Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971)

aka Godzilla vs the Smog Monster, Gojira tai Hedora
Article 4325 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-3-2013
Directed by Yoshimitsu Banno
Featuring Akira Yamauchi, Toshie Kimura, Hiroyuki Kawase
Country: Japan
What it is: Monster mash with a message

When a creature that thrives on pollution manifests itself, Godzilla sets out to destroy it.

This title from the Godzilla series is considered by many to be one of the worst of the series. Part of this, no doubt, is due to the silliness of the original American title, but part of it may also be the streaks of preachiness and pretentiousness that pervade the movie. I myself don’t consider it the worst; there are others I like far less due to their uninspired recycling of cliches, and this one at least has the novelty of having been a change of stylistic direction for the series, no doubt due to the direction of Yoshimitsu Banno. Still, it misses as often as it hits. The movie eschews the use of the famous Akira Ifukube themes, and the results are mixed. The fight scenes mostly have no music, and this is quite effective, but the music that does pop up is either forgettable or actively annoying; Godzilla’s new theme would be more appropriate for big, stupid buffoon than for the King of the Monsters, and the theme song, which I’ve never liked in the first place (especially in the English version where the lyrics are atrocious) is overused. I love the design of Hedorah, there’s some very creative editing, I like the animated segments, but the anti-pollution theme is pretty overbearing; there are far too many shots of polluted oceans. The movie is one of the most horrific in its display of human death since the original movie in the series, but it lacks the grief that makes this sort of thing poignant. The worst moment for me in the movie is the scene where Godzilla flies; it’s neither a good idea nor well done. Nevertheless, the movie has a moment near the end that I’ve always loved, and it’s when Godzilla turns his gaze on some of the humans present, who react in fear as to what he’s going to do to them. I like this moment because it’s one of the only times that I’ve seen Godzilla acknowledge the humans that he usually ignores, and one senses the accusing nature of the look as if he’s holding us responsible for Hedorah. That is perhaps why I’ve always had a fondness for this one.


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