Godzilla vs. Hedora
Yes, in Godzilla vs. Hedora (aka Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster) the big guy actually takes off and flies under his own power. And as weird as that sounds, that isn't the weirdest thing about Godzilla vs Hedora. Even for a movie about a big anthropomorphic fire breathing reptile fighting a giant pollution eating monster that looks a big pile of blackened teriyaki chicken, Godzilla vs Hedorah is a weird movie.
The main character is a little kid named Ken who loves Godzilla and who is convinced that Godzilla is the enemy of pollution. As is usual with the later Godzilla movies and most Gamera movies, it seems like the kid has a direct line to the big G, because he's absolutely correct. Ken spends his time playing with Godzilla toys, writing ecological poetry, and solving the world's problems with the simple, home-spun advice he gives to his father the scientist. You did know there'd be a scientist, right?
The movie starts with unusual happenings in Sagami Bay. The fish there are dying and little black tadpoles are showing up in their stead. It further turns out that the tadpoles are actually made of minerals, and grow when exposed to pollution. Soon, giant tadpoles are sinking ships, and finally a huge pollution-spawned monster crawls out of the bay and begins sucking on industrial smokestacks. The monster is dubbed Hedora by the Japanese media, which must employ people day and night just to come up with for names for all the monsters that show up in Japan. (This name, of course, comes from the precocious Ken.)
First of all, there is the music. Forgoing the usual Akira Ifukube score, this movie has a quirky original score that is almost trying to be inappropiate. Gone is any hint of majesty, instead we have a Godzilla entrance theme that sounds like a diesel engine turning over. And who could forget the "Save the Earth!" song that plays over the opening titles and during the movie itself? No really, is there anyone who can forget this song once they've heard it? Because if there is, we want to meet them and find out what their trick is. That darned song has been playing nonstop in our heads (in Japanese, no less) ever since we watched the movie. We have included it as a sound file for anyone who wants a cheap and legal alternative to LSD, but you can't get the full effect unless you see it with the visuals that go along with it: a singer wearing a painted leotard, dancing skeletons that abruptly flip upside down for no reason, and inkblot special effects that look like they are left over from the original Star Trek. And that's before we get to see it through the eyes of hard-drinking hippie hero Yukio, who starts seeing everybody with the head of a fish.
Then there are some really weird, hallucinogenic narrative techniques. Every now and then there are these funky cartoons that serve to educate us about Hedora. There is an unusual sequence that uses multiple TV screens to make some sort of point. A big part of the conclusion has to do with Yukio's plan to have a big love-in on Mt. Fuji while Hedora destroys Japan. We can only think the entire cast and crew were tripping while they made Godzilla vs. Hedora.
That person was probably Yoshimitsu Banno, director and screenwriter. It seems he was quite proud of this movie, and he was planning a sequel where Godzilla fought Hedorah in Africa. Legend has it that producer Tomoyuki Tanaka put the kibosh on that, because he was mightily displeased by this film when he saw the finished product. In retrospect, we can't blame him. After this movie, the creative reigns were put back in the hands of Jun Fukuda, who was never the best choice to direct Godzilla movies. And so the decline of the Godzilla movie would continue unabated.
Review date: 3/20/98
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