If you were handsome enough to have read my Son of Godzilla, and to a lesser extent the All Monsters Attack, review you’ll recall how I wondered just how Godzilla got to that point. How they went from a theme of nature fighting back against man for their own destructive ways to being a child’s hero. Last night I watch Godzilla Vs Hedorah for the first time and my previous musing has now been rendered obsolete by this query. Godzilla Vs Hedorah… what even is this and why, and how… also, wha? I’ll try to explain after the link below.
OK, before I get onto the weirdness, of which there is much, I’ll explain the plot. A brief warning though. This plot description will make this sound like any other Godzilla film. Hell, the only hint I had of this films oddity was that it had been praised for “trying something new”. Anyway, the Earth is polluted and it appears a creature, eventually named Hedorah, has appeared on Earth and is growing by consuming the Earth’s pollution. This may sound like a good thing but Hedorah also is a bit of a dick and enjoys nothing more than destroying, melting and disintegrating everything and everyone in his path as he swims, flies and walks his way around Japan. Dr Yano (Akira Yamauchi) is the one to discover what Hedorah is and is attempting to find a way to destroy the creature. His son Ken (Hiroyuki Kawase) believes Godzilla will come to save everyone from Hedorah, because he saw it in a dream. Luckily for us, Godzilla does arrive to fight Hedorah, but it appears Hedorah’s toxic nature is too much for the King of the Monsters to combat. Now it’s down to Dr Yano and the Japanese military to find a way to defeat Hedorah with Godzilla’s help.
See, that sounds pretty standard right? I quite liked the sound of a smog monster, as the US title for this film originally called Hedorah. It makes for a nice parallel theme to Godzilla’s anti-nuclear message. We screw up the Earth in another way and we’re punished for it with Hedorah. A big gelatinous mess of a monster that has to be one of Toho’s most repulsive designs. Not sure if it was meant to be. Hedorah even manages to get shit done on a level not seen in the Godzilla films since the original. I noticed whilst watching that this was the first since Gojira to actually mention the death toll, which reaches thousands. A group of characters even hold a hippy party on Mount Fuji to dance out to the end of the world. So how does the film go weird? Oh let me list the ways.
The film opens with a James Bond-eqsue musical intro set to images of polluted waste, dead fish and a chopped up mannequin. It’s almost pollution porn. In a swinging nightclub scene one character is so drunk he sees everyone in the club with fish heads. No idea why. During the same nightclub scene some sludge makes its way down a flight of stairs, in what has to be a nod to The Blob, and then returns back up the stairs leaving a filthy cat behind. The sludge looks like wet cat fur-balls. It looks like a cat vomit vomited up a cat. At numerous points in the film we’re treated to brief animations of a sludge monster doing pollution based things. A character can’t start her car whilst failing to notice the giant monster directly behind her eating all the other cars. During the previously mentioned party at the end of the world a group of older people watch from the bushes. I assume they’re watching the younger generation partying and disapprove of it, maybe. They don’t do anything other than watch. I also wondered if they were the ghosts of the thousands Hedorah had killed.
Some people choke and faint when Hedorah flies by, other turn into photo negatives and are reduced to skeletons. Except for that cat Hedorah threw up earlier? Why did the cat not dissolve? The film’s musical theme for Godzilla makes him sound drunk. This is compounded by Godzilla being played as a drunk. He does this thing where he wipes his mouth then shakes his fist in an old timey fisticuffs style motion. Apparently this is a trait Godzilla has as when Ken does it people recognise it right away. There’s a news report that then turns into a montage of multiple TV screens in rows. These start off by showing people being interviewed about Hedorah on TV. And then Godzilla is in one corner, making it look like he’s being interviewed. Then comes people dancing with fish heads, skulls, shapes and scenes of pollution in many, many little squares. I think this gave me a nosebleed. Godzilla…. and I’m going to give you a second to prepare yourself for this… Godzilla flies. He fucking flies using his atomic breath to propel him through the air.
I just do not know how to critique this film. If it wasn’t for it’s weirdness I’d point out all the narrative and basic film making problems the film has. But as the film is so bizarre I can’t quite tell if the film’s lack of fulfilling narrative was a statement against story or something. I’m sure the director was trying to say something about the time the film was made in beyond pollution but… man… fish head people. Fact is the story largely consists of characters jumping to conclusions about Hedorah, with only a few scenes showing any sort of deductive reasoning. Yano makes a small electrode thing to dehydrate a piece of Hedorah. A little later the military is building a giant version of this with no scene showing him taking this idea to them.
The narrative issues are made worse, due to their boring nature, by what has to be the slowest monster fights ever conceived. Most of each fight between Godzilla and Hedorah involve gestures and the occasional lunge. From researching the background of this film it appears that the actor in the Hedorah suit, Kenpachiro Satsuma, found the suit near impossible to move in or to make any real movements. It really is such an indistinct blob of a suit that you really can’t see what is what when the fights do kick off. The head is about half the size of the suit alone, which really doesn’t help. Kenpachiro also had to have an appendectomy on the set of the film, whilst still in the suit. This was made all the more horrible for him by his discovery, early into the operation, that painkillers have no effect on him. I swear, every single aspect of this film appears to have been a disaster.
I guess that’s the only way to fully assess Godzilla Vs Hedorah. It is a disaster. Apparently Director Yoshimitsu Banno was very pleased with the film. Toho were less so, even going as far as to say that he had “ruined Godzilla” and that he’d never work on another Godzilla film again. The categorically insane nature of the film is made worse by the fact that its awful plotting and slow paced fights lead to an incredibly boring experience. There’s only one film I can liken this to, and I really didn’t think I could reach this point. Godzilla Vs Hedorah is nearly… only a slither away, from being as baffling a film as Death Bed. There, I said it. This film is nearly as weird and boring as Death Bed. The next film in my Godzilla season will be Godzilla Vs Gigan. Which is cool cos Gigan is awesome and up yours to all the haters.