Godzilla Vs. Monster Zero (1965)
The sixth film in the Godzilla series is known by a variety of titles. Its international English title is Invasion Of Astro-Monster, while the Japanese version translates to Great Monster War. The film was eventually released theatrically in the United States as Monster Zero, and was subsequently known as Godzilla Vs. Monster Zero on some home video releases. Adding to the confusion, the creature referred to as “Monster Zero” is actually King Ghidorah, the three-headed space dragon—and this movie is neither the first to feature King Ghidorah, nor is it Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah, a separate movie entirely).
Yet the mishmash of titles fits this glorious mishmash of a movie. Godzilla Vs. Monster Zero is a creature-invasion picture, a science-fiction adventure, and an all-star monster battle, featuring Godzilla, King Ghidorah, and giant pterodactyl Rodan fighting on two different planets; it even finds time for two different romantic subplots. It begins with a mission from the World Space Authority to explore the mysterious Planet X, a planet beyond Jupiter. Astronauts Fuji (Akira Takarada, from the original Godzilla) and Glenn (Nick Adams, playing the brash American), find the planet’s population cowering underground from the wrath of their resident giant monster, King Ghidorah.
To rid themselves of this menace, Planet X asks for custody of Earth’s Godzilla and Rodan in exchange for their miracle drug that cures all disease (in the English dub, anyway; in the Japanese version, it’s merely all types of cancer). Without giving too much away about the motivations of Planet X, let’s just say that Earth asks perilously few follow-up questions about this arrangement. Godzilla Vs. Monster Zero strikes a balance between the idealistic promise of space-age science and paranoia over how quickly it can turn on humanity.
It also represents, among other things, Godzilla’s first proper fight in space, which may explain the delightful victory dance he does when he first bests Ghidorah on the dragon’s home turf. Godzilla seems particularly cocky in this installment, at one point flat-out boxing his hydra-like rival. The sci-fi setting also allows for neat production design details (lots of trippy hallways and selectively lit control rooms), displayed in the movie’s surprisingly wide 2.35:1 aspect ratio. But as always, the monster fights rule above all. Godzilla Vs. Monster Zero sums up the bedrock appeal of Godzilla movies with a silly yet poetic line of dialogue from one of the Planet X leaders: “Everything is numbered here; the monster is zero.”
Availability: Godzilla Vs. Monster Zero is available on DVD under the title Invasion Of Astro-Monster, to rent or purchase through the major digital services, and to stream on Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime. A warning: The version on Netflix fills widescreen TVs with some aspect-ratio monkeying; it looks like a pan-and-scan version of the movie has been zoomed into a rectangular frame.