A group of U.F.O. experts are assembled on a rooftop awaiting the signal from space, but it has been half an hour and there's still no sign of extreterrestrial life in the skies. The head of the group blames this on the presence of a researcher, Naoko Shindo (Yuriko Hoshi) whose agnosticism on the subject he believes has put them off appearing - but suddenly the cry goes up: something is out there. Shooting stars? Perhaps, but one of them is a meteorite that crashlands in the Japanese countryside. Could anything be inside it? And what is the connection to tonight's assassination attempt on the visiting Princess Salno (Akiko Wakabayashi)?
For a swift follow up to the moneymaking hit Godzilla vs Mothra earlier that year, a new monster was ordered and Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster was unleashed on an unsuspecting world. Many of the same team who had made the previous film such a success, including writer Shinichi Sekizawa and director Ishirô Honda, were reassembled for an effort that tried to go one better than simply having two giant monsters battling it out and had four of the big guys pitted against each other, although as it turned out, some needed more persuading than others.
In fact, considering this was a monster movie Honda and his cohorts definitely made you wait around for the creatures to feature. In the first hour we are awarded brief glimpses of the stars as they awaken or begin wreaking their havoc, but it's not until the last third that the destruction and wrangling really let loose. It can be quite frustrating to see, say, Rodan break out of his volcano or Godzilla surface from the ocean only to cut away at the crucial moment, just as you were expecting the mayhem to really get underway. There are compensations, however.
They arrive in the shape of an extremely over-involved plot that has the Princess we saw jumping out of a plane before it was blown up at the start of the movie reappear as a tomboyish prophet of doom. Claiming to hail from Venus, no less. Nobody believes her, but when Naoko's detective brother (Yosuke Natsuke) catches her photograph on the newspaper he recgonises her - but unfortunately so do the team of assassins who are out to bump her off for good. As Detective Shindo was supposed to be her bodyguard in the first place, he takes it upon himself to save the amnesiac Princess; however, Mothra's twin Princess assistants are in town for a television appearance and heed the apocalyptic warnings as all too likely.
The trappings of the Mothra movies are as charming as ever, but where this instalment really scores is in its humour. When the monsters finally get around to fighting there are hilarious scenes of Godzilla and Rodan effectively playing a game of tennis with a huge boulder, one heading, the other punching. Mothra is the one saying "Guys! Can't we all just get along?!" and persuading them to team up against the rampaging Ghidorah, with an endearingly ridiculous sequence of debate between the titans. Politics is the theme this time around, and how puttting aside differences to solve problems is the best course of action, but it's not laboured and the film can equally as easily be appreciated as a straight ahead monster bash. Eventually. Music by Akira Ifikube.