Previously, I discussed this when we got to the American versions of these films but, given the circumstances, I think it's best that I address the title situation with this one here and now. The title that I'm going to use throughout this review is the one I grew up with: Godzilla vs. Monster Zero. When the film was originally released in the United States, it was simply called Monster Zero but, just like how Godzilla vs. The Thing became Godzilla vs. Mothra when it was put on video, the same thing happened here, with Godzilla vs. Monster Zero being the original American video title for the film. Nowadays, though, Toho stipulates that the film is to be called by what they consider the official English title, which is Invasion of Astro-Monster, a title I first saw in the Godzilla Compendium. The main title of Classic Media's 2007 DVD release is that and so now, all official sources and publications, like David Kalat in his book, have to use that title (Kalat admitted in an excerpt in his chapter on the film that he was using it very begrudgingly). I, however, am not an official source but just a simple movie fan giving an opinion, so I can call it whatever I want. I will continue calling it Godzilla vs. Monster Zero both here and in general not only because that's the title I grew up with but because I think Invasion of Astro-Monster is a horrible title that makes no sense in the context of the film. I put it in the parentheses of this review's title and in this review's labels so as to avoid confusion for those who do prefer to call it that but for me, this movie was, is, and always will be Godzilla vs. Monster Zero. Now that we've got that out of the way, let's get on with it.
A new planet, known simply as Planet X, has been discovered near Jupiter and World Space Authority, a joint venture between the United States and Japan, has sent a spaceship with two of their best astronauts to explore it. The Japanese astronaut, Fuji, does not approve of the man whom his younger sister, Haruno, intends to marry: an inventor who has come up with a device that lets out a loud and unpleasant noise to act as a distress call for women who are being attacked. Upon arriving on Planet X, Fuji, and his American fellow astronaut and friend, Glenn, come upon odd phenomena such as sporadic bouts of thunder and lightning and strange gravity and temperature readings. Fuji discovers signs of life on the planet when he finds footprints in the dirt and then, in a very short amount of time, both Glen and their spaceship disappear. A cylinder emerges from the ground and a voice from within instructs him to step into it, which Fuji reluctantly does. He's taken down in the depths of the planet and meets up with Glenn, who both then meet the inhabitants of Planet X. Before they can begin discussing an important matter that the leader, known as the Controller, speaks of, the surface is attacked by a creature they call Monster Zero. The Controller then shows them said monster, which turns out to be King Ghidorah, the three-headed space dragon that had terrorized Earth not too long before. After Ghidorah seizes its attack and leaves, the Controller tells Fuji and Glenn that they need a way to destroy the space monster and asks permission to capture Godzilla and Rodan back on Earth as a means to do so; in return, he promises to pay Earth with a miracle drug. After returning to Earth and informing their superiors and the government of the situation, who decide to cooperate with Planet X if Godzilla and Rodan turn out to be at the locations where the Controller claims they are, Glenn and Fuji admit to each that they don't know if the aliens can be trusted entirely. Things get even fishier when Glenn claims that he saw the Controller on Earth when he was on a date and not too long after that, the Controller and others from Planet X reveal themselves to indeed be on Earth. After apologizing for their unexpected appearance, the aliens manage to remove Godzilla and Rodan from their hiding places and take them to Planet X, where they immediately engage in battle with Ghidorah and ultimately drive it away. Despite Fuji and Glenn, who went back to the planet with the aliens along with their immediate superior, discovering some more strange things, the deal is made and they return to Earth with a tape that is said to contain the formula for the promised miracle drug. However, when the tape is played at a summit meeting, it is revealed to actually be an ultimatum: Planet X must be allowed to take control of the Earth or all life on the planet will be exterminated. After the ultimatum is played, the people of Planet X arrive on Earth and reveal that they now have control of Godzilla, Rodan, and Ghidorah and will use them to destroy the planet unless the people of Earth surrender to them. Now, a way must be found to eliminate the aliens' control over the monsters before it's too late.
Godzilla vs. Monster Zero is an interesting entry in the series because it was one of several Toho sci-fi flicks to be co-produced by United Productions of America, a former cartoon studio that had evolved into an outfit for marketing genre pictures to teenagers, much like American International Pictures. This change was courtesy of Henry G. Saperstein, an ex-television producer who had purchased the company in the early 1960's. Saperstein's first business deal with Toho had actually been when he acquired the rights to Mothra vs. Godzilla but, because UPA was not a distribution company, he sold it to AIP. After that, he started to become more directly involved with Toho, beginning with Frankenstein Conquers the World, which featured this film's American star, Nick Adams. The year after that film and Monster Zero, Saperstein co-produced the semi-sequel to Frankenstein Conquers the World, War of the Gargantuas, arranging for another American actor, Russ Tamblyn, to star in that film, and he would be involved with a couple of more Godzilla movies throughout the years. Saperstein's involvement was due to his truly being a fan of Toho's films and he was hands on enough to inject a more American sensibility into the storytelling of the ones he was involved with, especially when it came to Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, where he told Shinichi Sekizawa and the filmmakers that they needed to jump right into the story from the beginning rather than starting with a scene of nothing but exposition. Obviously, different Godzilla fans will have different opinions as to whether Saperstein's suggestions helped the film or not but, either way, it's hard to deny that Monster Zero doesn't feel quite as foreign as some of its peers, especially when it comes to the presence of an American actor as one of the leads.
|Uh, Mr. Honda, should your hand be|
where it is?
Nick Adams, the American actor who stars as astronaut Glenn in this film, is often put down as being an embarrassingly bad actor who is really over the top and corny in his performance. I, however, disagree with that because, even as a kid, I really liked Adams in this movie. I also liked him in Frankenstein Conquers the World and in Die, Monster, Die, a British horror flick where he co-starred along with Boris Karloff. He may not have been the best actor in the world but I thought he handled himself well in the films I've seen him in, especially here. As Glenn, he's everything you'd want in a lead: he's likable, very charismatic, funny, and, in my humble opinion, just plain cool. The best part of his performance is the very strong rapport he has with Akira Takarada as Fuji. During filming, Adams spoke in English whereas Takarada and the rest of the cast spoke in Japanese and yet, when you watch Adams' interactions with his co-stars, especially Takarada, you'd swear they were all speaking the same language. Glenn and Fuji joke with each other, tease each other about certain things, like how Fuji is far too protective of his younger sister and how Glenn is having quite the relationship with the beautiful Miss Namikawa, and they confide in each other their suspicions about the people of Planet X. They really come across like buddies who've known each other for quite a while, especially when Glenn calls Fuji by the nickname of, "Fuje." I also like Glenn's romance with Miss Namikawa and the fact that the two of them seem to really care about each other. Glenn comes across as really smooth here, calling Namikawa, "Baby," all the time and giving her a charming and confident wink every now and then. My favorite instance of the latter is the one he gives her right before she's executed for disobeying the orders of her people, which seems to say, "Hey, don't worry about it, baby." Speaking of which, Glenn is naturally quite angry when he discovers that Namikawa is from Planet X and that the reason she began a relationship with him was to spy on him but, regardless, he tries to bring Namikawa over to his side, telling her that it wouldn't be much of a life for them if they allowed themselves to be controlled by machines, as the people of Planet X do, and that the people of Earth are going to fight to the last man. As angry as he is at her deception here, it's obvious that he does still care for her, which leads to him being absolutely outraged when she's killed for betraying her planet. And in the film's third act, Glenn proves to be quite a heroic, take action guy, breaking out of the aliens' Earth prison along with inventor Tetsuo, beating up a couple of the aliens, coming up with a great idea to make the Controller and the rest of them think they're dead and no longer a threat, and gets the method that they need to defeat Planet X to Fuji and his superiors. Overall, I think Nick Adams is great as the lead here. Yes, he has some corny lines like, "Controller speaks with forked tongue maybe, huh?", "Man, if there was air-conditioning, I'd live in it," "Double-crossing fakes!" and, "You rats. You stinkin' rats!" but, for the most part, he handles himself very well and is definitely a guy worth rooting for.
Akira Takarada returns for his third appearance in the Godzilla franchise as astronaut Fuji and, as he did in his role of Sakai in Mothra vs. Godzilla, gives another great performance. He's not quite as cynical as Fuji as he was playing Sakai and has really nice chemistry with Nick Adams as Glenn. Like I said, the two of them effectively come across as best friends, having great moments of bantering back and forth with each other and having some nice moments of wordless gesturing with each other, like when they're caught while snooping around Planet X and realize they have no choice but to give up and their gestures at the very end of the movie when Glenn is told he's heading back to Planet X to be the first ambassador there. Like Glenn, Fuji is also smart enough to realize that there's something odd about the people of Planet X and their request, leading to the two of them confiding in each other that they feel that they're possibly putting a little too much trust in them and that they might have something else up their sleeves. As an astronaut, Fuji also makes for quite a skilled scientist, coming up with possible ways that they could intercept the magnetic waves that Planet X is using to control the monsters and save the Earth. However, despite his skill in the matter, Fuji is unable to come up with a way to block the waves entirely and ultimately his plan is used in conjunction with Tetsuo's loud device that both hurts the aliens and damages their equipment. Speaking of which, Fuji's biggest flaw is that he's very protective of his younger sister, Haruno, and isn't too fond of her choice of fiancé, Tetsuo, the inventor. He's always putting Tetsuo down as being a loser of a man that he doubts will be able to support his sister with any income from his inventions and makes it clear to both of them that, unless Tetsuo does something amazing, he won't allow them to be married. He's even a dick to Tetsuo later on when he and Glenn arrive at the lab after having escaped from the aliens' imprisonment, sternly saying, "What are you doing here?" or, as in the English version, "Beat it!", an attitude he has to immediately swallow when Glenn reveals that Tetsuo's invention will cripple the aliens to the point where the monsters can be freed from their control and they can be defeated. By the end of the movie, he's learned to accept Haruno's affection for Tetsuo, especially since he just helped save the Earth. All in all, another memorable and likable performance given by Takarada.
Akira Kubo plays Tetsuo Teri, the inventor whose unusual device ends up being crucial to winning the war against Planet X. Tetsuo comes across as a bit nerdy, mainly due to the glasses he wears (the dubbing in the English version makes him come across as even more geeky than Kubo probably intended), but he also comes across as just a plain decent guy who's slightly on his luck since he's unable to sell his noisy invention, which he calls the Lady Guard Alarm. He's quite excited when a potential buyer contacts him and is not at all discouraged or suspicious when said buyer turns out to be a toy manufacturing company, although his fiancé, Haruno, has her doubts. That elation quickly goes away, though, when the company doesn't put his invention on the market, constantly giving the excuse that they're still studying the item, and Miss Namikawa seems to be ducking him for some reason. This doesn't spell good news when he has to meet with Fuji, whom he really doesn't like due to his putdowns and feelings that he's a failure of an inventor. The poor guy is so discouraged that he even begins to doubt his own self-worth, actually agreeing with Fuji when he says that he's not sure if he can support Haruno. He does, however, become determined to track down Miss Namikawa when he discovers that she's not currently out of town like he was told and that she's actually dating Glenn. His snooping ends with him being imprisoned by Planet X's Earth force and when Glenn gets thrown in with him and they find the note Namikawa slipped to Glenn before she was killed, which explains the aliens' vulnerability to a certain sound, Tetsuo realizes why his invention was purchased in the first place. After using its damaging effects on the aliens to escape from their prison, they make their way back to World Space Authority and immediately begin putting it to use, eventually managing to defeat the aliens and release the monsters from their mind control. And like I said, by this point, Fuji realizes that he has no reason to keep Haruno from marrying Tetsuo so you can guess that's probably what happened after the events of the film. Like everyone else in this movie, Tetsuo is a very likable guy and one whom you want to see succeed in the end.
The most uninteresting and least proactive character in the main cast is Haruno (Keiko Sawai), Fuji's younger sister and Tetsuo's fiancé. She doesn't have much depth to her and doesn't take that much of an active role in the story accept for during the third act when she's acting as an assistant when Fuji and the others are trying to come up with a way to defeat Planet X. She's cute and she's very supportive of Tetsuo, always encouraging him and defending him from Fuji's putdowns, like when Fuji is unduly harsh to him when he and Glenn show up after having escaped from the aliens' capture and she scolds him for being mean to him. The only real depth to her character other than that is how she resents Fuji's overprotective nature and how he's always trying to tell her what to do but she doesn't put up much resistance against him, no doubt due to the cultural nature of this relationship. And incidentally, although she's worried about him, Haruno doesn't make much of an effort to look for Tetsuo when he disappears and goes to, of all people, Miss Namikawa, whom she knows had her people lie to Tetsuo about her being out of town, to inquire about his whereabouts. Before that, she'd actually asked Fuji in a surreptitious way about what kind of girl Glenn was going out with, trying to find whatever she can about Namikawa's motives, and yet, she just goes to her to ask if she's seen Tetsuo. Not a very smart idea, don't you think? Moreover, when Tetsuo suddenly just reappears along with Glenn, Haruno has no reaction at all. You'd think she would immediately ask, "Where have you been?" but instead, her attitude is just one of, "Oh, hi, honey. You're back." To sum up, out of the two main female characters in this movie, Miss Namikawa is by far the most interesting and complex, while Haruno is just kind of there and doesn't do anything that meaningful.
Jun Tazaki returns for what has to be his largest role in a Godzilla movie, coupled with his part in Destroy All Monsters, as Dr. Sakurai, Glenn and Fuji's superior. In this role, Tazaki gets to play more than just a stern authority figure, although there are moments early in the film when the two astronauts are heading for Planet X when he does act rather authoritative towards them, at one point prompting Fuji to remark that he sounds like an overly stern father. He plays Sakurai as a very wise and intelligent scientist who has a large amount of faith in his astronauts and, when the Controller of Planet X boasts that they're able to control the monsters with magnetic waves, is the one who comes up with the idea to sever those waves, although others have to iron out the details. He also acts like something of a father figure to Haruno early in the film, letting her talk to him about her frustrations with Fuji's attitude towards her and Tetsuo. However, he, like the government officials, goes along with the request of Planet X, despite having some misgivings about the way they came to Earth without telling them but, like I said, when the aliens reveal their true intentions, he and his assistants work hard to find a solution to the problem, which leads to their coming up the plan that will ultimately save the Earth. Although, I don't know why he tells Glenn that he's going to be flying back to Planet X to be an ambassador. I guess he feels they should try for peaceful negotiations with whoever's left there but, at this point, I think it would be obvious that's out of the question with these folks. Regardless, though, Sakurai is another likable character and it's nice to see Tazaki get to do more and show some range after having already been in two Godzilla movies beforehand.
While the previous film had flirted with the possibility of other life in the universe with Princess Salno being possessed by a force from Venus or Mars, depending on which version you watch, and the fact that Ghidorah itself is a space monster, Monster Zero is the first time in the series where we're introduced to an actual race from another planet and it definitely wouldn't be the only time either. The people of Planet X are a bunch of very memorable beings, mainly due to their unforgettable outfits, with their black leather vests, gray bodysuits underneath, enormous collars, wraparound caps with antennas sticking out of the top, and, most memorable of all, the black visors they wear across their eyes. While their look is very, very typical of the pulpy science fiction culture of the time, it's the only thing about them that is humorous. Like I said earlier, Ishiro Honda deals with them in a very straightforward manner in how they initially come across as friendly beings who need help in dealing with Ghidorah, who's terrorizing their planet, and go as far as to offer Earth a miracle drug in return; but once they get ahold of Godzilla and Rodan and take control of them, they reveal their true, malevolent intentions to take control of the Earth and make it another colony of Planet X, using the monsters as a means to do so by force if Earth doesn't surrender. It becomes clear that this is not just a random decision made by these people but something they've been planning for a long time, perhaps since the previous film. Indeed, if you pay close attention, you will see that there are very subtle hints that lend weight to that notion. Dr. Sakurai tells a group of reporters early on that Planet X has been causing some magnetic disturbances, one of which may have been the unseasonal heat that Japan was experiencing in Ghidorah and, while no mention is ever made of Mothra, the Controller of Planet X knows that Godzilla and Rodan had a hand in driving Ghidorah from Earth at the end of the previous film, suggesting that Planet X may have been the ones who sent Ghidorah in the first place. Dr. Sakurai even says at one point that Ghidorah was always one of their weapons, although it's never made clear if he means that in context of just this film or ever since the dragon made its first appearance. We also learn that some people from Planet X are already on the Earth and have been there long enough to form a corporation to use as cover for their activities, such as buying the one device that could spell doom to their plans of conquest. Maybe they were the ones who informed the Controller that Ghidorah had been defeated the first time and that's when he began formulating this plan to take control of Godzilla and Rodan and use them as weapons too. He could have engineered it so that Earth would discover Planet X's existence by sending out the radio waves that Dr. Sakurai explains is what led them to it in the first place. Personally, I find the idea of some of these aliens having been on Earth for a long time and communicating back and forth with Planet X to make sure their plans go as intended to be a rather chilling notion.
When you learn more about their nature, you get a feeling of bland superficiality and sterility, as well as patriarchy, amongst the people of Planet X. You learn that their actions are governed by computers and they're expected to follow those directives, which ultimately come from the Controller, instead of their emotions. Violating that way of life, if you can call it that, leads to immediate elimination, as demonstrated when Miss Namikawa acts on her feelings for Glenn. You also learn that the people of Planet X themselves do the same to other living creatures, i.e. the monsters, and that they control their own spaceships simply by having computers inside the ships absorb their brainwaves, which allows them to direct the ships however they choose. They're absolutely dependent on their machines and, yet, they're also so confident in their abilities that they're arrogant enough to just out and out announce how they're controlling the monsters to the people of the Earth and later on, when they and their machines are at the mercy of Tetsuo's crippling sound device, the Controller still refuses to give up and retreat, saying that their computers are always invincible and that they'll recover and attack. Their overconfidence in their machines is what ends up doing them in. Going back to the notion that Ghidorah was always a creature that they had under their control, isn't it amusing to think that, when they were having the monster attack the surface of the planet as a means of demonstrating that they need help from Earth, it ends up damaging their water plant, which is potentially disastrous since water is very valuable to them? That should have clued them in to the fact that their computers aren't as perfect as they thought they were but, again, they're too arrogant to realize it. The lack of water on their planet, which makes it far more precious to them than gold, which you learn they have a ton of, is very likely their main reason for wanting to take over Earth, even though the Controller tells Fuji and Glenn that water isn't as scarce on Planet X as they might think. He never reveals exactly where all of this water is being held, which could mean that he's talking about the upcoming attack on Earth. It's revealed that Miss Namikawa is from Planet X when Glenn and Fuji encounter a woman who looks exactly like her during their second visit to the planet... and then, another woman who looks exactly like her, signifying that all of the women there look the same and are possibly clones. This is the bland aspect of their nature that I was talking about. When Glenn asks about this, the Controller simply responds with, "Don't you admire a pretty face?" Glenn answers with the old adage that, as attractive as the women of Planet X are, beauty is more than skin deep, which the Controller shrugs off. Moreover, the male members of the species have more variety amongst them, which you can tell just by looking at them, and are the ones that do all of the important work while the women, as suggested in this one scene where they're doing nothing but carrying some important items, one of which is later revealed to be the tape containing "the miracle drug formula," seem to be nothing more than servants. Only Miss Namikawa is given an important assignment and even then, she's ordered to spy on astronaut Glenn by striking up what was originally meant to be a false romance with him. In other words, her inherent attractiveness is being used as a means to get information out of him, a very sexist directive that hints that Planet X is a patriarchal society in one of the worst ways imaginable.
Yoshio Tsuchiya relished playing the role of the Controller of Planet X, going as far as to come up with odd hand gestures and some quick, stiff movements, as well as some alien dialect which you can only hear the latter in the Japanese version. The voice he uses for the Controller, which he says he created by mimicking different European dialects and by imagining having the tongue of a legendary Japanese water spirit known as a "kappa," feels especially otherworldly and alien with how flat and emotionless it is; plus, it just sounds downright strange. He sounds especially creepy whenever he laughs, which is this rather soft and slow, "Huh, huh, huh." Due to Tsuchiya's performance, in the Japanese version, the Controller comes across as menacing and untrustworthy from the start, whereas in the English dub, he feels more accommodating and friendly at first. While Tsuchiya is definitely effective in the Japanese version, I wouldn't trust anything said by somebody who sounds and acts the way he does there. Either way, though, the Controller is eventually revealed for the calculating and insidious mastermind that he is (not that it was much of a mystery for the audience, though, given the sinister laugh he gave off after Fuji and Glenn departed Planet X the first time), having been planning to take over Earth the entire time and using the idea of intergalactic brotherhood as bait for a trap. There's a very good reason why he's called the Controller: everybody and everything on Planet X, from the other members of his species to the spaceships, even the monsters, he has his hooks in them via the power of his computers and how they can be used to manipulate anything he wishes simply by having his desires fed into them. As I said, the other citizens of the planet must follow the orders he receives from them through the computers or be disintegrated. But, again, his arrogance and overconfidence in his computers' abilities, which led to him boasting to the Earth about how he was controlling the monsters through magnetic waves, is what led to his undoing. He refuses to believe that they will be defeated even when they're on the ropes and their computers are being scrambled at the end of the film. It ultimately leads him to refuse "escape" defeat, along with all of his subordinates, by blowing up the saucers and the Earth base in an act of forced mass suicide.
While the Controller may be the guy who runs the show, I find the Commander of Planet X's Earthbound forces to be even more intimidating and ruthless. It's interesting because the actor who plays him, Kenzo Tabu, appeared in a couple of scenes in Mothra vs. Godzilla is a loud, blowhard of a mayor who criticizes Sakai for writing disparaging articles about the situation involving his town and the destruction the hurricane caused to it. That character isn't meant to scare anybody due to how he's comically full of hot air but Tabu's performance as the Commander here is a whole other kettle of fish. The first time you see him, he's tanning in a room at the headquarters of World Education Corporation and because his shirt is off, you can see what appear to be a couple of electrodes sticking out of his back, a possible clue as to how these people are controlled by machines, and he very sternly tells his subordinate to dismiss Tetsuo, who's hanging around their office and questioning what's going on with his invention. After he does so, the Commander proceeds to stick a cigar in his mouth and light the blueprints for the Lady Guard Alarm on fire with his cigarette lighter. He becomes all the more intimidating as the film goes on, telling Miss Namikawa that she's exceeding her orders in how close she's becoming to Glenn and that this warning comes straight from the Controller, who knows of her possibly impending betrayal. The Commander always has this nasty expression on his face and he becomes even more threatening in his appearance when he appears in his Planet X uniform for the film's latter half. When Glenn is being taken prisoner by them, Miss Namikawa runs to his side, directly disobeying a silent order by the Commander not to do so by pushing aside the cane that he uses to block her movements, and confesses to him that she loves him. Right before that confession, we get a close-up of the Commander's angry face (the very image of him that you see here) and, as a result, even before we see what happens next, it's obvious that Namikawa has just sealed her fate. Sure enough, the Commander uses his ray gun to shock Namikawa away from Glenn and then turns the gun on her full blast, disintegrating her into nothing. When Glenn angrily yells at him for doing that, the Commander very coldly tells him that elimination is the punishment for violating the law of Planet X and allowing your emotions to govern your actions rather than the directives of the computers. Because of how ruthless and cold he is, afterward ordering his troops to act as a mop-up force and kill any survivors after the monsters have done their work, it's refreshing to see him and his men in a vulnerable state when the tables are turned on them during the film's final act. In the English dub, he sounds like a whimpering baby here, crying for help from the Controller and saying that they must retreat. I love seeing him getting his ass kicked to the point where he's in absolutely pathetic state because it serves him right for being such a cruel enforcer before.
The most interesting character in the film is Miss Namikawa, the mysterious representative of World Education Corporation, which buys Tetsuo's invention in order to keep it from being marketed due to its crippling effects on the people of Planet X. She's played by the lovely Kumi Mizuno, who had appeared alongside Nick Adams in Frankenstein Conquers the World and would appear again in War of the Gargantuas and Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster the following year, making her one of Toho's most popular leading ladies in their science fiction films. What's makes Namikawa so interesting and complex a character is that, unlike the rest of her people, she makes the fatal mistake of disobeying her planet's number one law and allows herself to become emotionally attached to Glenn when the original purpose of her becoming involved with him was just to spy on him. While she's initially still willing to allow Planet X to enslave the Earth, she legitimately loves Glenn and wants to marry him so the two of them can live together on her planet's impending Earth colony but first, he must become a citizen of Planet X. However, Glenn tells her that it wouldn't be much of a life if they allowed themselves to be controlled by machines and that the human race is going to fight to the last man in defense of the planet. Namikawa tells Glenn that it's too late to stop the war from happening but, when the Commander arrives and prepares to take Glenn away, she decides to disobey the strict directives of her planet once and for all and runs to his side, admitting that she loves him. Namikawa knows that this betrayal will result in her death and, unbeknownst to Glenn, slips him a note that later reveals her people's biggest weakness, which becomes the last piece of information needed to save the Earth. Namikawa is immediately destroyed by the Commander after doing so but when Glenn and Tetsuo find her letter later on, she says that she has no regrets and understands that man can't live under the control of machines. Of course, you have to ask yourself when Namikawa wrote that letter, since she was still trying to turn Glenn to the side of Planet X right before the Commander showed up to take him away. Did she write that beforehand just in case Glenn made a good point to the contrary whenever she decided to confront him about joining Planet X? Or was she a speed-writer and quickly wrote it after the Commander showed up and was taking Glenn away? That little nitpick aside, Miss Namikawa proves to be a memorable and interesting character and the betrayal of her planet is what ultimately saves the world.
As he had in the two previous films, Ishiro Honda once again puts forth an idea of universal brotherhood and responsibility. In Mothra vs. Godzilla, it was the brotherhood of mankind; in Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, it was the brotherhood of monsters; here, it's an idea of "galactic mankind," as the Controller from Planet X calls it. Just like Sakai and his friends towards the people of Infant Island in Mothra vs. Godzilla and Mothra herself towards Godzilla and Rodan in Ghidorah, the people of Planet X come to Earth with a declaration of peace and friendship between the two planets. Also, just like in those other films, it comes with a request for assistance and this time, there's also a promise of something wonderful in exchange: a miracle drug that can cure cancer (or, as in the English dub, all disease). Despite some suspicions on the part of Fuji and Glenn and some reservations about how the aliens suddenly appear on Earth without gaining any permission to do so, Earth goes along with it and allows Planet X to "borrow" Godzilla and Rodan in order to rid themselves of Ghidorah (where have we heard this idea of actually borrowing a monster in order to vanquish another monster?) After the brief battle, the exchange is made and the astronauts return to Earth with what they're told is a tape recording of the formula for the miracle drug but it turns out to be an ultimatum: surrender the Earth to Planet X or be destroyed. With that, Honda puts a more sinister spin on the hopeful concept that he'd been talking about before. As much as you want peace, you have to be careful about those who come to you saying that they're all for it because you never know what they may really have in mind. The situation here is an interesting turn-around on what we saw in Mothra vs. Godzilla. There, the Infant Islanders distrusted not just Japan but the outside world as a whole due to the atomic tests that ruined their island and initially refused to their request for help against Godzilla. Here, the people of Earth discover the existence of a rather advanced civilization on Planet X, who come to them with a plea for help against Ghidorah and while the government and officials are willing to cooperate, Fuji and Glenn aren't so sure if they should be trusted, mostly due to some suspicious behavior they witnessed on Planet X, such as the aliens preventing them from finding out what exactly happened during Ghidorah's initial attack. Their trust in them is even further tested when they're revealed to have already been on the Earth before any confirmation of Earth's cooperation could be made, which is why, when the Controller and his subordinates make themselves known and he puts forth his notion of galactic mankind, Glenn comments, "Controller speaks with forked tongue maybe, huh?" That may be a corny line but it sums up the rather untrustworthy nature of these people rather well and their actions prompt Dr. Sakurai to tell that if they are to have peace, they must be honest with each other. They may not have out and out attacked Earth yet as the outside world had Infant Island with the atomic tests but, regardless, you can see and understand the distrust in both of these situations very well. It's nice to know that, as much of a pacifist Honda may have been, he realized that there was potential risk in this idea of brotherhood and if you look at so many of the situations that have come up between countries throughout the history of man, it becomes clear that he wasn't exactly wrong in making Monster Zero a cautionary tale on the subject.
One of my favorite aspects of Godzilla vs. Monster Zero is how downright atmospheric it is at points. In fact, I would say that this film has some of the most eerie and atmospherically quiet scenes in the entire series. The best example is when Fuji and Glenn first arrive at Planet X early on in the film. They head around Jupiter and approach the dark, mysterious planet, positioning their ship upright as they land down on the planet's surface. I really like how eerie and quiet it is when the two of them disembark from their ship after arriving and how Akira Ifukube's score punctuates their feeling of being the first humans to ever walk on this strange planet. After experiencing some random thunder and lightning (as a result of Ghidorah), Fuji plants a flag for World Space Authority on a nearby ridge and then notices some footprints leading away from the spot. He warns Glenn to be on his guard but he gets no response from his fellow astronaut, even when he yells his name. That's when he walks back to where Glenn was and discovers that their ship is gone too! That's the creepiest part of this whole scenario. If I found myself on this planet and both my buddy and my ship disappeared, I'd be freaking out big time. I applaud Fuji for staying as calm as he did because I would have been too hysterical to even think. He then sees an elevator-like cylinder emerge from the ground and the voice of the Controller tells him to step inside. Naturally, Fuji is reluctant to do so at first but when a laser forces him to drop his weapon, he has no choice but to do so. Again, I would have been a nervous wreck during this whole thing but Fuji manages to keep calm. The cylinder takes him down to the subterranean facility of Planet X and he's told to follow the light. He begins walking down a series of very long corridors as the light goes out in one and then comes up in another, indicating where he needs to go. This is another nicely atmospheric scene and one that I find to be more than a little creepy due to the long hallways and how some of them are as black as night. There's one instance where Fuji is walking down one particularly long hallway and the light slowly goes out in the portion of it behind him, becoming absolutely pitch black. Again, that is intensely eerie and creepy to me. Afterward, Fuji seems to run into a dead-end, only for everything to go completely black again and for him to gradually see the image of Glenn sitting at a table materialize out of the darkness, which has a very dreamlike quality to it. After he's reunited with Glenn, the two of them meet the people of Planet X and are witnessed to the first attack of Ghidorah, known to Monster Zero to the aliens. After Ghidorah damages an important part of the facility, their water storage plant due to its attack, the aliens depart the control room and leave Fuji and Glenn sitting in the dark, unable to leave due to a barrier that's appeared above their chairs. While this brief moment isn't as eerie as the part before, like Fuji and Glenn, you wonder why the aliens go so far as to keep them from finding out exactly what happened and what they're hiding.
There's another bit of the movie that I find to be a little bit atmospheric and that's when, after returning to Earth, Glenn takes Fuji out to the same road where he went with Miss Namikawa the other day during their date and tells him how he thinks that he saw the Controller of Planet X. Glenn says that when he and Namikawa spent the night at a bungalow near Lake Miyojin, he woke up in the middle of the night and the Controller was in the room with them. Fuji tells Glenn that he was probably just dreaming but Glenn assures him that he was awake and the Controller simply said that, "All preparations were made and not to worry about anything." Glenn then tells Fuji that they're probably putting a little too much trust in Planet X and that they might be looking for another planet to move to because of their water shortage, which they had already pondered early on. This whole scene plays out with them sitting in Glenn's convertible in the middle of a completely deserted mountain road with the light fading as dusk settles in, perfectly setting the mood for this conversation about what might be unfolding. The lack of any music adds even more to the atmosphere. When they return with the aliens to Planet X, there isn't as much as eeriness as there was before since they're currently on good terms with the aliens and also because the hallways and corridors are lit as bright as possible. However, there is the scene where Fuji and Glenn, while wondering around the corridors, make a couple of other strange discoveries. Realizing that the Controller knows they're snooping around and has his men looking for them, Fuji and Glenn run into an elevator that takes them down to another level of the underground facility that's filled with gold, something that isn't as important to the aliens as water. That's when Glenn sees a woman that looks like Namikawa but when he tries to talk to her, she doesn't recognize him at all and even backs away in fear. At that point, another woman who also looks exactly like Namikawa appears, which Fuji and Glenn find very troubling and they then decide to try to get out. Unfortunately, they're cornered by a number of guards and are forced to surrender, which leads to them being taken before the Controller who grills them about what they were doing, all while they're standing in a shaft of light in the middle of a darkened room, making it feel even more like an interrogation. That previous scene may not have been as eerie as the ones I've talked about already but it still has a nice atmosphere and mystery to it, which I like.
Another thing about this movie that has always gripped me ever since I was a young kid is how you can feel the urgency in the air once Planet X's true intentions are revealed to the Earth. It's not as palpable or frightening as the atmosphere was in the original Godzilla but it still has some punch to it. After the ultimatum is played, we get a montage of black and white photographs that show the maddening effect it's had across the globe, with newspaper headlines saying stuff like PANIC GRIPS WORLD and GLOBAL RIOTS. We're also told by someone who is either supposed to be a random narrator or a news commentator, I'm not sure which, that there are some people who want peace no matter what and are urging for cooperation with Planet X, while others have the same mindset that Glenn does and want to try to fight the aliens off. These opposing viewpoints have caused violent confrontations in world capitals, confrontations that the police are finding very difficult to quell. The situation becomes even more grim when we learn that King Ghidorah has appeared in the United States and that Japanese the government is considering using all of the nuclear weapons against the aliens, which would mean disaster for everyone even if they did manage to defeat them. While it's not dwelt upon, the thought that the Japanese may have to risk putting themselves through another nuclear holocaust in order to defeat this powerful threat is quite an issue. It becomes even more tense and dire when the Controller says that they only have 24 hours to surrender before he unleashes the monsters. While Dr. Sakurai says he might be able to come up with another way to stop them, with the clock now ticking, it seems like they have little choice besides either using nuclear weapons, attacking with conventional weapons, which probably won't work, or out and out surrendering. Until Glenn arrives and tells them of the effect that Tetsuo's device has on the aliens, the situation just seems very hopeless and you can feel the atmosphere of doom that's hanging over them. This aspect of the film is why I feel Ishiro Honda had a little more control and was able to make it more his film than had been the case with some of the previous ones.
Because the monsters are such a small factor in this story and because, for the most part, they're under the control of Planet X, there isn't much to say about their personalities here. For the parts of the movie when he's in his right mind, Godzilla displays the same feisty, take no crap attitude that he'd developed in the previous film. I like how twice in this film, first on Planet X and at the end of the film when he and the others are released from the mind control, he comes into consciousness not knowing where he is and yet, the minute he sees or realizes that King Ghidorah is around, he goes on the offensive and attacks the dragon, remembering their battle from the previous film. When he's released from the energy bubble on Planet X, he seems to be yawning, like he was woken up from a deep sleep, but when Ghidorah tags him from behind with its lightning, Godzilla immediately jumps up like, "What the hell?!" and is knocked over by Ghidorah before he knows what happened, prompting him to start attacking his opponent. And you got to love how, when Godzilla is released from the mind control at the end of the film, he gets up, looks around in a confused manner, and then, upon seeing Ghidorah, kicks a rock on its chest, starting another battle. Haruo Nakajima is particularly energetic here as Godzilla, the most energized he's been yet, and seems to be having a really good time playing him. Not only is he quite quick and agile during the fight scenes, especially during the brief one at the end, but you can even see him doing so boxing moves during that final fight, putting up his dukes as well as moving his feet in a manner similar to the shuffle! Some people may not like that but I love it because it makes Godzilla come across like a badass in my opinion. I also enjoy what has to be the film's most infamous moment: that little victory dance that Godzilla does after he and Rodan manage to drive off Ghidorah on Planet X. A lot of people involved with the movie, including Nakajima and Ishiro Honda, hated it (Honda apparently called it a disgrace), but I've always gotten a kick out of it. It's ridiculous, yes, but I just like seeing Godzilla celebrate his victory in his own way. Since Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster was when they started to turn Godzilla into a good guy, it's interesting that, in the very next film, here he is destroying stuff again. It's due to mind control but regardless, I've always found it odd that Toho went for this type of plot right after they started making Godzilla a good guy. I myself would have waited a couple of more films when he'd been firmly established as a hero before doing that but it still works here. Personally, though, as much as I love the city destruction scenes here, I don't like the idea of Godzilla being used as a pawn by aliens to do their dirty work. For that matter, I've never liked it when any character that I really, really like gets put under mind control. I don't know why but it just feels like a major violation to me. It's strange but it's the way I feel. Fortunately, the only other time that Godzilla himself would be a mind-control slave is in Destroy All Monsters, so I can live with this being done only twice.
This is another suit design for Godzilla that I've always liked. He looks like he has a bit more mass to him than he did in the previous two films (some have said that the costume looks a bit baggy as a result but I've never noticed that), the dorsal plates are a bit smaller, and the tail isn't nearly as long as it was previously. The head is much more round and the mouth is wider, giving Godzilla a bit of a froglike appearance (that look would become even more pronounced in the next film), and you can really see his tongue whenever he opens his mouth. The eyes are bigger as well, probably meant to make Godzilla look less threatening, which is ironic given the destruction he causes while he's under the control of Planet X. There's one puppet head used in this film but it's used very effectively near the end of the film when Godzilla, having been released from the aliens' control, darts his eyes back and forth, wondering where he is, before he gets to his feet. They again use some static-moving full-body puppets for some far off shots of Godzilla but they're not too distracting (they're much better than those that were used in Ghidorah) and we get a nice-looking model of Godzilla's foot for close-ups of it crashing through some houses, although I've read that the thing was a bit of a pain in the ass and often came loose from the metal rod used to operate it. And like I said before, this is where we can officially start calling Godzilla's ultimate weapon an atomic blast. For its first incarnation as such, it's animated very well and the way it comes out of Godzilla's mouth, as well as how his spines glow when he does so, looks very believable. The way it's used for those far-off shots of Godzilla that I mentioned is particularly impressive.
While he had something of a personality and a presence in the previous film, here Rodan is nothing more than just a sidekick for Godzilla. He helps Godzilla in their battles with Ghidorah, dropping rocks on it, grabbing its tails, and, at the end of the final battle, uses Godzilla as a battering ram against Godzilla, knocking all three of them down into the ocean below. He also gets to cause some nice destruction when they're under the control of Planet X, using his hurricane-force winds against a small village as well as in the middle of the city, but, otherwise, he's just a faceless lackey who just joins Godzilla in whatever he's doing. We're not even sure if Godzilla and Rodan are out and out friends in this movie, as opposed to the intense rivalry they had in the previous movie. While they do work together, we don't see any interaction between the two outside of battling Ghidorah or causing destruction, so it's never made clear whether Rodan considers Godzilla a friend now or if he just keeps finding himself paired up with him and decides to help him because he's got nothing better to do. We did see them standing next to each other at the end of Ghidorah, watching Mothra and the Shobijin return to Infant Island, and they were hibernating in close proximity to each other in this movie so maybe they had become friendly with each other by this point but, regardless, it's never made clear if they are pals now or if they're just allies who are kind of stuck with each other. It's not important to the overall story of the movie and isn't something to dwell upon but I would have liked for Rodan to have been made just a little bit more of a character here. And like in the previous film, Rodan's look here leaves a lot to be desired for. It's the same suit that used before, just with some minor tweaks, and while it looks fine in far off and full body shots, I still wish that they had kept the dignity and grace that Rodan had in his debut film back in 1956 (interestingly, though, you do get a little bit of that here when he and Godzilla are under control of the aliens and also when some stock footage of Rodan is used during the city destruction sequence). That brings me to Rodan's face, which looks even dumber here than it ever did in the previous movie. Fortunately, you don't get that many close-ups of it but near the end of the movie when he gets snapped awake by Godzilla whacking him with his tail after being released from the aliens' control, there's one where he really looks stupid, with an expression on his face that seems to be saying, "Durr!" I don't know if that was the suit's head or a puppet they used for that one shot (it might be the latter, since the suit's head, while not great, doesn't look nearly that bad, even when you see it in relatively close shots) but either way, I remember thinking that looked stupid even when I was a kid. I just don't get why they felt the need to make Rodan a joke just because they were going for a more kid-friendly tone.
Remember when I said in my review of the previous film that King Ghidorah was a mindless, violent embodiment of absolute chaos? Well, multiply that ten and you've got the way it's characterized here. Every time Ghidorah is onscreen here, it seems even more intent on just blasting everything in sight, waving its heads and necks back and forth like it's had too much sugar and the like. You virtually can't get a look at Ghidorah in this movie when it's not firing its lightning bolts at something, even when there's no buildings or structures around to destroy, such as during its first appearance on Planet X. You might think that's just due to its being under the control of the aliens but no, even when it's released from that control at the end of the movie and battles Godzilla and Rodan one last time, it's still firing its lightning bolts and swinging its necks around like mad, often hitting the ground and creating a bunch of smoke. It's like the thing isn't even aware of where it is or what's going on around it but is just like, "What's that? Zap it! Who's that? Zap it! Oh, I remember you two! Zap them! Look at the ground and the rocks. Zap them!" It's truly the most chaotic characterization that Ghidorah is ever given in the series and yet, as a result, it feels the most alive and believable to me, especially when it's flying. Also, when it's walking on the ground, its movements aren't as cumbersome, which is nice. I also prefer the way Ghidorah looks in this film as well. It's the same suit that was used before but it's been refined and painted a different shade of gold, which I think works better, and I think the heads look a little bit better and even more dragon-like here as well. Playing Ghidorah again is Shoichi Hirose, who retired from monster suit-acting after this film due to the discomforting and often thankless job that it was, especially when it came to playing Ghidorah, and also because he didn't like that his real face was never seen on-camera. It also didn't help that he angered Eiji Tsuburaya by going over to and doing work for a rival studio, which ended up getting him blacklisted and contributed even more so to his swift disappearance from the genre.
Once again, Eiji Tsuburaya and his team work their magic and, in my opinion, create some of the best special effects in the original series here. Not only do the monsters look good and are believable for the most part but the miniature work is at an all time high here, with the buildings in particular being very detailed and looking great when they're destroyed. The miniature vehicles that move out to battle the monsters once the attack on Earth begins may look a little toy-like when they're seen in huge close-up but, like the building, they're so well-detailed that it's easy to look past those imperfections. There are also some really good matting and optical effects. The shots where you can see the monsters in the background with fleeing people in the foreground look better than they ever have before, with only a few shots looking a bit wonky, and not only do Godzilla's atomic blast and Ghidorah's lightning bolts look very realistic but there are some other great effects to be seen when the Planet X flying saucers fire their lasers, glow, and especially when they use these blue rings to encase Godzilla and Rodan in large bubbles in order to transport them to Planet X. Speaking of which, I have to give major props to the model-makers and set-designers of this film. The P-1, the rocket-ship that Fuji and Glenn fly to Planet X, is very well-designed and looks really cool, especially when the blue flame comes out of the exhaust on the bottom whenever it's landing or taking off. When they first land on Planet X, the little dolls that are meant to be Fuji and Glenn when they're taking the ship's elevator-like lift down to the planet's surface may be obviously fake but the mixture of the miniature rocket, the matting of Nick Adams inside the miniature's hatch as Glenn watches Fuji head down, and the shots of full-sized landing gear on the rocket with the real actors works really well. While a few shots of the P-1 traveling through space are clearly the result of matting and optical work, others shots of it, such as when it's heading around Jupiter and approaching Planet X, look really good. Speaking of spaceships, I absolutely love the spaceships that the people of Planet X fly. Are those things not the quintessential flying saucers or what? I remember as a kid thinking that those ships were as cool as they come and I still do. Plus, they fly very gracefully and believably, which is impressive since you realize that they're probably just being pulled around on wires. There's one part where a saucer lands on the shore after appearing out of Lake Miyojin and you can see it bank a little bit before it finally comes down to rest, which feels very authentic. The shots of the saucers carrying Godzilla and Rodan to Planet X in those bubbles, as well as when they first encase the monsters in them, look very cool and impressive. And like I said, I have to commend the set designers for how realistic and detail they are, especially the surface of Planet X with its barren, rocky desert feel and the backdrop of space with Jupiter hanging over it. I especially like that opening that appears in the side of the cliff that the saucers are able to fly into. As I mentioned earlier, the subterranean complex where the aliens live is cool looking as well with those long corridors and the control rooms with the beeping computers and blinking lights. I could go on and on but, the bottom line is that Tsuburaya and his crew really outdid themselves and made Godzilla vs. Monster Zero one of the most visually impressive entries in the series.
Unfortunately, this is also the first film where we get some rather noticeable use of stock footage from previous movies. There was a bit stock footage from the "pit digging" sequence in King Kong vs. Godzilla used in Mothra vs. Godzilla for when the military was preparing to lure Godzilla to the machines that conducted artificial lightning but it was so minimal that, unless you're a die-hard fan like me and you've seen these movies over and over again, you probably wouldn't think twice about it. Here, though, during the big city destruction sequence, we get some stock footage from both Rodan and Mothra, which can be recognized by the drop in picture quality and by how Rodan's look changes in those shots (to be fair, though, they don't linger on his head in that footage, which helps the illusion). Also, the footage from Mothra, which is of her destructive assault on New Kirk City during the climax of that film, can be pinpointed by some quick shots of the NEW KIRK MOTORS sign. This stock footage, however, isn't used egregiously and they actually manage to blend it in very well with the new footage, sometimes making it seem like one monster caused some destruction that was originally wrought by another. The same can't be said for how stock footage would be used in some of the later films, unfortunately. In fact, the footage of King Ghidorah during this sequence would be reused in Godzilla vs. Gigan and they would try to bring down its brightness level in order to make it match with the nighttime setting of that film's climax but it just didn't work. The use of stock footage, as you can guess, was simply a money-saving strategy and, as the films' started to decline in box-office revenues, it would be used more frequently and, like I said, would become more obvious. Budget constraints are also why Mothra isn't in this film. Originally, she was supposed to be along for the ride but the budget was already up there as it was with just three monsters in conjunction with all of the other special effects so she ultimately had to be written out of the movie along with all references to her. I always found it weird that they don't even mention her, though. They could have at least come up with an excuse for her absence, maybe by saying that she's unable to help because she can't leave her people, who are in the middle of a huge crisis, or something. It would have been a bit tricky to get around but I would have preferred that to acting like she had no part whatsoever in Earth's first encounter with Ghidorah, which we know she definitely did.
Like Ghidorah, Godzilla vs. Monster Zero has a series of brief action and special effects scenes building up to the third act, which is loaded with them. The first one here is Ghidorah's first appearance and attack on Planet X. After Fuji and Glenn meet the Controller and the rest of the planet's inhabitants in their subterranean complex, they hear a thunder-like sound and the Controller is told that Monster Zero is attacking again. After telling Fuji and Glenn that Monster Zero is why they're forced to live underground, the Controller decides to show them the monster and pops up its image on the screen behind him. The two astronauts immediately recognize Monster Zero as King Ghidorah and the Controller tells them that everything on Planet X is given numbers. Ghidorah really doesn't do much during this scene except fire its lightning all across the planet's surface, which seems to accomplish nothing except cause a few rocks to fall and create a lot of smoke. This is what I'm talking about when I say that Ghidorah feels even more mindless here than it did during its first appearance previously, intent on shooting anything it sees with its lightning. While we can suspect from what we learn later on that this is a planned attack in order to gain the sympathy of the Earth, given how Ghidorah acted before and how hyper and chaotically it acts when it's finally released from the aliens' control at the end of the film, it would probably be doing this right now even if it weren't under their control. And like I said before, they aren't 100% effective at controlling Ghidorah since it does cause a little bit of damage to their facility, including their critically important water plant, which prompts the Controller to leave Fuji and Glenn in a dark control room while he and his subordinates run off to see the damage for themselves.
It's not an action scene but I do think that the scene where the flying saucers emerge from Lake Miyojin and, later on, capture Godzilla and Rodan to take them to Planet X is worth mentioning for how well staged they are and for the quality of the special effects. It has a clever fake-out moment at the beginning because when Fuji and Glenn arrive at the lake to investigate the bungalow that Glenn and Miss Namikawa stayed in, they're directed by the general and soldiers stationed there to a glowing, foaming spot out in the lake. Since we know that this is where he's currently located, both we, as well as the characters, assume that it's Godzilla about to rise out of the lake. However, the object in the water is eventually revealed to be a flying saucer from Planet X, which slowly rises out of the foaming water and heads up into the sky, where it hovers (I didn't like this when I first saw it as a kid because I really, really wanted to see Godzilla at this point and didn't like being fooled). One of the soldiers asks the general if they should fire on the saucer but he tells them not to do so when another disturbance in the water reveals itself to be a second saucer, which also rises out of the lake in a geyser of foam and joins the other one in hovering up in the air. While we don't see it rise out of the water, we can tell that there's a third saucer that's beginning to make its way to the surface of the lake off to the right in the wide-shot of the two saucers up in the air. Later on, after the Controller and his men walk out of their saucer to greet the people who've gathered at the lakeside and explain why they've appeared on Earth without permission, the other two spaceships go into action, with one positioning itself just above Lake Miyojin while the other flies towards the mountain called Washigasawa. The one hovering above the lake begins glowing with a thunder-like sound and hits the water with some electrical rays from its bottom, creating a geyser of foam. The saucer then lights up into the air with those electrical rays firing from its bottom again, which eventually pull Godzilla out of the depths of the lake. He's then encased inside of an energy bubble and lifted up into the air, while the second saucer begins firing its laser at the side of Washigasawa, creating an opening in the side of the mountain before using its own tractor-rays to pull Rodan out of his hiding place. Funnily enough, since this was only the second Godzilla movie I ever saw, I didn't what Rodan was and, due to the camera angles and the way Rodan has his wings closed around his body, I thought they had just pulled some random rock out of the side of the mountain and intended for Godzilla to use it as a weapon later on! It wasn't until we got to Planet X that I was able to see Rodan's body and realize that he was a giant bird. In any case, the saucer encases Rodan in an energy bubble too and heads over to the one carrying Godzilla, both eventually heading for Planet X along with the Controller's spaceship.
After arriving on Planet X, the saucers carrying Godzilla and Rodan set the two monsters down and head inside of the underground base through the same opening in the cliff-face that the Controller's saucer entered moments before. A number of those elevator-like cylinders rise to the surface and some aliens emerge, carrying some long, suction tubes to retrieve some nearby water. However, they no sooner get to work before bolts of yellow lightning streak across the sky, signifying that King Ghidorah is coming. The work teams immediately back underground as Ghidorah comes over a nearby ridge, randomly firing its lightning at the planet's surface again. As the dragon approaches, a nearby device emerges from the rocks and fires a ray that releases Godzilla and Rodan from their energy bubbles. The two monsters immediately come into consciousness, with Godzilla actually stretching and yawning, as Ghidorah approaches from behind (I'm not even going to ask how Godzilla and Rodan are able to breathe here). Ghidorah fires its lightning bolts across the ground past Godzilla, immediately snapping him to his feet, and right at Rodan's feet, forcing him to lift off. As Godzilla turns around, Ghidorah slams right into him and knocks him over before it comes around, lands, and continues firing its lightning, striking the ground right next to Godzilla. He retaliates by hitting Ghidorah in the chest with his atomic blast but it doesn't hurt the dragon at all and it continues firing at him. Godzilla takes cover behind some rocks as Ghidorah continues firing while walking towards him, with Godzilla retaliating with a couple of more atomic blasts. After a quick bit of the Controller, Fuji, Glenn, and Dr. Sakurai watching the battle from the control room, we cut back to see Godzilla continuing to take refuge behind those rocks as Ghidorah blasts them again with its lightning. With his atomic blast having no effect, Godzilla begins tossing and kicking large rocks at Ghidorah, while Rodan picks up a good sized one and carries it over to the space monster. One of Ghidorah's bolts hits Godzilla around his feet just before Rodan drops his rock on the dragon, stunning it for a few seconds. This gives Godzilla the opportunity to tackle Ghidorah down to the ground, which the dragon clearly didn't see coming. Ghidorah manages to take the air and flips Godzilla down onto the ground. Godzilla rolls over in order to get himself upright and when he does, he sees that Ghidorah is retreating, prompting him to do his victory dance.
One scene involving Godzilla and Rodan that I'd also like to mention is when Fuji, Glenn, and Dr. Sakurai depart and leave them behind on Planet X. As Fuji notes, they both realize that they're being left behind and have a look of resentment. It's funny, in the Japanese version, Glenn feels sympathy for them but in the English version, he's like, "Good riddance." Sure enough, when the P-1 takes off into the sky and leaves the planet, Godzilla and Rodan both react by roaring at it as they watch it depart, as if they are saying, "Hey, you can't leave us here!" You genuinely do feel bad for the two monsters here, with how they dragged to this strange planet without them even realizing due to the suspended animation they were under in those energy bubbles, were forced to fight Ghidorah again once they regained consciousness, and now, after they drove the space monster away, they're being left behind on this planet with no way to get back to their home. Moreover, you learn that they were put under mind control soon after the Earthmen left, making you feel even more sympathy over the predicament these two innocent creatures were put into. Before we move on to the main effects showcase of the film, I guess I should briefly mention how Glenn and Tetsuo manage to escape the aliens' Earth-base on a small island. After they discover the note Miss Namikawa slipped Glenn and realize that Tetsuo's invention damages the people of Planet X, they use it to incapacitate a couple of guards and use the key one of them has in order to escape their cell and lock the guards inside it. Making their way outside, they're almost stopped by one guard but Glenn manages to punch him into submission and saves Tetsuo from being choked out by another. As they head for the docks where the boat that transports people back and forth from the island is located, the Commander is told of their escape and contacts the Controller to take care of them. The Controller's saucer moves into position and, upon seeing the aforementioned boat heading out, blasts it with a laser and destroys it one big explosion. Confident that the escaped prisoners are dealt with, the Commander and his men, who were watching it from the dock, head back to their base as the Controller's saucer moves off. Once everyone's out of sight, Glenn and Tetsuo emerge from the water, having sent the boat off by itself with some guards onboard. They then swim for shore.
Okay, now we get to what is the best part of the movie by far: the all-out attack by the mind-controlled monsters. The Controller and his men, picking up some sort of interference with their computers (it's never explained but it could be due to some last-minute testing of Tetsuo's device), decide to change their plans and begin the attack on Earth now, three hours earlier than when they were expected to. The Controller orders Godzilla and Rodan, whom he calls Monster Zero-One and Zero-Two, to begin attacking and his instructions are passed down to them from the saucers, which they were sitting directly under, via some electric beams. The two of them immediately spring to life, with Godzilla getting up and roaring before heading out, like he's saying, "Well, time to go to work." He and Rodan head towards a small village near Mt. Fuji, prompting the inhabitants to evacuate, while the military, who are responding rather quickly, moves in to intercept them. With the saucers hovering nearby, Godzilla sets fire to a patch of forest with his atomic blast. Rodan hovers in the air nearby while Godzilla proceeds to plow through some houses with his feet and head towards the heart of the village, as the remaining inhabitants run for cover in the outskirts. Realizing that they've got to hurry, the vehicles containing the large versions of the A-Cycle light ray, which is meant to intercept the waves controlling the monsters, are deployed while more troops are moved into the area (some of this latter footage is taken from Mothra vs. Godzilla).
The Controller decides to increase the intensity of the attack by having his saucer do some damage as well. Godzilla, meanwhile, continues stomping through the small village near Mt. Fuji, as some troops attempt to get into position in a nearby field. Rodan then appears and flies directly over a nearby bridge, causing it to break in two and collapse on either side of the ridge with his sonic boom. He lands on the outskirts of the village and, while a squadron of tanks begins firing at him, proceeds to use the powerful winds that his wings produce to blow away a lot of the houses. The tanks decide to turn their attention to Godzilla and one of the shells hits him right in the face but he proceeds to smash through more houses with his feet, leading to a nice montage of close-ups of them as he does so. After crushing those puny houses, Godzilla creates another brush fire with his atomic blast as the tanks continue shooting at him, with one shell hitting him in the neck. The Controller's saucer then contributes to the attack by blowing up a couple of the light guns. One wonders why he only blew up those two instead of just going for all of them but, in any case, after a brief moment back at World Space Authority where Glenn, Tetsuo, and Haruno prepare the device for broadcasting, we get a little bit more of Godzilla as he crushes some more houses after creating that second brush fire. The Controller orders Ghidorah to join the attack, while the mobile unit that will broadcast the sound of Tetsuo's device even more so takes cover inside of a tunnel while waiting for orders.
By this point, Godzilla and Rodan have reached the outskirts of a large city (I'm not sure if it's meant to be Tokyo or what) and Godzilla begins heading inward while nearby citizens are evacuated and military troops get into position. While being fired upon, Godzilla sets fire to some more houses as Rodan lands in the middle of the city (stock footage from the movie Rodan) and begins using his wind to derail a train and blow the shingles off some nearby buildings. As Rodan's mini-hurricane spreads throughout the city, Ghidorah comes flying over a nearby ridge and fires its bolts directly at the headquarters for World Space Authority. After doing a little damage there, Ghidorah heads into the city and hits the side, front, and top of a building with its lightning. Some tanks move into the area while Ghidorah lands on top of a small building, its feet going right through the roof as it does so. It begins walking forward while firing its lightning at its surroundings, setting fire to an oil well that's sitting next to some gas tanks. Meanwhile, a squadron of tanks and missile turrets are battling Godzilla and Rodan as they continue moving through the city. Godzilla causes a lot of damage with his tail, flattening a row of houses with it, while he crushes and topples over some more in front of him with his feet. He continues plowing through buildings while being fired upon, as his tail sweeps away some debris behind him. We get a couple of bits of stock footage from Rodan and Mothra sprinkled amongst the shots of Godzilla smashing through even more buildings and doing another sweep with his tail, eventually setting fire to a Mobiloil station (expect to see that same shot in a few films in the future). As he heads onward, Rodan begins using his hurricane winds full force, with a lot of this footage again being from Rodan and Mothra, with one of my favorite shots from the latter being from inside some sort of shop and something (I think it's a car being blown while upside down) comes smashing right through the window. It's a shame that so much of this is recycled footage and they couldn't shoot some new stuff of Rodan being a bad-ass bringer of destruction like he was in his debut film but, at least in the context of this movie, he's getting to cause a lot of nice property damage. On the other side of the city, Ghidorah continues to walk forward while firing its lightning at the buildings in front of it. At one point, one of the heads seems to fire two bolts right behind the same Mobiloil station that Godzilla ignited moments before, only it's not damaged here. And as Ghidorah plows through the building it was standing behind while doing this, we then see the house behind that station is now engulfed in flames. I don't know if I just discovered a small continuity error or if that's simply another Mobiloil station, which could very well be the case since I'm sure Ghidorah is on the other side of the town but, either way, this awesome sequence comes to a close with some shots of burning houses as we head into the climax.
Glenn, Tetsuo, and Haruno use a radio broadcasting station as a way to emit the sound of Tetsuo's invention across the countryside, with the head of the station urging listeners to turn up the volume on their radios to maximum in order to make it as loud as possible. With the sound being broadcast all over Japan, the Controller's spaceship soon begins to malfunction due to the damage it causes to the computer, with the saucer tilting back and forth before moving off. The mobile broadcasting unit, along with several A-Cycle light ray guns, then deploys from the tunnel it was hiding in. Glenn and his group arrive at the spot near the island that contains the Planet X Earth headquarters, where another mobile unit is broadcasting the sound. When the Controller's malfunctioning spaceship appears above the island, the order to transmit the A-Cycle light rays in order to interfere with the ship's instruments more is given and, as the Controller tries to contact the Commander, a squadron of tanks begins firing around the house on the island, wreaking havoc on the aliens inside, who are already crippled by the sound. As this is going on, the other mobile unit heads to a spot in the countryside where the military is battling the still mind-controlled Godzilla, Rodan, and Ghidorah. With the monsters being held off, the second mobile unit begins using their light ray guns to interfere with the two saucers controlling the monsters and to block the magnetic waves controlling them, which really drives the monsters crazy. They shake their heads, convulse, and swipe their arms, confused as to what's happening to them (Ghidorah is especially irritated by this), before the aliens' control on them is broken altogether and all three of them collapse to the ground where they continue to convulse in shock (Godzilla makes a really funny expression and seems to put his hand inside of his mouth before falling). Back at the Earth-base, the assault on the Controller's saucer and the island is proving more and more effective, with those in the ship realizing that they've lost control of the monsters and everyone in the house either having been killed or trapped under debris by the continuing tank attack, with the Commander crying for help. The Controller refuses to retreat, saying that they will recover and attack, but then the corners of the saucer's inside walls begin catching on fire. With the burning, smoking saucer about to crash, the Controller decides to "escape" by committing and forcing everyone else to take part in mass suicide, blowing up his saucer along with the other two and the base on the island.
With the aliens dead, all three monsters are back to normal, with Godzilla being the first to recover from the shock of being released from their control. After scanning his surroundings with his eyes, not knowing where he is, Godzilla gets to his feet with a roar and then sees Ghidorah lying on the ground. He proceeds to kick a rock on Ghidorah's chest, prompting the dragon to get to its feet as well and as Godzilla backs up, he accidentally whacks Rodan with his tail, snapping him out of his shock as well. Ghidorah then begins firing its lightning at its opponents, giving Rodan more incentive to get to his feet while Godzilla charges at Ghidorah and grapples with it. As Godzilla holds Ghidorah's body, Rodan flies into its heads and knocks it down on its back again. Ghidorah then gets to its feet again and faces off with Godzilla, who begins doing his boxing moves against the lightning-spewing heads, at one point shuffling his feet, while Rodan pulls on one of Ghidorah's tails with his beak. Godzilla continues swiping at Ghidorah's heads, at one point blasting it in the chest, until Rodan looses his grip on one of the tail. Ghidorah proceeds to spray its lightning all over Godzilla, hitting him in the hands and arms before proceeding to zap his feet. Godzilla is forced to back away from the barrage of lightning but when Rodan shrieks behind Ghidorah, the dragon turns around and begins spraying him with lightning. Seeing his chance, Godzilla rushes up behind Ghidorah and grabs both tails, pulling it while it continues blasting Rodan. Ghidorah quickly realizes what's going on and tries to bend its necks backwards in an attempt to get Godzilla. With the dragon distracted, Rodan flies right into it, knocking it over but also right on top of Godzilla! The observing military unit then decides to move out, as Ghidorah continues to blast both Godzilla and Rodan while it backs up to the edge of a cliff (you can probably guess where this is going). Godzilla charges at Ghidorah while Rodan picks him up by the shoulders and slams him right into the space monster. All three of them tumble down the side of the mountain and crash into the ocean below. After a few seconds of nothing but foam, Ghidorah rises out of the water and flies off into space while everyone looks on, but there's no sign of Godzilla or Rodan. As it was with Godzilla at the end of the Japanese version of King Kong vs. Godzilla, it's speculated that the two of them are, more than likely, still alive.
Akira Ifukube provides us with yet another great musical score, one that's also a personal favorite of mine. I like how he plays up the mysteriousness of outer space and Planet X in particular with this eerie theme that has a soft, high-pitched whistling type of sound which is played through different iterations throughout the film whenever the focus is on Planet X and the aliens. As I said earlier, I think it's especially effective in getting across the feeling of the unknown when Fuji and Glenn first set foot on the planet's surface and I also like the iteration of it that's played when the two of them are first approaching Planet X in their spaceship. Speaking of which, the music that plays when their ship is actually landing for the first time has a really nice, epic sort of ring to it. As he did with Godzilla's theme in Mothra vs. Godzilla, Ifukube perfects the theme that he established for King Ghidorah in the previous film, making it sound all the more menacing and powerful, and he also establishes a nice motif for all three of the monsters' themes, with it starting out with Ghidorah's theme, heading into Godzilla's, and then finishing with Rodan's before looping back around again. This arrangement of the themes, which you first hear during the battle on Planet X, really comes to a head during the ultimate attack on Earth. Known as, "The Rage of the Monsters," this music helps make the attack even more devastating and powerful than it already is and it's most of the reason why that whole sequence is so awesome. Speaking of great music, the loud, bombastic version of the Planet X theme that plays when the flying saucers emerge from Lake Miyojin gives the aliens a sense of menace for the first time in the movie, signifying what's to befall Earth once they reveal their true intentions. The music that you hear when the saucers capture Godzilla and Rodan is also very memorable because it starts with a variation of the Planet X theme and then, when Godzilla is pulled out of the lake and encased in an energy bubble, it goes into the threatening notes of his theme before becoming softer again. Then, the Planet X theme comes back around and when Rodan is pulled out of Washigasawa, you hear a deeper, brassier version of his theme, which I thought was well-done. The most notable bit of music in the film, though, has to be a rousing military march that plays during the assault on the aliens and when the monsters are being freed from their control. It's a really nice, energetic, and fun theme and, as was the case with the corresponding piece of music in the original Godzilla, it works well for when you're watching the military being put into action only it's much more triumphant-sounding here since the military actually succeeds. And finally, you have some soft, sentimental music that plays twice in the film: first when Godzilla and Rodan are left behind on Planet X and at the end of the movie when their fate after crashing into the water with Ghidorah is left uncertain. It gets across the feeling that these two monsters were completely innocent creatures and that it was unfair for them to be used as pawns the way they were, especially since it's ended with them at the bottom of the ocean somewhere after a second battle with a powerful enemy.
While American-International Pictures would release Frankenstein Conquers the World in America in 1966, by the time things got around to Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, the relationship between Henry G. Saperstein and AIP head Samuel Z. Arkoff, which had always been rocky, was strained beyond repair; in fact, Saperstein had only allowed AIP to distribute Frankenstein because he couldn't find any other interested distributors. After that partnership was dissolved, Saperstein had to find another distributor for both Monster Zero and War of the Gargantuas, which were to be released on a double-bill. It took him five years to do so, with the two films finally making it to America in 1970, two years after Nick Adams had died at the age of 37 (it's not clear whether he committed suicide or if he died of an accidental drug overdose). I always thought that was a shame that the movie didn't make it to America until after Adams had died, although Frankenstein Conquers the World was released when he was still alive (it didn't do well, though). Also, by the time Monster Zero made it to America, the three following Godzilla films had already been released here, either in the theater or on television, so we were really behind in receiving the series in the correct order. In any case, because of the involvement of an American producer from the start of production, Godzilla vs. Monster Zero is one of the least tampered with entries in terms of its English version. There are very, very few differences to be found between the two versions. A couple of moments where the Controller speaks in the language of Planet X are removed as well as some shots of Japanese newspaper clippings for when the astronauts return to Earth and when Godzilla's presence in Lake Miyojin is signified by some strong radiation readings and a brief moment where Fuji and Glenn whisper to each other when they're about to arrive on Planet X for the second time. They also inserted a shot of an English-written version of Miss Namikawa's note to Glenn to replace the Japanese one that was there originally and did the same for other bits of Japanese text in the original version. Other than that, though, the actual content of the film is pretty much the same for both versions. Some sound effects were also added, such as some stomping for when Godzilla does his victory dance, and some small bits of music are either switched around or removed. The most notable tinkering of the music is in the opening credits. In the Japanese version, that military march Akira Ifukube composed for this film plays but, in the American version, they put in the music that's heard when the flying saucers capture Godzilla and Rodan, which I think works better since it gives the opening a much more ominous feeling.
Godzilla vs. Monster Zero is an instance where I can say that I prefer the American version to the Japanese one and the biggest reason is the dubbing, which is some of the best ever done. As I mentioned earlier, Nick Adams spoke English during filming while everyone else spoke Japanese. While the Japanese dubbing done for him in the original version sounds good, I much prefer hearing his normal voice in this English version (the same goes for his performance in Frankenstein Conquers the World). Plus, the dubbing done for the rest of the cast is, again, about as good as you can get. It was done by Glen Glenn Sound, which also did the dub for the accompanying American release of War of the Gargantuas, so you hear a lot of the same voices in the dubs for both of these films and, as a result, the dubbing there is also really good. The voices sound very natural and fit their characters, the lip movements fit nicely for the most part, the dialogue is well-translated and makes sense all-around, and, most importantly, you can tell that there was some actual thought and care put into it. Marvin Miller, the voice of Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet, does the dubbing for Akira Takarada as well as a lot of other actors and he does a good job. His voice fits well with the character of Fuji and while he sometimes makes his voice sound a little silly in order to differentiate between characters, it works well enough in those instances too. I don't know who the other dub actors were but, regardless, they did nice jobs as well, especially the guy who voiced Dr. Sakurai and the Controller, the one who voiced the commander played by Yoshifumi Tajima, the guy who voiced the general, and the woman who voiced Miss Namikawa. I'm not sure if the same woman voiced Haruno as well (the voices sound a little similar) but, if it is, then she did a better job with Namikawa. Haruno sounds a little mousy for my tastes. The dub also made Tetsuo sound a little more nerdy than I think was necessary but it's not the point where it's annoying, which is fortunate. The only really bad voice here is the one given to the woman who yells at Tetsuo for the noise his device makes. Fortunately, she's only in that one scene and doesn't have many lines but it's still a rather over the top, squawking type of voice that I think could have been done better. Overall, though, this dub is one of the best around, with great voices and translations and, to me, should be used as a reference point by all those who make English dubs for foreign films.
Whether you want to call it Invasion of Astro-Monster, Monster Zero, or, like me, Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, in my opinion, this is one of the highpoints of the original series. While the presence of Godzilla and the other monsters is a little light here, when they're onscreen, it's awesome, and the film also has lots of other good stuff to keep you interested. It has another likable cast of characters, some good non-monster bad guys, well-done special effects, a nice turn-around on a theme that had been talked about before in the previous two films, another great score, and, for those who don't like reading subtitles, the American version is one of the best ever produced and has very few edits made to the Japanese version. Since the film is very well-regarded amongst the fanbase, it's obvious that I'm not alone in my high opinion of it. Bottom line, this is another entry that comes with a high recommendation. It may not have tons of Godzilla action but, again, what is here is very enjoyable and there's also lots of other stuff to hold your attention while waiting for the Big G and the other monsters to come back onscreen.