Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy Earth Day With Godzilla vs The Smog Monster

A real Godzilla freak-out!
Yes, to me Hedorah will always be the Smog Monster!

Having been on quite the Godzilla kick ever since I had posted those behind the scenes pictures of the "king of the monsters" I have come to the conclusion that the best Godzilla movie, after his first appearance in Gojira, would have to be his battle with Hedorah, the smog monster.

Don't get me wrong, Monster Zero, Destroy All Monsters and a couple of the others are pretty damn good and original giant monster bouts, but none of them were as horrific or as 'deep' as the first 1958 introduction of the radioactive Tokyo menace - that is until 1971when Toho produced Godzilla vs Hedorah (Godzilla vs the Smog Monster here in the states).

This movie gets a lot of bad rap.  Many fans don't like the break from the standard Godzilla formula of battling space alien monsters with his Monster Island friends or the decidedly direction of kiddie hero the series takes by this time, or the Godzilla flying sequence, but for me, these are all the things that I dearly love about this flick.

Godzilla started as a horrific reaction to the devastation of the dropping of the first atomic bombs at the end of WWII.  You see this destruction of a helpless populous over and over again in the early film Gojira.  You can feel the tension and horror and confusion that Japan must have felt after those initial bomb drops expressed in black and white.  Godzilla's destruction of Japan, over and over again represents this coming to terms of this new destructive power and the harnessing of this power.  Hence, Godzilla eventually becomes a reluctant ally of the human race, battling other monsters, evil corporate gangsters and alien invaders.

But it's not until mankind faces a similar destructive force, unintentionally created by man, that the series taps back into it's horrific origins.

Hodorah (the Smog Monster) is created by man's pollution of the environment.  It becomes a shapeless mass of oozing poison, leaving behind a trail of corrosive acidic air.  It is once again, man's own arrogance coming to destructive life realized in Gojira

We have to remember that this is 1971.  The environmental movement of the time is just picking up speed and here we have a movie that represents the affects of the worst nightmare of industrial pollution.  A Lovecraftian horror rising from the depths of the sea sucking on the black fumes of man's polluting factories.

This movie works for me on many levels.  The pacing is much different from the earlier monster mash-ups of the 60's.  It is slower and more meditative much like many of the other films of the time (think 2001: A Space Odyssey or Easy Rider*).  It has a lot of elements from many of the 'head-films' of the time as well, weird quick cuts and long silent scenes.  There are animated segments, letter readings.  There are burnt out Japanese hippies and hallucinations.  The monster constatnly changes form and has nightmarish vertical red eyes.  This mixture creates a very dystopian vision and somewhat disturbing Godzilla flick.

I always refer to this movie as Godzilla on acid.

This is the first original Godzilla film to have a young child protagonist, Kenny, but, ironically it is not a children's Godzilla movie.  Kenny has horrific visions of Godzilla and the coming of Hedorah's.  His father is maimed by Hedorah's poisons.  In fact, it is Kenny to comes with the solution to defeat Hedorah (even though his father is some type of scientist).

Godzilla has his problems in this one as Hedorah is quite the challenge of our monster king.  Godzilla is repeatedly defeated and burned and blinded by Hedorah's corrosive powers. It is not until Godzilla and the army unite that the Smog Monster is finally defeated by being dried up into a power.

 Godzilla vs Hedora is a great movie in and of itself but it land right up there with the original Gojira in terms of a vision of horror that has never again been attained by a Godzilla movie, old and new.

But the topper for me was the much hated title song.  Just a brilliant piece of James Bond influenced title credit and bad late 60's psychedelic rock.  Watch at your own risk as it will stick in your brain for years!

Bonus Earth Day cosplay of the stoned groovy singer that appears in the hippie bar during the film.
Save the Earth, my friends, save the earth!
*Yes, you read that correctly. I did compare Godzilla vs The Smog Monster with 2001: A Space Odyssey and Easy Rider.


  1. That theme song is just as bad as I remembered. And yes, I have had this song stuck in my head since the 70s when I saw this.

    This was IMO one of the weakest Godzilla movies. I just didn't like it as much as you did.

  2. Great post!

    I agree with your assessment of the movie, and for the same reasons. This film returns to the idea of being a cautionary tale, just as in the original.

    "Godzilla on acid" is right. Some of the imagery is disturbing and the film ventures into horror territory at times. One of the most symbolic shots is the clock in the water, without hands, illustrating that we are (running) out of time.