Godzilla vs. Hedorah


1h 25m 1971
Godzilla vs. Hedorah

Brief Synopsis

A smog-spewing monster attacks Japan.

Film Details

Also Known As
Godzilla Versus The Smog Monster, Godzilla versus Hedorah, Godzilla vs. Hedora
MPAA Rating
Genre
Action
Adventure
Horror
Fantasy
Release Date
1971
Production Company
Toho Company Ltd.
Distribution Company
American International Pictures; Orion Home Video; Rlj Entertainment, Inc.

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 25m

Synopsis

A giant pollution created blob of a monster arises out of a swamp and deteriorates everything in its path until Godzilla arrives to save the day.

Film Details

Also Known As
Godzilla Versus The Smog Monster, Godzilla versus Hedorah, Godzilla vs. Hedora
MPAA Rating
Genre
Action
Adventure
Horror
Fantasy
Release Date
1971
Production Company
Toho Company Ltd.
Distribution Company
American International Pictures; Orion Home Video; Rlj Entertainment, Inc.

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 25m

Articles

Godzilla vs. Hedorah


When Godzilla (a.k.a. Gojira) first terrorized Tokyo in Ishirō Honda's original black-and-white 1954 release, he helped usher in the Japanese kaijū genre. (Kaijū being a Japanese term for "strange beast" which was typically a giant monster.) Cinema had seen its fair share of giant monsters before with such amazing behemoths as King Kong (1933) on up through The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953). What set Godzilla apart from his predecessors was that rather than being animated by miniature models or forced perspectives, the special effect that was pioneered was called "suitmation" and featured a stunt performer wearing a suit (these being several hundred pounds heavy) as they interacted, wrestled with and destroyed miniature sets. These suits would go through a lot of wear and tear, requiring new ones be made for ongoing sequels (which explains why Godzilla looks a bit different from one title to the next).

Another feature that sets Godzilla apart are the record-breaking sequels he spawned - currently totaling upwards of 30 (James Bond, by comparison, has about 25 incarnations). There is also something uniquely political about Godzilla since he, at first anyway, clearly embodied a nation's fears as they related to the destructive capacity of atomic bombs. This set a precedent by which kaijū characters often serve to stand in as visual metaphors for something else. Interestingly, by the time of Yoshimitsu Banno's Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971), the 11th entry into the franchise, Godzilla was so well revered that he had morphed into a de facto symbol of Japanese national identity as well as a child-friendly protector of Japan. Also at this time, Japan was not being destroyed by bombs but rather by decades of pollution-related health problems, which earlier on included the Minemata outbreaks that afflicted almost 3,000 people with a central nervous system disease related to mercury poisoning. Hedorah, which roughly translates into "vomit" or "sludge", is here a kaijū monster that thrives off of breathing in the fumes of factories and absorbing other forms of pollution to get bigger and more dangerous.

The United States was not immune from its own growing pollution-related problems. After World War II, in the 1950s and '60s the U.S., like Japan, experienced a boom in economic growth that was uncurbed by appropriate regulations or legislation. The result was heavily urbanized areas afflicted by poisonous smog banks that killed hundreds of people and inflicted thousands more with respiratory problems. Finally, in 1971, the U.S. created the Environmental Protection Agency. Another thing that happened in 1971 was that the organization Keep America Beautiful launched various ads including one featuring the iconic "Iron Eyes" Cody weeping at the sight of rampant smog and pollution. The U.S. automobile market was still four years away from developing catalytic converters to comply with E.P.A. regulations, and smog was visibly choking the big cities and very much on the collective mind. Small surprise, then, that when Godzilla vs. Hedorah was released in the U.S. the name was changed to Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster. It was also one of the first kaijū movies to be widely syndicated across the U.S. - an important inflection point that might account for it being one of the more oft-cited and written about Godzilla entries amidst both academic writers and film critics. Roger Ebert was a big proponent for Godzilla vs. Hedorah. On the other hand, other fans and critics viewed Godzilla vs. Hedorah derisively because they felt the strong social messaging was over-the top, as was the fact that it's the only Godzilla movie in which he is able to fly through the air by blasting his atomic breath towards the ground as propulsion.

From the first frame showing belching factory smokestacks in the foreground with Mt. Fuji hazy in the background, the metaphoric battle between a beleaguered Japanese nation fighting deadly pollution is made obvious. The air is under assault. The water is under assault. And we see the foreboding head of Hedorah rising from the toxic water. Once a microscopic alien life-form, it is now large enough to sink oil tankers and eventually it can also shamble across the landscape and later fly through the air. As Hedorah secretes acid and stomps through crowds killing thousands, Godzilla comes to the rescue.

Despite all the pollution and toxic sludge, Godzilla vs. Hedorah is a scrappy, colorful and unexpectedly daring affair. As the opening song plays, it intercuts between groovy lava-lamp inspired backgrounds and a jarring scene of a mutilated mannequin floating in a polluted river, with other surprises yet to come, including animation in the form of a children's cartoon to help explain how Hedorah thrives on pollution.

The producer, Tomoyuki Tanaka, and the Toho studio were disappointed with the end results that Banno delivered. And yet, perhaps by necessity, given that it had a lower budget than usual, Godzilla vs. Hedorah is a playfully inventive entry in the pantheon of Godzilla movies. One whose social message is still very much relevant today.

By Pablo Kjoseth
Godzilla Vs. Hedorah

Godzilla vs. Hedorah

When Godzilla (a.k.a. Gojira) first terrorized Tokyo in Ishirō Honda's original black-and-white 1954 release, he helped usher in the Japanese kaijū genre. (Kaijū being a Japanese term for "strange beast" which was typically a giant monster.) Cinema had seen its fair share of giant monsters before with such amazing behemoths as King Kong (1933) on up through The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953). What set Godzilla apart from his predecessors was that rather than being animated by miniature models or forced perspectives, the special effect that was pioneered was called "suitmation" and featured a stunt performer wearing a suit (these being several hundred pounds heavy) as they interacted, wrestled with and destroyed miniature sets. These suits would go through a lot of wear and tear, requiring new ones be made for ongoing sequels (which explains why Godzilla looks a bit different from one title to the next). Another feature that sets Godzilla apart are the record-breaking sequels he spawned - currently totaling upwards of 30 (James Bond, by comparison, has about 25 incarnations). There is also something uniquely political about Godzilla since he, at first anyway, clearly embodied a nation's fears as they related to the destructive capacity of atomic bombs. This set a precedent by which kaijū characters often serve to stand in as visual metaphors for something else. Interestingly, by the time of Yoshimitsu Banno's Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971), the 11th entry into the franchise, Godzilla was so well revered that he had morphed into a de facto symbol of Japanese national identity as well as a child-friendly protector of Japan. Also at this time, Japan was not being destroyed by bombs but rather by decades of pollution-related health problems, which earlier on included the Minemata outbreaks that afflicted almost 3,000 people with a central nervous system disease related to mercury poisoning. Hedorah, which roughly translates into "vomit" or "sludge", is here a kaijū monster that thrives off of breathing in the fumes of factories and absorbing other forms of pollution to get bigger and more dangerous. The United States was not immune from its own growing pollution-related problems. After World War II, in the 1950s and '60s the U.S., like Japan, experienced a boom in economic growth that was uncurbed by appropriate regulations or legislation. The result was heavily urbanized areas afflicted by poisonous smog banks that killed hundreds of people and inflicted thousands more with respiratory problems. Finally, in 1971, the U.S. created the Environmental Protection Agency. Another thing that happened in 1971 was that the organization Keep America Beautiful launched various ads including one featuring the iconic "Iron Eyes" Cody weeping at the sight of rampant smog and pollution. The U.S. automobile market was still four years away from developing catalytic converters to comply with E.P.A. regulations, and smog was visibly choking the big cities and very much on the collective mind. Small surprise, then, that when Godzilla vs. Hedorah was released in the U.S. the name was changed to Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster. It was also one of the first kaijū movies to be widely syndicated across the U.S. - an important inflection point that might account for it being one of the more oft-cited and written about Godzilla entries amidst both academic writers and film critics. Roger Ebert was a big proponent for Godzilla vs. Hedorah. On the other hand, other fans and critics viewed Godzilla vs. Hedorah derisively because they felt the strong social messaging was over-the top, as was the fact that it's the only Godzilla movie in which he is able to fly through the air by blasting his atomic breath towards the ground as propulsion. From the first frame showing belching factory smokestacks in the foreground with Mt. Fuji hazy in the background, the metaphoric battle between a beleaguered Japanese nation fighting deadly pollution is made obvious. The air is under assault. The water is under assault. And we see the foreboding head of Hedorah rising from the toxic water. Once a microscopic alien life-form, it is now large enough to sink oil tankers and eventually it can also shamble across the landscape and later fly through the air. As Hedorah secretes acid and stomps through crowds killing thousands, Godzilla comes to the rescue. Despite all the pollution and toxic sludge, Godzilla vs. Hedorah is a scrappy, colorful and unexpectedly daring affair. As the opening song plays, it intercuts between groovy lava-lamp inspired backgrounds and a jarring scene of a mutilated mannequin floating in a polluted river, with other surprises yet to come, including animation in the form of a children's cartoon to help explain how Hedorah thrives on pollution. The producer, Tomoyuki Tanaka, and the Toho studio were disappointed with the end results that Banno delivered. And yet, perhaps by necessity, given that it had a lower budget than usual, Godzilla vs. Hedorah is a playfully inventive entry in the pantheon of Godzilla movies. One whose social message is still very much relevant today. By Pablo Kjoseth

Godzilla vs. Hedorah on Blu-ray


Godzilla, the biggest star of Japan's giant monster craze of the 1960s, went through an interesting evolution since his debut in the 1954 Godzilla, a dark nuclear parable in a solemn key featuring a giant rampaging lizard who descends upon Tokyo like a biblical curse with attitude. Godzilla's devastating rampage and radioactive breath leaves behind thousands of casualties and a city aflame, recalling nothing less than the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In subsequent years and through numerous spin-offs, the films went color, he was joined by more giant monsters, fought aliens, had a son, took up residence on Monster Island, and transformed from enemy of humanity to its protector, a state of affairs that lasted until the series reboot in 1984 and a second wave of films. Through them all, Godzilla was incarnated by a stuntman in a suit stomping through miniature cities and landscapes while an overcranked camera filmed it at high speed to give a dreamy, slightly-slow motion look and a sense of mass and size to the monster battles. The process is affectionately known as suitmation.

Godzilla vs. Hedorah (released in the U.S. under the title Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster, the eleventh film to feature the big green scaly one, was the strangest, trippiest picture of the original cycle of Godzilla films, perhaps of all time. The series had descended into juvenile fantasy in recent years and for this 1971 production a whole new creative team was brought in, headed by first-time director Yoshimitsu Banno, who had apprenticed as an assistant director under Akira Kurosawa. He and co-screenwriter Kaoru Mabuchi created a new kind of monster, one created of pollution and toxic waste, and brought in a supporting cast of teenagers and young adults who dress in mod fashions and flail away in go-go clubs along with dancers in body paint. The opening credits, which features a close-up of a female vocalist singing a pop song called "Save the Earth (Find a Solution/To Stop Pollution)" against a psychedelic backdrop, evokes James Bond by way of macroscopic imagery on acid. Intercut with the vocal stylings are shots of seas polluted with oil and garbage that look more like documentary clips than special effects.

From these oil-slicked waters arise the strange "tadpoles" that grow into Hedorah, so nicknamed by our young hero Ken (Hiroyuki Kawase), a kid we first see playing with his Godzilla and friends figures. This is the era when Godzilla, for all his history of destruction, is embraced by children as a hero. Ken goes one better: he has visions of Godzilla as the planet's savior when Hedorah (a pun on the name hedoro, the Japanese word for sludge or slime) grows from tadpole to massive black blob monster. It oozes out of the ocean and onto land, where it grows legs and zeroes in on a smokestack belching black waste and huffs it down like a stoner with a giant, putrid bong.

Sounds like a solution for pollution at first glance, except that this creature emits poison gas in its wake. It's possibly the source of what appears to be a bad trip by nightclubber Toshie (Toshie Kimura), Ken's groovy big brother, when everyone at the club turns into fish-faced dancers. Or it could just be another of the film's bizarre turns into surrealism. Either way, it's the most harmless side-effect of Hedorah's rampage. It's already left Ken's grandfather Dr. Toru Yano (Akira Yamauchi), a scientist who goes deep sea diving to discover more about these strange, swiftly growing tadpole creatures, with half his face paralyzed in a silver rash. As it devours more toxic waste, it evolves into a flying manta-like creature with gaseous emissions the leave human bystanders not simply dead but dissolved to bone. Even Godzilla is affected by it, and when he punches Hedorah, his arms simply sink into the creature, like it was made of sludge.

Director Banno has some big ideas for this mod monster party and the environmentalist theme is unmistakable, but the seriousness of the message is undercut by his stylistic choices. He borrows from the pop-art playfulness of Suzuki Seijun and the energy of the Japanese crime and spy movies. Animated interludes are interspersed, providing anything from pseudo-educational illustrations for scientific exposition to mere cartoonish doodling, and a dour sequence featuring refugees rendered in black and white jolts to color when Toshie grabs a guitar and leads a rock band in a high energy dance party in the middle of a rural field (with no visible source of electricity for the electric guitars and organ). No less odd is the cultural moment of the film. This far into the series, Godzilla and the monster mash rampages have become so familiar to the population that the news channels cover them like traffic and weather reports. When Toshie sees Godzilla in the distance, he doesn't take cover. He turns to his date, says "Let's go take a look," and drives up to get a front row seat to the battle. If you aren't steeped in the evolution of the series, that behavior is either insane or surreal. Even if you are, it's pretty reckless.

Unfortunately, Banno had no respect for the Godzilla iconography or reverence for the monster's dignity, even compared to the increasingly juvenile monster mash-ups of the late 1960s. The booming Godzilla march composed by Akira Ifubuke is replaced with a woozy theme with a wah-wah trombone that suggests the comic stumbling of a wobbly drunk rather than the mighty threat of a prehistoric creature with an atomic upgrade. Making matters worse is the flailing suitmation performance that renders Godzilla as a spastic, goofy creature driven to battle out of pique and bruised ego more than primal drive. And for this one film only, Godzilla flies, and it's not dignified by any measure. He tucks his tail between his legs, turns around, and uses the force of his radioactive breath as a jet propulsion to chase Hedorah flying backwards.

The sheer oddity of this creative chemistry makes Godzilla vs. Hedorah one of the most strangely entertaining entries of the era. The Hedorah creature design goes overboard on the googly eyes and doesn't even try to hide the man-in-the-suit under the mutated tendrils and folds of flesh hanging like seaweed on a sunken wreck, but it also has a prehistoric quality even more ancient than the dinosaur stylings of the lizard king. It's truly bizarre and quite a trip, and it was too much for Toho Studios. The series producers were appalled at what Banno did with the film. A planned sequel was scrapped. They brought back journeyman director Jun Fukuda, the least creative of Godzilla filmmakers, for the next, far more convention chapter, Godzilla vs. Megalon, and Yoshimitsu Banno never directed another feature.

Godzilla vs. Hedorah is one of the first releases from the new Kraken Releasing, a subdivision of anime specialist from Section 23. The film looks good, with strong color and improved detail and clarity over the previous DVD release, enough to make out the wires in the monster suit fight scenes and the seams in the painted backdrops. It's not a restoration as much as a high-definition presentation of archival material and the source shows speckling, surface abrasions and scratches through the print. It's presented with both the original Japanese soundtrack with English subtitles and the English dub soundtrack, both in DTS-HD mono. No supplements beyond the original Japanese trailer.

by Sean Axmaker

Godzilla vs. Hedorah on Blu-ray

Godzilla, the biggest star of Japan's giant monster craze of the 1960s, went through an interesting evolution since his debut in the 1954 Godzilla, a dark nuclear parable in a solemn key featuring a giant rampaging lizard who descends upon Tokyo like a biblical curse with attitude. Godzilla's devastating rampage and radioactive breath leaves behind thousands of casualties and a city aflame, recalling nothing less than the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In subsequent years and through numerous spin-offs, the films went color, he was joined by more giant monsters, fought aliens, had a son, took up residence on Monster Island, and transformed from enemy of humanity to its protector, a state of affairs that lasted until the series reboot in 1984 and a second wave of films. Through them all, Godzilla was incarnated by a stuntman in a suit stomping through miniature cities and landscapes while an overcranked camera filmed it at high speed to give a dreamy, slightly-slow motion look and a sense of mass and size to the monster battles. The process is affectionately known as suitmation. Godzilla vs. Hedorah (released in the U.S. under the title Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster, the eleventh film to feature the big green scaly one, was the strangest, trippiest picture of the original cycle of Godzilla films, perhaps of all time. The series had descended into juvenile fantasy in recent years and for this 1971 production a whole new creative team was brought in, headed by first-time director Yoshimitsu Banno, who had apprenticed as an assistant director under Akira Kurosawa. He and co-screenwriter Kaoru Mabuchi created a new kind of monster, one created of pollution and toxic waste, and brought in a supporting cast of teenagers and young adults who dress in mod fashions and flail away in go-go clubs along with dancers in body paint. The opening credits, which features a close-up of a female vocalist singing a pop song called "Save the Earth (Find a Solution/To Stop Pollution)" against a psychedelic backdrop, evokes James Bond by way of macroscopic imagery on acid. Intercut with the vocal stylings are shots of seas polluted with oil and garbage that look more like documentary clips than special effects. From these oil-slicked waters arise the strange "tadpoles" that grow into Hedorah, so nicknamed by our young hero Ken (Hiroyuki Kawase), a kid we first see playing with his Godzilla and friends figures. This is the era when Godzilla, for all his history of destruction, is embraced by children as a hero. Ken goes one better: he has visions of Godzilla as the planet's savior when Hedorah (a pun on the name hedoro, the Japanese word for sludge or slime) grows from tadpole to massive black blob monster. It oozes out of the ocean and onto land, where it grows legs and zeroes in on a smokestack belching black waste and huffs it down like a stoner with a giant, putrid bong. Sounds like a solution for pollution at first glance, except that this creature emits poison gas in its wake. It's possibly the source of what appears to be a bad trip by nightclubber Toshie (Toshie Kimura), Ken's groovy big brother, when everyone at the club turns into fish-faced dancers. Or it could just be another of the film's bizarre turns into surrealism. Either way, it's the most harmless side-effect of Hedorah's rampage. It's already left Ken's grandfather Dr. Toru Yano (Akira Yamauchi), a scientist who goes deep sea diving to discover more about these strange, swiftly growing tadpole creatures, with half his face paralyzed in a silver rash. As it devours more toxic waste, it evolves into a flying manta-like creature with gaseous emissions the leave human bystanders not simply dead but dissolved to bone. Even Godzilla is affected by it, and when he punches Hedorah, his arms simply sink into the creature, like it was made of sludge. Director Banno has some big ideas for this mod monster party and the environmentalist theme is unmistakable, but the seriousness of the message is undercut by his stylistic choices. He borrows from the pop-art playfulness of Suzuki Seijun and the energy of the Japanese crime and spy movies. Animated interludes are interspersed, providing anything from pseudo-educational illustrations for scientific exposition to mere cartoonish doodling, and a dour sequence featuring refugees rendered in black and white jolts to color when Toshie grabs a guitar and leads a rock band in a high energy dance party in the middle of a rural field (with no visible source of electricity for the electric guitars and organ). No less odd is the cultural moment of the film. This far into the series, Godzilla and the monster mash rampages have become so familiar to the population that the news channels cover them like traffic and weather reports. When Toshie sees Godzilla in the distance, he doesn't take cover. He turns to his date, says "Let's go take a look," and drives up to get a front row seat to the battle. If you aren't steeped in the evolution of the series, that behavior is either insane or surreal. Even if you are, it's pretty reckless. Unfortunately, Banno had no respect for the Godzilla iconography or reverence for the monster's dignity, even compared to the increasingly juvenile monster mash-ups of the late 1960s. The booming Godzilla march composed by Akira Ifubuke is replaced with a woozy theme with a wah-wah trombone that suggests the comic stumbling of a wobbly drunk rather than the mighty threat of a prehistoric creature with an atomic upgrade. Making matters worse is the flailing suitmation performance that renders Godzilla as a spastic, goofy creature driven to battle out of pique and bruised ego more than primal drive. And for this one film only, Godzilla flies, and it's not dignified by any measure. He tucks his tail between his legs, turns around, and uses the force of his radioactive breath as a jet propulsion to chase Hedorah flying backwards. The sheer oddity of this creative chemistry makes Godzilla vs. Hedorah one of the most strangely entertaining entries of the era. The Hedorah creature design goes overboard on the googly eyes and doesn't even try to hide the man-in-the-suit under the mutated tendrils and folds of flesh hanging like seaweed on a sunken wreck, but it also has a prehistoric quality even more ancient than the dinosaur stylings of the lizard king. It's truly bizarre and quite a trip, and it was too much for Toho Studios. The series producers were appalled at what Banno did with the film. A planned sequel was scrapped. They brought back journeyman director Jun Fukuda, the least creative of Godzilla filmmakers, for the next, far more convention chapter, Godzilla vs. Megalon, and Yoshimitsu Banno never directed another feature. Godzilla vs. Hedorah is one of the first releases from the new Kraken Releasing, a subdivision of anime specialist from Section 23. The film looks good, with strong color and improved detail and clarity over the previous DVD release, enough to make out the wires in the monster suit fight scenes and the seams in the painted backdrops. It's not a restoration as much as a high-definition presentation of archival material and the source shows speckling, surface abrasions and scratches through the print. It's presented with both the original Japanese soundtrack with English subtitles and the English dub soundtrack, both in DTS-HD mono. No supplements beyond the original Japanese trailer. by Sean Axmaker

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1972

Released in United States March 1975

Released in USA on video

dubbed English

Released in United States 1972

Released in United States March 1975 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Science Fiction Movie Marathon - Selection of Trailers) March 13-26, 1975.)