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Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Three Heads Better Than One, and So Forth


Ghidrah Flies Wide Of The Liberty

It was a hurtful thing when the Liberty opted not to book Ghidrah The Three-Headed Monster in US release year of 1965, an insult to call forth memory of unwillingness to play The Flesh Eaters a year before. The problem, I now realize, was distribution. Apparently, Charlotte bookers that serviced us either didn't handle Walter Reade-Sterling Continental product, or wouldn't push it, that company a producer/distributor of imports from which most were arty, including in-the-works Ulysses (not the strong man or Kirk Douglas) as Ghidrah went into release. Variety liked what it saw in the "Three Stooges" of monsterdom, Godzilla, Rodan, and Mothra, teamed against common enemy Ghidrah, who is blessed with three heads and thus equal to opposing triad. Continental had realized that art pics weren't a way to exclusive-go, having had "a very bad period" through 1964 and much of '65. "You can't take good reviews and awards to the bank," said topper Reade before sales conventioneers in 9/65.


Still, there was Kwaidan on release schedules, perhaps as counterbalance to also-from-Japan Ghidrah. Variety reported the monsters performing well in saturation bookings through November 1965, and Ghidrah got coverage in monster press, where stills indicated a battle of the century among "Belligerent Behemoths" (Variety's term) that we'd seen but singly or at best in pairs before. I canvassed area papers at the time and found but single grind booking at a Winston-Salem hardtop that was deeper downtown than it was wise to go. Otherwise, a blackout. Even area drive-ins didn't use Ghidrah. Seemed unfathomable that theatres still in midst of a monster boom would pass up this greatest aggregation of them. Had Reade and Continental written off our southland, or did Charlotte exchanges regard their stuff as too small fry to bother about?


All this was preamble to my at last seeing Ghidrah on DVD, and within a past week. A forty-nine year wait seems not so much. The Flesh Eaters has also sat my shelf a while, and I'm yet to point of watching (though we must all face our greatest dread eventually). Some of delayed views are better left alone, but not Ghidrah as things happily turn out. G vs. G,R, and M may be a most satisfactory of monster rallies from Japan, and this from a never so-devoted fan who saw Rodan, Mothra, and handful of Godzillas theatrically. Toho had taken a leaf from Universal's book in teaming colossi as individual appeal wore out. Result was each rising from volcanic or ocean tombs to join up and do battle on humanity's behalf against Ghidrah, whose three heads were equally untrustworthy. Japan had arrived at separating hero from villain monsters, lending texture to each and rooting interest for we who watched. But what tangible reward could mankind offer Godzilla, Rodan, and Mothra for saving its bacon? It's not as though we'd shown them much hospitality in the past. A Ghidrah follow-up was unwisely titled Destroy All Monsters, as if that were desirable at  point of our having developed real affection for at least some of them. I was fifteen by the time it rolled around and did a big boy walk-out after a first third, leaving future Godzillas to cope with Megalon, the Smog Monster, and other such 70's opposition w/o benefit of my pay-in.

7 Comments:

Blogger Reg Hartt said...

I had a fellow living here for a time who was big on GODZILLA so I acquired the entire series as well as a great number of other Japanese horror/monster films. I agree that DESTROY ALL MONSTERS was a low but, overall, the series is xlnt. Lots of fun. I missed most of them when they came out though.

6:09 PM  
Blogger Lou Lumenick said...

GODZILLA VS MEGALON does have the distinction of being the only Toho monster film to play on network television in prime time -- hosted by John Belushi in a Godzilla suit (which he had previously worn on Saturday Night Live).

9:19 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Hi Lou --- I must have missed that John Belushi network run with Godzilla. Very interesting. Wonder if his intro footage has been shown anywhere since ...

4:59 AM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

You didn't miss anything. Belushi didn't have any material to speak of, and one of the bumpers was just a short, wordless shot of Belushi-as-Godzilla chomping on film cans. The film was also shortened drastically to fit in a 90-minute time slot (or was it 60 -- that's how much of an impression it made).

11:48 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

I didn't see that Belushi/Megalon event, but I do remember when it was on, and, if I recall correctly, the whole thing was lumped into a one-hour slot. So the movie must have been chopped from here to gone to fit the limited time available.

12:44 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

The secret to building a motion picture industry is franchising. The Godzilla series is one of the most successful ever. Almost all of the things the industry knew have been discarded by people who learned their craft in colleges and universities whose focus is wrongly on aesthetics.

1:24 PM  
Blogger tbonemankini said...

IIRC this ended up on local TV very quickly,as I recall seeing it quite a few times....LOL moment:the summit of the 3 to decide whether to fight Ghidrah...some kind of U.N.parody? ....

11:21 AM  

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