A princess from Selgina, a small Himalayan country, becomes possessed by the spirit of a Venusian (a Martian in the American version) and escapes a plane just as it explodes. As this happens a meteorite falls from the sky containing King Ghidorah, the monster responsible for her planet's destruction. At the same time, Godzilla and Rodan emerge from hibernation and not only attack Japan, but each other as well. Mothra, along with its twin priestesses, attempt to convince Godzilla and Rodan to stop their fighting each other and to team up to fight the new monster. Meanwhile, the princess is being hunted by a group of assassins, led by Malness, who want to kill her so that her enemies can take over her homeland. Then, just when Malness is about to kill the princess, King Ghidorah crushes him by knocking over a pile of boulders on him. Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra finally drive King Ghidorah off. The movie ends with the princess going back to her home land and Godzilla and Rodan watching Mothra swim back to Infant island.
Staff role on the left, staff member's name on the right.
As with previous films, the American version of the film varies greatly from it's original Japanese source. Numerous changes to the editing as well as plot were made.
The characters in the original Japanese version refer to King Ghidorah by his full name, in the American version his name is shortened and slightly abbreviated to "Ghidrah", which is because it sounds more like "hydra."
The princess claims to be from Venus in the Japanese version while the American version she states she is from Mars.
Numerous scenes were rearranged in the order in which they appeared in the original Japanese print, such as the old man whom the Princess trades the bracelet with identifying her in the police station, the battles between Godzilla and Rodan, the Princess originally told King Ghidorah's tale before the monster emerged from the meteorite, the arrival of the assassins happened at an earlier time than they did in the Japanese version, Godzilla's appearance in Yokohama was mistakenly rearranged, in his first shot of the scene he appears on land, in the next shot he is in the water, and then he again appears on land, and Rodan emerging from the volcano was mistakenly rearranged as well. In one shot his whole body can be seen rising out of the crater's wall when in the following shots he is still trying to raise his head out from the rocks.
The majority of Akira Ifukube's original score for the film was replaced with music from other American films.
Mothra is referred to as a Male in the American version, but is referred to as a Female in the Japanese version.
The American version is roughly 7 minutes shorter than the Japanese version.
Several scenes were also altered or removed.
Altered: In Godzilla's first appearance Rodan appears in the sky before Godzilla destroys the ship, the scene originally showed Godzilla rising from the sea and then destroying the boat almost uninterrupted.
Deleted: Shindo sees Naoko being dropped off by Dr. Murai at their home. Explaining why Shindo was asking his mother about his sister having a boyfriend when returning home.
Deleted: Rodan lets out his signature roar when his head emerges from the cave wall.
Deleted: Brief shot of Rodan hovering over the Volcano after he emerges.
Deleted: Before leaving the hotel room Shindo witnesses a ship exploding in the harbor caused by Godzilla.
Deleted: The Assassins are seen trying to escape Yokohama during Godzilla's landing.
Deleted: The Shobijin singing the "Happiness" song when calling for Mothra.
In the original December 20th, 1964 Japanese release of the film, it had an attendance of 4,320,000 and grossed ¥210,000,000. In the film's theatrical re-issue on December 12th, 1971, it sold 1,090,000 tickets, adding up to a total of 5,410,000 attendees.
When Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster was released in the United States, its film rentals added up to roughly $1,300,000.
Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster is liked for its monster brawl and respected for being the film that started Godzilla's gradual change into a hero.
Not once does Godzilla use his atomic breath against King Ghidorah in battle, while he does use it repeatedly, with no apparent effect, against Rodan.
An early concept for King Ghidorah had him with rainbow-colored wings and a purple body with his three heads spitting fire from their mouths, instead of lightning which was used in the final draft.
In Sinichi Sekizawa's screenplay for the film, all he says in terms of a physical description of King Ghidorah is: "It has three heads, two tails, and a voice like a bell." From this, Eiji Tsuburaya designed it, which proved to be one of his most innovative, and popular, creations.
This film is the first Godzilla film to not feature military weapons, such as tanks and jets.
This film marks the second screen appearance of Rodan, and the monster's first appearance in a Godzilla film.
This is the first film to portray Godzilla as a hero. Also, in the conversation with Mothra he states that he only hates humans because humans hate him, suggesting that he was not really a villain in the first place.
When the Shobijin are translating Mothra, Rodan and Godzilla's conversation before Mothra goes on to fight King Ghidorah, the Shobijin exclaim "Oh Godzilla, what terrible language!" indicating that Godzilla was swearing.
There is only one Mothra larva in this film, as the second larva died in between the film Mothra vs. Godzilla and this film.
The Godzilla suit used in this film was used previously in 1964 for Mothra vs. Godzilla. Nicknamed the "MosuGoji" suit, it is the first Godzilla suit to be used for more than one film.
This is a list of references for Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster. These citations are used to identify the reliable sources on which this article is based. These references appear inside articles in the form of superscript numbers, which look like this: