Invasion of Astro-Monster

INVASION OF ASTRO-MONSTER (1965) is Godzilla movie #6, once again from director Ishiro Honda. Weirdly it’s a co-production between Toho and the American animation studio UPA – a collaboration that began that year with FRANKENSTEIN VS. BARAGON (the one that WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS is a sequel to).

According to the opening text, ASTRO-MONSTER takes place in the year 196X (which you may remember from the Bryan Adams song “Summer of ‘6X”). World Space Agency astronauts Kazuo Fuji (Akira Takarada, GLORY TO THE FILMMAKER!) and Glenn (Nick Adams, REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE) are flying the P-1 rocket on a mission to the mysterious Planet X. Fuji’s sister Haruno Fuji (Keiko Sawai) also works at the agency, and he’s so controlling of her that during lift off he asks them to relay a message to her to “not rush into things” with her new boyfriend Tetsuo, inventor of “The Ladyguard Portable Alarm” (kind of an electronic rape whistle).

Tetsuo has been struggling, and people seem to think he’s a chump, but now he has a meeting with one Miss Namikawa (Kumi Mizuno, MATANGO), who plans to buy it on behalf of the World Education Corporation. Haruno questions why an educational toy company wants to buy a self defense device, especially for five million yen, but that bruises Tetsuo’s ego. He thinks he knows better than her.

What he doesn’t know is that Miss Namikawa is (#1) dating Glenn and (#2) actually from Planet X, buying up the Ladyguard because it emits a frequency that could be used as a weapon against her people. When the astronauts land on Planet X to plant the American, Japanese and United Nations flags, a cylinder rises up and leads them to the underground lair of Controller (Yoshio Tsuchiya, YOJIMBO, SEVEN SAMURAI, HIGH AND LOW), leader of the Xiliens, who claims the planet is under siege by Monster Zero, or as we call him, King Ghidorah, and makes a proposal: they will give us the cure for cancer if we’ll let them borrow “Monster Zero One and Monster Zero Two” (Godzilla and Rodan) to fight Ghidorah. No mention of Mothra. They must be sexist.

So the people of Earth agree that it’s a pretty good deal, and go trying to find the monsters. Eventually the Xiliens come down in flying saucers and carry our boys away using “advanced technology unimaginable on Earth” (bubbles). Problem is, it’s really a trick to make Earth defenseless from Ghidorah and also steal our monsters, which they can mind control.

On the positive side, the Xiliens have cool outfits maybe not as stylish as, but vaguely reminiscent of, the ones in Mario Bava’s PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES, which came out just a few months earlier.

This is an entertaining enough story that I wasn’t too bothered by how long it took to get to Godzilla and Rodan. When it finally does they spend some time in those bubbles just looking like empty costumes. Finally, 50 minutes in, they wake up on Planet X and fight Ghidorah. To make up for his absence earlier in the film Godzilla is very energetic and acrobatic. After hiding behind some rocks blasting atomic mouth rays like a ’70s TV cop shooting from behind a car, he does a flying leap to tackle Ghidorah. Then he does a backwards somersault followed by some kind of a Russian dance as a victory celebration. (The dance part is notorious/celebrated enough that they’ve sold statues of it.)

I like when the astronauts leave Planet X again and there’s a shot of little miniature Godzilla and Rodan puppets looking up at their rocket sadly. Another funny part is how stupid the astronauts feel when they bring back the “cancer cure” to a huge group of people and it turns out to be a tape saying that Earth is now a colony of Planet X and anyone who doesn’t obey will be exterminated. “I was afraid of this!” one of them says.

On Planet X, Glenn discovered that all Xilien women look exactly like Miss Namikawa, so her cover is blown, but she tells him “You were once my surveillance target, but now you’re much more.” Like any romantic comedy. But she wants him to become a citizen of Planet X and marry her, following the advice of a computer, like The Entity in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – DEAD RECKONING or the Heart in HEART OF STONE. Both are loosely adapted from INVASION OF ASTRO-MONSTER.

Of course our three big boys end up attacking Earth on behalf of the Xiliens, until scientists use audio frequencies to block their mind control of Godzilla and Rodan, so they turn against Ghidorah. Keep in mind, this is a new challenge for the fellas, because last time they defeated the king it took them forever and Mothra did a heavy share of the work (squirting cocoon on the fucker). This time Rodan bites Ghidorah’s tail and Godzilla dances around like a boxer taking shots at him. In the end it’s kind of a stalemate or FREDDY VS. JASON ambiguous conclusion; the three of them end up in a big ball rolling down a cliff and falling into the ocean, causing a big wave. Ghidorah emerges and flies away. The humans speculate that Godzilla and Rodan are still alive, offering no evidence to support their claims.

I always thought it would be a cool job to be the white guy in a Godzilla movie. Usually it doesn’t seem like you necessarily have to know how to act. This particular hakujin, Nick Adams, was well established, though, as star and co-creator of the ABC series The Rebel, about an ex-Confederate “Reconstruction beatnik” traveling around helping people. Admittedly, he was more famous for being friends with James Dean (who he’d done multiple movies with) and Elvis Presley (who idolized Dean). He was also roommates with Dennis Hopper. Colonel Tom Parker loved him, Elvis loved riding motorcycles and popping pills with him, while Elvis’ mom and others found him annoying as shit, always trying to capitalize on his association with more famous friends.

American producer Henry G. Saperstein had purchased UPA in 1960, and quickly had success bringing repackaged Mr. Magoo shorts and the notoriously shoddy and racist Dick Tracy series to TV. In an attempt to produce movies with cross-cultural appeal, he arranged for Adams to appear in FRANKENSTEIN VS. BARAGON and this, and for Russ Tamblyn to be in THE WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS. In an interview decades later he recalled that Toho was wary of him until he offered financing along with his “ideas that made the pictures more viable in the international marketplace.” He convinced them to get right to Planet X instead of opening with some big press conference like they usually do, and it’s true that it has a snappier pace than some of the other ones, introducing us to the different characters and settings pretty quickly. Despite designing the movie to appeal to us Americans, it didn’t come out here until five years later.

Saperstein also got the rights to the spy film KOKUSAI HIMITSU KEISATSU: KAGI NO KAGI, but when they showed it to American audiences they laughed at it, so he came up with the idea of comedically dubbing it into what became WHAT’S UP, TIGER LILY?

That sort of salesmanship had its roots in Saperstein’s past as president of merchandising company Television Personalities Inc., producing all kinds of Lone Ranger, Lassie and Roy Rogers crap. He also worked with Nick Adams’ buddy Colonel Tom Parker as licensing agent for Elvis. That being his area of expertise, it’s not surprising to hear that he bought UPA mainly to make merchandise of Mr. Magoo. He was later a producer of T.A.M.I. Show (introducing James Brown to many white teenagers) and one of the all time great international co-productions, HELL IN THE PACIFIC. He didn’t die until ’98, so he got an executive producer credit on the Leslie Nielsen MR. MAGOO movie and continued to be involved in the licensing of Godzilla toys leading up to the unfortunate Roland Emmerich film.

The Ladyguard Portable Alarm, however, was never brought to market. Makes you think.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 29th, 2023 at 11:54 am and is filed under Reviews, Monster. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

7 Responses to “Invasion of Astro-Monster”

  1. So am I to understand that King Gheedorah, a.k.a. Monster Zero, is also known as Astro-Monster? Dude’s got more nicknames than Ghostface Killah.

  2. I believe the MAGOO TV series was actually new segments made for TV rather than the shorts that played in theatres in the 50s. For a long time they were a lot easier to get on Home Video than the theatrical shorts.

    I wish I was cool enough to have Godzilla or Astro-Monster knowledge (Astro Boy, maybe), but I know my place; I’m the guy that’s gonna come in with the Magoo triv.

  3. Okay, I try it here: I’ve been looking for a song since forever! (Forever = around 1998) It was an electronic track with a bunch of samples from the classic Godzilla movies and the video was a clip show of them. At that time it received a bunch of airplay from our more alternative minded radio and TV stations, but even back then I couldn’t find the CD and by now I forgot who made it. I’m pretty sure it was called NO GOD BUT YOU, but it’s impossible to find. Not on YouTube, any of the streaming services, even random searches on eBay or Discogs show nothing under that name and so far all of the “We promise we find every song” social media groups left me hanging too. Was I dreaming? Maybe. Does anybody here knows what I’m talking about? Fingers crossed!

  4. Inspector Hammer Boudreaux

    November 30th, 2023 at 12:29 am

    I just watched it and there weren’t nearly enough little balsawood cityscapes getting crushed. This is why I prefer WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS.

  5. CJ, if you were dreaming then someone needs to make your dream come true by creating that track because it sounds awesome!

  6. Hey CJ Holden, ALERT!
    Is this the track you’re thinking of?
    Jungle neck – Godzilla

    It’s the first one I thought of when I read your comment at least

  7. Sadly it is not, but it’s still really cool. Also a similar use of Godzilla movie samples. Haven’t heard that one before, thanks!

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