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Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster!: Godzilla vs. Hedorah (live action review)

Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster!: Godzilla vs. Hedorahreview provided by Coyote (Batdad)

Title: Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster!: Godzilla vs. Hedorah on Blu-ray

Director: Yoshimitsu Banno

Starring: Akira Yamauchi, Hiroyuki Kawase, Toshie Kimura, Toshio Shibamoto, and Keiko Mari

Studio: Toho

U. S. Distributor: Kraken Releasing / Section 23

U. S. Release Date: May 6th, 2014

Original Release Date: July 24th, 1971

Format: Blu-ray / Feature Film / 86 minutes

Age Rating: TV PG

Genre: Kaiju, Sci Fi

Overall Personal Rating: A

Synopsis:

Forget about acid rain and global warming!  The worst ecological nightmare is actually Hedorah, which starts off small but quickly mutates into a giant flying monster capable of wiping out all life on whatever unfortunate planet it lands on! And since Hedorah grows by consuming the toxic gases and chemicals mankind has spilled into the air and water, in the early 1970’s that means that its potential growth is unlimited!  Fortunately for the human race, the Earth has the ultimate green defender who doesn’t need to sing protest songs or try to enact new laws to get things done.  Because nobody, and nothing, can stop Godzilla when he decides to push an environmental issue, and while Hedorah may be the dirtiest opponent Godzilla ever faced, his name is going to be mud by the time he’s been stomped into the whole Earth a few dozen times.  Get ready for the wildest Godzilla film ever as the social concerns and way out fashions of the seventies collide head on with the ultimate in big monster brawls in Godzilla vs. Hedorah!

Commentary:

Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster! is by far one of the most wildly creative Godzilla movies ever made.  It incorporates a healthy dose of metaphorical imagery and symbolism, psychedelic visions, animated cartoon interludes, and pop music that reflects the growing youth protest culture of the time.  Like the original Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1954), this feature delivers a stern warning to viewers, but changes focus from the dangers of nuclear radiation to ecological degradation.  Perhaps the most notable innovation is Godzilla’s role as a hero.

Although this Blu-Ray version doesn’t translate the title song “Save the Earth”, this environmental message presented by Banno is clear.  During this time period, Japan was suffering from serious problems with pollution, and Banno chose to respond with a somewhat darker tone.  The film is littered with grimey imagery of fuming smokestacks below Mount Fuji and cesspools of trash, scum, and dead fish polluting the waters.  Even the cartoon interludes bear a cynical tone with it’s gritty style.  At the same time, there is a youthful spirit of activism directed at the audience with psychedelic scenes shot in a Japanese nightclub and, later, a “Let’s rock like it’s Woodstock (even though there’s like nobody here)!” protest rally.  Other novelties include backgrounds with lava lamp splatters that resemble the polluted cesspools, multi-paneled shots to convey a sense of mass frenzy, and trippy dancers with fish heads to emphasize the fishy themes.  Despite the darker tone, there is still a campy spirit that has become so popular with the genre.

Hedorah is like a strange sentient version of the Blob that feeds off pollution and chemical waste. As it grows, it changes form from aquatic tadpole with big red eyes to terrestrial slime beast with big red eyes to aerial acid-spewing, lumpy pancake…with big red eyes.  It’s corrosively crappy composition makes it particularly resilient to physical attacks.  Plus, with spewing sludge, red eye lasers, and a tricky nature, Hedorah is quite a formidable villain that loves to fight dirty!  At one point he actually burns Godzilla to the bone, and later tries to bury our beloved kaiju alive in a pool of sludge.  Hedorah’s attacks are also the first graphic scenes of mass civilian casualties since the original, adding to the darker tone of the film.  Although it is theorized that Hedorah originated from outer space, it’s never actually confirmed, and man’s polluting habits still remain as the true source of the problem.

Godzilla proudly marches into the movie before a background of the rising sun as a  hero.  He is idolized by Ken (Kawase), who dreams of the mighty lizard destroying toxic cesspools with his atomic breath and likens him to Superman, which is even more hilarious because Godzilla also uses his atomic breath to fly during the final battle.  Unlike other versions of Godzilla as a rampaging destructive force indiscriminately toppling any buildings and structures in his way, this film shows him carefully sidestepping buildings and directing his measured attacks squarely against Hedorah with very little collateral damage.  Near the end, Godzilla even figures out how to use man’s failed technological solution to his advantage.  Godzilla is truly the ultimate green defender determined to defeat Hedorah to the end!

Overall Grade: A

The overall creativity of this Godzilla movie makes it one of my favorites.  You will not hear any “Oh, no! It’s Godzilla!” in this flick.  Godzilla’s role as an intelligent defender of the Earth, although unexplained, is strangely satisfying and will have everyone rooting for him.  Also, despite the darker tone and environmental messaging, there is still plenty of campy fun and lively entertainment to enjoy.  Just like many participants of the 1970’s, you are going to see some weird stuff in Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster!, and you’ll probably love it.

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