Monster Zero


1h 33m 1970

Brief Synopsis

Aliens from the mysterious Planet X, which resides on the dark side of of Jupiter, come to Earth asking its people to help them save their world from the dreaded King Ghidrah by letting them "borrow" Godzilla and Rodan. The aliens are actually planning to use the three monsters to take over our planet.

Film Details

Also Known As
Battle of the Astros, Invasion of Astro-Monsters, Invasion of the Astros, Kaiju daisenso
MPAA Rating
Release Date
Jan 1970
Premiere Information
Houston opening: 29 Jul 1970
Production Company
Toho Co.
Distribution Company
Maron Films, Ltd.
Country
Japan

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 33m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

Earth astronauts Glenn and Fuji are sent to Planet X to establish friendly ties with the ruler of that planet, The Controller. He promises Earth the formula for a universal panacea in return for the loan of two Earth monsters, Godzilla and Rodan, to combat the fearsome Ghidrah (Monster Zero) which is terrorizing the people. Returning home to Japan, Glenn becomes romantically involved with Namikawa, an enemy spy posing as a toy manufacturer's representative. Godzilla and Rodan, released from their lairs, are transported by huge space bubbles to Planet X. Glenn, Fuji, and a doctor follow in a spaceship. They soon discover that the tape which is supposed to contain the medical formula to end disease is actually an ultimatum for Earth's immediate surrender. Refusal would mean the Earth's destruction by the three monsters which are controlled by Planet X's computers. Namikawa is killed, and a toy created by Teri, the fiancé of Fuji's sister, is discovered to emit a sound that severs the light waves by which the creatures are controlled. The invaders are destroyed in a space battle with cannons and laser beams; Ghidrah defeats the Earth monsters and flies away.

Film Details

Also Known As
Battle of the Astros, Invasion of Astro-Monsters, Invasion of the Astros, Kaiju daisenso
MPAA Rating
Release Date
Jan 1970
Premiere Information
Houston opening: 29 Jul 1970
Production Company
Toho Co.
Distribution Company
Maron Films, Ltd.
Country
Japan

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 33m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Articles

Invasion of Astro-Monster aka Monster Zero - INVASION OF ASTRO-MONSTER - Nick Adams stars in the 1965 Japanese Creature Feature


After the success of San Daikaijû: Chikyû Saidai No Kessen (Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster, 1964), Toho Studios wasted little time arranging a rematch between its newest kaiju star, King Ghidorah, and old favorites Godzilla and Rodan. For the sequel, Kaijû Daisenso (The Giant Monster War, 1965), Toho teamed with American producer Henry Saperstein, who cast fading American star Nick Adams in a leading role in the hope that it would boost the film's appeal in western countries and make distribution deals easier. Ironically, the film's American release was delayed for five years. It finally appeared stateside in 1970 under the title Monster Zero, paired with another Saperstein-Toho effort, War of the Gargantuas (1966). Frequently marketed in subsequent years as Godzilla vs. Monster Zero to play up Godzilla's presence, the film has now been re-released on DVD by Classic Media in a new special edition under Toho's preferred (albeit grammatically awkward) international title Invasion of Astro-Monster.

The story: When astronauts Fuji (Akira Takarada) and Glenn (Nick Adams) land on the newly discovered Planet X, they are astonished to find a technologically advanced civilization led by the Controller (Yoshiro Tsuchiya). The Controller tells the Earth visitors that the Xians have been forced underground by frequent attacks on the surface by the dreaded space monster King Ghidorah. Aware that Ghidorah was recently driven away from Earth by Godzilla and Rodan, the Xians ask to borrow the two monsters; not certain of the current rate for monster rentals, they offer a cure for cancer in exchange. Suspicious of the aliens' true motives, Fuji and Glenn return to Earth with news of the Xians' request. Before the governments of Earth can reply, the Xians appear in flying saucers and transport Godzilla and Rodan back to their home planet in force field bubbles. On Planet X, Fuji and Glenn watch as the Earth monsters successfully battle King Ghidorah. Returning with a tape said to contain the cancer cure, the two astronauts find their earlier suspicions justified: on the recording the Controller demands that Earth surrender to Planet X or be destroyed by Godzilla, Rodan and King Ghidorah, whom the aliens are controlling with magnetic waves. As the deadline to surrender nears, Fuji, Glenn and a team of scientists race to prepare countermeasures before mankind is wiped out by the trio of titanic terrors.

Invasion of Astro-Monster combines Toho's tried-and-true monster movie formula with elements of its earlier science fiction epics Chikyu Boeigun (The Mysterians, 1957) and Uchu Daisenso (Battle in Outer Space, 1959). Beyond the novelty of mixing the two genres and an American lead, there isn't much that's fresh about the film, but overall it's an amiable adventure and more satisfying than its immediate predecessor Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster. That film suffered from a dull spy plot and characters that tended to be reactive rather than proactive. Invasion of Astro-Monster, by contrast, sets up a number of mysteries: What are the Xians really up to? Why does the shadowy World Education Corporation purchase the rights to a new invention by Testsuo (Akira Kubo), boyfriend of Fuji's sister Haruno (Keiko Sawai), and then suppress it? What is the connection between Glenn's girlfriend Miss Namikawa (Kumi Mizuno), the World Education Corporation and the Xians? The answers to these questions won't surprise anyone over the age of nine, but it still makes for a reasonably engaging storyline, and director Ishiro Honda keeps the action moving without a lull. (Admittedly, the plot doesn't stand up to scrutiny: Why do the Xians go through the charade of asking permission to borrow the monsters when they have the power to seize and control them all along?) Furthermore, the heroes of Asto-Monster win over the viewer by actively working to unravel the story's mysteries and solve problems, unlike the characters in Ghidorah, who mostly stand around while the conflicts are resolved by the Mothra fairies and the monsters.

Whereas Ghidorah was set mostly in generic offices, hotel rooms, etc., Invasion of Astro-Monster boasts several exotic Planet X sets that give it added visual interest. The surface of the planet is barren and rocky, but in an imaginative touch Jupiter dominates the sky. Production Designer Takeo Kita's concepts for the Xians' underground lair are extremely simple by today's standards, but have an old-fashioned pulp sci-fi appeal. The sets are complemented by the Xians' fun, campy spacesuits, which sport black leather chest pieces, high collars, snug headpieces with an antenna on top and eyewear that resembles retro-hip sunglasses. Astro-Monster isn't the best Godzilla film of the 1960's, but it may be the most stylish.

With Toho's budgets for their monster movies shrinking, the film contains considerably less kaiju action than usual. The first major monster effects scene, the three-way battle on Planet X, is hurt by the lack of any landmarks to give the monsters a sense of scale. The later battle scenes on Earth are better, but, in another sign of economizing, incorporate a generous amount of stock footage from Rodan and Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster. The characterization of the monsters is less cartoony than in the previous year's Ghidorah; there's no slapstick fighting or monster dialogue, and Godzilla and Rodan, although "good guys" again, appear to fight King Ghidorah more out of instinct than any nobler motive. The film does have one jarring moment: Godzilla's victory jig on Planet X, one of the most notoriously goofy scenes in the 50 + years of the series.

Although the film skimps on monster action, there's plenty of outer space adventure and sci-fi gadgetry to compensate. The miniatures and optical effects used to depict Glenn and Fuji's rocket are about average for Toho's efforts of the period; the work is polished, professional and has some nice details, but still won't fool anyone but the kiddies. The Xian flying saucers look like deformed Christmas tree ornaments and aren't very convincing, but they are given an effective, dramatic introduction emerging unexpectedly from a Japanese lake. The climactic battle between the saucers and Earth's forces is brisk and energetic, enlivened further by Akira Ifukube's exciting musical score.

The cast is uniformly solid. Akira Takarada is warm and likeable as Fuji; there's a genuine sense of camaraderie between him and Nick Adams' Glenn. Kumi Mizuno is beautiful, mysterious and slightly sinister in her early scenes as Miss Namikawa, but is able to earn audience sympathy later when her character is given a tragic fate. As the Controller of Planet X, Yoshio Tsuchiya is appropriately enigmatic; in the original Japanese version he delivers his lines in a deliberate, slightly halting manner, suggesting someone who is not speaking his native language. Akira Kubo, who would go on to star in Son of Godzilla (1967) and Destroy All Monsters (1968), makes his Godzilla series debut as the nerdy inventor Tetsuo; he brings intelligence and determination to what could have been a simple stereotype. Jun Tazaki, as scientist Dr. Sakurai, and Keiko Sawai, as Fuji's sister Haruno, make the most of their underwritten parts.

The cast member making the strongest impression is, of course, Nick Adams, who plays Astronaut Glenn with a distinctly American brand of macho swagger. After finding moderate success early on with the television series The Rebel (1959 - 1960) and supporting roles in features, Adams' career took a downturn when his aggressive self-promotion alienated many in Hollywood. Whereas many actors would have viewed a role in a Japanese monster movie as the ultimate humiliation, Adams took a positive attitude, befriended the cast and gave it his all. It's easy to make fun of his over-the-top, Cagney-esque line readings in Astro-Monster ("You stinkin' rats!"), but he is committed to the part and plays it with gusto rather than walking through it. For better or worse, his is one of the most memorable performances in Japanese monster movie history.

Invasion of Astro-Monster would prove to be a transitional film in Godzilla's screen career. After helming five of the six Godzilla films, Ishiro Honda left, uncomfortable with the direction in which Toho was taking the character he had helped create. Starting with the next film, Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster (1966), Jun Fukuda would take over as director and bring a very different sensibility to the monster's adventures. Special effects guru Eiji Tsuburaya would continue to get screen credit on Toho's monster movies, but devoted most of his time and energy to his own company. Composer Akira Ifukube, whose work had helped generate a sense of urgency and seriousness in Toho's wildest flights of fancy, found his grim, heavy monster themes frequently displaced by the pop-influenced work of Masura Sato, Kunio Miyauchi and Riichiro Manabe. Yet even though the film is in some respects the end of an era, Astro-Monster is also a sign of things to come. Godzilla's victory jig is indicative of the light-hearted, jokey attitude that soon dominated the series. The limited monster action, minimal model-building and reliance on stock footage soon became commonplace in Toho's effects films. The plot's basic premise-aliens using monsters to try to take over the world-would be rehashed in five of Godzilla's next nine films, including all but one of the monster's films from the 1970's. In retrospect, the film offers a unique view on the status of the Japanese monster movie in the middle of the decade, both recapitulating earlier successes, revealing weaknesses that were putting a strain on the formula, and providing a glimpse of future trends.

Classic Media's DVD of Invasion of Astro-Monster is another fine release in their series of Godzilla special editions. The Japanese version sports an attractive 16 x 9, 2.35:1 transfer with good color and minimal damage to the source element. As with many transfers from Toho, the image is a little soft and contrast is slightly flat. The mono sound is acceptable, but somewhat disappointing. The recording of Ifukube's thrilling score seems to have been poorly done at the time; on all versions of the film and on the soundtrack album it has a limited dynamic range (even by 1965 standards) and a slightly harsh edge. The American version of the film opens with English-language credits cropped to 1.78:1, but after an opening bit of expository text appears to use the same transfer as the Japanese version, edited to match the English dialogue track. The American version makes minimal changes to the film, simply using a different Ifukube cue for the main titles and trimming about two minutes of footage.

The commentary this time is by Stuart Galbraith IV, author of the seminal Japanese Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, as well as Monsters Are Attacking Tokyo! and The Emperor and the Wolf, a joint biography of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune. Galbraith gives a thorough account of the film's creation and informative short career bios of virtually every member of the cast with a speaking part. Also included are the Japanese trailer, a featurette on producer Tomoyuki Tanaka (credited to Ed Godziszewski, but actually written and narrated by Steve Ryfle), a stills gallery and a poster gallery.

Recommended for faithful Godzilla aficionados and parents of young monster fans; all others need not apply.

For more information about Invasion of Astro-Monster, visit Classic Media. To order Invasion of Astro-Monster, go to TCM Shopping.

by Gary Teetzel
Invasion Of Astro-Monster Aka Monster Zero - Invasion Of Astro-Monster - Nick Adams Stars In The 1965 Japanese Creature Feature

Invasion of Astro-Monster aka Monster Zero - INVASION OF ASTRO-MONSTER - Nick Adams stars in the 1965 Japanese Creature Feature

After the success of San Daikaijû: Chikyû Saidai No Kessen (Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster, 1964), Toho Studios wasted little time arranging a rematch between its newest kaiju star, King Ghidorah, and old favorites Godzilla and Rodan. For the sequel, Kaijû Daisenso (The Giant Monster War, 1965), Toho teamed with American producer Henry Saperstein, who cast fading American star Nick Adams in a leading role in the hope that it would boost the film's appeal in western countries and make distribution deals easier. Ironically, the film's American release was delayed for five years. It finally appeared stateside in 1970 under the title Monster Zero, paired with another Saperstein-Toho effort, War of the Gargantuas (1966). Frequently marketed in subsequent years as Godzilla vs. Monster Zero to play up Godzilla's presence, the film has now been re-released on DVD by Classic Media in a new special edition under Toho's preferred (albeit grammatically awkward) international title Invasion of Astro-Monster. The story: When astronauts Fuji (Akira Takarada) and Glenn (Nick Adams) land on the newly discovered Planet X, they are astonished to find a technologically advanced civilization led by the Controller (Yoshiro Tsuchiya). The Controller tells the Earth visitors that the Xians have been forced underground by frequent attacks on the surface by the dreaded space monster King Ghidorah. Aware that Ghidorah was recently driven away from Earth by Godzilla and Rodan, the Xians ask to borrow the two monsters; not certain of the current rate for monster rentals, they offer a cure for cancer in exchange. Suspicious of the aliens' true motives, Fuji and Glenn return to Earth with news of the Xians' request. Before the governments of Earth can reply, the Xians appear in flying saucers and transport Godzilla and Rodan back to their home planet in force field bubbles. On Planet X, Fuji and Glenn watch as the Earth monsters successfully battle King Ghidorah. Returning with a tape said to contain the cancer cure, the two astronauts find their earlier suspicions justified: on the recording the Controller demands that Earth surrender to Planet X or be destroyed by Godzilla, Rodan and King Ghidorah, whom the aliens are controlling with magnetic waves. As the deadline to surrender nears, Fuji, Glenn and a team of scientists race to prepare countermeasures before mankind is wiped out by the trio of titanic terrors. Invasion of Astro-Monster combines Toho's tried-and-true monster movie formula with elements of its earlier science fiction epics Chikyu Boeigun (The Mysterians, 1957) and Uchu Daisenso (Battle in Outer Space, 1959). Beyond the novelty of mixing the two genres and an American lead, there isn't much that's fresh about the film, but overall it's an amiable adventure and more satisfying than its immediate predecessor Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster. That film suffered from a dull spy plot and characters that tended to be reactive rather than proactive. Invasion of Astro-Monster, by contrast, sets up a number of mysteries: What are the Xians really up to? Why does the shadowy World Education Corporation purchase the rights to a new invention by Testsuo (Akira Kubo), boyfriend of Fuji's sister Haruno (Keiko Sawai), and then suppress it? What is the connection between Glenn's girlfriend Miss Namikawa (Kumi Mizuno), the World Education Corporation and the Xians? The answers to these questions won't surprise anyone over the age of nine, but it still makes for a reasonably engaging storyline, and director Ishiro Honda keeps the action moving without a lull. (Admittedly, the plot doesn't stand up to scrutiny: Why do the Xians go through the charade of asking permission to borrow the monsters when they have the power to seize and control them all along?) Furthermore, the heroes of Asto-Monster win over the viewer by actively working to unravel the story's mysteries and solve problems, unlike the characters in Ghidorah, who mostly stand around while the conflicts are resolved by the Mothra fairies and the monsters. Whereas Ghidorah was set mostly in generic offices, hotel rooms, etc., Invasion of Astro-Monster boasts several exotic Planet X sets that give it added visual interest. The surface of the planet is barren and rocky, but in an imaginative touch Jupiter dominates the sky. Production Designer Takeo Kita's concepts for the Xians' underground lair are extremely simple by today's standards, but have an old-fashioned pulp sci-fi appeal. The sets are complemented by the Xians' fun, campy spacesuits, which sport black leather chest pieces, high collars, snug headpieces with an antenna on top and eyewear that resembles retro-hip sunglasses. Astro-Monster isn't the best Godzilla film of the 1960's, but it may be the most stylish. With Toho's budgets for their monster movies shrinking, the film contains considerably less kaiju action than usual. The first major monster effects scene, the three-way battle on Planet X, is hurt by the lack of any landmarks to give the monsters a sense of scale. The later battle scenes on Earth are better, but, in another sign of economizing, incorporate a generous amount of stock footage from Rodan and Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster. The characterization of the monsters is less cartoony than in the previous year's Ghidorah; there's no slapstick fighting or monster dialogue, and Godzilla and Rodan, although "good guys" again, appear to fight King Ghidorah more out of instinct than any nobler motive. The film does have one jarring moment: Godzilla's victory jig on Planet X, one of the most notoriously goofy scenes in the 50 + years of the series. Although the film skimps on monster action, there's plenty of outer space adventure and sci-fi gadgetry to compensate. The miniatures and optical effects used to depict Glenn and Fuji's rocket are about average for Toho's efforts of the period; the work is polished, professional and has some nice details, but still won't fool anyone but the kiddies. The Xian flying saucers look like deformed Christmas tree ornaments and aren't very convincing, but they are given an effective, dramatic introduction emerging unexpectedly from a Japanese lake. The climactic battle between the saucers and Earth's forces is brisk and energetic, enlivened further by Akira Ifukube's exciting musical score. The cast is uniformly solid. Akira Takarada is warm and likeable as Fuji; there's a genuine sense of camaraderie between him and Nick Adams' Glenn. Kumi Mizuno is beautiful, mysterious and slightly sinister in her early scenes as Miss Namikawa, but is able to earn audience sympathy later when her character is given a tragic fate. As the Controller of Planet X, Yoshio Tsuchiya is appropriately enigmatic; in the original Japanese version he delivers his lines in a deliberate, slightly halting manner, suggesting someone who is not speaking his native language. Akira Kubo, who would go on to star in Son of Godzilla (1967) and Destroy All Monsters (1968), makes his Godzilla series debut as the nerdy inventor Tetsuo; he brings intelligence and determination to what could have been a simple stereotype. Jun Tazaki, as scientist Dr. Sakurai, and Keiko Sawai, as Fuji's sister Haruno, make the most of their underwritten parts. The cast member making the strongest impression is, of course, Nick Adams, who plays Astronaut Glenn with a distinctly American brand of macho swagger. After finding moderate success early on with the television series The Rebel (1959 - 1960) and supporting roles in features, Adams' career took a downturn when his aggressive self-promotion alienated many in Hollywood. Whereas many actors would have viewed a role in a Japanese monster movie as the ultimate humiliation, Adams took a positive attitude, befriended the cast and gave it his all. It's easy to make fun of his over-the-top, Cagney-esque line readings in Astro-Monster ("You stinkin' rats!"), but he is committed to the part and plays it with gusto rather than walking through it. For better or worse, his is one of the most memorable performances in Japanese monster movie history. Invasion of Astro-Monster would prove to be a transitional film in Godzilla's screen career. After helming five of the six Godzilla films, Ishiro Honda left, uncomfortable with the direction in which Toho was taking the character he had helped create. Starting with the next film, Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster (1966), Jun Fukuda would take over as director and bring a very different sensibility to the monster's adventures. Special effects guru Eiji Tsuburaya would continue to get screen credit on Toho's monster movies, but devoted most of his time and energy to his own company. Composer Akira Ifukube, whose work had helped generate a sense of urgency and seriousness in Toho's wildest flights of fancy, found his grim, heavy monster themes frequently displaced by the pop-influenced work of Masura Sato, Kunio Miyauchi and Riichiro Manabe. Yet even though the film is in some respects the end of an era, Astro-Monster is also a sign of things to come. Godzilla's victory jig is indicative of the light-hearted, jokey attitude that soon dominated the series. The limited monster action, minimal model-building and reliance on stock footage soon became commonplace in Toho's effects films. The plot's basic premise-aliens using monsters to try to take over the world-would be rehashed in five of Godzilla's next nine films, including all but one of the monster's films from the 1970's. In retrospect, the film offers a unique view on the status of the Japanese monster movie in the middle of the decade, both recapitulating earlier successes, revealing weaknesses that were putting a strain on the formula, and providing a glimpse of future trends. Classic Media's DVD of Invasion of Astro-Monster is another fine release in their series of Godzilla special editions. The Japanese version sports an attractive 16 x 9, 2.35:1 transfer with good color and minimal damage to the source element. As with many transfers from Toho, the image is a little soft and contrast is slightly flat. The mono sound is acceptable, but somewhat disappointing. The recording of Ifukube's thrilling score seems to have been poorly done at the time; on all versions of the film and on the soundtrack album it has a limited dynamic range (even by 1965 standards) and a slightly harsh edge. The American version of the film opens with English-language credits cropped to 1.78:1, but after an opening bit of expository text appears to use the same transfer as the Japanese version, edited to match the English dialogue track. The American version makes minimal changes to the film, simply using a different Ifukube cue for the main titles and trimming about two minutes of footage. The commentary this time is by Stuart Galbraith IV, author of the seminal Japanese Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, as well as Monsters Are Attacking Tokyo! and The Emperor and the Wolf, a joint biography of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune. Galbraith gives a thorough account of the film's creation and informative short career bios of virtually every member of the cast with a speaking part. Also included are the Japanese trailer, a featurette on producer Tomoyuki Tanaka (credited to Ed Godziszewski, but actually written and narrated by Steve Ryfle), a stills gallery and a poster gallery. Recommended for faithful Godzilla aficionados and parents of young monster fans; all others need not apply. For more information about Invasion of Astro-Monster, visit Classic Media. To order Invasion of Astro-Monster, go to TCM Shopping. by Gary Teetzel

Quotes

You? Well this is a funny place to meet.
- Glenn
Yah, I'm gonna die laughing.
- Tetsuo

Trivia

Godzilla's famous/infamous victory dance after defeating King Ghidorah on Planet X was thought up by actor 'Yoshio Tsuchiya' .

This film wasn't released in the United States for five year because of the death of star Nick Adams. Adams had apparently committed suicide a few months after filming was completed and it was felt that it would inappropriate to release the film so soon after his death.

After its initial U.S. showings, the film was advertised in some venues under the title "Invasion of the Astros", although the actual prints used still carried the "Monster Zero" title.

Notes

Released in Japan in 1966 as Kaiju daisenso; running time: 96 min. Also known as Invasion of Astro-Monsters, Battle of the Astros, and Invasion of the Astros.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1970

Released in United States on Video June 27, 1995

Another entry in the successful "Godzilla" movie franchise.

dubbed English

Tohoscope

Released in United States 1970

Released in United States on Video June 27, 1995