GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH

Aka Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster

(1971)
(Japanese Title: Gojira tai HedorĂ¢)
With Akira Yamauchi, Toshi Kimura, Hiroyuki Kawase, Keiko Mari, Toshio Shiba
Directed by Yoshimitsu Banno
Reviewed by JB

This review is of the original Japanese version of the film.

Godzilla conducts Beethoven's Fifth, then stomps on the orchestra       It's not that I don't appreciate the anti-pollution sentiment behind GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH. But, holy waste management, Batman, this is one bad GODZILLA movie.

       Godzilla had made it through most of the fifties and sixties relatively unscathed, and there's not a Giant Monster film from GOJIRA through SON OF GODZILLA that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to anybody looking for a fun film to watch on a rainy afternoon or a slow Saturday night.  But KING KONG ESCAPES was boring and stupid,  GODZILLA'S REVENGE a near-complete misfire, and now GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH could make one suspect that the series was now in an unstoppable downward spiral. 

    It is clear now that the series is aimed squarely at kids.  Disgusting little tadpoles made of industrial sludge start showing up in the ocean, and pretty soon a gigantic sludge monster begins attacking ships.  Our film's child hero, little Ken, dubs this monster Hedorah and believes that Godzilla will show up to fight him.  And sure enough, Godzilla comes along to fight Hedorah. Gee, Ken, you must be psychic!

    There's just so much wrong with this film, starting with Godzilla himself.  He used to have his own great little theme, "The Godzilla March" whenever he showed up, but in this film, he has a chorus of off key horns that would be more appropriate as entrance music for a "drunk uncle" character.  He keeps making these weird arm movements like he's (a) conducting an imaginary monster orchestra (b) Joe Cocker singing "With a Little Help from My Friends" at Woodstock or (c) me trying to dance at a wedding.  It's really disconcerting!  Then there's all the loud, hippy rock music complete with psychedelic colorful blobs shown on a background screen.  Once in a while, the film stops to show these "Schoolhouse Rock" style animated cartoons of Hedorah doing damage to the environment.  They're nicely done but --- why?  There's also a tendency to leave out major action and let TV announcers explain what's going on - 200 cities have been destroyed today, and now, here's Akiko with the weather!  

"Man, this is good stuff... put on Sgt. Pepper!"    Worst of all, when the monster action isn't dull, which it too often is, it tends to be disgusting.  Hedorah literally spits at Godzilla several times in the film (here's mud in you eye, indeed!) and at one point, throws the Big Guy into a pit and  poops sludge all over him!  Godzilla, getting the best of Hedorah, manages to incapacitate him and then punches through Hedorah's body and retrieves two giant orbs that I don't even want to know about.  

    This movie is famous among fans as the one where Godzilla flies, using his atomic breath to propel him through the air.  It's a moment you either love or hate.  I vote for hate.  In fact, that's my strict party line vote right down the line for the whole film.  I get the whole "save the world" bit, but, like Sam Goldwyn once said, if you want to send a message, use Western Union.  Or Mothra.  Or whatever it is he said.  2 - JB


I WANT TO PROVE I'M A DIRECTOR IN THE WORST WAY

According to Toho Kingdom, director Yoshimitsu Banno was very proud of his first Godzilla film, and wanted to make a sequel.  But series producer Tomoyuki Tanaka hated the film, told Banno that he had "ruined Godzilla!" and barred him from ever directing another Godzilla film.

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