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 ofunwillingness 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 waspreamble 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.