The Many Heads of King Ghidorah Part I – By Jordan Garren

KING GHIDORAH (1964 – 1975)


Height: 100 Meters (328 feet)

Wingspan: 150 Meters (492 feet)

Mass: 30,000 metric tons (33,000 tons)

Weapons/Abilities: Gravity beams from each of its mouths, hurricane force winds caused by its wings,
and flight at Mach 3.

First Appearance: Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster

(Showa) King Ghidorah’s Complete Filmography: Ghidorah, the
Three-Headed Monster, Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, Destroy All Monsters,
Godzilla vs. Gigan, Zone Fighter, Episode 5: King Ghidorah’s Arrival,
and Zone Fighter, Episode 6: King Ghidorah’s Counterattack. King
Ghidorah also has two very brief stock footage cameos in Godzilla vs.
Mechagodzilla and Terror of Mechagodzilla.

Origin: King Ghidorah’s true origins are a mystery, but what is
known about this enigmatic, three-headed harbinger of doom is that it’s
been destroying planets for millenia, and has been utilized as a weapon
by various alien cultures who have tried to conquer the Earth. Had it
not been for the combined might of Godzilla and Earth’s other homegrown
daikaiju, King Ghidorah would have turned our planet into a barren
wasteland.

My original intention for this article was just a simple kaiju profile
but as I was researching Godzilla’s biggest, baddest, and most popular
arch nemesis, I discovered that King Ghidorah has evolved many times.
So many times in fact that one article wouldn’t do “the destroyer of
worlds” justice. Because of that, I’ve turned this into a two part
series covering Ghidorah’s numerous incarnations. This first edition
will cover King Ghidorah’s appearances in film, television, video
games, and novels during the Showa and Heisei periods of the Godzilla
series. The second part will cover King Ghidorah’s ever-changing visage
in the Millennium Godzilla films and the Heisei Mothra trilogy (also
known as the Rebirth of Mothra trilogy).

King Ghidorah first appeared in 1964’s Ghidorah, the Three-Headed
Monster (a.k.a. San Daikaiju Chikyu Saidai No Kessen – Three Giant
Monsters, Greatest Battle on Earth; a.k.a. Ghidrah, the Three-Headed
Monster). In this film, a huge magnetic meteor crashes to Earth
somewhere in the Japanese countryside while simultaneously, a woman
claiming to be an alien prophetess appears and warns the Japanese of
Rodan and Godzilla’s sudden awakening. Eventually, the aforementioned
meteor explodes and unleashes King Ghidorah upon Japan while Godzilla
and Rodan continue an ongoing fight with one another elsewhere. Then
the film takes an interesting twist: Mothra appears and tries to
reconcile the differences between the two feuding monsters!

Mothra succeeds in doing that, but fails in convincing Godzilla and
Rodan to save humanity from King Ghidorah. Then, to make a point, the
giant larvae attempts to take on the three-headed death-dealer on her
own, only to be easily outmatched. Just when it seems that Mothra is
about to bite the dust, Godzilla and Rodan step in and start dealing
out some punishment to King Ghidorah. What follows is one of the better
kaiju fights ever filmed, as Earth’s trio of monsters team up and
eventually send Ghidorah fleeing to outer space after a good beating.
King Ghidorah, after only one film appearance, managed to show off its
cruel and truly malevolent nature. It came as no surprise to see
Ghidorah again in the following Godzilla film, Godzilla vs. Monster
Zero (a.k.a. Invasion of the Astro-Monster).

In this film, beings called Xilians from Planet X arrive on Earth,
begging for our help. Apparently their planet has been frequently under
siege by King Ghidorah, and only the combined might of Godzilla and
Rodan can save Planet X from destruction! Naturally us earthlings are
eager to help out and we gladly “lend” the mysterious aliens Earth’s
two mightiest monsters. Godzilla and Rodan are then hauled to Planet X
where they battle and defeat King Ghidorah. (As Ghidorah flies away,
Godzilla does a victory dance that has become one of the most memorable
Big-G moments in film history. It ranks right up there with Godzilla’s
flight in Godzilla vs. Hedorah and his tail-slide attack in Godzilla
vs. Megalon.) Afterwards, Earth’s diplomats return from Planet X with
an audio recording of an alleged miracle cure for all diseases.

The tape recording of course is a “surrender or die” ultimatum, and
soon Japan is assailed by the now alien-controlled Godzilla, Rodan, and
King Ghidorah! Things look bleak until Japan’s scientists invent a
weapon that will cut off the alien’s control of the monsters, plus they
discover that a certain annoying high-pitched sound can disable and
even kill the invading Xilians. The new weapons are put into action and
the invading aliens are defeated, but what about the monsters? Well,
after each giant creature has a monster-sized seizure (an effect caused
by the breaking of the Xilians control), they all snap out of it and a
new kaiju battle begins. Once again, Godzilla and Rodan send their
tri-headed opponent packing and Earth is saved from conquest once again.

King Ghidorah would head out to space and lick its wounds until 1968’s
monster melee, Destroy All Monsters. Once again, alien invaders have
come to Earth to enslave humanity, and once again they are forcing
monsters to do their dirty work. This time out, the aliens are called
Kilaaks and they have taken control of all the Earth’s monsters (which
were conveniently held at a scientific research station on Ogasawara
Island called “Monsterland.”). Though the film starts off a little
slowly, it soon builds to a city-smashing crescendo as Toho’s stable of
monsters are unleashed on the world’s major cities. (“Godzilla Nukes
New York! Mothra Blasts Beijing! Rodan Levels Moscow! King Ghidorah
Tramples Tokyo! Destroy All Monsters… the Battle Cry That Could Save
The World!”)

Of course Japan’s scientific community discovers how to defeat the
Kilaaks and take control of the monsters toward the end of the film,
resulting in the biggest monster battle of all time. (Said battle still
has yet to be topped in my opinion. Even Ryuhei Kitamura’s Godzilla:
Final Wars fails to compare to Eiji Tsuburaya’s monster bash.) The
Kilaaks, seeing that they’re now officially screwed, unleash their
trump card: King Ghidorah! But Ghidorah is clearly outnumbered and
outmatched and eventually succumbs to a massive flogging, with Minya
delivering a radioactive smoke ring as the coup de gras. Once the dust
clears and things calm down, it appears that King Ghidorah, the master
of disaster, the three-headed angel of death from above, has been
killed! Despite that little inconvenience, King Ghidorah would be back
one more time to rock Godzilla’s world in 1972.

In Godzilla vs. Gigan, large alien cockroaches from a dying planet
attempt to conquer Japan by building a fake monster theme park with a
Godzilla tower. From this tower, they call upon both King Ghidorah and
Toho’s newest kaiju creation, Gigan.
The two creatures begin tearing up Tokyo and easily shrug off the best
efforts of Japan’s self defense forces. Luckily, Godzilla and Anguirus
hear the aliens’ transmissions and make a beeline for Tokyo, ready to
take on all comers. Once they arrive in Tokyo Bay, Godzilla and
Anguirus take the offensive and start off strong, but the tide of the
battle quickly turns in Ghidorah and Gigan’s favor. Both Godzilla and
Anguirus lose some blood and take a sizeable beating. Things look
extremely bleak for Earth’s heroic monsters until the aliens’ control
over King Ghidorah and Gigan is broken. (Thanks to a little help from
humanity.)

Godzilla and Anguirus make a huge comeback and beat their enemies to a
pulp, forcing both creatures to outer space for safety. After this
film, King Ghidorah would appear in two episodes of 1973’s Zone Fighter
T.V. show. In Episode 5: King Ghidorah’s Arrival (a.k.a. Blast King
Ghidorah at Point Blank!), the shows resident alien invaders, the
Garogans, create yet another evil plot to destroy Zone Fighter and his
family. They plan to weaken Zone Fighter by absorbing the sun’s rays
using the “Dark Prism” (I guess Zone Fighter is solar-powered?) and
then unleash their secret weapon upon him, namely King Ghidorah! The
Garogan’s evil plan almost succeeds but Zone Fighter’s grandfather
(“Great Zone”) manages to destroy the “Dark Prism” and recharges Zone
Fighter with a Proton crystal. (Wow this show sounds wacky doesn’t it?)
With his strength regained, Zone Fighter saves the day and chases King
Ghidorah off our planet and follows him into space. The following week,
Episode 6: King Ghidorah’s Counterattack (a.k.a. King Ghidora Strikes
Back!) premiered and continued the storyline from the previous episode.

In this episode, it turns out that King Ghidorah’s retreat was merely a
diversion and Zone Fighter’s entire family was kidnaped by the
Garogans! Zone Fighter quickly returns to Earth, rescues his family
before they are executed, and then begins fighting anew with King
Ghidorah. During the battle, Zone Fighter is blinded and flees after
returning to his human form. “Great Zone” heals his grandson’s eyes and
then formulates a plan to lead King Ghidorah away from Earth. Using a
space capsule, the Zone Family attack King Ghidorah and lead him to far
away Jupiter; allowing Zone Fighter and King Ghidorah to battle one
final time. Zone Fighter continuously deflects Ghidorah’s gravity beams
back at the creature, then engages the beast in physical combat.
Surprisingly, King Ghidorah is nearly destroyed by Zone Fighter’s
patented Meteor Missile Might, but manages to escape and fly off into
deep space, never to return to Earth again.

Sadly, that was King Ghidorah’s final starring role in film and
television. The mighty kaiju would not be seen in another film during
the Showa era except for two brief stock footage cameos in both
Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla and Terror of Mechagodzilla. (Hey, don’t you
shake your head at me! You watch those two movies again very closely
and you’ll see King Ghidorah. If you don’t see him, then listen for his
trademark roar! Sheesh, the nerve of you disbelievers!) After 1975,
things got awfully quiet on the kaiju front after Godzilla’s “final”
film and Ghidorah sat in a dark, dank, and dusty warehouse, biding his
time until he would roam free again on the silver screen. King
Ghidorah’s wait would be a long one.


KING GHIDORAH (1991)


Height: 150 Meters (492 feet)

Wingspan: 175 Meters (574 feet)

Mass: 70,000 metric tons (77,000 tons)

Weapons/Abilities: Gravity beams from each of its mouths, hurricane force winds caused by its wings,
and flight at Mach 3.

First Appearance: Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah

(Heisei) King Ghidorah’s Complete Filmography: Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah.

Origin: In the far distant future of 1999 (hahaha), people from
the future called Futurians arrive in Japan and try and stop the
creation of Godzilla. They succeed in their task but secretly release
three small creatures called “Dorats” onto the island where the atomic
explosion that created Godzilla will take place. The result of the
blast was the fusion of the Dorats into the mighty King Ghidorah! With
Godzilla gone, how will Earth defend itself from this new threat?!

In 1984, Godzilla made a comeback after nearly ten years with Gojira
(a.k.a. Godzilla 1985) and in subsequent years, other popular Toho
monsters would also be revived on the big screen. After nearly two
decades, King Ghidorah was brushed off, revamped, and given an all new
origin (as was Godzilla). Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah premiered in
Japanese theaters in 1991 and did quite well in the box office. In this
film, the Futurians arrive in Japan with an ominous message: In the
near future, Godzilla will destroy Japan and the rest of the world! To
stop this cataclysm from happening, the Futurians offer to go back in
time and thwart the unintentional creation of the King of the Monsters.
They do succeed after they remove a “Godzillasaurus” from the island
and lay him to rest at the bottom of the see elsewhere. However, during
this procedure, the Futurians secretly release three small Dorats onto
the island before going back to the future. (“Great Scott!”) Once they
return to our present day and age, the Futurians come clean with their
plans to conquer Japan with the aid of their monster, King Ghidorah!

What the haughty Futurians don’t realize is that they have also managed
to make a larger and much more aggressive Godzilla. You see, they moved
Godzilla away from the original nuclear blast that created him, but by
doing so, they left the Godzillasaurus in a spot that would be the site
of a modern nuclear Russian sub’s ruination. (The rest my friends, is
history.) This “new” Godzilla eventually comes ashore and eagerly picks
a fight with King Ghidorah. After a brief scuffle, Godzilla defeats the
massive three-headed beast by blowing off its center head with a
powerful blast of radioactive flame. That’s right folks, Ghidorah comes
out of retirement after nearly twenty years and in his first major
film, he’s defeated! However, this isn’t the end of Ghidorah by a
long-shot. The Futurians are Godzilla’s next victims and they are
incinerated before they can escape in their ship from Godzilla, except
for Emmy, who decides to make up for the evil acts of her cohorts by
resurrecting King Ghidora and making him bigger, faster, and stronger.
(Cue the Million Dollar Man sound effects and theme music.) Her goal?
To defeat Godzilla and save Japan!


MECHA-KING GHIDORAH (1991)


Height: 150 Meters (492 feet)

Wingspan: 175 Meters (574 feet)

Mass: 80,000 metric tons (88,000 tons)

Weapons/Abilities: Gravity beams from its two living heads &
a powerful laser from its mechanical head, anti-gravity flight at Mach
4, metallic body armor, “Godzilla capture cables” with mechanical
grappling claws.

First Appearance: Godzilla vs. Ghidorah

(Showa) King Ghidorah’s Complete Filmography: Godzilla vs. Ghidorah.

Origin: After King Ghidorah’s center head is blasted off by
Godzilla, the creature lied comatose and near death. Lucky for
Ghidorah, it was given new life by a Futurian named Emmy. She
transported the mortally wounded monster to the future and had it
retrofitted with a new robotic head and multitudes of weaponry. Thus
was the creation of Mecha-King Ghidorah.

Just when you thought it was safe to live in Tokyo, King Ghidorah
returns in an all new and improved form. (“Evil Gets an Upgrade!”)
Emmy the Futurian had the late Ghidorah’s center stump retrofitted with
a cool, laser-spitting robotic head, solar paneled wings, tons of body
armor, and a series of “Godzilla capture cables” with grappling claws
at the ends. Once these claws are latched onto Godzilla, a powerful
electrical surge can be sent through the cables to help incapacitate
the Big-G. Despite these upgrades (what, no CD player in the cockpit?
What gives?!), Mecha-King Ghidorah still isn’t a match for the
accidentally created uber-Godzilla. What’s a girl piloting a massive
three-headed cyborg to do in a bad situation like this? Why carry off
Godzilla and drop him far out at sea of course! Emmy takes Godzilla for
a lift out over the Pacific Ocean and ends up plunging into the water
after Godzilla disables Mecha-King Ghidorah’s wings. In the end, Emmy
escapes back to the future (“Great Scott!”) before she can drown, and
Godzilla and Mecha-King Ghidorah slowly sink deeper and deeper into the
ocean waves.

Sadly this is King Ghidorah’s (and Mecha-King Ghidorah’s) first and
last appearance in the Heisei series. By 1995, Godzilla was officially
“dead” and it seemed like all his kaiju co-stars would also share the
same fate. However, King Ghidorah managed to evolve and starred in
Toho’s new Mosura series. In each of these films, three different
variations of King Ghidorah battles the ever-evolving powerhouse that
is Mothra. (It turns out now that Mothra is a space-moth, which
accounts for it’s ability to actually put up a good fight.) Anyway,
from the mid 1980’s and onward, King Ghidorah has been in a variety of
video games including Nintendo’s Godzilla: Monster of Monsters for the
NES. King Ghidorah is the game’s final foe, but he isn’t a huge
challenge if your health meter is jacked up as high as it can go. (If
you want a real challenge, type in MONSTER 0 in the password screen and
test your skills. Good luck!) Ghidorah has also appeared in Godzilla
for the Gameboy, Godzilla’s Greatest Battles and Super Godzilla for the
Super Nintendo console, and has more recently been a playable character
in both Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee and Godzilla: Save the
Earth.

King Ghidorah has also appeared in Marc Cerasini’s series of Godzilla
novels. In Godzilla 2000, Godzilla saves the planet by defeating the
“Golden Dragon” by blowing off its center head (sound familiar?). After
receiving this mortal wound, King Ghidorah painfully flew out of
Earth’s atmosphere. (This story is also told in Godzilla Saves America:
A Monster Showdown in 3-D!) But Ghidorah would be back in Cerasini’s
Godzilla vs. The Robot Monsters. In this novel, Ghidorah’s body is
recovered after it falls from space by a Mongol warlord who has it
built into Mecha-King Ghidorah. With this bio-weapon at his disposal,
said Mongol warlord plans on creating an all new Mongol Empire spanning
across the entire planet! It takes the combined force of Godzilla,
Mechagodzilla (created by America and Japan), and Moguera (created by
the Russians) to bring the three-headed cyborg down! Once again, Marc
Cerasini takes the origins and back stories of Toho’s monsters and
changes them in ways that really make his books interesting. In fact, I
think Toho should adapt and make films out of each one of Cerasini’s
novels sometime in the future. Well I guess that about covers the
illustrious early career of King Ghidorah. So far we’ve seen this
popular, yet villainous monster evolve from an ancient destructive
force, to a man-made weapon of conquest, and finally become a tool used
for humanity’s protection. What other roles will King Ghidorah play in
the future? Find out next month in the thrilling second and final
chapter of “The Many Heads of King Ghidorah.”

Pictures courtesy of Toho Kingdom, Gojistomp.Org, and Zone Fighter Episode Guide.