GODZILLA IN OUTER SPACE or Who's the Star of this Movie, Anyway? - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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GODZILLA IN OUTER SPACE or Who's the Star of this Movie, Anyway?

Gordon Hopkins blasts off to Planet X.
It is well known that Christopher Lee tired of playing Count Dracula the the myriad of Hammer Films vampire epics. One of the problems with these films he and others complained about was that several of the later films didn't really have anything to do with Dracula. The writers seemed to come up with stories totally unrelated to the legendary vampire and then plug Dracula into the movie.

Well, it seems like that because that's exactly what was happening. To be fair, Lee did hold at least a small portion of the blame. Hammer Films would periodically beg Lee to put on the cape and red contact lenses again. Lee would emphatically say “no.” So the writers would come up with a script that didn't feature the Count, only to have American distributors say, “No Dracula, no deal.” So Hammer would go back to Lee and guilt him into making the movie by telling him about all the people he was putting out of work. Lee would give in and Dracula would be added to the script.

That sound like a terrible way to make movies, and it is. Yet, it also resulted in some of the best movies in the series, even if Lee didn't think so. Taste the Blood of Dracula is a prime example. It also happens to be one of my favorites.

So what has this got to do with Godzilla? A lot, actually.

After having introduced the idea of aliens in Ghidorah, the Three-HeadedMonster, the next movie in the franchise was a full-on science fiction invasion from outter space epic. Released in Japan in 1965 but not in the U.S. until 1970, the fifth movie in the Godzilla franchise has been variously titled Monster Zero, Godzilla versus Monster Zero and Invasion of Astro-Monster. It is that last title by which Toho Studios now prefers the movie to be known.
A planet, dubbed Planet X, is discovered beyond the orbit of Jupiter. A rocket ship is sent to investigate. The rocket's crew, consisting of one American and one Japanese astronaut, discover the planet is inhabited by a humanoid race that likes to wear matching black leather and narrow sunglasses. Evidently, Planet X is populated by an underground metal band. So the Planet Xians, or whatever the hell they are called, need Earth's help. See, their planet is under repeated attack my something they call Monster Zero. In return, they will provide humanity a cure for all diseases. Not cures, but a cure. Singular. Apparently, there is one single drug that will cure every disease, including cancer, the flu, rabies and the clap. That would certainly make your local pharmacist's job a lot easier.

If it seems unlikely to you one drug could cure every disease, you're probably right and, plotwise, it doesn't really matter, since the gang from Planet X were lying anyway. It was just a ruse to get those gullible humans to trust them so they can take over planet Earth. The Xians are bad guys is not a spoiler since it is revealed earlier on that the leader of Planet X has a sinister laugh.

So you may be wondering, what has any of this got to do with Godzilla? Not a lot, actually. Hence, my Dracula preface. Godzilla seems to just be plugged into the film, along with his fellow kaiju. Monster Zero turned oit to be none other that Ghidorah, which is now called King Ghidorah for no apparent reason. The inhabitants of Planet X tell the suckers from Earth they have a plan. They are aware that Ghidorah was defeated on Earth by the combined forced of Godzilla and Rodan. They make no reference to Mothra's rather significant role in Ghidorah,. As Mothra is the only lady monster up until this point, it suggests to me of Planet X are major sexists. There is other evidence of male chauvinist piggery on Planet X in their behavior.

So their plan is, with Earth's permission of course, to bring Godzilla and Rodan to Planet X to defeat Monster Zero.

Yes, this is an alien abduction kaiju movie.
One of the highlights in this movie is when Godzilla and Rodan, who are far too big to fit in a flying saucer, travel through space in giant bubbles like Glinda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz.

Well, it turns out the aliens can control the monster with “magnetic waves,” including Ghidorah, and all three are returned to Earth to wreak destruction, all in aid of the alien's invasion.

It all makes sense as long as you don't think about it at all. Godzilla gets pretty short shrift here and it is easy, at times, to forget you are watching a Godzilla movie or even a kaiju movie. That is not to say it is a bad movie. It is goofy fun and takes the series even further from the original, depressing vision of the first Godzilla film more than a decade earlier.

This is also the movie in which Godzilla does his now infamous “victory dance” and I'm just not even gonna get into it.

The American Version: Unlike some of the previous films, the American distributor, Henry Saperstein, didn't simply step in after the film was completed and alter it for American audiences. Instead, Saperstein was involved with the production from the get go. It is interesting to note that, while there is a air of international cooperation, demonstrated by astronauts from both Japan and the U.S. in a joint mission to Planet X and planting both American and Japanese flags on the alien soil, some critics have interpreted this film as having a somewhat more cynical attitude towards Japan-U.S. Relations. It had been long enough since the war that some Japanese were objecting to the postwar treaty between the two former enemies. The treaty was revised in 1960 amid a backdrop of protests and a massive “anti-treaty” movement. There was an increasing suspicion that America was not always the friendly face it presented and perhaps shouldn't be trusted. In that regards, the movie's plot with its sneaking aliens promising friendship but bringing colonialism is pretty unsubtle. Yet, many miss this element of anti-American criticism in the movie because of the American lead and the thin cloak of U.S.-Japanese friendship, with the American constantly addressing his Japanese counterpart as “old buddy.”
Nick Adams: I probably need to say something about the American lead. Nick Adams never reached stardom and was never a household name, though that goal always seemed to be tantalizingly close. He had a small part in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and became friends James Dean. He had a successful three-year run on television with The Rebel (1959-1961) which managed that rare double-trick of being both popular and critically acclaimed. He starred opposite Steve McQueen in Hell is for Heroes (1962) and was even nominated for an Oscar for his performance in Twilight of Honor (1963).

Career-wise, he seemed successful, at least to the average outsider. The problem was, in Hollywood, you are ephemeral unless you are a mega-star. Success only takes you so far. They say fame is fleeting but, in Hollywood, fame is really the only currency that matters. After Dean's death in 1955, Adams tried to capitalize on that relationship for publicity. He tried, and failed, to create a potentially star-making friendship with Elvis Presley. He tried to insert himself into any social circle that would have him. It is easy to look down on him for what some might call opportunism, but that's the way Hollywood works. It's not about talent, It's about who you know.

Cynical but not wrong.

If you want to get an idea on Nick Adam's life, check out Quentin Tarantino's latest, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019). Aside form the nonsensical ending, a lot of Tarantino's homage to the old time movie biz mirrors Adam's career. One of the leads in that film swore he would never make a spaghetti western. Yet, he later heads off to Europe to do exactly that. Adams was likewise once quoted as saying he would never make a film outside the U.S. yet, when his career as started it's inevitable slide, he ended up making three films in Japan, including two kaiju for Toho, this one and Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965). So Invasion of Astro-Monster isn't one of his best flicks, though he reportedly enjoyed marking it. His performance was enthusiastic. The dialogue makes him seem a bit uncouth and rough around the edges, which is probably the result of Japanese scriptwriters truing to write a stereotypical American.

Also, he kept unbuttoning his jacket and hiking up his pants. It happened so often I began wondering if this was supposed to be part of his characterization or if the wardrobe department was asleep on the job.

It was just a few years later that Adams died from a drug overdose.

The Denouement: In another one of those subplots, an inventor (and boyfriend of of one of the astronaut's sister, because why not) sells his latest invention to a toy company. Exactly what this invention is, I can't say. I only know it makes a horrible noise. That is important to know because the toy company is actually a front for the aliens, who apparently have been secretly on Earth long enough to rent an office and incorporate. The aliens buy the invention not to release it in time for Christmas but to suppress it, because the aliens are apparently are vulnerable to that sound. It is every bit the deus ex machina that Dr. Serizawa's Oxygen Destroyer was, but far, far sillier.

Meanwhile, in a considerably less silly development, scientist figure out a way to disrupt the alien's control over the monsters. Once free of mind control, the monsters do what they do best and, in a frustratingly brief denouement, the monsters duke it out and all three fall into the ocean. This time, it is not Godzilla that emergency from the foaming sea but Ghidorah. There is no sign of Godzilla or Rodan. Does that mean Ghidorah won? I guess not, since the flies away, just like the previous movie.

The Odds: I've already covered the likelihood of both Rodan and Ghidorah returning in previous installments. So what about the aliens from Planet X? Will they show up again? I sure as hell hope not.

Read all of Gordon Hopkins previous Godzilla articles here.

Gordon Hopkins is an award winning reporter and columnist for The Fairbury Journal-News, a 130-year-old newspaper in Jefferson County, Nebraska (He hasn't been working there that entire time.) He has also written a couple of crime novels (“Fraudsters” and the best-selling “Broken”) and edited a few non-fiction books.

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