Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (Ifukube, 1964)

     1964 was a productive year for the Toho giant monster franchise.  In April of that year, "Mothra vs Godzilla" was released to great success both domestically and abroad.  At the end of the year, just 5 days before Christmas, the sequel (and 5th Godzilla film) "Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster" was released ("三大怪獣 地球最大の決戦", "Three Giant Monsters: The Greatest Battle on Earth").  In this entry, Godzilla's destructive nature became somewhat rehabilitated, due to the emergence of the greater threat, King Ghidorah, who eventually grew to become Toho's "big bad" of monster movies.

     In this sequel Mothra returned again with the "little fairies" (Shobijin), and Rodan (introduced in 1956 in his own film "ラドン"/"Radon") made his first return appearance to the screen.  Despite the Japanese title of "three giant monsters", the audience actually got four giant monsters, with three even having starred in their own solo films (I suppose King Ghidorah can't really have a solo film, since then everybody would just be killed).  Despite the relatively short running time, the resulting film is actually pretty good, and the monsters do not overstay their welcome (for some, though, the entry of some comedic, "kid-friendly" elements signaled the beginning of the end).

     In the film's plot, a traveling Princess goes missing, but then resurfaces as a doomsday prophetess predicting the arrival of King Ghidorah, who will destroy the world.  Meanwhile, Rodan and Godzilla wake up/swim ashore and develop a rivalry, and a scientist near Mount Hida observes a giant meteorite give birth to King Ghidorah (who immediately goes on a rampage).  The Shobijin fairies, visiting Japan for a TV appearance, learn of the danger and call forth the larval form Mothra from Infant Island (the larva's twin from the previous film had died in the interim).  When young Mothra arrives, she (?) asks Godzilla and Rodan to set aside their differences so that they can together defend the Earth from King Ghidorah.  They resist at first but eventually change their mind.  At the same time, an assassin from the Princess' home country hunts the doomsday prophetess.  In the end, the assassin is dispatched in a landslide, and Kind Ghidorah is driven away by the collaborative battle tactics of Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra.

     Composer and national treasure Akira Ifukube came back here for his 4th Godzilla score and in this film added several new themes to his already iconic repertoire for the giant radioactive monster and his friends.  With the creation of Rodan and Ghidorah's themes in this film, the "classic" palette of themes and sounds of a Godzilla monster movie was firmly established.

Godzilla Themes (returning from previous films)
  • Terror motif: big, foreboding and usually on low brass, opening with a 6 note fanfare, followed by short falling and then rising figures.
  • Resurrection theme (variation): slow march theme building in power, consisting of rising 5-note phrases, eventually ending in a short descending line.
New Themes
  • Rodan fanfare: a sinister, zigzag fanfare, almost always led by trumpet.
  • Ghidorah theme: starts with fast rising glissandi on brass/timpani, then lurches around with a distinctive falling swoop in the middle.  The main body is usually on low brass/timpani, but is often followed by a "tail" orchestrated with wailing trumpet and ending in a timpani roll.
  • Mothra's Request theme: used mostly during the "conversation" scene between the 3 "hero" monsters, often using tremolo strings.
  • Princess theme: somewhat ethnic texture, it's melody (on a reed instrument) is surrounded by an arpeggiated flute ornament, used to represent Princess Salno or her home country of Selgina.
  • Valley theme: melodic brass figure which reflects the broad wilderness of the Japanese mountainside.

     The score to Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster has seen a couple of releases over the years.  The below table is based on the main score tracks from the Godzilla Perfect Box 1, Disc 6, which also includes 8 bonus tracks of alternate takes.  For the sake of space, below I often only indicate the themes when they occur, but not the details of the orchestrations.  Even though there is lots of repetition of themes, the changing arrangements (with and without electric organ, harp, cymbals, timpani, piano, bass clarinet, strings, etc.) keep things relatively fresh.
Trk Dur Title Film Sequence, Themes
1 1:39 Main Title Toho Logo, Main title montage: freeze-frames of Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra and Ghidrah fighting.
Rodan fanfare motif intro in low winds, Terror motif in brass/percussion, Rodan fanfare in trumpets, Resurrection theme, Rodan fanfare.
2 0:49 Princess Salno Princess Salno gets comfortable on a plane to Japan.  In her home country of Selgina, an assassination is planned.
Princess theme on flute/harp/xylophone/perc. with ethnic reed secondary melody.
3 0:54 The Flash Princess Salno sees a flash of light outside her window.  Possessed, she jumps out of the plane, just before it is destroyed.
Eerie wobbling tones/cymbal/organ/vibraphone, joined by low strings/strummed piano strings.
4 0:50 Kurobe Valley Theme Song I Professor Murai arrives at the Kurobe Dam to begin investigating a meteorite landing near Mount Hida.
Broad low brass fanfare based on Valley theme.
5 1:29 Kurobe Valley Theme Song II The Professor's team travels through the wilderness towards the meteorite's landing spot.  Their compasses begin behaving strangely.
Broad low brass fanfare based on Valley theme, becoming muted trumpets and a counter figure.
6 0:16 Discovery Of The Meteor Professor Murai's team spots the giant meteorite.
Urgent brass accents/wobbling tones/string tremoli.
7 0:20 Why That Direction?
Sei Ikeno)
Source music: the Shobijin from Infant Island appear on a television show.
Brass band fanfares.
8 2:02 Call Happiness I
(Tokiko Iwatani/
Hiroshi Miyagawa)
The Shobijin sing a song accompanied by an imaginary journey to Infant Island where natives worship the Mothra larva.
Island exotica song on marimba/steel drums/tom toms/flutes and sung by the Peanuts.
9 0:21 Princess Salno II In a newspaper, the reporter Shindo recognizes a self-proclaimed prophet from space as Princess Salno.
Accents and descending vibraphone figure, Princess flute theme.
10 1:35 Rodan From Aso A tourist attempts to retrieve a lost hat from the Mount Aso's Nakadake Crater, but Rodan wakes up and takes to the air.
Rodan fanfare motif on low winds/timpani/piano in dialogue with Rodan high fanfare on trumpets/cymbals/tremolo strings.
11 0:33 Godzilla From The Pacific Ocean Godzilla surfaces and destroys an ocean liner.
Terror motif in low brass/timpani, joined by organ (?). 
12 0:22 Magnetism (Omen) Murai's meteor at Mount Hida increases it's magnetic attraction.
Eerie wobbly tones, arpeggiated vibraphone joined by low brass over string tremoli.
13 2:23 The Two Monsters Appear In Yokohama 0:00: Godzilla comes ashore.
Terror motif, Resurrection theme (3-note variation) in low strings joined by brass.
1:11: Rodan arrives from the air. Godzilla gets angry and begins following.
Rodan fanfare, Resurrection theme, Rodan fanfare, rhythmic string/harp accents, Terror motif fragment.
14 1:41 The Birth Of King Ghidorah During a thunderstorm, Murai's meteorite cracks open and King Ghidorah emerges above Mount Hida.
Wobbling organ with ascending zigzag figures in muted brass/harp/low strings, Ghidorah theme in low brass, with partial brass tail.
15 1:20 Matsumoto City And King Ghidorah People flee as King Ghidorah appears in the sky.
Motoric falling ostinato in low piano, staccato violins, Ghidorah theme with trumpet/timpani tail.
16 0:56 Godzilla Vs. Rodan I Godzilla and Rodan battle near Mount Fuji.
Terror motif, Rodan fanfare, Resurrection theme.
17 0:59 The Fury Of The Gravity Beam Ghidorah lays waste to Tokyo with his lightning breath (also retracked a couple other times during the monster parley).
Ghidorah theme ending with trumpet/timpani tail, followed by opening motif reprise.
18 2:19 Call Happiness II
(Tokiko Iwatani/
Hiroshi Miyagawa)
The Shobijin call Mothra with a song (montage of Mothra on Infant Island receiving the song and setting out into the sea).
Peanuts sing acappella at first but are soon joined by guitar, steel drum, tom toms, flute, etc..
19 0:52 Godzilla Vs. Rodan II Godzilla and Rodan continue fighting as Shindo interrogates Princess Salno.  Rodan lifts Godzilla into the air and then drops him onto an electrical tower.  Shindo fights Selgina assassins. 
Rodan fanfare, Resurrection theme, Rodan fanfare.
20 1:48 Godzilla Vs. Rodan III Godzilla batters Rodan with his tail.  Rodan bites Godzilla's tail but Godzilla retaliates with his atomic breath.  Rodan drives Godzilla back with high winds created from his wings.  Godzilla knocks boulders into Rodan's face.
Resurrection theme, Rodan fanfare, rhythmic accents, Terror motif, Rodan fanfare, Resurrection theme with muted trumpet layer.
21 2:03 The Three Monsters Converge As Godzilla and Rodan continue their battle (battering boulders back and forth), Mothra arrives and tries to get their attention.  She sprays silk on each of them.
Mothra's Request theme on trumpet/bass/cymbals, Terror motif, Rodan fanfare, Resurrection theme, Rodan fanfare, Mothra's Request theme, Terror motif (subdued).
22 2:44 The Three Monsters Parley Mothra climbs up to the top of a hill and tries to convince Godzilla and Rodan to form an alliance against Ghidorah to save the Earth.  They resist.
Mothra's Request theme on tremolo violins/low brass, then joined by trumpet, Terror motif in low winds, Ghidorah theme in low brass with trumpet/timpani tail, Mothra's Request theme in tremolo strings/low brass, Ghidorah theme (no tail).
23 2:20 The Three Giant Monsters Enter the Fray Mothra gives up trying to engage the other monsters and leaves to fight Ghodorah alone.  Ghidorah destroys a temple gate (Ghidorah theme) and then blasts Mothra into the air.  Godzilla has a change of heart and comes to her rescue, but is also hit by Ghidorah's lightning attack.
Mothra's Request theme in brass/tremolo strings, Ghidorah theme  with trumpet/timpani tail, Terror motif, Rodan fanfare, Resurrection theme, Rodan fanfare, rhythmic accents.
24 1:41 The Greatest Battle On Earth I Rodan appears and engages Ghidorah in the air.  After a head-on collision they both crash.  Rodan uses rocks as cover against Ghidorah's lightning breath.  Godzilla hurls boulders at Ghidorah.
Rodan fanfare, Resurrection theme, Rodan fanfares, Ghidorah theme with trumpet/timpani tail.
25 4:03 The Greatest Battle On Earth II
(and III)
0:00: Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan attack Ghidorah together. 
Terror motif, Rodan fanfare, Resurrection theme, Rodan fanfare, rhythmic string accents, Terror motif, Rodan fanfare, Resurrection theme, Rodan fanfare, rhythmic string accents, Terror motif.
2:23: Mothra sprays thread while riding Rodan's back and Godzilla hurls Ghidorah to the ground by the tail.  Ghidorah flies off, looking for easier opponents.
Terror motif, Rodan fanfare, Resurrection theme, Mothra's Request in trumpets/timpani/cymbals, then in strings/low brass.
26 0:52 Ending Princess Salno's plane flies away.  Mothra swims back to sea with the Shobijin, who say farewell to Godzilla and Rodan on the shore.
Princess theme based on ethnic reed figure (without flute ornaments) ending in a farewell fanfare.

Other Akira Ifukube Godzilla Films Analysed:
King Kong vs Godzilla
Mothra vs Godzilla

Invasion of Astro Monster
Destroy All Monsters

Godzilla Perfect Box 1 at Screen Archives
Akira Ifukube Wiki
Akira Ifukube Museum
Toho Kingdom Review
Wikia Entry

1 comment:

  1. Wow this is amazing and comprehensive! I was just trying to find info on the scores/music of Toho kaiju films for a casual blog I'm putting together (, will definitely give you a shout! There's not a ton of information out there, you really gotta dig for it, thanks for keeping this archive.