still hadn’t discovered digital recording. In the typical show of evil genius hubris the Controller tells the earthmen that they control the creatures with magnetic waves. Now under the Xian control the there monsters return to earth and attack Japan. I guess that by this time it is almost impossible to get monster attack insurance there.
This film is campy, silly and makes little sense. These are the trademarks for the series at this point but also one of the reasons we still love to watch them. One caveat here, you have to disengage all the higher reasoning centers of your brain and return to the more innocent time of your pre-teen years. Just keep repeating to yourself, ‘I’m thinking too much’ and you will get into the flick. There is no real explanation as to how a trip out to Planet X takes about as much time as taking the family to the mall but we don’t care. How can you control monsters with magnetism, does it really matter? You watch a flick like for the almost comical monster battles and you get them. You are even treated to the rather bizarre sight of Godzilla doing a victory dance. Getting an American actor like Nick Adams was unusual for a Japanese monster flick. Adams had only a few years earlier garnered an Oscar nomination for ‘Twilight of Honor’. He speaks English in his role but was dubbed by Tadashi Okabe in the Japanese release. This film was delayed in its release here in the States due to the untimely suicide of Adams shortly after completing this film. As with all the films in this franchise there are some deletions in the American version but they are rather minor.
Once again Sony in conjunction with Classic Media does it up right with the DVD release of this film. Both the Japanese and American versions are remastered and presented here. Like the other films in this series the packaging is a compact slim line case that takes up little room in your growing DVD collection. Both versions have anamorphic video transfers. For the most part the video held up pretty well over the years although there are a few speaks now and again. The Dolby Stereo audio is also well done but the channel separation is a little flat. For extras you get an audio commentary by film historian Stuart Galbraith IV and a biography of producer Tomoyuki Tanaka. Rounding things off is an image galley and slide show of the posters. Okay, this is not the best film around but it is one that will entertain the whole family.