Sunday, June 27, 2010

Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971)

Godzilla jet pack powers activate!

Godzilla vs. Hedorah, A.K.A Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster,  is something of an anomaly as far as Godzilla movies go. By 1971, the franchise was more than ten years old and the last time that a Godzilla film had an overt agenda was Mothra vs. Godzilla in 1954. At this point, the series was also declining in popularity and quality. Godzilla vs. Hedorah signaled a radical shift for the series, one that showed legitimate promise if it had been continued, and it stands as one of the most unique and enjoyable entires in the series.

In the waters of Japan something horrible is growing. A organism from space lands in Japan, starts feeding on pollution and grows into the terrible monster Hedorah. Hedorah takes hits from Japan's industrial smog bong and  becomes an unstoppable force. It's up to Godzilla and the people of Japan to tag team the smog monster and save the world from it's horrid stench. Godzilla vs. Hedorah was the first, and only, film for director Yoshimitsu Banno. The long time producer of the series was hospitalized during the entire filming of the film and he was so appalled by what he saw. He promptly banned Banno from the series forever and canceled production on a sequel. Why exactly Banno was banned is a mystery to me. Godzilla vs. Hedorah is the first legitimately unique entry in the series and one of the most enjoyable movies overall.

Godzilla vs. Hedorah is a one of a kind blend between Godzilla and the counterculture movement. It's like an art house film with giant monsters fighting. Somewhere between the trippy acid rock music and the animated sequences, the film manages to be enjoyable and weird at the same time. The film is significantly darker than recent entires in the series as well. Godzilla vs. Hedorah actually shows people dying at the hands of the monsters rather than implying the fact. It's a little bit jarring but amazingly effective. The monster design is good and bad at the same time. Hedorah is distinctive and interesting, but his huge eyes give the monster a fairly silly feeling. The flying version of Hedorah is also not the most appealing of designs. Where Godzilla vs. Hedorah really succeeds though is in it's pacing. The film starts off quickly and the tension is always high. This is mostly a movie about the monsters. The people are just struggling to keep up and stay alive. Lastly, this is the first Godzilla movie, since the original, that I would actually say has decent production values. The film just looks so much better than the other entires in the series. Everything from effects to cinematography is a step above the previous chunk of films.

Godzilla vs. Hedorah is certainly one of my favorite entires in the series and one that I was absolutely surprised by. A film with the title Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster does't sound like it would be good, but I was happy to be wrong. The movie is exciting, well made and, most of all, different from the other movies in the series. It has singlehandedly revived my passion for watching the series and it's a Godzilla film that I can recommend to anyone who enjoys monster films. It's everything you want from Godzilla.


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