Review Godzilla vs. Hedorah film review by The King of the Monsters
Written By The King of the Monsters on 2014-09-29 12:41:45
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Godzilla vs. Hedorah is a Godzilla movie that perfectly defines the early 1970's. Full of weird trippy images, funky music, and of course hippies, it is without a doubt the strangest Godzilla film ever made. For all of its weirdness though, Godzilla vs. Hedorah is ultimately an above average Godzilla movie that does more right than it does wrong. It features some of the best effects of any Godzilla film up to that point, believable acting, and a meaningful allegorical message rarely seen in any Godzilla film since the original. Yes it's weird and freaky, but Godzilla vs. Hedorah is a standout entry in the franchise.
*SPOILERS* Dr. Toru Yano, a marine biologist, has been intrigued by the recent decline of fishing in a nearby bay. He dons a diving suit and dives beneath the surface to investigate, where he is attacked by a giant black tadpole-like creature with massive red eyes. Dr. Yano survives, but is left with grotesque burns on the side of his face. As reports of large tadpole monsters sinking oil tankers in Japanese waters increase, Yano theorizes that it is being caused by some sort of monster that feeds on pollutants. After examining a smaller tadpole brought to him by a local fisherman, Dr. Yano comes to the conclusion that these creatures, which his son Ken calls "Hedorah," feed on pollution and then combine with each other to become even larger and evolve. One night in Taganura Bay, a now four-legged Hedorah leaps onto the shore and heads to a nearby factory. Hedorah begins feeding on the pollutants but is interrupted by the arrival of Godzilla. Godzilla and Hedorah do battle in the port, drenching the entire area in sludge from Hedorah's body. Godzilla manages to throw Hedorah, separating a large piece of its body from it. This smaller Hedorah crashes through a window and slithers through a nightclub, terrifying Dr. Yano's friend Yukio Keuchi and his girlfriend Miki Fujiyama, who run to Yukio's car only to witness Godzilla doing battle with the larger Hedorah. After a brief but messy battle, Hedorah retreats into the ocean with Godzilla in pursuit.
With damage from Hedorah's attacks escalating, Dr. Yano investigates the arena of the previous night's battle, where he discovers dried pieces of Hedorah. After further examinations, Yano theorizes that Hedorah is a type of alien mineral that is able to feed on pollutants, in turn releasing deadly sulfuric compounds from its body. If Hedorah continues to grow and evolve, it will dwarf even Godzilla and make the planet uninhabitable for all life. Yukio and Miki take Ken to an amusement park, where Ken senses the arrival of Godzilla, meaning Hedorah must be nearby as well. Ken runs off to call his father and warn him, with Yukio and Miki chasing after him. Suddenly, Hedorah appears flying above the city in a disc-like form propelled by sulfuric mist. Hedorah's mist is powerful enough to impair breathing and kill any plant life it comes into contact with, causing mass panic. As Yukio and Miki try to search for Ken in their car, they are nearly enveloped by the smaller Hedorah which had attacked the nightclub, having now grown to a massive size. The smaller Hedorah combines with the flying one, increasing its size and increasing the toxicity of its mist. As the creature approaches the Japan Oil Company, it is intercepted by Godzilla. Hedorah uses its mist to temporarily render Godzilla helpless and then cause the refinery to erupt in flames. Hedorah then flies above the rest of the city unopposed, melting the flesh from the bones of humans caught in its sulfuric mist. Hedorah eventually flies away from the city, leaving thousands dead and the country in panic.
With the threat of Hedorah only growing and humanity's chance for survival diminishing, Dr. Yano struggles to find a way to destriy Hedorah. Ken proposes that since Hedorah's body is essentially composed of sludge that it could be dried out. Building off his son's idea, Dr. Yano constructs an electrode-transmitting device, which successfully dries out a small Hedorah. Yano contacts the Self-Defense Forces and tells them to construct a larger version of his electrodes. Meanwhile, Yukio has formed a large party at the top of Mt. Fuji for all of Japan's youth in the face of humanity's inevitable extinction. Ken goes with Yukio and Miki to the party, leaving his mother and father at home. When Hedorah flies over the Yanos' house and heads toward Mt. Fuji, Yano tells his wife to take them both to Mt. Fuji and contacts the Defense Forces, telling them to bring the electrodes there. Ken senses Godzilla's approach and fears that Hedorah must be coming. Hedorah soon arrives on the summit in a new bipedal final form taller than Godzilla and advances on the partygoers. They toss torches at the smog monster, but are smothered by blasts of its toxic sludge. Before Hedorah can kill all of the partygoers, Godzilla arrives to do battle with Hedorah. During the battle, Godzilla is brutally maimed, losing an eye and having his hand burned down to the bone. Hedorah tosses Godzilla into a ditch and tries to drown him within its toxic excretions. With Godzilla incapacitated, Hedorah approaches a group of trucks flashing their headlights in order to draw it between the giant electrodes. The electrodes are powered up and are initailly effective against Hedorah, but quickly short-circuit. Thankfully, Godzilla re-enters the battle and uses his atomic breath to re-energize the electrodes, reducing Hedorah to a dried husk. As Godzilla turns to leave, the husk bursts open and releases a smaller flying Hedorah that had survived being dried. Godzilla fires his atomic breath at the ground and is propelled into the air, flying after Hedorah. Godzilla slams into the flying monster with his spines and brings it to the ground. Godzilla then subdues the creature and flies it back to the electrodes, where he dries it out again. This time, Godzilla tears the husk apart, exposing every part of Hedorah's body to the electrodes. Eventually, all that is left of Hedorah is dust. Godzilla turns and stares intently at the humans assembles, as if blaming them for Hedorah's existence. Godzilla then leaves for the ocean while Ken and Miki say goodbye. *END SPOILERS*
Godzilla vs. Hedorah has a nicely paced plot, with a nice balance of relevant human scenes and monster battles throughout each act. The human characters are relatively well-developed save for Yukio and Miki, and their actions have actual consequences for the greater plot without seeming boring or overly-long. The film features three battles between the two titular monsters, approximately one in each act of the film. The final battle atop Mt. Fuji is easily the longest one and dominates the third act of the movie, with only a few brief human cutaways interrupting it. Overall, this is one of the better-paced and written Godzilla films.
The acting in the movie is strong. Akira Yamauchi as Toru Yano appears both a wise and determined scientist and a loving and concerned father figure. His chemistry with his wife and son is very convincing. For a child actor, Hiroyuki Kawase does a remarkable job as Ken Yano. He retains a sense of innocence without devolving into the annoyingness of the child characters in the contemporary Gamera films. His expressions of terror at seeing Hedorah's victims are very convincing as is his joy when Godzilla arrives to stop Hedorah. Toshie Kimura as Dr. Yano's wife Toshie is a very convincing loving mother and wife. Keiko Mari and Toshio Shiba as Miki Fujiyama and Yukio Keuchi seem to be ambiguous characters randomly thrown into the plot with no background explanation or character development, but both act fine in their respective scenes.
The special effects are where Godzilla vs. Hedorah really shines. The Godzilla suit, in use since 1968, is starting to look a little worn and there seems to be something off with its eyes, but nonetheless it still looks solid. The burns and wounds Godzilla sustains are realistically portrayed on the suit and look downright painful. Hedorah is a very imaginative and well-realized creature. His large creepy eyes are just plain unsettling, while hie trashy-looking slimy body gives the sense that he really is living pollution. Each of his forms has great care put into it. His flying form is remarkable in that it is propelled by its own gaseous excretions and does not suffer from the appearance of being a stiff prop. The substance used for Hedorah's sludge is gross-looking, and it is used plentifully throughout the film. The corrosive effect Hedorah has on metal is impressively rendered, as are his crimson eye beams. His tarnsformations between forms are some kind of camera trick and are really impressive for the time period. Lastly, the burns visible on Hedorah's victims as well as their gruesome skeletal remains are downright horrifying for someone who first saw this movie as a kid, and to this day are still unsettling for me.
Riichiro Manabe, who I must say is my least favorite composer for the series, gives a mostly unpleasant yet fitting score for this movie. The heavy use of trombones fits the atmosphere of the movie while the catchy song "Give Back the Sun!" plays as a recurring piece throughout the film. Though the song is nice to listen to, over time it gets very repetitive and goes through many increasingly bizzare renditions as the film progresses. Not a great score, but still a good one for this particular movie.
Some fans dislike Godzilla vs. Hedorah for its utter weirdness and unneccessary use of unpleasant imagery. Godzilla vs. Hedorah is very obviously a product of its time, a response to growing environmental awareness and the damage of human pollution. Godzilla vs. Hedorah is an allegory, just as the original film was. Hedorah represents the byproduct of humans' rampant pollution of their own environment and the devastation that will follow if it is not resolved. Godzilla represents the anger of nature against this pollution and is a reminder that nature always has power greater than man. Some may find the environmental message in this movie overly preachy, though I can promise you that it is much more overbearing and less subtle in 1992's Godzilla vs. Mothra. Godzilla vs. Hedorah is a cult classic, a movie that among a series of films that are an acquired taste, is itself an acquired taste. It's not for everyone, but for those that can stomach it it is an enjoyable experience.