Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)
— Japanese tagline
The biggest fight on Earth! Ghidorah from outer space battles Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra!
— International tagline
Ghidrah! The three-headed monster battles Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan for the world!
All new sights! All never to be forgotten! SEE GHIDRAH created from an atomic fireball! SEE Godzilla come from the depths of the ocean to bring terror to the world! SEE Rodan awaken to monstrous life in volcanic fires! SEE unimaginable terrors that will never be equaled! SEE the world quake before the unleashed fury of the battle of monsters!
— American taglines
Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (三大怪獣 地球最大の決戦 is a San Daikaijū: Chikyū Saidai no Kessen, lit. Three Giant Monsters: The Greatest Battle on Earth)1964 tokusatsu kaiju film produced by Toho, and the fifth installment in the Godzilla series as well as the Showa series. The film was released to Japanese theaters on December 20, 1964.
Released the same year as Mothra vs. Godzilla, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster continues the former's trend of bringing another Toho monster introduced in its own standalone film into the Godzilla series, this time the flying monster Rodan. The film is also noteworthy for introducing Godzilla's arch-nemesis and one of Toho's most famous kaiju: the three-headed King Ghidorah. Following a meteor impact in Japan's Kurobe Valley, a prophetess claiming to be from Venus appears and warns of great calamities to befall the Earth. Her predictions come true as Rodan resurfaces from Mount Aso and Godzilla comes ashore once again in Japan. While the two monsters battle, the evil King Ghidorah emerges from the meteorite and begins obliterating everything in his path. Now, the only way to save the world from destruction lies in the larval Mothra convincing Godzilla and Rodan to join forces with her; only then can the Earth monsters stand a chance against the extraterrestrial evil threatening their planet.
During an unseasonably warm winter night, reporter Naoko Shindo observes members of a UFO club searching the sky for flying saucers. When the club fails to spot any UFOs, the head member laments that the aliens won't reveal themselves because they brought a non-believer into their midst. Naoko incredulously asks if they actually believe aliens exist, to which the head of the club replies that there are many strange phenomena occurring across the globe, such as the incredibly warm temperatures in the winter months. Naoko asks if he thinks the world will explode, but he replies he simply feels something terrible will happen soon. Just then, a huge meteor shower falls over Japan, with one particularly large meteor crashing into the Kurobe valley. Meanwhile, Naoko's brother, Detective Shindo, is given an assignment by his chief of police. Shindo is assigned to act as the bodyguard for Princess Maas Doulina Salno, ruler of the small Himalayan kingdom of Selgina, who will be visiting Japan to escape political opposition in her home country. While Princess Salno's plane is flying over Japan, she suddenly becomes possessed by a mysterious voice, who orders her to jump out of the plane immediately just before it is blown up by a bomb.
Professor Murai and his team arrive near Kurobe Dam and are assigned to study the meteor that crashed in the Kurobe valley. As they approach, they find that their compasses are all malfunctioning. Once they reach the meteor, they discover that it is emitting a powerful magnetic force. They immediately begin studying the strange meteor, which they discover is slowly growing in size. Elsewhere in Japan, a mysterious woman appears and begins offering ominous predictions for the future. Naoko is sent to cover the prophetess, and attempts to gain an interview with her. When Naoko asks the prophetess where she is from, she claims to hail from Venus, and warns that terrible disasters will begin to befall the planet, starting at Mount Aso. When Shindo sees a picture of the prophetess, he notices she bears a strong resemblance to the Princess, and asks the chief to allow him to pursue the case. Meanwhile, the head of the political opposition in Selgina learns that a woman strongly resembling the Princess has been seen in Japan. He orders the assassin Malmess, who had previously assassinated Princess Salno's father, to travel to Japan and finish the job, or be killed himself.
While searching for leads on the prophetess, Shindo encounters his sister, who is also looking for the prophetess to continue her story. The two of them go to a bar to meet with Murai, with whom Naoko is working on a story about the meteor in Kurobe. While they are at the bar, they see a news report on the television showing the prophetess speaking at Mt. Aso. She warns the surrounding crowds that volcanic gases accumulated inside the mountain will resurrect Rodan, but her warnings are laughed off by the crowd. However, true to her warnings, Rodan emerges from the crater and takes flight. As Rodan resumes his reign of terror across Japan, the Venusian reappears at a port, warning that the cruise ship preparing to leave there must not sail. The captain stubbornly refuses to heed her warnings, but the Shobijin, who are passengers on the ship, are intrigued by her prediction. Naoko arrives at the scene and convinces the prophetess to come with her to a hotel so she can do a story on her. Malmess and his men follow them to the hotel, and enter the room when Naoko leaves. Malmess tries to find out for certain that the woman is the Princess, and holds a knife to her throat to threaten her. Meanwhile, Shindo arrives at the hotel to try and secure the prophetess, believing her to be the Princess. When he enters the room, the Shobijin kill the lights and warn that killers are in the room. Shindo opens fire and chases the assassins off, and once the lights are turned back on he finds the prophetess meditating in a corner. Naoko asks why the Shobijin are here, and they reply that they are heeding the prophetess' warning.
True to the prophetess' prediction, the cruise ship is destroyed when Godzilla rises from the ocean and obliterates it with his atomic breath. Godzilla comes ashore in Yokohama and his attention is caught by Rodan flying overhead. Godzilla follows Rodan to the Mount Fuji area, where they begin a fierce battle. Shindo brings the prophetess to the laboratory of Dr. Tsukamoto, who attempts to diagnose whatever mental illness is affecting her. All of the doctor's attempts to get the truth out of the prophetess fail, and she still claims to be a Venusian. She claims that thousands of years ago, Venus was home to a great civilization far more advanced than Earth's. However, an evil space monster called King Ghidorah arrived on the planet and completely annihilated its civilization in a single day. The few Venusians that survived the attack fled to Earth, where they were assimilated into the planet's civilization and gradually lost their identity. She goes on to claim that she is one of the last descendants of the Venusian refugees, and retains her ancestors' power of prophecy. She warns that King Ghidorah has already arrived on Earth, and will do the same to it what he did to Venus thousands of years before.
In Kurobe, Murai and his men notice that the meteor's magnetism has seemingly stopped, and they have not noticed any more strange phenomena recently. Suddenly, the meteor begins emitting strong magnetism once again, and they resume their intense study of it. While they are sleeping one night, the meteor splits open and begins spewing sparks. Murai holds up a Geiger counter, which registers a strong radioactive reading. Soon, a pillar of flames blasts from the meteor into the sky, where it materializes into King Ghidorah, a three-headed golden dragon. King Ghidorah flies over Japan, blasting apart its cities with his gravity beams. With King Ghidorah, Godzilla, and Rodan terrorizing Japan, the government convenes an emergency meeting at the National Diet Building. Murai, Naoko and the Shobijin attend the meeting, and propose a desperate plan to get Mothra to battle King Ghidorah, like she did against Godzilla previously. The Shobijin warn that Mothra is still a larva, and cannot hope to stand against King Ghidorah on her own. But, they propose that if Mothra were to join forces with Godzilla and Rodan, the three of them could overcome the space monster. As King Ghidorah flies over Tokyo, the Cabinet begs the Shobijin to call Mothra. The Shobijin oblige, and Mothra sets off from Infant Island.
Back in Tsukamoto's laboratory, the doctor prepares to administer electroshock therapy to the prophetess and hopefully clear her mind. Shindo sets the voltage to the required level, after which Malmess sneaks in and sets the voltage to a lethal level, letting Tsukamoto kill the princess for them. Just before the lethal shock can be administered, Rodan drops Godzilla onto a power pylon, knocking out all power in the area. As Malmess and his men breach the laboratory and try to shoot the princess, Naoko and Murai arrive to tell Shindo about their plan. Shindo engages in a brief shootout with Malmess and his men before they flee, then gets into a car with Tsukamoto, the prophetess, Murai, Naoko and the Shobijin. Once they reach a traffic jam, they exit the car and climb to a hill to witness Mothra attempt to convince Godzilla and Rodan to help her. As Godzilla and Rodan throw rocks back and forth at each other, Mothra arrives at Mt. Fuji and restrains them with silk. Godzilla and Rodan reluctantly stop their fight and listen to Mothra. The Shobijin translate the monsters' conversation, which begins with Mothra asking Godzilla and Rodan to help her fight King Ghidorah. They both refuse, saying they have no reason to help humanity, as humans have always attacked them. Mothra insists that the Earth belongs to all beings, not just humans or monsters, but Godzilla and Rodan each stubbornly refuse, each demanding the other apologize. With her pleas falling on deaf ears, Mothra gives up and attempts to battle King Ghidorah by herself. King Ghidorah lands near Mt. Fuji and repeatedly blasts Mothra aside with his gravity beams. Godzilla and Rodan are inspired by the larva's courage, and decide to help her battle King Ghidorah.
As the Earth monsters struggle against the space demon, Shindo notices that the prophetess has wandered off and is standing over a gorge, praying. Malmess climbs to the top of the other side of the gorge and opens fire on the prophetess with a sniper rifle. One shot grazes her head and causes her to fall onto another ledge. Shindo jumps down to help her, and finds that she has returned to her right mind and now knows she is actually Princess Salno. As Malmess opens fire on her and Shindo, the princess recognizes Malmess and calls him a traitor. Just before Malmess can kill either of them, one of King Ghidorah's stray gravity beams strikes the mountainside, causing an avalanche that sends Malmess plummeting to his death in the gorge below. Tsukamoto and the others help Shindo and the princess to safety, while the Earth monsters gain the upper hand against King Ghidorah. When Mothra covers King Ghidorah in silk, Godzilla grabs him and throws him off a cliff, after which he begins pelting him with boulders. Finally, King Ghidorah takes flight and flees into space, while Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra look on.
Sometime later, Shindo, Tsukamoto, Naoko and Murai are present at the airport to bid farewell to the princess before she departs for Selgina. The princess asks Tsukamoto how she regained her consciousness, to which he replies it was the shock from being shot in the head. When she asks if her psychic abilities will ever return, Tsukamoto tells her it's impossible to tell. Just before she leaves, Princess Salno approaches Shindo and thanks him for saving her life three times. She says that the only things she can remember from when she thought she was a Venusian are the times when Shindo saved her. She assures Shindo that she will never forget him, then leaves in a plane. Elsewhere, Godzilla and Rodan watch from afar as Mothra and the Shobjin swim back to Infant Island.
- Main article: Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster/Credits.
Staff role on the left, staff member's name on the right.
- Directed by Ishiro Honda
- Written by Shinichi Sekizawa
- Produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka
- Stock music by Sei Ikeno
- Music by Akira Ifukube
- Cinematography by Hajime Koizumi
- Edited by Ryohei Fujii
- Production design by Takeo Kita
- Assistant directors Koji Hashimoto, Ken Sano
- Director of special effects Eiji Tsuburaya
- Assistant director of special effects Teruyoshi Nakano
- "Call Happiness" performed by The Peanuts, Emi and Yumi Ito
- Composed by Hiroshi Miyagawa
- Lyrics by Tokiko Iwatani
Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.
- Yosuke Natsuki as Detective Shindo, Metropolitan Police Department
- Yuriko Hoshi as Naoko Shindo, reporter for Mystery in the 20th Century
- Hiroshi Koizumi as Murai, associate professor at Teikoku Institute of Technology
- Takashi Shimura as Dr. Tsukamoto, psychiatrist
- Emi Ito and Yumi Ito as Shobijin
- Akiko Wakabayashi as Princess Maas Doulina Salno, monarch of Selgina
- Hisaya Ito as Malmess, chief assassin
- Susumu Kurobe as Assassin
- Akihiko Hirata as Chief Detective Okita
- Kenji Sahara as Kanamaki, Mystery in the 20th Century editor-in-chief
- Toru Ibuki as Assassin
- Kozo Nomura as Research team member
- Yoshibumi Tajima as Ship captain
- Hideyo Amamoto as Princess Salno's butler[a]
- Yoshio Kosugi as Infant Island chief
- Minoru Takada as Defense council chairman
- Yuriko Hanabusa as Sato Shindo, Shindo's mother
- Haruya Kato as Komaki, reporter
- Ikio Sawamura as Fisherman
- Nakajiro Tomita as Minister of Defense
- Shigeki Ishida as Member of the Diet
- Shin Otomo as Man in easy chair
- Yutaka Nakayama as Husband
- Senkichi Omura as Mount Aso tour guide
- Somesho Matsumoto as UFO club chairman
- Kazuo Suzuki as Assassin
- Senya and Ichiya Aozora as TV presenters
- Henry Okawa as UFO club member
- Junichiro Mukai, Toshihiko Furuta as Members of the Diet
- Seiji Ikeda as Village police officer
- Hideo Shibuya as Mt. Aso Volcano Research Institute staff member / villager
- Keiichiro Katsumoto, Shoichi Hirose as Villagers
- Koji Uno as Misumi Hotel manager
- Daisuke Inoe as Spectator in Ueno Park
- Toshio Miura as Miura, researcher
- Tamami Urayama as Tama-chan, wife
- Takuzo Kumagai as Minister of State
- Mitsuo Tsuda as Member of the Diet
- Yoshio Katsube as Newspaper reporter
- Kamayuki Tsubono as Ship crew member
- Kazuo Imai as Researcher
- Saburo Kadowaki, Ken Echigo, Toku Ihara as Spectators in Ueno Park
- Bin Furuya, Jun Kuroki as Research team members
- Yutaka Oka as Power company employee
- Haruo Nakajima, Katsumi Tezuka as Godzilla
- Koji Uruki as Rodan[b]
- Shoichi Hirose, Haruya Sakamoto as King Ghidorah
Weapons, vehicles, and races
- Main article: Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster/Gallery.
- Main article: Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (Soundtrack).
- Three Giant Monsters: The Greatest Battle on Earth (Literal Japanese title)
- Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: The Greatest Battle on Earth (ゴジラ·モスラ·キングギドラ: 地球最大の決戦 Gojira, Mosura, Kingu Gidora: Chikyū Saidai no Kessen, Japanese re-release title)
- Space Monster King Ghidorah (宇宙怪獣キングギドラ Uchū Kaijū Kingu Gidora, Japanese 8mm title)
- Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster (United States)
- Monster of Monsters, Ghidorah (original international title)
- Frankenstein's Monsters in Battle against Ghidorah (Frankensteins Monster im Kampf gegen Ghidorah; Germany)
- Four Giant Monsters: The Greatest Battle on Earth (四大怪獸地球大決戰; Taiwan)
- Ghidrah, Monster of 3 Heads (Ghidra, Monstruo de 3 Cabezas; Spain; Mexico)
- Ghidrah, the Monster of Three Heads (Ghidra, el Monstruo de Tres Cabezas; Argentina)
- Ghidorah, Monster of Monsters (Gidorah, Canavarlar Canavari; Turkey)
- Ghidrah, the Tricephalic Monster (Ghidrah, o Monstro Tricéfalo; Brazil)
- Godzilla Against Ghidorah, the Dragon of Three Heads (Godzilla contra Ghidorah, el Dragon de Tres Cabezas; Spain)
View all posters for the film here.
- Japan - December 20, 1964 [view poster]; December 12, 1971 (Toho Champion Festival) [view poster]
- United States - September 13, 1965 [view poster]
- Thailand - 1965
- Mexico - 1967 [view poster]
- Turkey - 1960s [view poster]
- Argentina [view poster]
- Brazil - February 27, 1967 [view poster]
- Pakistan - 1967 [view poster]
Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster was dubbed into English by Bellucci Productions and released in the United States by the Walter Reade Organization, under the title Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster. Like many Godzilla films before it, the American version made several alterations to the film.
- Rather than being referred to by his full name, King Ghidorah's name is shortened to "Ghidrah" in the dub, presumably because it sounds more like "hydra." The "o" was also possibly seen as a redundant syllable in English as Gidora is always intoned without emphasis on the middle syllable in Japanese.
- Maas Doulina Salno claims to be from Mars in the dub, rather than Venus as in the original version.
- Numerous scenes were rearranged from the order in which they appeared in the original Japanese print, such as the old man whom the Princess trades the bracelet with identifying her in the police station and the battles between Godzilla and Rodan. The Princess originally told King Ghidorah's tale before the monster emerged from the meteorite, and the arrival of the assassins happens at an earlier time than it did in the Japanese version. Godzilla's appearance in Yokohama was mistakenly rearranged, in his first shot of the scene he appears on land, in the next shot he is in the water, and then he again appears on land. Rodan emerging from Mount Aso was mistakenly rearranged as well. In one shot his whole body can be seen rising out of the crater's wall when in the following shots he is still trying to raise his head out from the rocks.
- The majority of Akira Ifukube's original score for the film was replaced with music from other American films.
- Mothra is referred to as a male in the dub.
- The American version runs roughly seven minutes shorter than the Japanese version.
Several scenes were also altered or removed.
- Altered: In Godzilla's first appearance Rodan appears in the sky before Godzilla destroys the ship. The scene originally showed Godzilla rising from the sea and then destroying the boat almost uninterrupted.
- Deleted: Shindo sees Naoko being dropped off by Professor Murai at their home, explaining why Shindo was asking his mother about his sister having a boyfriend when returning home.
- Deleted: Rodan lets out his signature roar when his head emerges from the cave wall.
- Deleted: Brief shot of Rodan hovering over the volcano after he emerges.
- Deleted: Before leaving the hotel room, Shindo witnesses a ship exploding in the harbor after being hit by Godzilla's atomic breath.
- Deleted: The assassins are seen trying to escape Yokohama during Godzilla's landing.
- Altered and Deleted: The Shobijin singing the song "Call Happiness" when calling for Mothra. When the Shobijin first sing the song while appearing on television, the song is dubbed over by a narration that translates the lyrics into English. The scene where the Shobijin sing the song a second time to summon Mothra to Japan is removed entirely.
United Kingdom release
Mountain Films brought Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster to VHS in 1983. Sony released the Japanese version on Blu-ray in 2019 as part of the The Criterion Collection's Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films, 1954–1975 box set.
In the original December 20th, 1964 Japanese release of the film, it had an attendance of 4,320,000 and grossed ¥210,000,000. In the film's theatrical re-issue on December 12th, 1971, it sold 1,090,000 tickets, adding up to a total of 5,410,000 attendees.
When Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster was released in the United States, its film rentals added up to roughly $1,300,000.
Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster is liked for its monster brawl and respected for being the film that started Godzilla's gradual change into a hero.
Toho DVD (2001)
- Region: 2
- Discs: 1
- Audio: Japanese (1.0 and 5.1)
- Subtitles: Japanese
- Special features: Audio commentary, isolated score, theatrical trailer, behind-the-scenes footage (11 minutes), Toho Storybook version of the film, 8mm version of the film (4 minutes)
- Region: 1
- Discs: 1
- Audio: Japanese (2.0 Mono), English (2.0 Mono)
- Subtitles: English
- Special features: Audio commentary by David Kalat, Eiji Tsuburaya featurette (7 minutes), poster slideshow
- Notes: Read the details of the U.S. version's reconstruction here. Reissued in 2012, both releases are out of print.
Toho Blu-ray (2010)
- Region: A/1
- Audio: Japanese LPCM 2.0. TrueHD 5.1, isolated score
- Special features: Theatrical trailer, 1971 Toho Champion Festival cut, 8mm narrated behind the scenes footage, interview with Haruo Nakajima, 8mm promotional footage, audio commentary
8-Films Blu-ray (2016)
- Region: B/2
- Discs: 1
- Audio: Japanese (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), German (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1)
- Subtitles: German
- Special features: Audio commentary by Jörg Buttgereit and Bodo Traber, isolated score, Japanese and German trailers, interview with Shusuke Kaneko (21 minutes), behind-the-scenes footage (11 minutes)
- Region: A/1 or B/2
- Discs: 8
- Audio: Japanese
- Subtitles: English
- Special features: All bonus features on Criterion's Godzilla Blu-ray, 1990 Ishiro Honda interview by Yoshimitsu Banno, interview with director Alex Cox, interviews with actors Bin Furuya and Tsugutoshi Komada, 2011 interview with critic Tadao Sato, unused effects sequences from Toho releases including Destroy All Monsters, trailers, illustrated hardcover book with an essay by Steve Ryfle and liner notes on each film by Ed Godziszewski
- Notes: Uses a new English subtitle translation by Jason Franzman. Sony distributed a Region B/2 version of the set in the United Kingdom.
- Not once (at least on-screen) does Godzilla use his atomic breath against King Ghidorah in battle, while he does use it repeatedly, with no apparent effect, against Rodan.
- An early concept for King Ghidorah had him with rainbow-colored wings and a purple body with his three heads spitting fire from their mouths instead of gravity beams.
- In Shinichi Sekizawa's screenplay for the film, all that is said in terms of a physical description of King Ghidorah is: "It has three heads, two tails, and a voice like a bell." From this, Eiji Tsuburaya designed King Ghidorah, which proved to be one of his most innovative and popular creations.
- Originally it was planned for an adult Mothra to appear along with the larva in this film. This idea was cut from the film over concerns that adding the adult Mothra puppet to scenes with Rodan and King Ghidorah, who also needed many wires to operate, would be too difficult for the special effects crew and filming.
- This film is the first Godzilla film not to feature any JSDF or military vehicles, such as tanks or jets.
- This film marks the second screen appearance of Rodan, and the monster's first appearance in a Godzilla film.
- This is the first film to portray Godzilla as a hero. Also, in the conversation with Mothra he states that he only hates humans because humans attack him with their weapons and military, suggesting that he was not really a villain in the first place.
- In the American dub, when the Shobijin are translating Mothra, Rodan and Godzilla's conversation before Mothra goes on to fight King Ghidorah, the Shobijin exclaim "Oh Godzilla, what terrible language!" indicating that Godzilla was swearing.
- There is only one Mothra larva in this film, and it is explained that the second larva died in between the previous film Mothra vs. Godzilla and this film.
- The Godzilla suit used in this film was used previously in 1964 for Mothra vs. Godzilla. Nicknamed the "MosuGoji" suit, it is the first Godzilla suit to be used for more than one film. The suit's head had to be replaced due to damage sustained during filming for Mothra vs. Godzilla.
- This was the first Godzilla film to introduce a monster taller than Godzilla.
- A Natarl UFO prop from Battle in Outer Space can be seen in the office of the head of the UFO club in this film.
- Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster was re-released at the 1971 Winter Toho Champion Festival, edited and retitled Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: The Greatest Battle on Earth. It was released alongside a theatrical release of episodes 13 and 14 of Return of Ultraman under the title Return of Ultraman: Fear of the Tornado Monsters, a stop motion animated short film adaptation of the Hans Christian Anderson story The Little Match Girl, The Adventures of Hutch the Honeybee and Inakappe Taishō's Movie.
- Recreation of the American version's credits
- List of firearms used in the movie
- List of scenes deleted or rearranged in the American version
- Called "Wu" in the film's English dub.
- Uruki is often erroneously credited as having played King Ghidorah.
This is a list of references for Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster. These citations are used to identify the reliable sources on which this article is based. These references appear inside articles in the form of superscript numbers, which look like this: 
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