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

Class: Staff
Author: Miles Imhoff
Score: (4/5)
February 15, 2005 [Review May Contain Spoilers]

Invasion of Astro-Monster is probably one of the most unique and eclectic entries in the Showa Timeline. It works as somewhat of a direct sequel to the previous movie, which, in turn, was somewhat of a direct sequel to the movie prior, effectively creating something of a trilogy. As far as a Godzilla movie is concerned, especially one in the mid 60's, this film most definitely sets itself apart. With a cast of interesting monsters, a powerful array of Akira Ifukube's themes, good special effects, and a solid plot, this film is truly a highlight.

The story begins with the discovery of a planet located behind Jupiter. The planet's peculiar magnetic disturbance prompts the World Space Authority to send two astronauts to investigate. Astronauts Fuji and Glenn land on the planet and are taken under the surface by the planet's mysterious inhabitants. The Controller of Planet X tells them that their planet is in peril from Monster Zero, known to humans as King Ghidorah. The astronauts are told that the Xiliens are in need of Godzilla and Rodan in order to defeat the rampaging King Ghidorah, since the monsters' combined efforts had previously defeated King Ghidorah, as well. They wish permission to operate freely on Earth, and in return promise a medical cure-all. The astronauts bring this message back to the planet, and meet with no objections.

Lake Myojin and Washigasawa were revealed by the aliens as the locations of Godzilla and Rodan respectively, and this is confirmed through the use of field studies. Shocking everyone, a UFO suddenly ascends from Lake Myojin, and it is realized that the aliens were already on Earth! The aliens casually explain away their deception, and proceed to transport the dormant Godzilla and Rodan into the air. Glenn, Fuji, and Dr. Sakurai from the World Space Authority join the Controller on the return trip to Planet X. They witness a remarkable battle between Godzilla, Rodan, and King Ghidorah. The two Earth creatures combine their efforts and defeat the three-headed monster.

Leaving the monsters behind, the two astronauts and Dr. Sakurai return to Earth, bringing with them the tape that supposedly contains the cure to all diseases. Upon returning to Earth, the astronauts realize with horror that the tape does not contain medical information, but instead contains a warning of invasion. The Controller threatens to send Godzilla, Rodan, and King Ghidorah (each under his control) to destroy civilization on Earth, unless the planet agrees to become a Xilien colony.

Luckily, solutions are found to this catastrophe. Since the monsters are controlled remotely by magnetism, the "a-cycle light-ray gun" is developed in order to stop the magnetic waves. At the same time, Glenn's girlfriend, whom is revealed to be a spy for Planet X, slips Glenn a note before she is exterminated for showing too much emotion toward him. The note reveals that a certain sound is the weakness of the Xiliens.

Before these solutions can be put into place, the invasion begins. The special sound is soon broadcast, and the instruments on the Xilien UFOs go haywire. The Xiliens are also physically disabled by the sound. Simultaneously, the a-cycle light-ray gun is fired, and the Xilien's control over the monsters fails. With the Xiliens defeated and the mind control thwarted, Godzilla and Rodan fight King Ghidorah once more. Ultimately, all three crash into the ocean, and only King Ghidorah emerges. King Ghidorah escapes for space, and peace returns to the planet.

This film is very eclectic, as it represents both the contemporary space sci-fi adventure and the contemporary kaiju flick. Unfortunately, the monsters sometimes seem out of place as the alien invasion plot occasionally overshadows them. Luckily, most of the time it's easy to see the harmony between the two different subcategories of sci-fi.

Somewhat of an oasis in the mid 1960s, this movie boasts some solid acting, free from any serious gaps from any of the major characters. Nick Adams skillfully plays the suave, inquisitive, and no-nonsense character and truly brings the text on the script to life. Kumi Mizuno brings to the surface sympathy from the audience, due to her internal struggle between love and logic. Akira Kubo portrays the bumbling inventor out to prove himself, and creates a goofy (yet believably goofy) character. Yoshio Tsuchiya, as the Controller of Planet X, lifts the cold, logical villain to the screen in a way that, while still falling under the contemporary alien stereotype, seems to reach a plane just above the norm. As for the remaining characters, there are no performances that either break out of the mold or warrant scrutiny. They do well with what they're given, and they give a natural performance.

As always, the true stars of the film are the monsters, and the animation of these monsters is somewhat sophisticated. The mouths and eyes of Godzilla and Rodan are frequently used, and King Ghidorah's jittery necks are quite organic. The wing motion is terrible; however, and it gives little impression of lift whatsoever. The suit material itself looks as though it's getting cheaper and more raggedy, but at least it isn't as terrible as it would come to be in some of the upcoming 1970's movies.

As far as the rotoscoping of the beams is concerned, the desired effect is accomplished excellently, for the most part. The emissions from all of the beam devices are quite sophisticated. Godzilla's breath, however, is a rotoscoping low point in this film, appearing thin and flat at times. Luckily, King Ghidorah's gravity beams make up for the lapse in the effect of Godzilla's breath.

Matting and backdrops are handled relatively skillfully in this movie. The monsters are flawlessly sewn into scenes, and an illusion of realism does inch its way here and there. Unfortunately, the space scenes are lacking, often showing jittery celestial movements. Also, the Planet X backdrops are blurry, a side effect of obviously trying to add miniatures behind an actor.

        The miniatures are pretty well crafted in this film. The dolls that descend on the rocket's elevator aren't painful to the eyes, as aren't the lookout dolls on the tanks. The miniature tanks and buildings don't have a distracting amount of unrealism, and it is easy to get into the flow of the movie and easily avoid the small flaws.

As far as the music goes, it is a nice sample of Akira Ifukube's classics. Most of the themes are recycled from previous movies, including the famous Godzilla theme, King Ghidorah theme, and Rodan theme. It appears as though there are a few new themes in this movie, but they mostly reflect the "sci-fi space adventure" aspect of the film. One very intriguing theme plays when Lake Myojin and Washigasawa are first shown. It's very chilling and suits the scene nicely. No matter what the theme, however, there's that endearing quality of Ifukube, whose music is highly recognizable and widely enjoyed.

Since this review does concern the American release, it would be prudent to comment on the dubbing. Unfortunately, the dubbing is a little lacking. It's not as bad as it would come to be some years later, but close-up shots of the actors talking can easily make one cringe. Even worse, Nick Adams' dub drifted at times, and he was dubbing over his own English in the movie!

Another interesting dubbing note is that King Ghidorah is called "King Ghidrah" in this version. It does make sense in the translation from Japanese phonetics to lose the "o" after the "d", and in this case especially so, since the name is originally derived from the word "hydra". In later movies, however, "King Ghidorah" would be the preferred spelling and pronunciation.

Atmosphere is one more thing worth mentioning about this film. Like previous Ishiro Honda films, and unlike upcoming Jun Fukuda films, the atmosphere of this movie is gray and autumnal, creating a serious tone. Also, the deep notes in the musical scores match this quality, creating a living environment that is oddly inviting and very successful as far as the flow of the film is concerned. The atmosphere and music create a brilliant synergistic effect.

Ultimately, this movie proves to be not only a classic work from an objective perspective, but a truly enjoyable movie as well. Combining eclectic aspects of sci-fi, good effects, a solid plot, powerful music, and an excellent cast of characters (both human and kaiju alike); it isn't hard to see why this movie is so beloved among fans. This film neatly wraps up Honda's trilogy of closely interconnected movies, while adding mystery for the future. Acting as a transition to Fukuda's upcoming classics, Invasion of Astro-Monster doesn't constitute the end of a "golden age", but instead acts merely as the continuation of a series whose entries, like this one in particular, prove to be timeless and entertaining.