Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971)

Here’s a movie that was so bad, once Toho got a gander at it, they put director Yoshimitsu Banno on suspension amidst concerns that he had irrevocably damaged the entire franchise. Thankfully, things got back on track with the next entry, Godzilla vs. Gigan, thus ensuring faithful viewers that all Godzilla features for the foreseeable future would be horrid for all the regular reasons and not go that extra mile by being trying to be socially relevant.

To be honest, I didn’t know any of this before watching the movie and just thought I was watching a regular old crappy Godzilla film built around a monster made out of scraps of left over monster suit parts. If I had known that the director had stuck it up Toho’s poopshoot by hijacking their cash cow to advance his own agenda, I probably would have appreciated it more than I did.

As it was, I didn’t appreciate it at all and found the artsy-fartsy touches combined with the lame monster action to give off the malodorous scent that the smog monster, Hedorah, no doubt excreted whenever Godzilla punched him in the stomach.

Didn’t anyone from Toho see a script or footage from this movie before it was completed? Who authorized the crudely animated segments that popped up sporadically throughout the movie to drive home the point that no one on the film had the remotest idea of what they were doing? And who was it that authorized the completely dumb part of the story line that had us hanging out a nightclub where one of the guys decided that they should all go up to Mount Fuji for a big rave since Hedorah was on the verge of destroying the world?

At least they got one thing right and had a little twerp named Ken milling around babbling about how he dreamed of Godzilla and how he was sure Big G was going to bail everyone’s partying carcass out of trouble.

It all goes down back in ancient times (the early 1970s to be exact) when we hadn’t yet licked all that pollution stuff that was threatening to ruin the planet. Luckily, we all pulled together and beat that problem without Godzilla’s help by drinking more diet soda and bottled water instead of that poison that comes out of our tap, but what if we hadn’t?

What if the world turned out like the nightmare scenario presented in this Godzilla film? What if our rivers were polluted and factories continued to belch gunk into the air, while sinister meteors crashed into the oceans and reacted with the pollutants to form a deadly creature capable of growing from a little tadpole into a full-fledged guy in a rubber monster suit with big red eyes and no other discernible attributes? Could even Godzilla, Earth’s greatest protector (when he or she is in the right mood anyway), stand against this dirty, sooty menace?

Um, this is a Godzilla that can fly, so I wouldn’t go selling the SUV and start car pooling with Ed Begley, Jr. in his electric car just yet. (Talk about a nightmare scenario!)

I can’t say that I’m really a student of the Godzilla mythos (his adventures all seem to run together – which one was the movie where that one monster started wrecking Japan and Godzilla had to show up to fight him?), but I don’t remember him ever flying around except when one of his monster buddies got crabby and chucked him through the air.

In this movie though, Godzilla somehow manages to fly backwards through the air by firing his radioactive halitosis in the opposite direction. Nifty to be sure, but probably a bit tough on the neck what with having to twist around constantly to see if you’re about to plow into a mountain or get twisted up in power lines.

I guess along with his newfound super power, Godzilla also has a newfound sense of responsibility since he just shows up without any explanation and decides to fight Hedorah. The hows and whys aren’t ever addressed and we’re just suppose to accept the fact that whenever some monster rampage is going on that Godzilla will use his Spidey sense to realize this and show up to fight.

For its part, Hedorah doesn’t really come off as anything that Godzilla should be breaking a sweat over anyway. Its powers seem to be limited to shooting out sulfuric acid and heaving sludgeballs in Big G’s general direction. Not exactly a monster with a buzz saw built into its chest, is it? Or a three headed dragon? Or a robot clone? Or even Anguirus? It probably ranks somewhere in the neighborhood of that dragonfly Godzilla fought in Godzilla vs. Megaguirus.

Forgettable monster mayhem follows as Godzilla encounters Hedorah in both its amphibian form and its “flying saucer” form. Kenny’s dad comes up with some half-assed scheme to defeat Hedorah that involves luring it between a couple of giant electrodes and he gets an assist from Godzilla who not only has become the world’s policeman, but also has developed a rather advanced knowledge of science as he’s smart enough to power up the electrodes with his breath when he needs to.

A complete botch from the drawing board to the finished product, Godzilla vs. Hedorah (also known as Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster) doesn’t even really manage to sell its message convincingly. So what if the rivers are a little pitted out? If it wasn’t for this rock from outer space, none of this would have happened. It wasn’t because we wrecked our planet that all this happened. It’s just another freak from another galaxy stirring up trouble. How is that supposed to tell me anything other than that we need some kind of missile shield surrounding our planet?

Though we would never hear from the director or Hedorah again, surprisingly this movie turned out to be the big break for the guy inside the Hedorah suit as he went on to play Gigan twice before getting called up to the big leagues and stepping into the Godzilla suit in seven movies! Less impressive is that little Kenny returned in Godzilla vs. Megalon.

© 2014 MonsterHunter

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