(War of the Monsters)
International Title: The Invasion of the Astro-Monsters
Released: December 19, 1965
Running time: 94 minutes
Released: July 29, 1970 by UPA/Saperstein Productions
Running time: 93 minutes
The Japanese Pop Culture in America is formally available as Godzilla vs. Monster Zero from Simitar Home Video.
History Vortex and Monster Zero marks the first time that Toho united their already popular themes of outer space invasions (The Mysterians 1957, Battle in Outer Space, 1959) with giant monster wars (King Kong vs. Godzilla, Godzilla vs. the Thing, Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster) into one movie. The result was another popular entry in the Godzilla series. The formula of alien invasion would be employed again in Destroy All Monsters, and over-used from Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972) to Terror of MechaGodzilla (1975).
Some fans consider Monster Zero as a sequel to Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster. At first glance, there is less that connects Monster Zero to Ghidrah than Ghidrah to Godzilla vs. the Thing. The main factor that links Monster Zero to Ghidrah is reference to King Ghidorah’s defeat by Godzilla and Rodan (with Mothra’s participation conveniently overlooked). However, more subtle connections can be read between both films. First is the reference at the beginning of Monster Zero by Dr. Sakurai (Jun Tazaki), that Planet X is the source of “strange magnetic waves” aimed at the Earth. This line connects with the opening of Ghidrah where the Earth is experiencing a strange winter heat wave, a plot point which is never explained in that film. It thus can be inferred that the X-Seijins were attempting to conquer the Earth, controlling King Ghidorah all the time. Second, Namikawa’s (Kumi Mizuno) betrayal of her own people by giving Glen (Nick Adams) the secret of their weakness suggest that not all X-Seijins were emotionless and thus supportive of the Controller’s plans. Thus another inference is that the “Martians” (Venusians) who controlled the princess were really X-Seijin resistance fighters, using their powers to warn the Earth of the impending invasion through the princess. Finally, there is the fact that the X-Seijins already know about King Ghidorah’s defeat at the hands of Godzilla and Rodan, which suggests an imitate knowledge of past events. When these factors are considered, the two films fit nicely together and give some reason behind the random chain of events that took place in Ghidrah.
Unlike Ghidrah, Monster Zero was virtually unscathed for American release. That Monster Zero had an American co-producer, Henry G. Saperstein, could be why this film suffered little in the Americanization process. Scant footage was trimmed from Monster Zero, and among this was:
– Yoshio Tsuchiya, who portrayed the Controller of Planet X, wrote for himself three lines in X-Seijin, all of which were snipped from the American version. The first line was during a quick conversation with one of the (off-screen) personnel at the Hydrogen-Oxide plant. The second line is spoken after Astronauts Glen and Fuji (Akira Takarada) leave Planet X; the Controller sneers in X-Seijin, in the American version, this was dubbed over with an evil laugh. The third occasion is after the skirmish between Godzilla, Rodan and King Ghidorah on Planet X; when the Controller notices that Glen and Fuji (Akira Takarada) are missing from the control room, he stands, presses buttons on the control panel and issues orders in X-Seijin.
– An overhead shot of Japanese troops running across a stream as the X-Seijin saucers land at Lake Myojin was removed.
– A ground-level shot of the X-Seijin saucers carrying Godzilla and Rodan away from Earth was deleted.
– When a group of X-Seijins lose track of Glen and Fuji at an X-Seijin elevator, the scene continued with one of the X-Seijins turning and issuing commands to the others. – When Dr. Sakurai retrieves the plans for the A-Cycle Light Ray from a filing cabinet, a shot of the document cover in Japanese was snipped.
Additional changes included the deletion of newspaper headlines and office signs in Japanese characters. Alternatively, English translations for newspaper headlines announcing the threat of Planet X were inserted.
Some of the sound effects were also re-mixed, notably during the infamous “Godzilla Shie” (jig) after King Ghidorah’s first defeat. In the Japanese version, we only hear Godzilla’s roar. The Americanization improved this comical bit by dubbing in thundering sounds to accompany Godzilla’s “victory dance”.
Incidentally, the opening title in the Japanese version dates Monster Zero as occurring in the year “198X”. UPA translated the title but did not give a date to the film.
While the visuals were nearly left intact, the music was not spared from tampering. Ifukube’s famous Kaiju Daisenso march suffered. This is one of Ifukube’s oldest and most popular themes; a precursor was used in Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1954), again in Battle in Outer Space (1959), and a new arrangement (from the famous “Ostinato” recording in 1986) was employed in Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989). The Japanese version of Monster Zero opens with a blast of this triumphant theme. The Americanization replaced this theme with the same track when Godzilla and Rodan are recovered from hibernation by the X-Seijin saucers. Though the Kaiju Daisenso march is a wonderfully stirring score, the substituted piece for the American version works better and sets a proper mood for the movie. However, the same cannot be said of the tampering with the Kaiju Daisenso theme at the climax, when the A-Cycle Light Ray cannons are unleashed against the X-Seijin saucers. In the Japanese version, this theme runs three minutes and thunders on the soundtrack. In the American version, this piece was reduced to two minutes, was muffled and re-mixed with the opening Japanese track. This disastrous re-editing dampened the impact of Earth’s victory against the X-Seijins and their monsters (in the American version, it is possible to hear the final note of the Kaiju Daisenso march in the scene where Fuji and Dr. Sakurai recoil in shock at two exploding X-Seijin saucers).
The dubbing ranges from mediocre to good. Especially well-dubbed is the Controller of Planet X, but the X-Seijin colonial commander, in the words of Greg Shoemaker from Japanese Fantasy Film Journal sounds like he was dubbed at the “Snidely Whiplash School of Voice”. Some of the voices for the minor characters come across unintentionally funny as well. In the Japanese version, Nick Adams was dubbed in Japanese, though he went undubbed for the Japanese theatrical trailer. Interestingly, in the American version Adams refers to Rodan by his Japanese name Radon (RA-don).
Monster Zero was released in the United States in 1970, a year after Destroy All Monsters received its’ domestic release. Considering the involvement of Saperstein, the reasons for the five-year delay are open to speculation. One possibility could have been Nick Adams’ sudden death in 1967. Monster Zero comprised the second half of a double-bill with War of the Gargantuas (1966), another Saperstein film that took four years to reach American shores.
Monster Zero was one of the first Godzilla films to be released in the U.S. on videocassette. Paramount Home Video changed the title to the more marketable Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, and made some changes during the opening credits; the jeweled background for “A Toho Co. Ltd.-Henry G. Saperstein Enterprises Production” was replaced by a black background, while the production credits were completely redone via video correction. This is why the packaging for the Paramount re-release of Godzilla vs. Monster Zero states “Special Home Video Version”, to indicate that there are differences from the theatrical print. In 1998, Monster Zero was released on DVD, offering both cropped-and-scanned and letterboxed versions of the film. Worth noting is that the letterboxed version bears the original title Monster Zero.
The Godzilla films reached a peak with Godzilla vs. the Thing, Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster and Monster Zero. Yet after the last film, the series went into a slow decline. The story lines would remain of high caliber for the next two films, Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster and Son of Godzilla, and to a certain extent in Destroy All Monsters. But the SPFX and overall production values began to drop, and the following films would lack the creative energy from this period. A reason for this decline was that Ishiro Honda and Akira Ifukube were not involved in the next two entries, while Eji Tsuburaya began to take a less active role in directing the SPFX, partially due to involvement with his own Tsuburaya Productions, partially due to his health. Many genre enthusiasts maintain that Monster Zero saw the passing of the “Golden Age” in the history of the King of the Monsters.