Review: The King of the Monsters Meets Retro Sci-Fi in ‘Godzilla vs. Monster Zero’

Hey, everybody. James here. Sarah’s currently doing stuff (Traveling? Dead?), so there’s no SciFriday this week. I’ll be filling in today, guest-writing on my own blog, which, now that I think of it, is probably not something that I needed to explain. I am the Boss. This is my domain. I demand statues and a tribute. Bring me your chickens and your women, and I will throw a barbeque so epic that it will be given dozens of godawful film adaptations. It will be the Beowulf of events, ripping the arm off the Grendel that is your boring Friday night, and then killing your mother. I know that wasn’t a perfect metaphor, but I am the Boss.

Speaking of bosses, here’s a review of the underrated classic Godzilla vs. Monster Zero.

Godzilla vs. Monster Zero (1965):

Toho Company/Simitar Video

The Plot: When a mysterious planet—dubbed Planet X by scientists—just beyond Jupiter begins signaling Earth with radio waves, the United Nations sends two dashing 60s astronauts to investigate: Japanese Fuji (Akira Takarada) and American Glenn (Nick Adams). On Planet X, the two dashing 60s astronauts discover a bunch of space people living underground, and—even more shocking—King Ghidorah terrorizing the surface of the planet! That’s right! The same King Ghidorah that terrorized Earth in the last Godzilla movie! Oh shit! The Planet X-ians request that Earth loan them Godzilla and Rodan in order to “exterminate” King Ghidorah. In exchange for the two monsters, they’ll give Earth a “miracle drug that cures all disease.” Seems legit. It isn’t, though. The people of Planet X mind-control Godzilla and Rodan, using the threat of annihilation to take over the world . Human drama and monster fights ensue.

Toho Company/Simitar Video

Some History:

You kids are into the whole retro thing, right? Like impractical space suits and cheesy special effects and stuff? Great. Finally, one of my childhood obsessions can make me cool as a grown up. I’m just kidding, they all do that.

I’ve been a Godzilla fan since I was three. He was one of my heroes, right up there with Batman, Han Solo, and Robin Hood (the Errol Flynn version, thank you very much). Since most of you probably haven’t seen any Godzilla movies, which is sad, I’ll give you a quick history lesson:

The first Godzilla movie, Gojira (1954) is an allegory about the horrors of nuclear war. It is serious and kind of harrowing. Godzilla dies at the end. It’s really sad when you’re eight.

Toho Company/Simitar Video
Imagine watching this after Hiroshima.

After that, Toho, the Japanese company that makes Godzilla movies, realized that the first film made them a lot of money and was both critically acclaimed and popular with the teeming masses. Naturally, they made a sequel, Godzilla Raids Again. Though it’s technically about a “different Godzilla,” I decided as a child that Godzilla somehow just got better after being turned into a skeleton at the end of the first movie. Science. Anyway, Raids Again started the formula of having Godzilla show up, wreck the shit out of Japan, and then fight another monster. At this point, Godzilla was still the antagonist, but more force of nature than nuclear metaphor.

By 1965, though, the Godzilla series was on its sixth movie and the King of the Monsters wasn’t such a bad guy anymore. Sure, he still wrecked the shit out of Japan, but he was usually doing that for the good of the world, and I guess also Japan.

Alrighty. Now that you’re all caught up, we can move on.

The Monster Fights:

This is the reason to watch most Godzilla movies, the original being an obvious exception. Godzilla vs. Monster Zero has some great kaiju (giant monster) action. Being a classic Godzilla film—one of the movies made between 1954 and 1975—Monster Zero has brawls instead of big things shooting fire and lasers at each other. As you can imagine, the “classic” fighting has much more personality than the “updated” kind from most movies after 1984. You get stuff like Godzilla punching a three-headed dragon, or ducking behind rocks, or doing this absolutely fantastic victory dance:

Toho Company/Simitar Video
The King of the Monsters can dance if he wants to.  He can leave your friends behind.

The Human Drama:

It’s a little hard to tell with the laughable dubbing, but I think this movie has some decent performances. Akira Takarada, playing Astronaut Fuji here, was one of Japan’s classic handsome leading men. He actually appeared in five other Godzilla movies, including the original. He’s good here as the stalwart astronaut, and it’s fun watching his character get over-protective of his sister (Keiko Sawai) when she starts dating the super nerdy inventor, Tetsuo (Akira Kubo).

Toho Company/Simitar Video
Cute couple.

Nick Adams’ performance as Astronaut Glen is very rooted in 50s tough guy roles, and it totally works. He’s a manly astronaut who fights bad guy aliens and wins the hearts of their alien women. He’s over-the-top, but this is a Godzilla movie that is also a 60s sci-fi movie, so I think that comes with the territory. Glen’s romance with Miss Namikawa (Kumi Mizuno) is melodramatic and cliché, but, again, it works. It’s the kind of romance that a movie like this needed, and I say that with total affection. It helps that Kumi Mizuno’s performance is spot-on, hitting all the right notes as the alien spy who falls in love with the dashing astronaut. Not super original, but their performances sell it as convincingly romantic.

Why You Should Watch It:

There may only be like half an hour of SciFriday left, but I like to think that you guys are up for watching cheesy sci-fi any day of the week. So when you’ve had a long day at work or class or whatever and you need some retro fluff to tune out to, you could do a lot worse than this.

Also, it’s on Netflix.

Also, I love Godzilla and we can be better friends if you love him too.

4 thoughts on “Review: The King of the Monsters Meets Retro Sci-Fi in ‘Godzilla vs. Monster Zero’

  1. I don’t know…in that picture Nick looks like maybe he ate some bad sushi. Or maybe he’s just tired from saving the world and being in love with and alien. It’s stressful, you know?

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