Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971) – Yoshimitsu Banno

The next film in the Godzilla series is probably the most psychedelic entry to date, and even features brief animated sequences. It also has a pretty important environmental message.

The newest threat for Godzilla, and humanity, to confront is an ever-evolving, and shape-shifting creature from outer space, christened Hedorah, by young Godzilla fan (who he apparently shares a telepathic link with) Ken (Hiroyuki Kawase). It seems Hedorah is a mineral based life form that lives on the pollution we have filled our planet with – good deal for us right, it’ll clean up the planet?

Nope, in return it emits toxic fumes, sprays sludge that disintegrates, painfully, anyone caught in its grossness, and threatens the entire planet with its existence. So it’ll be up to the big guy, and maybe us silly humans, who honestly, need to take responsibility for the way we’re treating the world, to face off against this toxic creature.

Featuring some horrific deaths, probably the most disconcerting since the first film (and the highest body count we’ve seen on screen since the first film, I’m sure), this one attempts to walk a fine balance, recognizing that children have become a huge fanbase of the series they have to keep the younger viewers hooked, while delivering the effects, and moments that older fans have come to expect.

I love that little Ken has toys of Godzilla and King Ghidorah, even in his own universe Godzilla is a marketing juggernaut. As Ken’s father, Dr Toru Yano (Akira Yamanouchi) works on discovering the true nature of Hedorah, his rocker uncle Yukio (Toshio Shiba) and his girlfriend, Miki (Keiko Mari) work on throwing a big party before Hedorah shows up at Mount Fuji for a final confrontation.

The rockers provide some of the more psychedelic sides of the story, including a strange vision that Yukio has during Miki’s big musical number, and then when Godzilla shows up to fight Hedorah, after getting his butt kicked a couple of times by the pollution monster (raise those stakes!!), he pulls out a new trick… he uses his electrified flame breath to fly backwards through the air in pursuit of the saucer form of Hedorah! WHAT?!?

Yano figures out a way to stop Hedorah, though, in the end, they’ll need Godzilla’s help to do it, and the big guy is going to, but he’s not entirely happy with the way humanity has been treating the planet, though, as mentioned, he’s quite happy to warn kids he’s on his way to get them to clear out of the area.

This one’s an odd mix, but it was a herlluva lot of fun to watch. Hedorah is a cool creation, the animated bits work better than I thought they would, and Godzilla is always fun to watch when he goes kaiju to kaiju!

Next time, it’s Godzilla vs. Gigan!


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