Invasion of Astro-Monster, known in the United States as Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, is a sequel to Ghidorah. The film was released in 1965 in Japan and in the U.S. five years later. It is notable because it is the last Godzilla film to feature the creative team of director Ishiro Honda, screenwriter Shinichi Sekizawa, and special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya.
The film opens with a rocket ship heading toward Planet X, “a mysterious planet…discovered beyond Jupiter.” The crewmembers are Japanese astronaut Fuji and American astronaut Glen. When they get to the planet, they discover aliens who live underground because a creature known as Monster X has made the surface uninhabitable with its wanton destruction.
The alien leader is known as the Controller. He requests the Earthlings’ help in battling Monster X, who turns out to be King Ghidorah, last seen flying away from a battle with Mothra, Rodan, and Godzilla. The aliens request that they be allowed to bring Monster 01 (Godzilla) and Monster 02 (Rodan) to their planet. In exchange with being allowed to retrieve the monsters from Earth, the Controller offers a miracle drug to cure all disease. As the astronauts leave, the Controller issues a maniacal laugh, signaling to the audience he might not on the up and up.
Once the astronauts return, the Supreme Council agrees and seeks to determine if the monsters are where the Controller said. As they search a lake Godzilla is supposed to be in, the Controller and his spaceships are discovered already on Earth, casting suspicion on their actions. After Rodan is collected, Glen and Fuji return with the aliens to Planet X. The monsters battle and Ghidorah is driven away.
But something isn’t right as Glen discovers the women on Planet X all look like his girlfriend back on Earth. The astronauts return home with the medical secrets, but unbeknownst to them, they’ve been had. When the scientists play the audiotape that is supposed to contain the miracle-cure formula, the people of Earth are order to surrender and become a colony of Planet X. The aliens threaten the people by explaining that they control the monsters through magnetic waves and set a deadline of 24 hours for humanity’s capitulation. Of course, by boasting of their plans, the aliens provide a solution.
The aliens set the monsters loose and the Japanese army does its best to fight them. The scenes of the models in battle look spectacular. When the aliens’ hold over the monsters is broken, Godzilla and Rodan battle Ghidorah. The Earth monsters combine for arguably the greatest and funniest fighting tactic from all Japanese monster movies as Rodan carries Godzilla by shoulders, resembling a giant hang glider. As they barrel into Ghidorah, all three plummet off a cliff and into the sea. Only one monster is shown surviving the fall.
Special features on the Classic Media DVD include an image gallery, a biography about Japanese film producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, and the original Japanese trailer. Film historian and author Stuart Galbraith IV provides the commentary track on the English version. Unlike some commentators, he doesn’t feel the need to fill every moment. He provides a lot of in-depth information about the film’s actors and producers. For hard-core Godzilla enthusiasts, he provides detailed info about the monster costumes.
Invasion of Astro-Monster is an enjoyable romp and doubles the number of fights between the three monsters from the previous film. While plots have never been the strong suit of Godzilla films, this story really doesn’t make any sense. If the aliens from Planet X were already here and could control the monsters, including Ghidorah, why go through the whole charade? Why pretend to be at Ghidorah’s mercy? Why bring the Earth monsters to their planet? They could have taken over Ghidorah, transported it to Earth, taken over the others, and sent them all on a wild rampage. I am obviously thinking too much, but since they tried to make this sequel bigger and better by heading to outer space, it’s slightly surprising there was clearly no concern about the story. Thankfully, the plot holes don’t take away from the fun.