Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971)
Today I will be reviewing 1971's Godzilla versus Hedorah, one of the more peculiar monster movies you will ever see, a radical and controversial entry into the series. Godzilla was in full Protecting the Earth Superhero mode here and the socially-conscious message was never more strongly hammered into us. And, oh Lord, the music...
The production staff was different from the norm, with Yoshimitsu Banno directing and Teruyoshi Nakano overseeing the special effects. Banno tried deliberately to be as unconventional as possible and truly succeeded. The end result is a movie very much different in tone and presentation than Godzilla entries both before and since. It's widely reported that long-time producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, who was ill during the shooting of this movie, was very upset with the way Godzilla versus Hedorah turned out.
This movie was first released in Japan on July 24, 1971. It soundly trounced another movie that year, rival Daiei Studio's Gamera versus Zigra, which also featured an ecological theme. It was adapted for American release by Samuel Z. Arkoff and uber-exploiters AIP Studios and was first shown over here in February of 1972 under the more marketable name Godzilla versus the Smog Monster. What I'll be reviewing here is the original unedited Japanese version, titled Godzilla versus Hedorah. It was released by Columbia TriStar Video in 2004 and I got it at Blockbuster, which was pretty cool. I had a variety of subtitle and dub choices, but I chose to keep the Japanese voice and go with the English subtitles. It runs a slim 85 minutes, but often seems interminably longer.
And that would be the problem. A lot of people really like this movie, I have even read some reviews that praised it endlessly. I have to tell you with all honesty that Godzilla versus Hedorah fucking sucks. I've seen all the Godzilla movies, and while others might have just as terrible acting and miserable plotlines, not one of them flat out bored me to death like this one. That's the cardinal sin of a monster movie, if you're going to be bad, at least be entertainingly bad. The battles are paced ultra slow and there seems to be 40 minutes of dead air space where virtually nothing is happening on screen.
Ok, on to the movie...
The opening credits are shown over a collage of shots of wobbly psychedelic inkblots and garbage-filled water. An attractive young woman (more on her later) sings a tune, thankfully in Japanese only. This opening song and the flashy imagery is our first clue that this entire movie will be mired in the late 1960s. The clothes, the music, the socially relevant messages, the sex, drugs and rock and roll all seriously date this movie, especially when watched 34 years later.
We open with a seaside scene, as an old grizzled fisherman brings a sample to a famous scientist named Doctor Yano. Yano has a house/lab set up right near the shore where locals often bring him strange and unique marine examples for him to study. His house sits on Suruga Bay, which is a wide bay some 85 miles southwest along the coast from Tokyo.
Doctor Toru Yano is played by 50-year old Akira Yamauchi. Because of what we will see in the movie, I have little choice but to refer to him as "The-Only-Scientist-In-Japan" as he appears to be indeed the only scientist in the movie and in the entire nation (with one piddly exception). All smartyhead science decisions will be made by him and him alone, and the Military seems to snap to meet his every request. We're never told exactly what he's a specialist in, but all hints point to Marine Biology of some sort. Once he's called "Professor", so we can assume he's a Marine Biology Professor at some university.
The sample is a weird tadpole thingie that the fisherman caught in an area where he usually catches shrimp. It's unlike anything they have seen before. It's slick black, seemingly dead and looks like a plecostamus.
Ok, now The-Only-Scientist-In-Japan has a family here, a wife and a son. Mrs. Yano is played by Toshie Kimura, a totally non-descript middle-aged Japanese woman. She's attractive for her age and must have been a substantial hottie when younger. Throughout this film, the vast majority of her lines consist of variations of "Darling, come to bed now and stop tinkering with those lab samples." His son Ken Yano is played by 7-year old Hiroyuki Kawase. If he looks familiar, it's because he would soon play a similar role as Annoying Kid in Microshorts in 1973's Godzilla versus Megalon. We'll call him Kenny, and indeed he likes to wear microshorts and tight t-shirts. Did I really need to see that?
Kenny is a special kid. He's a borderline genius who always seems to have the right idea to suggest to solve some scientific puzzle his father is working on. He also has this weird psychic connection to Godzilla, he seems to be able to read Godzilla's mind, even project when and where he's going to appear. In this he foreshadows the psychic Miki Saegusa from the 1990's Heisei series, though he's content to observe rather than try and interfere with Godzilla's actions. Kenny also has a large collection of Godzilla toys, plus a great looking Ghidrah toy. Man, those must be worth some serious money on eBay now!
Along with the Yano family, we watch some newscasts of a strange new danger that has appeared. It seems that a "sea monster" of some sorts has been seen sinking an oil tanker in Suruga Bay by ramming it. It looks like there was a tanker that was in some trouble and a repair ship was on-site to assist the tanker. Some footage shows that the monster is a much, much larger version of the tadpole that was brought to them. Both ships are noted as being sunk by the beast. No mention is made of the certainly massive oil spill caused by this sinking. A dorky cartoon a bit later shows Hedorah drinking oil from a ripped-open tanker like it's a soda can. While this looks cool, it makes little sense. Petroleum in itself is not a pollution, and they later go to great lengths to tell us that Hedorah eats only pollution. If he indeed eats raw oil as well, then the rest of the world has much to worry about, pollution problem or not.
Intrigued by the monsters in the oceans off Japan, The-Only-Scientist-In-Japan decides to go down and take a looksee himself. Donning a scuba suit, he and Kenny go down to the water's edge. Dad tells his son that he'll be back in 30 minutes and to wait here.
So Kenny waits. After a bit, he spies a tadpole moving swiftly towards him in the water, clearly a much smaller version of the monster that was seen on TV sinking tankers but still larger than Kenny. Freaked, Kenny pulls his knife out and stands ready (freakin' brave kid!). The creature leaps out of the water (!!!) and flies (!!!) some distance over Kenny. Kenny falls back, bringing the knife up in the process. The blade slices along the underside of the tadpole as it flies over. Despite the size of the beast and the force of the flight, Kenny's arm barely recoils from the impact, which should have bowled him over at the least, or ripped his arm out of its socket. Instead, Kenny seems to have gotten a little contact burn on his hand from some liquid that came out of the cut.
The tadpole dives back in the water and now attacks The-Only-Scientist-In-Japan under the water. We don't see the actual attack, and for a bit we're worried that he's dead. Kenny stands forlornly on the shore, his watch reading several minutes past when his dad was supposed to return.
Kenny screams for his dad.
But return he does, though off-screen. Next we cut back to the professor's house where we see him convalescing. His head is bandaged heavily and we see his right eye is completely covered. He has been burned by acid excreted by the tadpole, leaving his skin gray and bubbly. We never learn if he beat off the attack, or how he escaped, only that he lived to tell the tale.
A small group of reporters are here and they ask him some relevant questions. The doctor, based on what so far are at least three different sizes of similar monster, claims that they "come in all sizes". A camera crew tries to take some video of him, but his wife begs that they not. The-Only-Scientist-In-Japan admonishes her, however, he wants the world to see just how dangerous this creature can be.
The-Only-Scientist-In-Japan and his family. By the way, his wife is hot. I know she's a bit older, but there is something about her that attracts me to her.
We also here first hear the name "Hedorah", and it's explicitly said that young Kenny first coined the name. The reporters here to interview his dad pick up on the name and apparently use it in all subsequent reports.
We next get some more television newscasts, moving us forward some days or so ahead. Apparently there have been other Hedorah attacks, and we see three separate still photos of sinking ships. One of these I recognize as a WWII photo of a ship being torpedoed by a German U-Boat. Photos of the monster are also shown, confirming its size and ferocity.
That night, we enter Kenny's dream as he sees Godzilla come to rescue the earth. In his dream, Godzilla emerges from out of a setting sun looking like Clint Eastwood in a Sergio Leone spaghetti western. He then torches a bunch of floating sludge with his Atomic Fire Breath setting it ablaze. Hmmm...since Godzilla's breath is radioactive, I don't see how he is really helping us much here. BTW, our first sight of our titular monster comes at 12:30 into the movie, a fairly fast entrance.
That same evening, The-Only-Scientist-In-Japan is conducting some experiment on the tadpole, consisting of numerous beakers and bottles of liquids of various consistencies. The tadpole by now has dried up into a fragile state that crumbles much like graphite. He runs some tests and is astonished to discover that, "This so-called fish is actually a mineral. It's the same as diamonds and other crystallized carbons."
He even grinds up the creature's eyeball. His end result is that the tadpole is a new species, one that feeds exclusively on pollution sludge. The more it eats, the larger it grows, and it seems to be able to break into numerous parts. Each of the parts can then grow independently, hydra-like, and even merge together to form a much larger creature. Since the amount of food (pollution) is unlimited, this creature could conceivably grow to Godzilla-size or larger without much trouble.
All this sets up the movie's Preachy Environmental Message. Japan, racing to become the world's economic superpower, was busy polluting the heck out of her waterways and cities. Now, before all we Americans start to get all smug, keep it mind that industrialized America in 1971 was just as bad, if not worse, than Japan. We polluted like mad, sludged waterways and dumped toxic waste everywhere, just like the Japanese. Plenty of American movies of the same era pointed this out, of course, but I haven't reviewed any of them yet.
We cut out now to a dance club down by the docks. All internal references place this scene in Fuji City, an industrial port city at the north end of Suruga Bay. In 1971, it had a population of around 100,000. The nightclub is a swinging psychedelic 1960s place, with lots of sparkling lights and quirky inkblot and watercolor images flashing on big screens behind the dance floor. It is packed with young people drinking, dancing, mingling and doing tons of recreational drugs. A hep cat band pounds out an early technopop tune for the kids.
Here we meet a young lady named Miki Fujiyama, played by 23-year old Keiko Mari. This was Mari's very first feature film acting role, and since then has mostly stayed on television series, including stints on such wonderfully named series as Star Wolf, Science Taskforce Dynaman, Solar Taskforce Sunvulcan and Dinosaur Taskforce Koseidon. Since 1982, she has also been a regular cast member of the Japanese version of Sesame Street. Where first we see her, she's gyrating atop a table wearing a skin-tight body suit painted with all sorts of crazy symbols. Her hair here is long and flowing and shaggy. She has a nice body, but the context of the scene and the poor lighting do not allow us to appreciate it that much. [Editor Pam: This may be on purpose, since this movie was intended to be for families. As it is, when I first saw her I thought she was naked under the paint.]
And then she begins to sing...The song is "Save the Earth" and it is an uncatchy 1960s hippy song about saving the planet from pollution. Thankfully, my DVD didn't subtitle the song, so I just listened to the actress sing it in Japanese. Keiko Mari apparently sang the song herself, as well as several others we hear throughout the movie, and her voice is quite good. Since she will prove to be a TERRIBLE actress, I can assume she got the role solely because she was a singer and was pretty.
At the table on which she's singing is a young man slowly self-medicating himself into oblivion. This is our "hero" Yukio Keuchi, who is apparently the cousin (maybe) of The-Only-Scientist-In-Japan, despite their disparate ages. What Yukio does for a living is never said, as we only see him slacking around boozing and partying.
Yukio is clearly strung out. He begins to hallucinate that everyone in the room has a fish for a head (!!!). Really. It's a surreal image and more than a bit funny.
While the party swings, we cut back outside where we get our first full look at our monster Hedorah as he comes ashore in the Fuji City docks. No one seems to react to this beast, even a call placed to the police elicits no response as the cop says that Hedorah is only a sea monster and couldn't be on land now. When we first see him here, Hedorah is a large, shambling biped with a lot of dangling protrusions. At every glance, he looks like a cross between Animal from The Muppet Show and Hoots the Owl from Sesame Street. His two eyes glow an unearthly magenta.
Neither are Hedorah.
A size comparison.
Hedorah finds a smoke stack pumping out thick black smoke and sticks his "mouth" on it, sucking up the smoke like it's a bong. The longer he sucks, the larger he grows, his skin visibly stretching outward. Soon, he is Godzilla-sized, as are all these types of monsters in these movies. His extended bong hit is interrupted by Godzilla's roar. The Big Green Guy is here!
Hedorah takes the initiative, leaping quite a distance to land on top of Godzilla and knock him down. As they roll around on the ground, Godzilla rams his hands all the way through Hedorah's body, showing that the monster is composed mostly of thick gooey sludge held together by some sort of membrane. Shaking Hedorah off, Godzilla grabs him by the tail and swings him around like a dude doing the hammer throw at the Olympics.
Back at the party, all is still swinging. Suddenly, down a staircase comes a slow but steady flow of sludge!!! Everyone freaks out and runs around frantically. Just as the sludge gets near the bottom of the stairs, it inexplicably recedes back up the stairs. It leaves behind a gooey trail and an apparently healthy, if dirty, kitten!!!! Later, much ado is made that Hedorah didn't kill the cat when it has no problem killing humans. This is supposed to tell us that evil polluting humans are BAD and harmless little cute kittens are GOOD.
Very cute, if icky.
Well that's cool, but kittens are also mammals and share human-type respiratory and circulatory systems. Therefore, you would think that the nasty caustic poisonous sludge that Hedorah is composed of would be fatal to the cat regardless of its environmental voting record. Unless, Hedorah can somehow alter the chemical make-up of its sludge at will, which is never hinted at. [Editor Pam: Possibly "cute" is a neutralizer of Hedorah's sludge.]
Anyway, Yukio and Miki run out to the parking lot to get away. I guess Yukio doesn't have a car because they get into Miki's red Mitsubishi sedan. From the car they see in the near distance Godzilla walking slowly along following the retreating Hedorah. Intrigued, they drive to get a closer look, eventually finding a spot along a road to stop and watch the coming battle.
This first battle between Hedorah and Godzilla is very slow and uneventful. Hedorah is a new enemy for Godzilla and he spends a lot of the fight just standing there staring at him, trying to figure out what he is. Following the initial attack rush by Hedorah, Godzilla is much more cautious and observant, seemingly feeling out his opponent before attacking. This is the first of many "human fighter" traits that Godzilla will show in this movie.
The fight is kinda lame, and pretty short. Hedorah shows the ability to spit toxic gooey spitballs (!!!), which burn and sizzle when one hits Godzilla's shoulder. Godzilla smacks him with two solid Atomic Fire hits and Hedorah then jumps back into the sea and disappears, leaving Godzilla to wade around in the shallow bay blasting the water at random. The battle is clearly a draw, with no lasting damage done on either side. Presumably, Godzilla also wanders back into the sea as we do not see him for a while yet.
A note on that battle. Other than Yukio and Miki, we see absolutely no other humans at all. Despite being told that this was a dockyard in a major city, everyone seems to stay indoors. We see no police, no firemen, no Military at all. It's as if the entire nation just decided, "You know, it's late, and I have to get up at 5 tomorrow, so let's just let the monsters fight it out and I'll read the paper later to get the details. Good night, dear."
So, the next morning, we see some news footage of the after effects of Hedorah's appearance. He leaves behind toxic sludge that poisons and kills everything it touches, and ejects a mist that is caustic and deadly. In an interesting bit, we learn that the fight between the monsters caused 35 deaths and 81 injuries, while 322 buildings were damaged or destroyed. This is a rare admission of the collateral damage we all know must happen when these monsters keep fighting in urban areas.
That same morning, The-Only-Scientist-In-Japan, his wife and Kenny load up in the back of Miki's car and head down to the docks where the battle took place. Miki now has much shorter hair than last night in the club, I guess she had a wig on for that scene. Apparently, the kids told the doctor about witnessing the fight and about some curious electrical discharges they saw when Godzilla Atomic Fire blasted Hedorah. Curious, The-Only-Scientist-In-Japan wanted to go check out the area for clues.
Our heroes check out the docks.
They find some burn scars where the monster was zapped. They also recover a collection of fragments, all apparently of the same weird crumbly metal that the Hedorah tadpole was made of. Since he's the only scientist in the country, it's no surprise that no other official has been here to look for clues to the monster's structure. Wow, he must be able to get any grant he wants.
The-Only-Scientist-In-Japan conducts some more experiments in his living room/laboratory. He proclaims that the monster is made up of a new mineral, previously unknown to science. He names it "hedrium" after the monster's name. Wonder where that is on the periodic table? And don't new elements like that have to pass many more tests by separate labs to be officially recognized as a new element? Man, The-Only-Scientist-In-Japan must be the only scientist in the world!
He further solves the riddle of the toxic mist that Hedorah emits. He says that the hedrium acts as a catalyst with other waste matter to create sulfur, and thus sulfuric acid that's emitted as mist.
This movie features several cartoon sequences, most unusual for a Godzilla movie.
Furthermore, The-Only-Scientist-In-Japan makes the intuitive leap that the original mineral is "not of this earth", and most likely came to earth long ago in a meteor from a "sticky, dark planet far, far away". Wow, that's a leap. And it's never really expanded upon. Did the meteor come in the distant past, or recently? If long ago, then the mineral has been lying dormant for a long time, perhaps until the level of pollution grew to such levels to activate it? And why couldn't it just be a product of some natural mutation caused by the pollution? Why peg it to an extraterrestrial origin? I would think the environmental message you are preaching here would be greater if you tell us that the monster was created directly from the pollution. The Godzilla movies of this era often played the alien invasion card, and this seems like a bit of pandering to that worn out plot device.
Now, the established thought is that Hedorah only appears on foggy nights, based solely on the fact that he has indeed only shown up under those conditions. Now we see that Hedorah has no fear of a sunny, clear day. We see Yukio, Miki and little Kenny at an amusement park in Fuji City. They're riding a roller coaster and from the top Kenny catches a brief glimpse of Godzilla in the distance. Sure this means that Hedorah is also near, Kenny runs off as soon as the ride ends. As a note, Miki is wearing a very short dress, and as she steps out of the car, she flashes us a whole lot of very sexy leg. And, no, I didn't slo-mo my DVD player to watch that six times...
Kenny runs to a phone booth and calls his father, telling him his fears that Hedorah is now operating during the day. His call is cut short as a massive explosion rattles the area. The phone lines go dead and Kenny runs off again. Mind you, he doesn't run back to find Yukio and Miki, he runs for his mother's school (oh, yeah, his mom is a school teacher).
Hedorah is indeed attacking the city now. This time, he has changed into a flying form that looks like a giant stingray. He can transform back to the biped form at will from here on, which is cool but pretty hard to explain. The mechanism for the flying form is dubious, there are no wings or any evident propulsion system, it just seems to glide along using anti-gravity. Now, this sucks. Up to now, Hedorah was holding on to a thin veneer of scientific plausibility. Sure, the biped version wasn't the greatest, but you could still go with the mutated sludge beast thing. But now, you have a flying mutated sludge beast, which just tips it over into the realm of the goofy, right along with Gigan, King Seesar and David Arquette.
And to the school we now cut. We see out in an open courtyard a group of young girls in matching white jumpsuits. They're being led in calisthenics by Mrs. Yano, dressed in a blue jumpsuit. Suddenly, a badly matted Hedorah flies over, leaving a trail of toxic mist in his wake. The girls all collapse choking. Mrs. Yano, most curiously, does not seem at all affected at first and is able to help the girls back up and herd them towards the buildings before showing any signs of the acid.
The massive explosion from before was the gas tanks at Japan Oil Company being blown up by Hedorah. This is done in classic Toho style, with miniature buildings bursting into flame with gusto. This is just about the only destructive model work in this entire movie.
Godzilla is here also, and the two monsters have a quick confrontation in the smoking ruins of the oil refinery. Godzilla is knocked down and Hedorah flies off, leaving Godzilla writhing in the toxic mist. Hedorah then zips low over the city, misting everything in his path. People die in droves and buildings collapse.
Kenny runs through the deserted streets, once stumbling upon a collection of melted human skeletons that freak him out. He makes it to his mom's school eventually, passing a corroded and rusted playground on the way. Now, I know they are wanting us to think that Hedorah's mist caused this, and that's fine. But since the school girls and Mrs. Yano also received the same level of mist dosage presumably, then they're all going to be sizzling corpses by now, right? But Kenny's mom looks just fine. Perhaps she took a quick shower?
Mom is really hot, seriously.
Hedorah and Godzilla apparently leave the city soon, because now we see they're gone. A newscaster tells us that the southwestern area of Fuji City is now in ruins, some 1,600 are dead and over 30,000 injured. Again, refreshing to see some numbers on the collateral damage caused by monster attacks. We also hear that Hedorah left a sulfuric acid residue that is between 2,000 and 2,600 parts per million in the area, affecting the rescue effort. [Editor Pam: Meaning the amount of sulfuric acid dispersed in something, in this case I suppose air, since the unit "ppm" makes no sense if it's just sulfuric acid coating the surfaces. 2000 ppm sulfuric acid is indeed a very high concentration. Exposure to about 4 ppm sulfuric acid is considered immediately dangerous to life and health, but this would be a steady concentration that you would get in an enclosed area. It would be diluted in the outside air, but I have no idea exactly how that high a concentration would be dispersed by air currents, not to mention what would happen when it comes into contact with the water in the air. But this explains why we can't just let Hedorah eat all the pollution he wants, he manufactures sulfuric acid when he does.] It's also nice to hear about some of the lasting effects of these monsters with their radioactive and poisonous weapons when they attack a city. Yes, the 1954 Godzilla showed us a bit of the radiation effects of Godzilla's attack on Tokyo, but that's about the only other instance.
Back at home now with the whole family safe. The-Only-Scientist-In-Japan concludes, from his bed no less, that this new flying Hedorah is propelled by his own internal nuclear reactor. How he came to this conclusion based on virtually nothing is a mystery. It also smacks of poor thinking on the screenwriters, a breed who often are too quick to assign nuclear powers to any and all monsters that come by. [Editor Pam: I'm wondering how sludge can possibly form an internal nuclear reactor. If there happened to be uranium in the sludge, and if the ratio of U-235 to U-238 was just right, and if there was enough water in the sludge to act as a neutron moderator, it might possibly happen. In the remote past, there have been natural reactors in uranium deposits when all these conditions were met. Of course, the soil in which the nuclear reactions were occurring couldn't walk, or fly, or emit sulfuric acid, as far as we know, and probably didn't have eyes, but let's not sweat the details.]
Via a television show, we next see that other smartyhead types are around after all. They think that Hedorah can be stopped by using pure oxygen, which might work because the monster is made up of nasty sludge and the opposite is pure, clean oxygen. Sounds like a winner, eh? [Editor Pam: If Hedorah is indeed powered by an internal nuclear reactor, I think he could be shut down by feeding him a material that absorbs neutrons. Hide some boron in an oil spill, and he should be dead sludge. This is all theoretical, of course, I've never deactivated a sludge monster in real life.]
He's not a real scientist!
Back home, The-Only-(True)-Scientist-In-Japan comes to the brilliant idea that since Hedorah is just garbage sludge, then maybe they can "dry him out" with electricity. Apparently, he says, they're doing this already in Hokkaido. So he sets up an experiment with the little Hedorah tadpole that he still has in a jar, placed between two electrodes hooked up to automotive batteries. Realized by the terrible effect of scratching on the film negative, we see that it actually works! The tadpole dries up and dies, turning back into the powdery inert metal.
So now the trick is duplicating the procedure on a much larger scale, and then getting Hedorah to stand between the electrodes so the electricity can fry him. The-Only-Scientist-In-Japan contacts the Self-Defense Forces and the ball is rolling. Apparently, the SDF take his word for it, because they don't call for any independent tests of their own before they agree to his plan. The-Only-Scientist-In-Japan must, indeed, be the only scientist in Japan.
We now get some more informative newscasts, a popular method of exposition in this movie. We learn that the entire Japanese Military, reserves included, has been called out to guard major cities. The government has ordered all factories to shut down and curtailed automobile travel. As well, "10 million people in Tokyo and Osaka and other large cities have been affected by the mist". Hmmm...does this mean that Hedorah has attacked other cities than Fuji City? We don't see these attacks, but this one line of dialogue implies that the monster is ranging up and down the island.
We cut now to the foothills of Mount Fuji, where we notice that this scene is strangely in black and white. We follow a gaggle of kids as they drive up in several cars and get out. There, bunched around several large bonfires and firepits, are about 100 kids. This started a few scenes back but I'll tell you now that this is a big outdoor party that Yukio organized to protest the pollution. Yukio is already here with his band. Who knew that Yukio was a musician? Figures, though.
The plan for the party.
Now, before you laugh at him, remember this was 1971 and a lot of people actually believed you could change the world with loud music and drugs (see Woodstock). The response to the rampaging monster of having a love-in was probably a very natural solution for that generation. It also tells us that Yukio and the rest of the kids his age have given up on saving the planet and now just want to party hard while it burns. Nice to see activism has its limits...
Yukio is not bummed out that far short of the million kids he planned on actually showed up. It an artsy bit, the scene flips from black-and-white to color the second he strums his guitar to begin the first song. And we see he has a full band set up out here in the woods. Electric guitars, basses and keyboards pound away as the kids begin to dance and party. Hmmm...where did all the electricity come from? Were they running it from their car batteries? I would think they would have to keep the engines running to not drain the batteries, which would defeat the whole Save The Earth From Pollution thing they were going for, eh? BTW, the keyboard says "Ace Tone" in English on the side and Yukio is wearing an Aran sweater.
Very strange. We get a three-second insert shot of a bunch of dirty-faced old people watching from the brush. Who are these men? Are they local villagers? Are they wood spirits? Whoever they are, they look disgusted at all this cavorting and caterwauling.
The strange old guys.
Hey, Miki and Kenny are also here (!!!). Why bring a second-grader out to a wild party where kids are sure to be drinking, shooting up and fornicating? Maybe Miki snuck him out of the house? Maybe Miki lied and told his parents they were going out to see The Incredibles and then to Burger King for a milkshake. And why would she want to bring him along anyway? Surely she's hoping to score with Yukio, and having a kid tagging along has to cramp your style. Ouch, watch Kenny try and dance with the sultry Miki, icky.
Perhaps offended by the tacky music, Hedorah now comes back. Flying in from Suruga Bay, the monster heads for Mount Fuji. It passes over The-Only-Scientist-In-Japan's house, the mist killing off his carnations and his tropical fish collection. A radio announcer tells us that it's now 5:40pm and Hedorah has now been measured at 60 meters long. The radio also tells us that the Self-Defense Forces along the coast have fired at Hedorah, but the bullets passed right through him without effect. We never get to see this action.
Hedorah, looking all badass.
Suddenly, Kenny gets the Shining and feels Godzilla's presence. This weird monster ESP is creeping me out. Why is Kenny blessed with this ability, wouldn't some backstory on that be helpful?
Ah ha, here comes Godzilla and Hedorah, as predicted. The two monsters square off at the base of the mountain, probably a hundred yards from the party goers. This monster fight will essentially last to the end of the movie, with only a few breaks, and cover a lot of ground.
Before the battle starts we cut away back to The-Only-Scientist-In-Japan's house, where he's dismayed to learn that Hedorah is back in action. He resolves to travel to where the Military is building the Electrodes (what I'm going to call the electric-drying-out-thingie that he has them building). His wife is opposed, but The-Only-Scientist-In-Japan is determined to be near the action in case he is needed. Note two things in this short scene. One is a photo of Kenny as a little baby (how cute!). The other is that the tropical fish tank, though clouded with black dye to simulate the effects of the acid mist, still clearly has live fish in it. Bad prop management.
Mom wants me, I know it.
Back at the battle, the two monsters have still not started slugging. In fact, they stare at each other for a full 2:20 of screen time (which seems much longer) before anything happens. Hedorah then starts spitting his toxic gooey spitballs at Godzilla. In one of the worst editing jobs in the entire Godzilla series, one spitball hits his RIGHT eye, sizzling and burning like the dickens as he slaps his hand over his face. The very next shot is of him pulling his hand away and now his LEFT eye is blocked out and sizzling. Seriously, that was so obviously a flub that I wonder if any post-production editing was even done.
Hedorah then converts back into the flying form and shows us a new power, some sort of crimson laser beam. This knocks Godzilla down in the dirt. Hedorah then flies low over a bunch of fleeing kids. They all fall down dead, except for two guys in left center who clearly only bend down to their knees. I guess they didn't want to get their pants dirty for the tiny amount of yen the producers were paying them to be extras.
Hedorah then lands and converts back to biped mode. The slime monster then notices the remaining party goers, probably attracted to the scent of LSD and Astroglide. As the monster slowly approaches, the kids start to panic. It's brave (or stoned) Yukio who declares that the monster is afraid of fire. This is totally without justification and either smacks of bravado or ignorance. Anyway, Yukio urges all the guys to grab burning sticks from the firepits and charge the monster. This they do, tossing their lit sticks with gusto at the huge monster. This is ridiculous, and we can't even get any sympathy up for these guys. This is not Faramir's noble charge in Return of the King, this is a bunch of dumbass stoners about to get killed.
The best three minutes in cinema.
Hedorah, of course, is not affected by fire. After getting pelted with firebrands for a bit, he gets pissed and starts machinegunning the charging guys with his Left-Eye Spitballs. Yukio is one of the first to go down, screaming in pain, covered in toxic spunk.
Just when it looks like he's going to finish off the kids (including Kenny and Miki), Godzilla reenters the combat. They stare each other down again, before Godzilla flicks a rock down the hill with his tail. Hedorah, distracted thusly, isn't able to counter Godzilla's quick rush. Godzilla charges in and puts his fist through Hedorah's left eye, evening the score. Hmmm...I see we have a whole "eye for an eye" thing going here. First the tadpole takes the professor's eye, then he grinds up its eye for the experiments. Then Hedorah puts out Godzilla's eye, so he then takes one of Hedorah's in return.
Hedorah the one-eyed.
For the rest of the movie, we occasionally cut back to reaction shots from Kenny and Miki as they watch the fight. In every single case, the blocking is the same: Kenny standing in awe, Miki holding him from behind with her arms around his shoulders, a look of dazed amazement on a grimy face.
The monsters do a little ju-jitsu before Hedorah zaps the ground in front of Godzilla with his laser beam. A raging grass fire is started and the thick smoke disorients Godzilla to where he is knocked down by a leaping Hedorah. The monster then changes to flying mode again and carries off Godzilla into the sky (!!!!!!!). In his flying mode, Hedorah has no hands or any visible means of carrying anything that heavy, so we have to assume some spooky power is at work here.
He carries Godzilla a bit then drops him in a gully. As Godzilla thrashes to escape, Hedorah goes back to biped mode and begins to pour toxic sludge from his body all over Godzilla, filling up the gully quickly with a bath of poisonous goo. Oh, things look bad for our hero!
Just then the Japanese Military arrives! FINALLY!!! I realize that the military in general in these movies is pretty hapless, but at least they try hard while being stomped and mangled. In this movie they have been totally unseen for the first full hour of the movie. And when they do come at last, they come soft.
We see two Japanese Army KV-107 twin-engined helicopters roar in. Each is carrying a large cylinder slung beneath the cabin. These are the pure oxygen bombs that were talked about in passing long ago, remember? The bombs explode near Hedorah, but they seem to have absolutely zero effect. Hmmm...how could they have been so wrong? Clearly, because they didn't ask The-Only-Scientist-In-Japan first! A little pissed, Hedorah shoots down one of the helicopters with his laser beam, showing some very good target skills.
KV-107 in flames.
Ok, let's reconnect with the Electrode plan. The-Only-Scientist-In-Japan has his wife drive him in the back of his little Mitsu Colt station wagon out to see where the Military has built the Electrodes. Hmmm, you'd think that The-Only-Scientist-In-Japan could afford a Mercedes or something, what with him being the sole scientific mind in the nation and all.
The site for the monster trap is out in the countryside near the rolling foothills of Mount Fuji in Sakaigawa. There they find a very angry General and about two squads of soldiers manning the control panel for the Electrodes set about 100 meters away.
The Military has built the two Electrodes a single kilometer apart, which seems awfully small for a monster as big as Hedorah. Perhaps that was the furthest distance apart that the electrical current would close, who knows? The two Electrodes are each a panel of metal sheets forty-meters high by sixty-meters wide and looking like shiny billboards. The 3 million volts (!!!) of power is routed from nearby high-tension lines from local power grids, darkening most of Chubu and Kanto.
The trick is now to lure Hedorah into the gap between the Electrodes. The Military will accomplish this by luring him with "artillery and helicopters". Once he is closer, they will use "blinking headlights and supersonic waves". Seriously. I did not make that last part up.
Now, close by, our two monsters are still engaged in furious hand-to-hand combat. In one great bit, Hedorah zaps out a laser beam that Godzilla blocks with his hand. The hit stings bad and Godzilla waves his hand around and then sticks it in his mouth to cool it down! Priceless. They then both grapple and roll into a power transmission line.
With the line down, the power to the Electrodes dies. The General frantically sends out Unit One, which is four soldiers in a cable truck, to repair the lines. Unfortunately for them, Hedorah squashes them flat as he tussles with Godzilla.
Godzilla fights in the darkness.
So, Godzilla gets tossed aside and is down for a bit. Hedorah is now conveniently just a few dozen meters from the Electrodes. Without power still, the soldiers still try and flash their headlights to draw him in, hoping that the power will be restored quickly. Three trucks start flashing their lights in rhythm. Meanwhile, another unit of soldiers is working frantically to turn on the power, but it looks like it might take them too long.
Seemingly attracted to shiny bright lights, Hedorah does indeed wander towards the trucks. Suddenly, another KV-107 helicopter comes in to attack. The mad General yells, "Stupid bastards!" as the helicopter drops its oxygen bomb ineffectually at Hedorah's feet. The monster then laser beams the chopper and it explodes. Hmmm...they reused the same footage of the helicopter exploding from just a few scenes ago. Cheap bastards!
The flaming wreckage of the helicopter falls between Hedorah and the flashing trucks. Then it completely disappears. Really, you never see the flaming wreckage again, even when Hedorah walks through this very spot in just a few minutes.
Hedorah is now between the Electrodes, but the hapless humans still don't have power to them. It looks like the smog monster is going to get away. But then Godzilla appears from behind, having finally caught up to the battle. He blasts one of the Electrodes with an Atomic Fire breath, which by some property of electrical science unknown to mankind, causes the Electrodes to charge up and work as they were intended. Now, it sure looks like Godzilla knew what the Electrodes were for and knew how to charge them up with his breath. How did he know this? And why didn't his normally ultra-destructive Fire breath cause such an electric reaction when it usually obliterates things? Can Godzilla alter the thermodynamic and chemical properties of his Atomic Fire breath at will? Is that possible?
The sparky electrical stuff between the Electrodes.
Well, regardless of the dicey physics behind it, the plan works. Hedorah is down and smoking badly now, the Electrodes zapping him with bolts of scratchy energy. Godzilla reaches down and jams his hands into the corpse, fishing around for something. He yanks out these two round balls of something and holds them in his hands. What these are is a mystery, but we are led to believe that they are something important as Godzilla stokes up the Electrodes again to disintegrate the two balls in his hands.
He's got his balls...
Hmmm...apparently those balls were not so important after all. We now see Hedorah regain enough strength to convert back into flying form and take off. Why go to all the effort to show the ball thing if it didn't seem to have that much effect on the monster?
With Hedorah flying away, Godzilla has to do something drastic. This is where the fun ends. For some reason, the director thought he needed a comedy scene to lighten up what he felt was a dark movie. So he has Godzilla use his Atomic Fire Breath to propel himself backwards into the air (!!!). Yes, it looks as insultingly stupid on film as it sounds to read. Twenty pages of discussion about thrust to weight ratios and aerodynamics would be pointless because it just is so silly to see. Thus airborne, Godzilla gives pursuit to the escaping Hedorah. Catching up to him, he pounces on the monster. Latching hold, Godzilla turns around and flies the two of them back to the Electrodes.
So, now back between the Electrodes again, this time Godzilla is not going to make the same mistake. After giving a frustrated head shake to the worthless humans, who still haven't gotten the power on, he charges up the Electrodes himself with his Atomic Breath again and holds Hedorah until he sizzles. He then starts tearing Hedorah's smoking corpse into little pieces and scattering them around the area. He then cooks off the Electrodes one last time, the current drying out the pieces totally. With this final roasting, the sludge monster Hedorah is dead!
Godzilla roars triumph to the skies. He then turns to the assembly of humans and gives a glower. The humans flinch and take a collective step backwards, afraid that Godzilla is now coming for them. Godzilla gives them a rueful look that seems to say, "If I have to come back here and do this again, I will seriously bust you all up!" The monster then turns away, and heads off for the sea, his mission accomplished.
Kenny runs up and yells, "Godzilla!" to the retiring monster, looking like the little kid at the end of Shane yelling "Shane!". Don't worry Kenny, Godzilla still loves you.
The ending is another horrid song sung over Godzilla ambling along in the orange light of the rising sun. Then we get an insert shot of Hokunsai's classic painting of Mount Fuji and then a card that reads, "And yet another one?". This is a reference to a planned Hedorah sequel that the director Banno wanted to make before he was sacked by Toho Studios. God help us if he ever did make another movie.
I wish I had a print of this.
And that's the end, folks.
[Editor Pam: This wouldn't have been too bad a movie if the music had been better and the monster fighting less sluggish. I'm not surprised the director was fired. Watch this movie if you like to see mod clothing styles and hear bad 1960s music, but if you want to see monsters fighting, there are better movies out there.]
Written in April 2005 by Nathan Decker and edited by Pam Burda and Darci Sharver.
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