Director: Yoshimitsu Banno
Starring: Toshie Kimura, Akira Yamauchi, Hiroyuki Kawase
Review Author: Tony
Synopsis: When a strange tadpole like creature wrecks the coast of a Japanese town, Dr. Toro Yano and his son Ken discover the monster is evolving as a result of the earth’s increased pollution and toxic waste in the sea. As the creature grows in both size and threat, Godzilla emerges to face off with this deadly foe.
There was no way we could dedicate a month to Godzilla and not touch upon his weirdest film to date, Godzilla vs. Hedorah. Toho was riding off the success of Son of Godzilla, Destroy All Monsters, and All Monsters Attack, three films which were viewed as a return to form for the G man and each a financial success despite Toho downsizing their budget. Looking to bring some fresh blood to the franchise, Toho hired Yoshimitsu Banno to create a Godzilla film unlike any that had come before, giving the director complete creative control. Banno was determined to integrate a serious and timely message in his film that reflected the original Godzilla but also was a product of its current era. The result was a trippy funkadelic snapshot of the 70s with a heavy-handed message against environmental pollution.
To call this film bizarre is an understatement; from the trippy psychedelic visuals, 70s disco music, and unanticipated animation sequences, Godzilla vs. Hedorah looks and sounds like an experimental Beetles music video but follows the tropes and traits of the typical Godzilla vs [insert kaiju name] films. And yet, for all the atomic breath attacks, slams, punches, even Hedorah special attacks, none are quite as memorable as the nightclub fish-head scene!!!
Hedorah may look a little dated for the average newcomer to the series, but his various forms and arsenal of attacks were unique for the franchise. His costume is pretty impressive, showing the ability to grow and transform on the fly; he can both swim, walk on land, and take to the skies to cause maximum devastation. A literal embodiment of pollution, Hedorah is entirely toxic in nature, absorbing toxic sludge from the sea, poisonous smoke from industrial buildings, and secreting deadly gas filled with sulfur and other toxins.
The introduction of Ken, played by a very young Hiroyuki Kawase, might give the impression of the childish tone Toho had been embracing later in the Showa era, but goddamn does Godzilla vs. Hedorah not play around. Probably one of the highest confirmed body counts for a Godzilla film, Hedorah is a killing machine. Not since the original Godzilla film have we seen this kind of devastation on the human populace, with news reports of casualties in the thousands, and actual scenes of victims dissolving to skeletons as a result of Hedorah’s smog. Not only is this Godzilla’s most surreal film, but also perhaps the most grim.
In terms of Kaiju action, there are multiple showdowns between the G Man and Hedorah taking up a considerable chunk of the film’s runtime. The issue is most of these encounters are severely underwhelming as both spend more time mad-dogging one another and when the bell finally rings; the fights leave a lot to be desired. This is largely because of the humans having to find a way to kill Hedorah, as Godzilla is largely ineffective throughout. The final sequence is pretty hilarious as Godzilla effectively has to employ the same tactic twice to kill Hedorah, which just feels like an excuse to expand the film’s runtime.
Godzilla vs. Hedorah may not be the highlight of the Godzilla series, but is definitely a curious wonder for fans to seek out. The film’s jarring tone and experimental nature delivers a Godzilla experience like no other but has proved divisive for fans of the series. I feel into the camp of enjoying the film for its differences but was underwhelmed by the story and kaiju action overall.
Shots of Sake