Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, released in Japan as San Daikaijū: Chikyū Saidai no Kessen (三大怪獣 地球最大の決戦, lit. "Three Giant Monsters: The Greatest Battle on Earth"), is a 1964 Japanese science fiction kaiju film produced by Toho. Directed by Ishirō Honda, and featuring special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya, the film starred Yosuke Natsuki, Hiroshi Koizumi, and Akiko Wakabayashi. It is the fifth film in the Godzilla series and was the second Godzilla film produced that year (production began following Mothra vs Godzilla). This film marked the change of Godzilla from villain to hero in the series and featured the first appearance of King Ghidorah.
The film was released theatrically in the United States in the Fall of 1965 by Continental Distributing as Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster.
Police Detective Shindo (Yosuke Natsuki) is assigned to guard Princess Selina Salno of Selgina (Akiko Wakabayashi) during the Princess' visit to Japan, due to a suspected assassination plot. Although Shindo is smitten with Selina's photograph, her plane never makes it to Japan, as it is destroyed by a bomb en route. At exactly the same time a meteorite shower draws the attention of Professor Murai (Hiroshi Koizumi), who along with his team of scientists strikes out into the wilderness to examine the largest of the meteors, which has magnetic properties.
To Shindo's surprise, the supposedly deceased Selina turns up in Japan, without her royal garb (including the golden bracelet that proves she is heir to the throne of Selgina), claiming to be from the planet Mars (in the English dub), and preaching to skeptical crowds of forthcoming disaster. To their surprise however, her prophecies begin coming true. First she predicts Rodan, thought dead in the eruption of Mt. Aso, will emerge from Aso's crater. Subsequently, none other than Godzilla will arise from the sea and destroy a ship. Both of these events transpire.
In the meantime, Selina's uncle (Shin Otomo), who was behind the assassination attempt, learns of her survival and sends his best assassin Malness (Hisaya Ito) to Japan to dispatch the Princess and steal the golden bracelet. Malness and his henchmen are stopped by Shindo, who was warned of their attempt by the Shobijin (Emi and Yumi Ito), who were in Japan appearing on a television show. The Shobijin had been scheduled to return to Infant Island aboard the ship sunk by Godzilla, but opted not to go after overhearing Selina's prophecy. A further attempt by the assassins is thwarted when both Godzilla and Rodan attack the city and engage in battle, forcing everyone to flee.
Convinced that Selina is insane, Shindo takes the Princess to see a renowned psychiatrist, Dr. Tsukamoto (Takashi Shimura), in the hopes of curing her. However, Tsukamoto can find nothing wrong with her, mentally or physically. He concludes she must therefore truly be possessed by a Martian as she claims. As if emboldened by the doctor's diagnosis, Selina reveals her final prophecy—that Mars' once thriving civilization was destroyed by an evil, golden three-headed dragon named King Ghidorah, and furthermore that Ghidorah himself has already arrived on Earth. No sooner has she revealed this than Professor Murai and his colleagues at the meteor crash site receive a nasty surprise—the "meteor" is actually an egg, which hatches into the fearsome King Ghidorah. Ghidorah begins razing the countryside.
To combat the combined threats of the three monsters, the Japanese government enlists the aid of the Shobijin to summon Mothra (the surviving larvae from the previous film). Upon arriving on the Japanese mainland, Mothra attempts to persuade the quarreling Godzilla and Rodan to team up against the evil alien (which is translated to the humans by the Shobijin) but both refuse, with Godzilla stating they have no reason to save mankind as both he and Rodan "have always had trouble with men and men hate them", to which Rodan agrees. Despite Mothra stating that Earth belongs to them as well and that it is their duty to defend it, Godzilla and Rodan still refuse (with Godzilla apparently swearing at Mothra) and the pair refuse to forgive each other, wanting to continue their fight. Unable to convince them and despite being vastly outmatched, Mothra calls the pair of them "bullheaded" and resolves to fight Ghidorah by herself. Mothra engages Ghidorah and is continually blasted by his gravity beams. Fortunately for Mothra, Godzilla and Rodan, impressed by her courage and selflessness, arrive to help, and a titanic battle against Ghidorah begins. Meanwhile, Shindo and Dr. Tsukamoto are forced to protect Princess Selina as Malness and his men converge on Tsukamoto's clinic; they manage to fend off the killers and escape into the mountains as the dueling monsters draw closer.
The assassins attempt to follow, but a stray blast from Ghidorah buries their car in an avalanche. Only Malness remains uninjured enough to continue. He attempts to snipe the Princess from an elevated position, but only injures her. In her pain, she regains her memory and is no longer possessed by the Martian. Before Malness can take another shot, another stray blast from Ghidorah buries the assassin under a second avalanche. With the heroes thus saved from the human menace, they gather at a safe distance to watch the battle between earth's monsters and Ghidorah. After now gaining a clear advantage over Ghidorah, the three monsters coordinate their attack; Godzilla grabs hold of Ghidorah's tails while Mothra (riding on Rodan's back) sprays the three-headed dragon with her silk. Finally, Godzilla throws the alien beast off the cliff and the battered dragon flies off, back into outer space.
As Mothra and the Shobijin return to Infant Island while Godzilla and Rodan go their separate ways, Selina, having retained the memories of her time with Shindo, bids farewell to her guardian as she meets her bodyguards at the airport to return home.
An early concept for Ghidorah had rainbow-colored wings and a purple body with three heads spitting fire from their mouths, instead of lightning which was used in the final draft.
The English-dubbed version was presented in American theaters in September 1965 by Walter Reade-Sterling, and distributed by Continental Distributing. Originally titled Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster.
Several alterations were made to the American version, including:
Much of Akira Ifukube's score was replaced with library music.
King Ghidorah's name was romanized as "Ghidrah".
In the English version, King Ghidorah destroys Mars (it was Venus in the Japanese version), and the Princess claims that she is from Mars. This was most likely because of the strong association the western world has with the possibility of Mars having been able to support life.
When Godzilla first surfaces, Rodan is also present in the American version. In the Japanese version, only Godzilla appears in this scene.
Continuity error: The sequence of Godzilla climbing on the docks in Yokohama harbor was changed around. First it is on the docks, then appears to be back in the bay, and then back on shore.
The scene in which the Shobijins sing Mothra's Song a second time to summon Mothra is cut.
The shot of the assassins escaping during Godzilla's rampage in Yokohama is deleted.
The scene of Princess Salno telling Dr. Tsukamoto, Shindo, and Naoko about Ghidorah's arrival occurs after it comes from the meteorite in the American version.
The English version runs 85 minutes, seven minutes shorter than the original Japanese version.
In the English version, the meteorite containing Ghidorah crash lands before the princess' plane explodes, not after as was seen in the Japanese version.
Reviewing the American version, Leonard Maltin gives the film two and a half stars, calling it "one of the better Toho monster rallies”.
Three Giant Monsters: The Greatest Battle On Earth – Translation of Japanese title
Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster – Original U.S. title
Monster of Monsters, Ghidora – Toho's original English title
Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster – Toho's current English title. Classic Media used this title for their DVD
Release date: June 5, 2007
Special features: Eiji Tsuburaya biography and audio commentary by David Kalat.
Note: Contains both original Japanese and English versions.
Note: Part of the Toho Collection
Details (Original film)