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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.

Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster!: Ebirah – Horror of the Deep! (movie review)

Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster!: Ebirahreview provided by Coyote better known as Batdad

Title: Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster!: Ebirah – Horror of the Deep! on Blu-ray

Director: Jun Fukuda

Starring: Akira Takarada, Kumi Mizuno, Akihiko Hirata, and Jun Tazaki

Studio: Toho

U. S. Distributor: Kraken Releasing / Section 23

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

Original Release Date: December 17th, 1966

Format: Blu-ray / Feature Film / 88 minutes

Age Rating: TV PG

Genre: Kaiju, Sci Fi

Overall Personal Rating: A-

Synopsis:

When Ryota’s brother Yata disappears at sea, the intrepid youth and his friends join forces with a slightly trustworthy bank robber, steal a boat and go after him! Of course, there’s the little problem that Yata may be lost on a mysterious island where the evil terrorist organization Red Bamboo has enslaved natives to make heavy water for nefarious purposes. And that means dealing with the island’s monstrous, 164 feet tall guardian Ebirah, as well as Red Bamboo’s arsenal of super advanced weaponry. On the plus side, help may be at hand in the form of a nubile island girl, two tiny fairies, their giant protector Mothra and the big G himself, the mighty Godzilla. Surviving the results of all that “assistance” may not be guaranteed, but Red Bamboo will never want to tangle with teenagers and Godzilla at the same time again! Take a South Seas cruise to non-stop mayhem and giant monster destruction with Ebirah – Horror of the Deep!

Commentary:

Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster! is a classic example of a campy Godzilla flick. Unlike the original black-and-white Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1954) which was steeped in dark overtones about the dangers of the man’s use of destructive forces, this exciting feature is a straight shot sci-fi action adventure about the good guys working together to stop the bad guys. Godzilla is more rampaging anti-hero than monstrous villain. His destructive nature just happens to do more harm to the bad guys which is great for everyone else.

King Kong fans will be correct for suspecting this tale of originally being written for the big ape, who was featured just a few years earlier in King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962). This is mostly evident in the odd discovery of Godzilla being found sleeping in a cave, and the strange allure he has for the native island girl Daiyo (Kumi Mizuno). Also, Godzilla’s first battle with Ebirah involves kicking and hitting boulders back and forth like a beach volleyball, which seemed more like a poo-flinging monkey kind of tactic. 

Despite a lot of shooting by the bad guys, the casualties are pretty low. A couple of escaping islanders are shot in the distance, and two others (as miniatures) are skewered by Ebirah, but without any bloody gore. At one point, one of the heroes escapes a volley of gunfire by accidently riding a large balloon to the neighboring Infant Island, home to Mothra (Yeah, baby!). For any parents trying to figure out what level of parental guidance they should exercise for their little Godzilla fans, I only noticed one scientist that was actually bloodied by falling debris and died, but in all fairness, he was a bad guy using his skills for evil. Godzilla’s final battle with the giant crustacean Ebirah may seem a bit brutal to some, but really isn’t anything more than what you might see at a Red Lobster restaurant.

On a brighter note, Ebirah’s choice theme music is surfer rock music. He cranks it up like whenever he’s making waves, dude. As an added bonus, Mothra provides an assist to Godzilla’s haphazard heroics. A fair amount of miniatures, the usual over-the-top voice dubbing, and a smattering of bright colors among the costumes, sets, and effects also adds to the fun, and makes for an exciting adventure without getting too dark.

Overall Grade: A-

I really had a great time watching this one with my kids. A hidden island, a not too mysterious monster, bomb-building baddies, enslaved islanders, and a ragtag group of friends to awaken Godzilla are all the ingredients you need for a little fun-in-the-sun excitement. All in all, Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster! is an entertaining flick that’s easy to follow, perfect for any Saturday afternoon with friends and family.

 

Godzilla on Monster Island!: Godzilla vs Gigan (movie review)

Godzilla vs GiganTitle: Godzilla on Monster Island!: Godzilla vs Gigan on Blu-ray

Director: Jun Fukuda

Starring: Hiroshi Ishikawa, Yuriko Hisimi, Minoru Takashima and Tomoko Umeda

Studio: Toho

U. S. Distributor: Kraken Releasing / Section 23

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

Original Release Date: March 12th, 1972

Format: Blu-ray / Feature Film / 89 minutes

Age Rating: TV PG

Genre: Kaiju, Sci Fi

Overall Personal Rating: A-

 

Synopsis:

When alien invaders, plans for a children’s theme park, and four giant monsters with six heads between them all collide, the result is the inevitable battle for the fate of the Earth. At least, that’s how it is for Godzilla, who teams up with his former spiky foe Anguirus for a tag team match against two of his greatest adversaries: the legendary three-headed King Ghidorah and Gigan, the cyborg hench-monster for insidious insect aliens whose plot to wipe out all human life is cleverly disguised as plans for the construction of a new children’s theme park.

Unfortunately for the bug’s diabolical designs, their secret monster control codes are accidentally discovered by comic book artist Gengo Kotaka, who broadcasts the master tape and brings Team Godzilla into play. It’s not going to be an easy fight, though, as the odds are four heads to two, and King Ghidorah’s one of Godzilla’s toughest opponents. With his cybernetic weaponry Gigan is equally ruthless, and his alien masters are as hard to kill as the cockroaches they resemble. Will Earth’s biggest defenders finally fall? Or will Godzilla – and insecticide – triumph over all?

Commentary:

This uniquely late 60’s early 70’s film shows off much more than the classic Godzilla films. It jump out as a true vision of our future world from the rather naive view point of the late 60’s. This “over the top” film starts off showing us a wonderful vision of what the mod culture looked like and a great reminder of how optimistic we all were during that time. It wasn’t a U. S. vision but a world wide look into how modern we can become and giving way to the imaginations of the futurist who believed we would become a utopia of plastic and vinyl. The bold geographic patterns and bright color show off the look and keep you eyes stuck to the screen.

As for the film itself, I found it to be wonderful and the classic campy way that Godzilla represents. Oh, the fun we can have with models. On particular scene stands out for me, it is a shot of two black haired dolls standing face to face in a room while the monsters outside reek havoc and finally stomp on the building. The thing that stood out for me was that there was no attempt to made these figures look real or give the impression of having any connection to what is going outside the building. Of course there is a quick cut to the exterior of a toy building that is stomped on and magically explodes as if it was full of explosives. This scene is classic to may of these films that bend the lines between reality and blatant foolery.

Noe more special thing about Godzilla vs Gigan is the way it not only has fun with itself it also plays with the existentialist  questions that were at the core our social conscience during those years. The deepest one of all is the self realization that humanity is not strong or smart enough to care for itself but in the end it is still better than some other potential ideal of how the planet should be cared for. I also found the film to be a reminder that even 44 years ago we knew we were destroying our planet. It is funny how never quite get it.

Overall Grade: A-

I really wasn’t sure if this film had aged well or not. To my surprise I found it to not only serve as a great reminder of what the Godzilla franchise is really about, but it also serves as a time capsule back to the modern vision of the late 60″s early 70’s. If you are looking to relive or pass on the Godzilla persona then Godzilla vs Gigan is a great point to jump back in. This film will also be a great choice as a counter balance to the new Godzilla film. For some reason the Western ideal for Godzilla is to make it a serious franchise that is all about the monster and nothing about the world that the original Godzilla lived in. So, on your way home from seeing the new Godzilla you should stop and pick this one up and sit back and enjoy the ride.