Film / Ghidorah The Three Headed Monster

"Gentlemen, we need whatever help we are able to obtain. In this case, it makes no difference, where we finally get that help from."
~ General Wado

"Godzilla says he has no reason to save humans. They are always bullying me. Rodan agrees with him."
~ The Shobijin translating Godzilla's Freudian Excuse makes so much sense now.

The fifth film in the Godzilla franchise, "Ghidorah the Three Headed Monster" marked a few changes in the series. It was the first to deviate from the tried and true "giant irradiated mutants from a Lost World trample Tokyo" plot of the previous four films by introducing elements of the space operas and UFO culture that was prevalent in the 50's and 60's. This experiment would be expanded upon in later films. Called San Daikaijū: Chikyū Saidai no Kessen in Japan.

More importantly, "Ghidorah the Three Headed Monster" marked a change in Godzilla as a character, one that was arguably necessary for the franchise to continue. After having played the villain for four movies straight, Godzilla switches sides in the third act of this film to fight an even worse monster than himself: the planet-destroying King Ghidorah. This change in Godzilla's role would be slowly built upon in the following movies, and set the groundwork for the change in tone that would occur between the first and later halves of the Showa Godzilla series.

That's not to say it's all seriousness and high art, though. There is a fair deal of the silly and goofy atomic age monster movie weirdness one would expect from a good Godzilla movie. Magnetic meteors, assassination plots, princesses disguised as homeless prophets, tiny fairy women on talk shows, and Martians (or Venusians in the Japanese version) possessing human hosts all collide in this movie as three of Toho's biggest monsters join forces to fight a golden three-headed space dragon with "a voice like a bell."

Despite breaking the new the groundwork for the majority of the films that would follow, Ghidorah pretty much never saw theatrical distribution outside Asian and American territories for some reason. Turkey is a notable European exception.

The film provides examples of

  • Aloof Ally: Godzilla and Rodan hate each other’s guts right up until the climax of the movie.
  • Ancient Astronauts: The few Venusians who escaped the destruction of the planet to Earth according to the princess.
  • Anti-Hero: Type IV-V. Godzilla and Rodan are still very much creatures against humans where up until the last 10-15 minutes of the film they did whatever they wanted and even then it was either looking out for their fellow monster or just flat out Enemy Mine.
  • Archenemy: This is the film that introduced King Ghidorah, who would go on to face Godzilla eight more times across four continuities.
  • Asshole Victim: Malmess and his men. His men die when one of Ghidorah's energy beams cause an avalanche that also injures Malmess. Malmess dies after another energy beam causes another rock slide.
  • Badass Normal:
    • Rodan is just a plain big pterosaur, but can go toe to toe with Godzilla, and pull awesome move after awesome move on the King of Terror himself. Then again, he’s a giant pterosaur capable of withstanding all known military weapons and direct hits from Godzilla and King Ghidorah’s respective breath weapons. The only thing that makes him significantly weaker than Godzilla is Rodan’s inability to breathe nuclear fire, but even then he compensates for that by being able to fly.
    • Malmess. It isn't everyone who can walk away (mostly) unscathed from a landslide that crushes his car.
  • Badass Adorable: The Mothra larva. Even though by comparison to Godzilla and Rodan he isn’t very powerful, he's still got enough guts not only to try to get them to stop fighting and ask them to help save the world from Ghidorah, but to then go and take on Ghidorah himself on his own (at first) when it seems the other two won't lift a claw in humankind's defense. He also refuses to stay down no matter what Ghidorah does to him. Godzilla and Rodan are quickly impressed by his courage and come to his aid.
  • Badass Pacifist: Mothra.
  • Beware The Cute Ones: Mothra, not Godzilla or Rodan, is the first to charge into battle against King Ghidorah and plays a key role in the dragon’s defeat.
  • Big Bad: King Ghidorah.
  • Blow You Away: Both Rodan and King Ghidorah can cause hurricane winds by flapping their wings, which can topple buildings and knock other kaiju off of their feet.
  • Body Guard Crush: Vibes of it with Shindo to Selina.
  • Breakout Villain: King Ghidorah
  • Bus Crash: One of the two Mothra larvae from the previous film died between films for no explained reason.
  • Butt Monkey: Godzilla is absolutely this in the movie in his fights with Rodan and especially King Ghidorah, with two Groin Attacks to boot.
  • Call Back: Godzilla's "clapping" Character Tic from King Kong vs. Godzilla is seen again briefly during the summit with Rodan and Mothra.
  • Cassandra Truth: Salno's predictions.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The male Rodan emerges from Mt. Aso, where he had seemingly been killed at the end of Rodan.
    • It's mentioned that Godzilla was once defeated by Mothra, and suggested that Mothra could defeat Ghidorah in the same manner.
    • Mothra's tail-biting attack makes a return—this time it's used against King Ghidorah.
  • Combat Tentacles: King Ghidorah's necks (and the heads attached to them) behave like this.
  • Cop and Scientist: Shindo and Dr. Tsukamoto in the second act.
  • Crisis Cross Over: The previous film linked Mothra and Godzilla but this one had Rodan coming in to join forces against a new enemy.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Though definitely monstrous in appearance, destructive, and incredibly self centered, Godzilla and Rodan are not truly evil. The lighter colored King Ghidorah, on the other hand…
  • Destructive Saviour: Godzilla and Rodan, oh so very much.
  • Death Ray: Godzilla's radioactive breath, obviously. And King Ghidorah's gravity beams too.
  • The Determinator:
    • Malmess, the Selginian assassin. He pulls himself out of his crushed Mercedes after a rockslide and, bruised and bloody, immediately resumes his mission as if nothing happened.
    • Mothra as well. Compared to the other monsters he's tiny. Yet he throws himself at King Ghidorah again and again. It's this show of raw courage that brings Godzilla and Rodan into the fray to help him drive off the three headed space monster.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?:
    • After watching Godzilla and Rodan swat a boulder back and forth like a volleyball, Mothra sprays Godzilla with silk to get his attention. When Rodan laughs - for lack of a better word - at Godzilla, Mothra sprays him too, causing Godzilla to laugh at Rodan.
    • Later, the same larva sprays silk at King Ghidorah.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: And then defeats him and forces him to retreat with the same silk, albeit with the assistance of two much stronger monsters.
  • Disney Villain Death: How Malmess meets his doom.
  • Eldritch Abomination: King Ghidorah is probably the greatest of all kaiju Eldritch Abominations, and this is him at his very best. He, as mentioned above, devastates entire worlds just for the fun of it.
  • Enemy Civil War: Two of the film's key antagonists, Godzilla and Rodan, spend the bulk of their screen time fighting each other instead of focusing on their personal vendettas against mankind. They only stop when Mothra convinces them to pull off a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Godzilla only decides to fight King Ghidorah when the space dragon attacks the much weaker Mothra larva.
  • Eviler Than Thou: Godzilla and Rodan are both fairly huge threats, but both cease being villains once Ghidorah makes the scene because they simply cannot compete.
  • Evil Laugh: Ghidorah has an iconic cackle which he uses constantly
  • Foreshadowing: Selina's ignored warnings to the ship's crew. Averted in the U.S. version, where the characters' dialogue make it pretty clear Godzilla's gonna be back in the game soon.
  • Freudian Excuse: This film gives Godzilla one; stating that he doesn't like humans because humans attack him. This may be justified as Godzilla tends to mind his own business since Godzilla Raids Again and humans usually respond by attacking him, pissing him off to no end. Rodan agrees with him as well.
  • Groin Attack: Poor Godzilla was in the receiving end of two of these. One when Rodan drops him on an electrical tower, and the other when King Ghidorah shoots him with his gravity beam.
  • Global Warming: The worldwide heatwave in the middle of January. Emphasized less in the U.S. cut.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Godzilla and Rodan quit waging war on humanity (and each other) to face the threat of King Ghidorah. This is also the beginning of Godzilla's change towards a heroic defender of Earth.
  • Human Aliens: The Venusian/Martian. Maybe… really, her whole deal is something of a Mind Screw.
  • Implacable Man:
    • King Ghidorah is nearly unstoppable, requiring the combined efforts of three kaiju to chase him off.
    • Malmess as well.
  • Jump Cut: Ghidorah is the victim of a very prominent one, during his otherwise fantastic materialization shot.
  • Light Is Not Good: Ghidorah is a beautiful, golden, shiny dragon. Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra Larva are duller, darker-toned entities, with Godzilla being nearly black and Mothra resembling a large, mobile piece of dung.
  • Lilliputians: The Shobijin, for obvious reasons. In fact, they are only one foot high.
  • Little People Are Surreal: The Shobijin, again. They talk in unison, can teleport, and are priestesses of a gigantic-ass caterpillar deity.
  • Master of Unlocking: One of the assassins. He makes a show of picking the lock on Selina's hotel room door.
  • No Pronunciation Guide: Naoko's name isn't really pronounced correctly most of the time in the English version.
  • Not Quite Dead: The male Rodan from Rodan survived diving into the volcano Mt. Aso at the end of the movie, and emerges a third of the way through this movie.
  • No Sell: Rodan is completely unfazed by Godzilla blasting him point-blank with his Atomic Breath.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: While other major themes are widely known to be from Ifukube's earlier work, Ghidorah's theme is in fact a modified form of the lunar motif from Battle in Outer Space.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Ghidorah arrives within a meteorite. Subverted when Ghidorah breaks out without any help from outsiders. Averted when it becomes known that this is simply how Ghidorah travels between planets and conserves energy—there is no sealing up of any kind by anyone.
  • Sir Swears Alot: If what the Shobijin say is accurate in their translation, Godzilla is this, though the "Oh Godzilla, what terrible language!" line was just an addition of the dubbing studio to add some more humor to the scene. In the Japanese version of the scene, Rodan and Godzilla come close to agreeing with Mothra at that point instead.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Gojira, Godzilla, Mosura, Mothra, Radon, Rodan, Ghidrah, Ghidorah...
  • Staring Down Cthulhu: Mothra, in his generally helpless larval stage, faces down King Ghidorah, the King of Terror who wrecks worlds for the fun of it. Alone (initially). He's outmatched and he knows it. But he does it anyway.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Naoko and Selina, depending on which personality the latter has, can go each way. Selina can do it in one body with her natural personality being quite feminine, even not so assertive, and her ancestral possession being a bit tomboyish and also suddenly very independent and assertive.
  • The Unfettered: Malmess again. To him, a giant, golden, lightning-spewing space dragon is a negligible inconvenience to his mission to kill a princess. Then again, Malmess was threatened by his boss with death as punishment if he returned home without completing his mission, so he actually has a valid reason to keep going.
  • Up to Eleven: Malmess turns the clinic's voltage up to 3,000 for insurance, even though any current above 500 would've proved fatal to the Princess.
  • Worf Barrage: Godzilla's ray proves all but useless against Rodan. This is especially notable when taken into perspective, where in earlier films Godzilla's breath was used mostly as a last resort and often had devastating effects on opponents.