Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971)

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Image laexuberanciadehades.wordpress.com

“Save the Earth!”

“Godzilla vs. Hedorah”, also known by the title “Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster”, is a forward pointing film in many ways.  It is also the strangest film in the Godzilla series.  The movie contains a strong environmental theme (and by “strong” I mean “hits the viewer over the head with a sack of doorknobs”).  The titular monster is an alien strengthened by pollution, and the poor environmental conditions on Earth make it grow enormous, and Godzilla must step up to fight it.  This is all set across a backdrop that screams 1970’s, with a James Bond-style opening complete with a song (“Save the Earth” in the original English dub), and the action is occasionally interrupted by Monty Python-esque cartoons that punctuate the various plot points.  Godzilla also flies.  This is a very weird movie.  That being said, Hedorah has traits that were adapted for monsters in the later, or “Heisei”, Godzilla series, such as his changes of form and beam weapons.

A series of tadpole-like creatures are found infesting the polluted waters around Japan.  A giant version of one of these creatures attacks an oil tanker, while another attacks a scientist and his son, Ken.  The creatures are called Hedorahs and after some study, it is found that they can combine with each other to increase in size.  The creatures are also attracted to polluted areas.  Soon, a giant Hedorah climbs onto land to absorb smoke from a factory.  Godzilla appears to do battle with the monster, but is easily repelled.  Hedorah can expel toxic mud and sulfuric gas that is extremely poisonous.  It later reveals it can assume a flying form which can cover large populated areas with toxic gas that can kill people and reduce them to bones.  The smog monster continues its rampage, while Dr. Yano, the scientist who was injured earlier, obsessively searches for a way to destroy the monster.  He hypothesizes that Hedorah may die if it were dried out, and a series of giant electric barriers are created.  Hedorah nearly evades them, but Godzilla appears and drags the beast between the barriers, drying him out some.  Hedorah manages to escape, but Godzilla blasts his radioactive breath behind him and flies toward Hedorah.  He catches the smog monster and drags him back to the electrical barriers, where Hedorah is dried out and dies.

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Image geekedoutnation.com

It really can’t be emphasized how weird this movie is.  The director, Yoshimitsu Banno, was only the second person to direct a Godzilla movie in the original (or “Showa”) series that wasn’t Ishiro Honda or Jun Fukuda (the other one was Motoyoshi Oda who directed “Godzilla Raids Again”).  Banno’s odd style of directing takes many obvious cues from other famous works from the late 60’s and very early 70’s.  The opening takes many cues from Bond movies like “From Russia With Love”, and many scenes of younger people voicing their displeasure with music and protests brings to mind several counter-cultural movies from the late 60’s (most of these rebellious youths wind up killed by Hedorah in this movie.  Make of that what you will.)  The strange cartoon segments, the occasional use of the “fish eye” lens, and the infamous “flying Godzilla” scene combine to make this a truly surreal piece.  However, Hedorah himself is an interesting creature, and in a way is a harbinger of things to come further down the road for the Godzilla series.  Hedorah was the first monster to truly change form throughout the movie.  He begins as a tadpole-like creature, evolves to a four-legged crawling form, then a flying saucer form, and finally his giant two-legged form at the end.  He also attacks with a variety of beams and other projectiles in an occasionally garish display of colors and pyrotechnics.  Both of these are traits that are found in the monsters Godzilla fights in the 90’s.  Hedorah also displays a lot of personality for a large pile of slime.  The scene where he “drinks” smoke from the smokestack is often lauded as the best show of this.  The monster’s eyes slowly shut as he “drinks”, almost as if he is getting high off the fumes.  He later appears to a group of people who begin throwing torches at him.  He looks down at the people almost as if curious about their actions.  After some of the less personable monsters like Ebirah and Kumonga, Hedorah showing such a variety of emotions is a refreshing change.  This movie is definitely not for everyone, with its strange visuals and unusual direction, but it is useful as sort of a preview of some of the features later Godzilla movies would have.  And it should be noted that he never flies again.

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Image tdzdaily.org

Trivia

Director Yoshimitsu Banno wanted to direct a sequel where Godzilla would fight another Hedorah in Africa.  Series producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, however, was furious about this movie.  He told Banno he had “ruined Godzilla”, and forbade him from working on the series again.  Banno may have wound up with the last laugh, however.  He is one of the producers of the upcoming American movie!

Hedorah was played by Kenpachiro Satsuma, who would later go on to play Godzilla throughout the 90’s.

The Hedorah suit weighed 300 pounds.

The American title of the opening song, “Save The Earth”, was later used as the title of a Godzilla fighting game.

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Image dogomovies.com

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~ by Chris on April 28, 2014.

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