Kaiju dai senso (Great War of the Monsters)
Director Ishiro Honda
Cast Nick Adams, Kumi Mizuno, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Akira Takarata
The War and Peace of the Godzilla series, a tale of star-crossed love and interstellar conflict, fraught with radio waves, light rays, personal-guard alarms, and no less than three giant monsters—Godzilla, Rodan, King Ghidorah—running amok across two planets.
A role call of stock scientists, inventors, army men, and alien invaders suggests at first that Godzilla vs. Monster Zero might be little different from numerous other Japanese monster films. Even the cosmos had been breached before in Honda’s Chikyu boeigun (aka The Mysterians, 1957) and Uchu dai senso (Battle in Outer Space, 1959), both gorgeous pulp illustrations come to life.
And yet Monster Zero contains perhaps the most passionate and emotional moments to be found in the entire Godzilla oeuvre. It detonates from the inside with improper conduct.
Rhona Barrett-like reports from the field have suggested that married-with-children American star Nick Adams (who plays “Astronaut Glen” with all-American full-throttle ferocity) and costar Kumi Mizuno, Toho’s resident sex bomb (in the part of “fetching alien spy from Planet X”), were most likely getting it on.
With the fallout from this troubled affair spilling over into the performances, Monster Zero is less a simple Godzilla movie and more of a prism reflecting back the dangerous liaisons of Nick and Kumi, human and alien, East and West. Few who see Nick grabbing Kumi, clad in black and gray alien fetish gear, by the shoulders and shouting something about “happiness in this world” having less worth than “a hill of beans” can forget it. Think that it’s over the top? This is the top.
It’s also a first-rate Godzilla film. In fact, it’s the final hurrah for the classic core Toho staff before turning their monster over to others for inevitable downsizing and diminishing returns. Everything about Monster Zero is tight and crisp, designed with a snappy sense of mid-sixties style.
A sequel would have been great. Nick, who would be found dead under mysterious circumstances in 1970, surely would have gone on to become the ambassador of a defeated planet where every woman looked like his late fiancée. And perhaps then the monster movies that followed would have had as much human soul as they would men-in-suits.