Following the success of King Kong vs. Godzilla, 1964 was notable in the big guy’s history on the silver screen because it is the only year in which two Godzilla movies were released. It was also the first time that the films weren’t radically altered between the Japanese and the American versions. The first film released in 1964, Mothra vs. Godzilla (released in the US as Godzilla vs. the Thing) marked the last time for the Showa era of Godzilla movies where Godzilla was portrayed as the bad guy (he would return to being a menace in 1985). The second film for 1964, Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster (also known as Ghidrah, the Three Headed Monster) introduced King Ghidorah to audiences for the first time, who in two other films (Monster Zero in 1965 and Destroy All Monsters in 1968) became one of the main enemies of Godzilla. Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster marked the beginning of a stretch of films where Godzilla was portrayed more as a protector of Earth than an actual menace.
(Trailer for Godzilla vs. The Thing courtesy of Dom699)
(Trailer for Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster courtesy of Humanoidity)
Godzilla vs. the Thing brought Mothra into the series, and the giant moth appeared in several movies with the fire breathing lizard over the years. Mothra is also one of the monsters featured in a Godzilla movie that had her own flick (Mothra was released in 1961). The plot dealt with a greedy developer who sought to dry up a part of the ocean off Tokyo for the sole reason of building luxury condos. During a storm, a giant egg washes ashore, and is put on public display. Godzilla again appears on the scene, threatening Tokyo once more. It then becomes up to Mothra and her two offspring to combat Godzilla, urged on by two fairy twins and halt the destruction of the city. The film was once again directed by Ishiro Honda, with music by Akira Ifukube. It took a more serious tone than the more comedic slant of King Kong vs. Godzilla, and Godzilla’s appearance was again slightly altered. In fact, two suits were used in the filming- the old one from King Kong vs. Godzilla, which was shot from behind in the water scenes, and a new one made for this film and for Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster. Godzilla was made to be more menacing in this film, and it was a look that stuck with him throughout the sixties.
In Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster, the menace comes from space when a meteorite crashed to Earth. Out of the meteorite emerges Ghidorah, in his first appearance in the series. The movie was also the first where Godzilla teamed up with other monsters to fight against a common foe- in this case he teamed up with Mothra and Rodan (Rodan had also had his own movie, which was released in 1956), a giant pterodactyl like beast. This was also the first and only time that Ghidorah acted on his own accord, as in subsequent films Ghidorah was under the control of aliens. The movie is also notable as Godzilla never uses his radioactive breath on Ghidorah (Rodan instead uses it). The film established a new villainous monster for Toho, one who would return again on the silver screen and also appeared on television. It proved to be one of the better films in the series, and gave Godzilla one of his greatest foes.
The rest of the 60s had Godzilla in battle with a multitude of beasties. I’ll cover those films in our next installment of our month long tribute to Godzilla.
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