Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965) [Maron Films]

Class: User
Author: Destroyer
Score: (4/5)
September 1st, 2011 [Review May Contain Spoilers]

Great Monster War, known internationally as Invasion of Astro-Monster and to American audiences as Monster Zero, is the sixth Godzilla film, and a direct sequel to Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964) (which I hope to critique another time). This film is different than the rest; don't worry, I'll get there later in the review...

The plot follows two astronauts, one American and one Japanese. A new planet, dubbed "Planet X" is discovered (yet another in the proud tradition of naming mysterious celestial objects "Planet X" in both fiction and real life). This remarkable orb was found just beyond Jupiter, and when the astronauts land on this new world, they discover that they are not alone. Aliens calling themselves the Xiliens populate the planet. These space brothers seem to possess a slight problem. The leader, called the Controller, explains that the Xiliens live underground because their world is constantly under attack by "Monster Zero" (King Ghidorah). The aliens offer the astronauts a proposal: let them borrow Godzilla and Rodan to fend off Monster Zero, and they will give the humankind the cure to all known disease. However, things are not what they seem...

Pretty interesting plot, eh? This is the first "alien invasion" story in Godzilla history, and it would be an element reused ad nauseam in later films.

The old Godzilla movies have a reputation of "cheesy/campy fun" and "cheap children's entertainment" (thanks to Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973) and the infamous All Monsters Attack (1969)). This film shines brighter than the camp, in that it doesn't concentrate on being a monster movie with flashy destruction and cheesy lines. Instead it focuses on being a high-quality science fiction story.

The American Glenn (portrayed by Nick Adams) brings something new to the table. His character is fun to watch on screen, something a lot of the Godzilla films lack. I'm always dreading the human screen time in these films, but in Invasion, I actually found myself ENJOYING their presence. *SHOCK!*

The main antagonist, the Controller, (portrayed by Yoshio Tsuchiya) is a cool, mostly emotionless villain. The Godzilla series villains (humans, aliens, and misc.) have often been laughable (I'm looking at you Seatopians), but this guy appears a lot more threatening (his people even sport the old school spandex).

The other characters, such as Miss Namikawa (Portrayed by Kumi Mizuno) are actually well-balanced and defined. The romance between her and Glenn feels believable, and not forced or thrown in like a lot of today's movies (I'm sorry Thor).

Now, for the REAL reason why we're here: THE MONSTERS. You see, this was before CGI; this is when they used puppets and/or suits. It still holds up to this day! Godzilla is looking mighty impressive, Rodan flaps his wings with glory, and the monstrous King Ghidorah is always a sight to behold. Everybody here is moving organically, realistically, and of course, awesomely.

Other effects, such as the beams, carry well for the time. You have to wonder though, Godzilla's beam in this film looks far superior than the one used in later Showa movies. It just goes to show you that sometimes the classics have better effects than later efforts.

The music is superb, a treat by Akira Ifukube himself. It really brings up the dramatic scale; little can compare to all of the leitmotifs used in this film. It's so fun to hear Rodan's theme transition to Ghidorah's so smoothly.

In closing, you have to look at this film differently. As a Godzilla film, it fails in that he's lacking a solid onscreen presence (the film technically isn't even about Godzilla). But as a science fiction story, it succeeds wonderfully. It has a high-quality feel, something a lot of the later Showa films lack (this was famed Godzilla director Ishiro Honda's last film until Destroy All Monsters (1968) some years later). We get a quality alien invasion story, competent acting, two fun monster fights, and satisfying destruction. This film is truly an underrated gem.