Godzilla vs. Hedorah: A Good Idea Lost In A Sea Of Awful

Godzilla vs. Hedorah aka Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster

Godzilla vs. Hedorah aka Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster

Godzilla vs. Hedorah
Director: Yoshimitsu Banno
Writers: Yoshimitsu Banno, Takeshi Kimura
Starring: Akira Yamauchi

1971 brings us Godzilla vs. Hedorah. There are people who consider Godzilla vs. Hedorah a.k.a. Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster to be the worst Godzilla movie made. I respectfully disagree. While there are some unbearably bad parts of Godzilla vs. Hedorah it is not unrelentingly bad from start to finish like Godzilla’s Revenge.

The opening credits give us the first clue that this movie will not be kind to Godzilla. The music is 60’s and there is an awful night club that we keep seeing. Dissatisfied with that, someone decided that horns should herald the arrival of Godzilla. Horns can be ominous but not the way they are used here. Goofy is the word that springs to mind, right after–“for god’s sake make them stop.”

The movie has a decent premise: A monster that thrives on industrial waste. This monster was seeded on the Earth from the distant Andromeda Galaxy. The movie opens with several scenes of terrible pollution, waste and garbage floating in the ocean. Godzilla vs. Hedorah is prescient in that it illuminates the horrible mess we are making in our oceans and atmosphere and did so in 1971. Now we need to do no more than google the great pacific garbage patch to see how well director Yoshimitsu Banno predicted the future. Hedorah also leaves behind a mass of toxic air when it flies over a group of exercising women. Beijing just made headlines around the world for having air so toxic it was over 2 dozen times levels considered dangerous to human beings. As it gets bigger, feeding on polluted waters and industrial waste, it starts dissolving people and buildings as it flies past. One might imagine that with such a great premise, the movie had a chance to be one of the classic greats of the Godzilla franchise.

Our second clue that the movie won’t be all that good is in the segues. Someone, possibly director Yoshimitsu Banno, decided that brief animated clips would be good segues in to insert in the movie. The first part of the movie has a variety of segues. Mostly animated and jarringly out of place but some of multiple television screens with different images or groups of images. I can’t help but get the feeling that the film needed a lot of padding to reach a feature length movie and these horrendous segues were it.

These segues drive the movie deeper into some kind of “wish we were at Woodstock” fantasy. There is a real effort to create a psychedelic feel to parts of the movie. And in what seems to be a reference to the Beatles, four musicians in an open field decide the world is about to end and so they start their own music festival. Did I mention Woodstock? this is just painful to watch. Thankfully these segues stop showing up when the monster fight gets started in ernest.

Which brings me to the main character, a “cute” little boy named Ken. This is actually the tip off that the movie will be bad. A kid with a high pitched voice who thinks Godzilla is a hero does not bode well for any monster movie. Ken can tell when Godzilla is going to show up and he is convinced Godzilla is going to protect him and everyone from the Hedorah. Why, oh why does there have to be a “cute” kid?

Hedorah has several stages it takes throughout the movie. It’s first stage is a larval stage that looks suspiciously like a lungfish. The animated segues compress time so that Hedorah can transform through its life cycle and hit each stage. Finally reaching a fully grown version that is bipedal, because of course animate industrial waste is bipedal; nuclear powered too don’tcha know?

Hedorah can fly, because it’s nuclear powered industrial sludge. It can ooze sludge waste that poisons all it touches. It spits globs of sticky acidic tar-like stuff that burns and maims. It also, because all of that isn’t nearly enough, has laser attacks too. Oh and let’s not forget the toxic off gassing. I say there old chap, would you mind using a bit of febreeze? You seem to have toxic farts.

Godzilla always gets his tail kicked at first. Here we see Godzilla writhing in agony in a pool of toxic Hedorah sludge (eew) while the dim-witted Hedorah looks on. Fortunately for Godzilla and the rest of Japan, Ken’s father is a scientist who has come up with a way to defeat Hedorah. Electrocution will desiccate the mineral that gives Hedorah its spark of life. Although I’m not sure how that works since putting any part of a Hedorah into polluted water reanimates it and well, the next rain could be troublesome. Also, why does electricity work when Godzilla’s nuclear blast breath weapon doesn’t? Pardon me, sir, but could you take a breath mint or something? Because your breath really is lethal.

I will say that the Hedorah suit is pretty good. It would be a difficult concept to design for: Animated pollution. Also I never once saw a wire. For the time the special effects are pretty good.

But I digress. We come to find out that strange, alien pearls are what give the mineralized smog the spark of life that is Hedorah. Godzilla uses the clever device Ken’s father had the military whip up to destroy them and that’s how Hedorah is finally defeated. First it’s weird that Godzilla’s breath can activate the device. Second, after a brief moment when the viewer is relieved that this monstrosity of a movie is finally over, a little Hedorah flies away from the ashes of the one Godzilla killed. Not only is the movie not over yet but this is when it goes completely round the bend. Because while the flying version of Hedorah is pretty ridiculous but no where near as ridiculous as Godzilla flying. OMG Godzilla flying, using his nuclear breath for propulsion and curled up around it like some kind of fetal lizard. WTF dude.

Please note that this review glosses over, and sometimes plain skips over several fairly fake looking monster fight scenes. Also Godzilla flies again because he needs to drag Hedorah’s sorry hide back to the device to finish it off.

Despite having a timely and pertinent message to share, Godzilla vs. Hedorah fails through sheer ridiculousness to make its point. Last, but not least, the Godzilla suit is not one of my favorites. In summation, Godzilla vs. Hedorah is not the worst Godzilla movie ever made but it sure gives Godzilla’s Revenge a run for its money. Also, this viewer is eternally grateful that the flying Godzilla idea seems to have been dropped after this movie. K

(Originally published on M31Publishing.com)

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K.L. Zolnoski

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