The following piece is from friend of 25YL Site and Twin Peakie, Robert Wolpert.
I suffer from a condition where I see Twin Peaks everywhere I look. Sometimes I find legitimate sources of Lynch/Frost inspiration—see: “Makes You Wish You Spoke A Little French.” At other times, I take a bit too much cough medicine, start watching a Godzilla movie on The Criterion Channel, and find synchronicity between a Three-Headed Lizard Monster and the three cowboys that Agent Cooper encountered in Judy’s Diner.
I started working my way through the classic Japanese monster films currently streaming on The Criterion Channel and arrived at 1964’s Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, directed by Ishirō Honda. Honda had spearheaded earlier movies featuring Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and even King Kong. 1964 was a particularly busy year for Honda, as he directed both Ghidorah and Mothra vs. Godzilla. Ghidorah is somewhat of a direct sequel to Mothra, featuring a few of the same characters and locations.
Before I started seeing connections between Ghidorah and David Lynch—particularly Mulholland Drive and Twin Peaks—an overriding similarity becomes obvious: the evils of the atomic age. Godzilla and its cronies (Mothra, Ghidorah, Rodan, etc.) mutated into giant creatures as a result of nuclear testing; in reality, the films reflect the horrors that their Japanese creators witnessed firsthand at the end of World War II. The behemoths display powers consisting of electricity, fire, and other destructive elemental forces. Meanwhile, fire and electricity have long been part of the lore of Twin Peaks. Then, in “Part 8” of the Showtime Limited Series, Lynch and Frost depicted a “direct” (for them) correlation between the 1945 atomic testing in New Mexico and the earthly appearance of BOB, the Woodsmen, and most likely “Judy” (or The Experiment). So nuclear power generates great evil in both series.
Ghidorah begins with Naoko, a journalist researching “Mysteries of the 20th Century” for Toyo Broadcasting. She is hanging out on a downtown Tokyo rooftop with the local UFO society. Their leader (credited as “UFO Expert”) is concerned about drastic weather changes, meteors falling around the world, and a recent breakout of encephalitis. His dire warnings are reminiscent of the role the Lodge residents play in Twin Peaks, as well as Mulholland Drive’s Louise Bonner (Lee Grant), the creepy, cryptic neighbor of Betty’s who declared, “Something bad is happening!”
Naoko’s brother, Shindo, is a detective who has just been given the assignment of protecting the Princess of Selgina (a tiny country which is embroiled in a domestic dispute). Shindo’s boss presents him with photographs of the Princess in a scene similar to the “This is the Girl” thread from Mulholland Drive.
Unbeknownst to the detective or the Princess, a bomb has been placed aboard her plane by the villainous Malness and his group of assassins. This surly bunch dresses like gangsters, akin to the Mitchum Brothers of Twin Peaks, although their ultimate path is closer to Hutch and Chantal’s.
Flying to Tokyo, the Princess is hypnotized by a bright light outside the window. A voice emanating from the light urges her to flee. She leaps from the plane, which then explodes. This accident sets up the action in Ghidorah, much like the car crash at the start of Mulholland Drive. Additionally, the manner in which the Princess is compelled by otherworldly beings soon puts her on a “double personality” path parallel to Dale Cooper/Dougie Jones in Twin Peaks, as well as Rita of Mulholland Drive.
Back in Tokyo, a particularly large meteorite has landed near the “twin peaks” of Mount Aso and Mount Sakurajima. Professor Murai and his Technical Institute research team move to investigate, in a scene that reminded me of Bobby Briggs leading Sheriff Truman, Hawk, and Andy up the mountains to Jack Rabbit’s Palace. Murai informs the journalist Naoko of his team’s findings. Elsewhere, Naoko’s brother Shindo is notified of the plane explosion. It looks like the detective’s assignment has ended before it began.
Shortly after, a “Prophet” claiming to be from Venus speaks to large crowds across Tokyo, warning of impending doom. This disheveled, Venusian prophet looks almost exactly like the Princess. Both Detective Shindo and Malness become aware of the lookalike via television and newspaper articles. Malness and crew fly to Tokyo to discover the Venusian’s true identity. Shindo’s boss has his suspicions, as this doppelganger is not wearing the royal bracelet (a golden circle) that the Princess never went without. Soon enough, the bracelet turns up in the hands of a local fisherman. He explains that a woman was adrift at sea and traded the bracelet for clothes before vanishing. Detective Shindo shows the fisherman photos of the Princess and the Venusian, and the fisherman exclaims they are one and the same.
Elsewhere, on a variety TV show called Where Are They Now, a tall and a short host appear on a stage flanked by a large red curtain. A pair of young boys is chosen from the audience. They hope to meet Mothra, the friendly giant moth creature from Mothra vs. Godzilla. (Spoilers: technically, Mothra died at the end of that film, protecting her egg, which hatched and produced twin, uh, larvae?) The curtain parts, revealing the Shobijin, miniature twin ladies who were introduced in the previous film. These Twin Pixies are visiting from Infant Island, home of Mothra. The ladies speak and sing simultaneously. They reveal that one of the young larva has died, but the other is fine. The Shobijin then break into their “Song for Mothra,” which truly has to be seen and heard to be appreciated.
The Princess/Venusian appears again, warning of Rodan’s arrival. Much like the Twin Peaks Giant, her warnings quickly come true. Some volcanic shifting frees Rodan from inside the Earth’s crust.
Back on the case, Detective Shindo has found only one person able to explain the Princess’s reappearance: the UFO Expert last seen stargazing on the rooftop. “I think she survived because she fell into a gap between dimensions,” the UFO Expert declares. “You may not be aware of this…but there are other dimensions besides those we know. And there’s a whole other world therein. The [plane] explosion created a gap between the two worlds. She was saved when she fell into it.”
Might this also explain what occurred in “Part 8” of the Showtime Twin Peaks series? The nuclear test in New Mexico may have opened a gap between dimensions, allowing BOB, the “fricket,” The Experiment, the Woodsmen, and who knows what else a way out between two worlds. Good work, UFO Expert of 1964!
Back to Ghidorah: the Princess appears on a ship that is readying to return the tiny Shobijin home. The Princess warns the passengers to stay off of the ship. Naoko is also on hand, interviewing the singing twins. She rescues the Princess from the wrath of the crew and the mocking crowd. Naoko brings the Princess to the Misumi Hotel (Room 384! That…probably means something). Having followed the narrative via news broadcasts, Malness and his thugs are on the scene at the hotel. Malness appears to the Princess in a hallway, yet she doesn’t react. Her behavior is akin to “Rita,” the dark, shapely amnesia victim from Mulholland Drive. Malness is perplexed and temporarily calls off the hit.
The Shobijin heeded the Princess’s warning and are now hiding out in Naoko’s hotel room. The ship sails without them and is soon destroyed…by Godzilla! (Finally!) In a bizarre sequence, Detective Shindo catches up with the ladies and brings the Princess to Dr. Tsukamoto’s lab. The “brilliant psychiatrist” concludes there is nothing physically or mentally wrong with the Princess, yet ultimately subjects her to a series of Frankensteinian electrical tests—flickering lights included.
Dr. Tsukamoto is performed by the legendary Takashi Shimura, who not only played a different character in the first two Godzilla films but starred in several Akira Kurosawa classics, such as Seven Samurai and the moving Ikiru.
The Princess still insists she’s from Venus and warns Dr. Tsukamoto that King Ghidorah is coming to destroy Earth, just as he wiped out her alien homeworld 5,000 years ago. At that exact moment, the meteorite that Murai’s team is studying cracks open. A fiery form flies upwards, transforming into Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster.
Despite being in imminent danger, Detective Shindo and Dr. Tsukamoto work to uncover the mystery of the Princess’s condition. She tells them she has survived in a non-physical form on Earth. She says the only remaining Venusian power she has is the ability to predict the future (which explains her winning streak as a doomsday prophet). Naturally, Dr. Tsukamoto wants to attempt shock treatment on his patient! Malness and his gang suddenly arrive at the lab; only a series of divine “Dougie Jones twists” prevents the Princess from being fried and/or shot, for now.
Godzilla, Rodan, and Ghidorah are now rampaging across Tokyo. Naoko, the Princess, the Shobijin, Dr. Tsukamoto, and Detective Shindo meet up with Professor Murai, and all are soon on the run from the monsters and the assassins. Both the humans’ plight and the monsters’ fight make for an exciting climax. The heroes entreat the Shobijin to call mini-Mothra for help. After much persuading, Godzilla and Rodan stop fighting each other, which involves an amusing “tennis match” battle sequence. They team up with Mothra to stop Ghidorah. Heedless of the danger, Malness is hell-bent on finishing off the Princess. During a frenzied shoot out, in which both the Princess and Shindo are seemingly shot a half-dozen times, Malness is eventually crushed by the creatures’ destruction. Shindo ends up with one arm in a sling but is otherwise fine.
A bullet that “grazed” the Princess’s head proves to be just the thing to “wake” her from her Venusian persona. This turn of events was quite reminiscent of Dougie Jones sticking the fork into the socket to finally “wake up” as Agent Cooper. One could argue that in Cooper and the Princess’s case, there isn’t a conclusive answer whether the temporary personalities that inhabited them were real or imagined, although further study is required. In other words, I have more Godzilla movies to watch.
And there you have it! The next time someone laughs off the notion that David Lynch and Godzilla have something in common—which, admittedly, won’t come up too often—be sure to mention this article.