Gimme some more-ah Hedorah!

5354832036_bbcaab4cb6_bEarth Day and 4/20 were this month, so I had to review 1971’s oddball eco-conscious epic, Godzilla vs. Hedorah! This seems to be a love it or hate it entry in the Godzilla series. It boasts artsy weirdness, scenes of kid-friendly wackiness immediately contrasted with people-melting mass-murder, a gelatinous dookie beast from outer space, trippy cartoon segments, and I’m gonna go ahead and spoil it because it’s so fucking rad: Godzilla shoots his atomic breath at the ground to take flight. Seriously, if you haven’t seen the movie, you gotta at least watch this 30 second clip of the best thing in the universe.

If you haven’t guessed already, I fall squarely in the “love it” camp.  I have good company, too! Legendary film critic Roger Ebert listed it as his favorite Godzilla film.  Series producer Tomoyuki Tanaka wasn’t so pleased: upon viewing the rough cut, he fired Hedorah writer-director Yoshimitsu Banno.  We’ll talk about that, how the suit actor portraying Hedorah had to get surgery–while still in the monster suit!–how Hedorah indirectly spawned 2014’s Godzilla, and all kinds of other fun insanity! Get on the floor-ah, here comes Hedorah!

First let me hit you with some trailer action! Here’s the original Japanese trailer:

It shows off a lot of the best monster effects shots, but it also takes care to mask the rampant strangeness of the film. The trailer eschews the film’s woozy, derp-a-lerp jazz score in favor of more traditional monster movie tunes.  Riichiro Manabe‘s experimental score alternates between clashing hilariously with the movie, and oddly complimenting it pretty well.  But for the sake of a snappy, attention-grabbing trailer, I can see why they avoided Manabe’s compositions.  Alternately, here’s the US trailer:

Released theatrically in the States in 1972 as Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster, the US trailer embraces the weirdness more than the Japanese one.  Manabe’s wacky-ass music is used throughout: you can see when it works and when it just makes Godzilla come across like a cartoon drunk.  They also gave Hedorah a wheezing, hacking laugh/cough? It’s a really clever touch, so I’m bummed it doesn’t actually happen in the movie.  The narrator delivers some real gems while describing the films mon-stars: “Godzilla, man’s friend” facing off against Hedorah, a “mastodon of destruction.”

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“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

I’m sure they were using “mastodon” in place of “behemoth” or something like that, but it’s funny to imagine that whoever wrote that voice-over script somehow got giant shit-monsters confused with prehistoric hair-elephants. Click here to listen to a suite of the movies’ entire score, which includes the hella jazzy opening credits ballad, “Give Back the Sun.”

The English language version, Save the Earth, is so iconic one of the video games was named after it. It’s definitely cashing in a little on James Bond-mania, but it also clues you in right away that this is a different kind of Godzilla movie: it’s weirder, it’s a little hipper and sexier,  and it has a message.

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Hedorah insists that message is “vaping rules.”

Composer Manabe and director Banno are joined by special effects director Teruyoshi Nakano. Up to this point Banno had worked almost exclusively as an assistant director on a wide variety of films, and Nakano only had a couple films under his belt, including the wonderfully weird looking Daigoro vs. Goliath.

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Someday I’ll actually remember to watch this big moosey fucker.

Even though Banno got canno’d, Nakano would stay on with Toho, working on special effects for the remainder of the Showa-era Godzilla movies, and other effects-heavy projects like their Ultraman clone Zone Fighter, and their Star Wars cash-in, The War in Space. 

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“Chewbacca?! Ha, of course not! His name is… uh… Biteforwardu!”

While Nakano isn’t as celebrated as Tsuburaya, the dude cranks out good shit.  Hedorah’s a perfect case in point: not only was their budget substantially lower than normal for Godzilla films, but they only had one team shooting the human scenes and the effects scenes. Honda and Tsuburaya always had entire separate teams for each.  Oh yeah, they also only had 35 days to shoot!  With all that in mind, it’s easy to appreciate how bad-ass Godzilla and Hedorah look, but it also explains why the final climactic battle takes place in an open field at night.

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Awesomely enough, Nakano and his team manage to make it look pretty bad-ass anyway.

So after the artsy, cool, James Bondian title sequence we cut to our kid-lead, Ken Yano, playing with Godzilla toys in his backyard.  Yes, in the universe Godzilla vs. Hedorah takes place in, Godzilla exists, but so does Godzilla merchandise.  You know this movie rules because the very first scene has you subliminally questioning the fabric of reality.  There’s also a King Ghidorah hanging up in the shed behind him.

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Hey kids, remember the reality-defying nuclear abominations that leveled whole cities and left hundreds of thousands dead, irradiated, or homeless? Now you can get your own! Collect ’em all!

A local fisherman stops by the Yano home to show Ken’s dad a weird specimen he caught. Ken’s dad is an accomplished marine biologist, and examines what appears to be a huge tadpole.  Banno’s directing throughout the whole movie is pretty choice, but I love that here he ramps up the unease by making sure to show us the dozen or so gross specimens Dr. Yano has on his shelves.  We then get one of the movie’s many newsbreaks, telling us about a recent attack on a pair of oil tankers. The reporter speculates that the ships sinking is either the result of a new monster attacking, or some new military weapon.

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“Or maybe I’m just stumbling around looking for some Visine?! Look at this shit!”

On one hand I feel like newsbreaks are a blatant storytelling shortcut, but on the other, it does some stealth world-building (monster attacks and weapons testing are relatively common), and the Yanos are a family: of course they watch TV at dinner. Ken insists the ship-shredding monster is the same as they tadpole they’ve been examining, so Dr. Dad decides to go diving where the fisherman found the rancid tadpoo.

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Dr. Yano: “It’s not so bad, I also used to water ski on Lake Erie.”

The undersea world Dr. Yano finds is dark, quiet and eerie, full of junk and dead things.  The skeletal swan he swims past always stuck with me.  Ken waits for his dad on the rocky shore goofing around with a knife because the 70s were a very different time.  Turns out it’s a good thing he’s got the knife!

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“Hey y’all it’s me Hedorah! Whatcha got goin’ on over here?”

The Hedster pops out of the water, Ken dodges him and jabs his knife right into Hedorah’s liqui-taint! It goops right through him becuase Hedorah is disgusting, but it also seems to spook him off enough to leave Ken alone… and go after his still-submerged dad!

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So definitely a win-lose scenario.

Dr. Yano hilariously spends almost all of his remaining screentime up to his neck in a big blanket cocoon like that.  Even when he rides in a car at the end of the movie.  I’m no doctor though: maybe you’re supposed to blanket burrito chemical burn victims?

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Saving the life of another of Hedorah’s victims.

Even though he’s kind of a big blanket burrito baby, Dr. Yano insists on doing interviews looking like a Batman villain so the world will know how dangerous Hedorah is. We get a newsbreak about even more oil tanker wrecks, and the first of Godzilla vs. Hedorah’s trippy cartoons:

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Hedorah, like any of us, just likes to treat himself once in a while.

That night, Ken has a dream about Godzilla finding the waves of pollution in the ocean and blasting it away with his atomic breath.  It’s actually a great intro for Godzilla, so  I was kind of bummed it was just a dream… or is it a vision? Ken’s sure it is, and when he gets up to tell his parents about it, they’re supportive. Turns out Dad’s been up late goofingsciencing around with his Hedorah samples and discovered that it’s some kind of living mineral, and separated pieces will rejoin into one organism.  So he’s even worse than anyone originally imagined, and we see him heading straight for land.

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Hedorah: Godzilla’s dankest foe.

We cut to a nearby disco, home to some of Hedorah’s most insane moments.  The Yano family is friends with a cool young couple, and we see them here in their more natural habitat.  Everybody 30 and up can relate to Yukio, who’s slamming booze just to put up with the loud music  and ridiculous atmosphere. His girlfriend Miki is killing it as a go-go dancer. She’s decked out in a big flesh-colored body stocking covered with painted-on sea life.

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They even painted a clam on her clam.

The music really starts shredding as Hedorah tears ass across this industrial district.  The projections on the wall of the club get super fucking intense accordingly.

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“Hahaha, whoa, groovy!”

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“WHY THE FUCK DID YOU PUT ACID IN MY BEER WITHOUT TELLING ME OH GOD OH GOD”

We go from bloody dancing skeletons on the walls of the nightclub to Hedorah taking monster bong rips off of smokestacks. Big gross baggy sacs on his back fill up as he breathes in the toxic love and his glowing red eyes close in hedonistic pleasure. He even seems to purr in a rancid, gloppy sort of way.  Dude is getting there, until he hears Godzilla roaring and blasting nuke breath every which way.

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“BRO, CHILL”

Hedorah and Godzilla have their first face-off at about 20 minutes in–I love the pacing of this movie. Hedorah flops through the air, landing on Godzilla and knocking him down.  The Hed-master really starts vocalizing here, and his sound design is weird and awesome: lots of distorted frog noises, plus ambient goopy sloppy slurpy noises.  This early fight has some great gags: Godzilla punches right through Hedorah’s amorphous, shitty body, then starts swinging him around by his tail.  First at normal speed, then at wacky Benny Hill style warp speed. It’s all fun and cool until you see big gobs of Hedorrific nastiness flying off his bod every which way:

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Some people just don’t appreciate quality slapstick. What a bunch of sticks in the mud!

If you thought the disco had gone off the rails before, get ready for your brain to eat itself:

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For a couple shots, everyone in the club besides Yukio has fishheads.  This is never foreshadowed, explained, or revisted.  WHOO! Is it symbolism? Is Yukio just tripping balls?  Doesn’t matter, because there’s a huge trail of Hedorah dookie blopping down the stairs! Everybody understandably snaps out of their fishy reverie and freaks the fuck out.  Hedorah’s poop soup hustles back up the stairs to reunite with the main mass, leaving behind one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen in a Godzilla movie:

Sure, we just watched Hedorah drown half-a-dozen innocent people in caustic space-diarrhea, but this pitiful cat is what really drives home what a dangerous asshole the H-meister is.  Miki and Yukio decide they’ve had enough “fun” for one night and book it the hell out of there in Miki’s car.  After getting pelted with Heddy’s acidic poo-bombs, Godzilla eventually manages to chase Hedorah off into the ocean.  This chunk of the battle has plenty of great effects shots, especially the crazy shrieking, sizzling effect Godzilla’s breath has on Hedorah’s disgusting bod. After this concentrated blast of action, violence, and surreal madness, the movie gives us another cartoon as a breather.

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The cartoons seem perfectly fucking normal after the blood-skeleton fishhead disco.

In the Yano family car the next morning, we hear the radio news reporting on the many dead and injured from Godzilla and Hedorah’s battle.  Monster fights aren’t just a fun spectacle in this film, they have real consequences that the human leads are all too aware of. It’s a level of seriousness that’s directly at odds with other aspects of the movie, but it comes across as coherent genre deconstruction instead of tone-deaf dumbshittery. The Yanos find some of Hedorah’s leavings on the dock and take them home for lunchanalysis. The samples allow Dr. Yano to confirm that Hedorah is actually a mineral life form, and feeds on our pollution.  What’s really cool is that Miki asks the big obvious question that lesser movies might have carefully avoided: If Hedorah eats pollution, why not let him?

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Shocker: the big stoner monster is willing to eat our unwanted leftovers!

And Dr. Yano clues us in: Hedorah may be a poop monster, but even he follows the universal scientific law of Everyone Poops. When shit takes a shit, it’s real bad: Hedorah’s waste is sulfuric acid, so we’d just be trading normal pollution for turbo pollution.  Dr. Dad makes his way back into his big baby bed cocoon and hypothesizes that Hedorah is probably from another planet, seeing as how Earth isn’t home to any living minerals.  This is accompanied by some slides of different nebulas and space shit, because you got a D+ on your astronomy test, damn it!

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Bonus; nebulas are hella dope looking.

Miki and Yukio take Ken to an amusement park the next day! Whee! Ken has a hilariously joyless look on his face while they ride a rollercoaster until he spots Godzilla on the horizon! Godzilla is portrayed as a smudgy silhouette in the distance, but at this point in the movie little quirks like this hardly even show up on my weird-shit-o-meter. As soon as the ride is over, Ken hauls ass to a payphone (aww, the 70s!) to tell his blanket burrito dad about Godzilla coming to town. Except somebody has a case of the munchies:

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“What if there really was traffic jam, though?  You know?”

Ken’s call is cut short as Hedorah flies around town, scarfing down exhaust and fucking killing people.

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I’m sure pancakes have killed people before, but… not like this.

Godzilla and Hedorah are in the city, so it’s pretty much a big chaotic shitshow for everybody. Ken makes a break for his school to seek shelter, but stumbles upon a bunch of human Goddamn corpses on his way there.

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Generally speaking that’s pretty intense, but it’s even more so in the context of a “Godzilla-as-superhero” movie.  Later movies like Godzilla vs. Gigan and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla feature plenty of menacing monsters, but they target evacuated buildings, not individual innocents running for their lives.  Despite its psychedelic wackiness, scenes like these make Hedorah one of the bleakest, most frightening entries in the series. This montage of mayhem is capped off with a really eerie, bad-ass idea executed fantastically with a couple different effects:

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The building collapses silently in the movie which just makes everything creepier.

And like before, the movie gives us a breather in the form of another interstitial animation. I guess at this point the cartoons are seen as completely normal, because I couldn’t find any screenshots or gifs of this one online.  It features some cosmopolitan folks walking a busy city street in fancy clothes… and gas masks.

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Phew, good thing it’s never come to that!

Ken, Miki, and Yukio all make it out okay! Ken gets a quick nuclear physics lesson from his father the human shawarma, and Yukio riles up his fellow youths to go have a “fuck it we might as well die partying!” party on Mt. Fuji.  A TV talk show features a scientist guest and the host discussing various theories about Hedorah’s biology and possible weaknesses.  The scientist off-handedly suggests that oxygen might hurt Hedorah. This spurs a kick-ass montage that accurately predicted the parade of talkingscreaming heads that makes up the 24-hour news cycle.

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Still more informative than actual cable news.

Interspersed throughout the montage, we see Dr. Yano and Ken testing out electrodes: they’ve deduced that the only real way to stop Hedorah will be to dry him out, and running a few million volts through him should do the trick! The lil’ zappers work, making the Hedorah samples drier than the chicken at your friend’s house. The Yanos get in touch with the Japanese self-defense force, who get to work building the ginormous electrodes right away.

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Aww c’mon JSDF, how could you be so mean to those big puppy dog eyes?

Then we get to catch up with Miki, Yukio, and Ken heading to Mt. Fuji for their anti-death by monster-induced asphyxiation protest party.  We get some beautiful shots of lonely cars cruising the country roads at sundown set to some plaintive acoustic guitar tunes. Things are somber at first; the turn-out for the rally falls way short of their goal. But in classic hippie fashion they say fuck it, hook up their amps and electric guitars (in the middle of a field?!) and start jamming.  Also, Miki is rocking the shit out of a crazy red checkered outfit.

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Imagine this, but in the shape of a go-go dancer.

While these young people celebrate their vivaciousness in the face of impending doom, we’re treated to a cadre of ghoulish old fuckers watching them silently and disapprovingly from the weeds:

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I know you’re trying to tell me something here movie, but what?

We see these guys again later, but the movie never really addresses them or provides any concrete context.  I think of them as symbolizing the past generation(s), not understanding hippie culture and rock’n’roll, but why here?  This is out in the middle of nowhere in an open field, do these people live nearby? Are they ghosts?

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Godzilla: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

It doesn’t matter though! Hedorah is heading their way! So is Godzilla!  SHIT!

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Before Godzilla crashes their party, Ken has a vision of him! Maybe he does have some kind of psychic link?  Most kid-heroes in movies like this seem to understand and empathize with monsters better than adults, so this feels like a pretty natural extension of that. Hedorah swoops in, Godzilla blasts him out of the air, and everybody on the ground freaks the fuck out.

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Hippies might like to do acid, but even they don’t want to get done by acid.

Godzilla makes his grand entrance accompanied by Manabe’s drunken Scooby-Doo music, and Hedorah lands and valmorphanizes into his final, humongous form.  Hedorah towers over Godzilla, and the two posture at each other menacingly for a moment. Hedorah is aggressively glittery, and yet it doesn’t make him look any less dangerous or disgusting. This is especially true when his throbbing, glowing red brain rises out the top of his head ominously.

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Good rule of thumb: don’t fight someone who willingly pushes out their own brain pre-fight.

Dr. Yano and Toshie haul ass to get up to Mt. Fuji to find Ken and make sure the elctrodes are functional.  With everything converging on the Mt. Fuji foothills, Godzilla and Hedorah commence their last great throwdown.  Godzilla does some boxer-style fancy footwork to dodge Heddy’s boo-boo bullets. The first one sails harmlessly past him, but the next three pelt him, with one nailing him right in the eye!

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Which I can only imagine results in the absolute worst possible case of pink eye.

There’s kind of a technical goof where it seems to hit the wrong side of his face, but it’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it type thing, and you’ll be too busy paying attention to the fact that his whole eye actually burns out/gets crusted over.  Godzilla hasn’t been hit this hard since he got disintegrated in Gojiraand this fight’s just getting started!

Hedorah flashily transmogrifies back into his flying pancake of doom form, peppering Godzilla with flyby laser blasts and murder-cropdusting a fleeing group of hippies.

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Hedorah: “He who smelt it dealt it, assholes!”

The Hedster swaps back to his gigantic lumbering land form and starts plodding towards the remaining conscious hippies.  These guys aren’t just a bunch of cowering little wieners though, they take up torches and huck ’em at Hedorah’s gooey ass! Even Ken and Miki join in, and it’s pulled off with some crazy-good compositing.  Hedorah starts tossing turd torpedoes at these ferocious flower-children, and poor Yukio gets his eye burned out by weaponized waste.

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“‘Hope eye-stuff doesn’t freak you out, ya little shits!” ~Yoshimitsu Banno

Hedorah moves in for the kill, but Godzilla intervenes before he can finish off the hapless hippies.  They tussle for a bit, and Godzilla lands a haymaker right in Hedorah’s rotten gut(s); his hand glorps right into Heddy’s acidic innards, sizzling away the Big G’s mitt-meat. Gunky gore goops out of Hedorah, and rancid black blood pours into his left eye before it crusts over.  Another ruined eye! When Godzilla pulls his fist out of Hedorah’s oozing non-abs, it’s been withered down to a skeletal claw.

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“Okay, so no fisting.”

It can be tough to spot based on the picture quality of the version you’re watching and depending on the scene (since most of this fight takes place at night), but it’s there! Gigan gets a lot of hype for being the first kaiju to make Godzilla bleed the following year, but I think Hedorah did more damage.  Godzilla and Hedorah grapple with each other while wind, fog, and flashes of light (lightning?) swirl around them, and it looks fucking rad.

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Also: bitchin’ eye lasers.  This movie has everything.

Speaking of that eye laser, the explosion it creates kicks up enough sparks and fire and smog to throw Godzilla into a coughing fit that sends him tumbling over. Hedorah glorps onto Godzilla, zaps into flight mode, and carries him off into the air! We see that those ghoulish old fuckers from earlier are still watching with the same disapproving looks:

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Which pretty solidly shuts down my “symbol of past generations that don’t/can’t understand hippie culture” hypothesis.  Unless a mutant dinosaur fighting a sentient space doo-doo to the death counts as hippie culture? Or maybe they just don’t like that Hedorah fights dirty?

There’s no time to figure them out though, because Hedorah drops Godzilla mid-flight, sending the poor monster crashing down to Earth. He rolls down a hill, and tumbles into a big pit.  That legit sucks, but Hedorah rolls up and decides to make it one trillion percent worse.

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Yep, the ol’ “drown your foe in a pool of your own acidic diarrhea” strategy. Oldest trick in the book.

Godzilla…. hoo boy, he is a fucking trooper.  He flails his arms blindly and cries out as the caca engulfs him, while Hedorah starts laughing his evil, misshapen ass off.  He knows exactly what he’s doing.  Luckily for G-money, the JSDF comes through with some choppers packing oxygen bombs. Kaiju vs. military goes about as well as you’d expect, but one of the choppers manages to Oxyclean Hedorah’s clock.  Toshi and Dr. Yano arrive on the scene!

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And uh… they took the time to build Dr. Yano a bed-cocoon in the back of the car. Seriously bro?

The JSDF are using themselves as bait to lure Hedorah into their electrode trap.  I love this movie, but this final battle is long.  It’s packed with cool ideas and tense back-and-forth drama, but it would have benefited from some smart cuts.  There are so many good gags that cutting the least fun/exciting one or two wouldn’t have hurt.  But the upshot of this lengthy finale is that the movie has time to explore how the humans and monsters are helping and hindering each other throughout the battle.  Godzilla’s wrangling Hedorah over to the electrodes, but they knock over the electrical towers supplying juice to the electrodes in the process!

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Weirdest adaptation of “The Gift of the Magi” ever.

After a suspenseful few moments: Godzilla and the military manage to corral Hedorah between the electrodes.  Yes! But the power’s still out.  Shit!

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Luckily, Godzilla’s improv (and electrical engineering?) game is on-point.

G-fresh fires up the electrodes himself, and fries the fuck out of the Smog Monster.  The crud creature flops over, looking real dead.  Godzilla punches his fist straight into the corpse for good measure, then roots around in there and yanks out a pair of big yellowy beige orbs.

This seems to have puzzled Godzilla fans throughout history.  Are they eyes? Eggs? Nards? Something else? I kind of like that last idea; Hedorah is such a strange, unearthly creature that he’s just bursting with weird, unrecognizable organs. According to Banno himself, they’re supposed to be Heddy’s eyes, and that fits with the movies’ ongoing motif of grievous eye injury.  It’s still pretty weird, because Hedorah’s eyes are red… and they’re still in his head.  Hedorah is really gross and alien though, so maybe these are extras? I say it’s still up for interpretation.  Meanwhile, Godzilla just goes “whatever these things are, FUCK ‘EM.

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You don’t poop on Godzilla and expect to get away with it.

Godzilla’s thorough trashing of Hedorah is super satisfying… but it’s not over! A slightly smaller, fresher Hedorah rockets out of the dried-up husk! Godzilla is not about to let this little butthole get away! Without a single second’s hesitation, Godzilla personally gives us the best, most batshit-bonkers scene in the entire movie.

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Triumphant music plays, and the remaining humans look on in stunned bewilderment.  It is The Best Thing to Have Ever Happened.  Godzilla catches up with Hedorah and air-tackles his sloppy, shitty ass to the ground, body-slams him face-first into the dirt three times, then flies back with him to the electrodes!

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More like He-don’t-rah.

Godzilla and the army work together to cook the (literal) living shit out of Hedorah with the electrode walls. Godzilla and the JSDF ease up on the electricity when Hedorah hits the ground, and Godzilla kneels down and starts tearing all his innards out! A rockin’, peppy version of Bring Back the Sun/Save the Earth starts playing, and we watch the happiest, most triumphant disembowelment committed to film! THEN GODZILLA ELECTRO-BROASTS THE RIPPED-OUT ORGANS.

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Don’t ever poop on Godzilla.  Maybe just… don’t ever poop.

The sun starts to come up, and Godzilla turns his attention to Dr. Yano, Toshie, and the JSDF.  They understandably tense way the fuck up, but Godzilla just turns his back on them and starts heading home.  Miki and Ken race after him and Ken screams a goodbye, and Godzilla kinda-sorta acknowledges it.  It’s good to know they’re not dead. As Godzilla’s hoofing it off into the sunrise, a bummer remix of Bring Back the Sun plays, and we cut to shots of the pollution from earlier in the film. Godzilla’s won an important battle, but the war on pollution is up to us–beating Hedorah doesn’t magically clean up the planet. For once, Godzilla isn’t mad at humanity… he’s just disappointed. If that wasn’t an uncertain enough ending, we get a quick shot of a sea-bound Hedorah blob, and this ridonculous title card:

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And sure enough, writer-director Yoshimitsu Banno was just pleased as punch with how Godzilla vs. Hedorah turned out. So much so, he was already planning a sequel! Series producer Tomoyuki Tanaka was in the hospital during the production of Hedorah, so he had no idea what the film was like until he saw a rough cut. He told Banno that he “ruined Godzilla,” banno’d Banno from directing at Toho ever again, and asked previous Godzilla director Ishiro Honda to come in and try to fix it.  So you know… mixed reviews, I guess.

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“What if I add more scenes of peoples’ eyes getting burned out? Eh? Maybe some more blood-skeleton-fish disco? Sounds pretty good now, doesn’t it?”

As a huge Hedorah fan, that bums me out. But Banno never gave up on his Hedorah sequel! After the Godzilla series went on hiatus in 2004 (also, notably after Tanaka’s death in 1997) Toho allowed Banno to pitch his Hedorah concept to studios in the West. He planned to produce a 40-minute 3D IMAX film called “Godzilla 3D to the Max.” Despite a title that sounds like valley girl word salad, it had a lot of potential. Part of it was to take place in Africa, Godzilla would fight an upgraded Hedorah named Deathla, and it would wrap up with a climactic showdown in Las Vegas.

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3D to the Max fell through, but Banno eventually got his Hollywood Godzilla complete with a key scene taking place in Sin City: he was an executive producer on Legendary’s 2014 Godzilla.

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“Is the buffet still open or… ?”

Haruo Nakajima played Godzilla in vs. Hedorah, and as always did a bang-up job. This is one of his sassiest Godzilla performances (at one point he looks straight at the camera and gives us a kaiju SMH), and it fits this crazy movie perfectly.  Kenpachiro Satsuma made his creature feature debut playing Hedorah. He partly got the role because he was the only person they could find that was jacked enough to actually operate the heavy-ass suit.  So he’s pretty bad-ass from square one, but how about this: while shooting the movie, Satsuma came down with appendicitis.  It would take too long to get him out of the suit, so he had to have his appendix removed, while still in the Hedorah suit. The kicker being that, this is when he learned that painkillers don’t work on him.

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“Yo organs, if you’re going to spontaneously explode in me, you better fucking kill me.”

Surviving that kind of insane physical punishment is basically how you interview to be a kaiju suit actor (Nakajima first got the job back in the day because he was the crazy fucker you could set on fire for war movies), so it’s not a huge surprise that he got to play Godzilla for the entire Heisei run of films.

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Satsuma also awesomely played Gigan, the vicious but cowardly cyborg-space-chicken-fish-buzzsaw-bitch-ass.

So that’s Godzilla vs. Hedorah! It fucking rules.  I guess if you don’t like radness or weirdness or hilariousness it won’t be your cup of acidic dookie-slimetea, but I think this movie was ahead of the curve in a lot of ways.  This is the earliest “save the environment!” movie I can think of: Godzilla beat Al Gore and Ferngully to the punch by decades.  Hedorah himself may have only come back for a brief cameo in Godzilla Final Wars, but I’d be shocked if his mid-movie metamorphoses didn’t inspire later multi-stage kaiju like Destoroyah and Pacific Rim‘s Otachi.

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You might be as rotten on the inside as you are on the outside, but know I love ya, ya grody bastard!

At this point in his career, Godzilla was in full-blown hero mode.  After duking it out with the dookie demon, he’d go on four more similarly wacky-wild adventures before his well-deserved sabbatical.  Those later films all qualify as cult classics due to their abundance of genre-defining iconic characters, comedic (intentional or not)  moments, and kick-ass pulpy sci-fi stories, but none mash together surreal goofiness and stark horror with artistic panache like Hedorah does.

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Save the Earth or die trying.

 

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10 thoughts on “Gimme some more-ah Hedorah!

  1. Despite what imdb says, Nakano did not work on “Daigoro vs. Goliath”– which actually came out in late 1972 after “Hedorah”. That film’s effects were handled by Jun Oki and Minoru Nakano (no relation). Teruyoshi, meanwhile, had far more than “a couple of films under his belt”. His first Toho special effects film was 1959’s “The Three Treasures” and he worked on every effects film Toho made up to “Hedorah,” usually as Eiji Tsuburaya’s right-hand assistant (or Ishiro Honda’s, in the case of “Godzilla’s Revenge”).

    Everybody points out and balks (or mocks as you did) the fact Godzilla has figures of him by 1971. I’d like to point out I’ve seen action figures of Hitler and Osama bin Laden. And by 1971, Godzilla had done far more for the world than either of those bastards ever did.

    That’s not a skeletal swan at the bottom of the bay… it’s just an everyday model swan that’s sank to the bottom. In other words, more trash.

    Godzilla’s intro is not a dream. Ken is dreaming about what Godzilla is doing at that moment. Remember: when Hedorah first spies Godzilla before their first fight, what he sees is Godzilla in the far distance still destroying water pollution with his ray.

    Look carefully– Godzilla is spinning Hedorah around by his fuckin’ LEG, not his tail! I only just noticed myself when I watched it for Earth Day.

    Look carefully again– see that guy one row down, second from the left in the “more informative than actual cable news” gif– that’s Haruo Nakajima!

    Listen carefully this time– when the hippie mob attacks Hedorah, if you listen closely in the international English dub, you’ll hear one of them angrily shout “Fuck you!”

    Look carefully at another movie– Godzilla’s skeletal hand returns in “Godzilla vs. Gigan”! Nakano repainted it Godzilla skin color though to show that it was ossifying.

    That sequence where Hedorah tries to drown Godzilla in shit? That sequence finally killed off the Daisensogoji suit from “Monster Zero” they’d been using as the water costume ever since. Whatever that mud stuff they used did to it, when Nakajima climbed out of the thing, a side of the poor suit’s head was completely caved in.

    Regarding Hedorah’s eyes Godzilla yanks out, here’s what happened: shooting “Godzilla vs. Hedorah”, the crew actually ran out of money because Tomoyuki Tanaka was in the hospital and he wasn’t around to wrangle Banno properly. Corporate Toho told Banno and company to shut down production and scrap the movie. Banno and Nakano, being consummate filmmakers, were like “fuck that” (or the closest companyman Japanese equivalent) and just kept on shooting. The problem was, they had to shoot with whatever they had available. Hedorah’s eyes were constructed– but not painted (couldn’t pay to have whoever paint them now). The storyboards drawn up for the sequence are drawn colored exactly like Hedorah’s eyes, complete with pupils. And if you look, you’ll see one of them is dented in where Godzilla punched it earlier (he punched Hedorah in the eye, not his abs– and eye for an eye thing that backfired on Godzilla). This is also why that old “haul him to Planet X” model of Godzilla from “Monster Zero” was trotted out for the Godzilla flies scene– no money to make a new model!

    Now, as to why Hedorah still has eyes later on, this is because they talk frequently through the movie that Hedorahs converge and become bigger. The Hedorah that tries to escape is the Hedorah Godzilla encountered early in the movie. After that fight, that Hedorah apparently encountered another, more powerful Hedorah (possibly the evil-looking one that sank the tankers?) and merged together with it. The electrodes killed that bigger Hedorah and the smaller original one tries to hightail it out of there. If you’ll note, from that moment on, Hedorah is once again smaller than Godzilla and Godzilla manhandles him with ease again. Also– while he is certainly flying– Hedorah is not transformed into the flying form, because he no longer has that ability. It’s frog Hedorah from there on out. Yeah, um, I know Japanese movies play without context a lot, but maybe Banno could have been a little less esoteric with this stuff?

    Banno wasn’t exactly banned from directing at Toho again, though his efforts were severely undercredited. He co-directed the movie “Prophecies of Nostradamus”, but Toshio Masuda was given the “directed by” credit. In the Japanese version though, Banno is given a “cooperation director” credit. Banno also wrote the movie, but Masuda was given a bigger writing credit, despite his contributions being minimal. However, Tanaka did go to Banno once more for directing what became “Terror of Mechagodzilla.” Tanaka found Banno’s ideas too far out there and passed him over for Honda.

    Ishiro Honda wasn’t brought in after the fact to fix the movie. While in the hospital, Tanaka asked Honda to go check in and help Banno if he needed it. To pad out a too-short running time, Banno had shot a Godzilla flies after Hedorah and a Godzilla runs after Hedorah sequence that they weren’t sure which to use. After viewing both, Honda said use the flying one. Really.

    I’m glad to read you love the Godzilla flying sequence too. It’s my favorite scene in the movie. The haters can eat it; that shit is awesome. When Godzilla becomes so frustrated that he tells the laws of physics to go fuck themselves, how can you not love it?

    • Hell yes, lots of great stuff here!

      I knew about the alternate shot of Godzilla running after Hedorah rather than flying scene, but I would have never guessed that Honda was one of the people going “Nah, the flying one’s better.”

      The flying prop being the “Get your ass to Planet X” prop repurposed makes so much sense, but I also never would have guessed! Clever stuff like this is why Hedorah looks so much better than its budget should have allowed.

      I would LOVE to know more about Banno’s version of Terror of Mechagodzilla.

      • Perhaps I should have said “the 15th Godzilla movie” instead. Banno didn’t have any ideas for “Terror of MG”, per se. That was all the invention of Yukiko Takayama.

  2. This movie scared the crap outta me when I was little. I probably watched it about 1987, maybe on TV? Possibly my brother and I rented the VHS from our local movie store. I’m not sure now. But I remember the weird, trippy dancing and the straight up horror of the environmental waste really terrified me. I think it made me aware for the first time about pollution and the environment. When people who don’t know much about Godzilla say the movies are campy or stupid or for children, I’m like hmm, don’t let your kids watch Smog. This movie in particular was seriously disturbing and I still haven’t rewatched it in YEARS because you know how old feelings can hang around. I’m glad to see you give it such a positive write up, I’m tempted to see it again. When I was little, that shot of the kid seeing Godzilla in the distance on the horizon just really stuck with me. I was sure someday if a monster came that’s how I’d see it. Way far off. Creepy! But awesome. Great write up.

    • I’ve got a lot of images and gifs in these reviews, so lately my computer’s been pooping out before it can load them all. A quick refresh (or two:/) has done the trick on my end, give it a shot and let me know if it works for you!

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