"Invasion of Astro Monster" (1965) d/ Ishiro Honda
Man, this one was a Saturday afternoon staple of mine growing up, seemingly always on television, much to the dismay of my old man, who never passed up the opportunity to point out how fake the suitmation effects were from the comfort of the living room couch, and/or how stupid the movies were because of said special effects, though he could never be bothered to get up and change the channel, despite his feigned disgust. That's right, woprophiles, in the mid-70s, there were no remote controls to speak of, and if you wanted to change the channel (to one of the other seven or eight available) you had to get up off your lazy ass and twist a massive channel knob on the front of the set to do it. Anyway, tonight's review marks the sixth Godzilla film in the Showa series, and the first Japanese/American co-production of a such a movie.
"No, I don't want to drive to West Nanticoke for promazine and pierogies, Adams..."
Fuji and Glenn (Akira Takarada, Nick Adams) are sent on an interstellar mission to the mysterious Planet X, where they're taken into an underground base by the leather-clad Xilien race, as led by the hand gesturing Controller (Yoshio Tsuchiya), who points out that his people have been fearfully forced to move their operations under the planet's surface to avoid the regular lightning attacks of Monster Zero, instantly recognized by the astronauts as the fearsome King Ghidorah, who'd wreaked havoc on Earth once before. In return for a cure for cancer (or any disease you can think of, according to the English dub), the Controller requests the use of two of Earth's monsters, Godzilla and Rodan, to combat their flying three-headed pest on Planet X, sending the men back to their own planet with his proposition. Also, there's an inventor named Tetsuo (not to be confused with the Iron Man) who's romantically linked to Fuji's sister, who's kidnapped by Xilien spies after getting scammed out of a deafening siren he's whipped up.
Q: Are we not men? A: No! We are Xiliens.
Our space travelling heroes begin to suspect things are not what they appear after three Xilien spacecrafts make the scene on Earth to transport Godzilla and Rodan, both in hibernation, back to Planet X in massive energy bubbles. Fuji, Glenn, and a scientist named Sakurai accompany the monsters on their trip, and it isn't long before the astronauts encounter multiple lookalikes of the businesswoman (Kumi Mizuno) who shafted Tetsuo out of his invention among the Xilien ranks. The controller sends the men back to Earth with a tape containing the miracle cure instructions after Godzilla and Rodan successfully drive away King Ghidorah on the surface of X, but when the tape is played for world leaders, it sounds nothing like a formula for drugs and everything like an ultimatum to the people of Earth to surrender their planet to the Xiliens else they will face the combined force of Godzilla, Rodan, and King Ghidorah, who's been controlled by the alien race the whole time. Should have used PayPal to avoid a transaction dispute, I'd imagine.
- 1 Wop :Still not the most preposterous thing Godzilla's ever done on camera, but damned close.
Tonight's movie, which comprised half of a great double bill in 1970, under the alternate "Monster Zero" title and paired with War of the Gargantuas (1966), stands as one of two Toho films that Nanticoke, Pa. native, Nick Adams, would appear in, also co-starring with Boris Karloff in the British production of Die Monster Die! (1965), before an accidental overdose claimed the actor's life in 1968. You can visit his grave in Berwick. Akira Takarada had appeared in the original Godzilla (1954), Mothra vs Godzilla (1964), Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster (1966), and King Kong Escapes (1966), before returning triumphantly to daikaiju films in 1992's Godzilla vs Mothra reboot and 2004's Godzilla: Final Wars. I'm not a huge fan of any of the monster suits they used here, with a middling Godzilla, the clumpy-looking toupees of Showa King Ghidorah, and my least favorite Rodan, looking like he rides the kaiju short bus, to date. At least Godzilla doesn't have his '64 eyebrows, I suppose. Opinions are funny like that. Still, there's enough entertainment here to warrant a pair of Wops overall. Check it out for yourselves.
It's like thunder, lightning, the way I love Ghidorah is frightening. He'd need arms to knock on wood, though.