Project G-Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971)

Alternative Title: The one that was made on drugs, probably

Ask Godzilla fans what they think about Godzilla vs. Hedorah and you’ll get reactions ranging from “eh, it’s OK” to “OMG this is the worst!”  One thing they’ll all agree on though, is that this film is balls to the wall, pants on head, writers with cocaine and a dartboard WEIRD.  This movie runs like a fever dream.  Full of things that you never expected, never thought you’d see, and after you saw them, you’ll wonder why the hell they showed it to you in the first place.  

So this one follows up on Son of Godzilla, being a low budget, quick turnaround, child-oriented take on Godzilla, which is frankly where the series is going for the next while, so buckle in.  Had a new director, Yoshimitsu Banno for this one.  He got fired from the series after this.  Longtime series producer Tomoyuki Tanaka absolutely hated this film.  But Banno did come back to help out with the 2014 American Godzilla.  So… that I guess.  Anyways, this wasn’t a film that was set up to succeed, and then had some really weird and questionable decisions upon release, was reviewed horribly upon release, and had significant ramifications for that.

But, at the same time, there are some interesting things it does.  It’s limited budget was used with purpose, Hedorah is legitimately threatening, and it has some neat parallels to some of the better Godzilla films, so it has some layers to it.

Also, Banno started this film with an ENVIRONMENTAL message in mind, inspired by seeing heavy pollution in the rivers and smog in cities.  So there is an absolutely heavy ENVIRONMENTAL moral to this story.  That being that the ENVIRONMENT IS GOOD and POLLUTION IS BAD.  It will hit you over and over again with all the grace of a jackhammer.  So, keep that in mind as you’re reading this.  To be fair, this was made at a point where ENVIRONMENTAL conditions in Japan were absolutely horrible, and it got better in the years following this film, so maybe it was super called for and Godzilla vs. Hedorah is exactly what Japan needed to make a comeback.  But in any case, there are few morals that will be slammed into your brain harder than this.  It will crash and splatter everywhere.  Kind of messy, in all.  If there’s ever a point while you’re reading this that you’re thinking something other than how absolutely terrible it is that there’s POLLUTION in the ENVIRONMENT, you need to adjust your expectations and start over again.  It doesn’t matter that nothing else in the film makes sense.  ENVIRONMENT!!!

Ok, starting off, take a look at that date at the top there.  It’s the 70s now!  And this film immediately jumps in to remind you of that.  It opens up with some long shots of POLLUTION in water, then jumps into a James Bond-esque opening title sequence with a whole bunch of psychedilic imagery interspersed with shots of more waterborne POLLUTION and bits of one of our main characters singing about all the things that POLLUTE and how much she wants the ENVIRONMENT to be good.  

Then we go to a yard where OK Kid is playing.  As far as child characters in media go, he’s not bad, so no negative designation for him, but I still can’t bring myself to praise him, so just OK Kid.  OK Kid has a psychic connection with Godzilla for absolutely no reason and he never does anything useful with it and nobody cares.  Anyways, OK Kid is playing with a bunch of monster toys.  His uncle, Dumbass Hippie, comes up and talks with him about how Godzilla is his favorite monster.  Also, you remember how King Ghidorah ruined so many people’s lives a while back?  Apparently the experience where everyone had to fear for their lives and all were nearly destroyed was so shocking and traumatic that they decided to make action figures of him.  Anyways, OK Kid’s dad is a marine biologist that goes by the name of… no way.  Seriously?  His name is Toru Yano?

Aw man, I’m going to make a whole bunch of jokes here nobody else but me is going to get, aren’t I?

So a fisherman stops by and drops off this weird giant tadpole he’d never seen before.  Toru Yano takes the opportunity to shill his DVDs and t-shirts can’t identify it either, so takes the location he got it at so he can do his science stuff there and figure out what the tadpole is.  The family watches the news later, which has some footage of a strange creature destroying tanker ships at sea.  OK Kid points out that the creature looks a lot like the tadpole they got earlier.  The next morning, Toru Yano and OK Kid head to the lake the fisherman indicated.  Toru Yano gives OK Kid a giant knife and leaves him up to his own devices as he dives underwater.  OK Kid busies himself by using said knife on all the tiny critters scatter around the rocks, because that’s a normal thing to do and not a serial killer in the making thing or anything.  Toru Yano finds the lake filled with LITTER and POLLUTION, and then all of a sudden he gets attacked by a giant mass of sludge with vagina eyes.  Like, literally, director stated the monster’s eyes are supposed to be reminiscent of vaginas.  So, you know, that’s the caliber of what we’re working with here.  Toru Yano tears the pad off the turnbuckle and hits him with it tries to hide, but to no avail as the monster’s muck flows over him.  Vageyena beast then leaps from the water, and sails over OK Kid for no reason.  OK Kid figures he’s had his fill of stabbing tiny crabs, and stabs the sludge monster.  His knife just slides through the sludge, and the kid gets chemical burns on his hands for his troubles.

So Toru Yano got half his face melted off in the attack, but he and OK Kid made it back home, where a news crew is there to interview the bedridden doctor about the monster they encountered.  OK Kid decides that the monster is named Hedorah, and everyone decides to just run with it.  Toru Yano’s wife is like “No, don’t take pictures of my husband’s ugly meltyface” but Toru Yano is like, “no, it’s all cool.  Let me show off these t-shirts.

Then, we shift genres completely, and watch a cel-shaded cartoon for a while.  In it, a cute version of the monster we just saw breaks tanker ships apart and drinks the contents.  Then it’s over, and nobody will ever speak of it again.

OK Kid has this dream where he’s reciting an extended poem or something while Godzilla gets really PISSED OFF about POLLUTION.  Toru Yano wanders back to his lab, and finds that the Hedorah tadpole he has had dried out, and starts to crumble in his hands.  He does his science stuff and starts investigating.  He drops a bit of it in clean water, and it starts dissolving.  In POLLUTED water, the bit he drops in forms into a tiny new Hedorah tadpole.  When two such tiny tadpoles get together, they combine into a larger tadpole.  With this, Toru Yano determines Hedorah is not biological at all and is entirely constructed of minerals, and any part that breaks off of him becomes an autonomous entity itself.  

Dumbass Hippie is hanging out at a nightclub where his girlfriend, Mickey, is performing the same song her actress was singing in the intro.  He dropped some acid that’s just now hitting, or something, because he starts hallucinating that everyone in the club is dancing in freaky fish masks.  Then it stops.  Nobody ever mentions this again.  Hey!  You know how in Pokemon, when you hit level 16 or something your mon evolves into a new form?  Well, Hedorah’s been grinding.  And now, the sludge monster is feeling froggy.  So he gets onto land now, climbs up a factory, and starts sucking in the POLLUTION from its smokestacks.  But Godzilla is so super pissed about POLLUTION, so he comes to kick Hedorah’s ass.  Godzilla and Hedorah talk smack with each other a bit, and Hedorah spits burning sludge into Godzilla’s face, burning his eye and snout and leaving scar tissue there for the rest of the film.  Godzilla grabs Hedorah by the tail, and starts giving him the old giant swing.  Hedorah just randomly spits sludge and murders four businessmen.  Nobody will ever speak of this again.  Then Godzilla flings him into the nightclub Mickey and Dumbass Hippie are hanging at.  Hedorah gets up, leaving a sludge covered kitten behind.  Dumbass Hippie and Mickey get into their car, seemingly to try to escape, but then Dumbass Hippie is like “Hey, let’s go watch the fight!” so in absence of all good sense and self-preservation, they go chase after the kaiju.  Godzilla blasts Hedorah with his atomic breath, which in an unusual reaction makes Hedorah spark violently.  Then Hedorah just buggers off.  Godzilla chases after.

And then we get another cartoon of an animated factory gobbling up a whole bunch of trees and growing, because ENVIRONMENT!!!!  Then Hedorah comes and eats the factory.  Nobody will ever speak of this again.  

Dumbass Hippie leads Toru Yano back to where Hedorah was sparking, and Toru Yano starts collecting some of the ash.  OK Kid copies one of the taunts Godzilla was doing during the ‘yo mama’ part of the fight, which makes him look like a total nerd.  Toru Yano studies the ash and determines that Hedorah is made of a mineral that does not exist on earth, and therefore he must be an alien!  Also he eats POLLUTION.  Mickey suggests that if he eats POLLUTION, maybe everyone should just leave him be.  Toru Yano replies that that solution is dumb as hell.  And he’s right.  

Mickey and Dumbass Hippie take OK Kid to a theme park where OK Kid is just not having a good time at all.  While being super bored riding a coaster, OK Kid spots Godzilla lurking around the skyline, which you’d think would really create more of an uproar than it did.  So they get off the coaster, and OK Kid goes to call his dad, who tells him to go find his mother because apparently he doesn’t trust Dumbass Hippie to take care of him.  But then the phone booth explodes.  OK Kid is fine, though.

Dumbass Hippie and Mickey immediately prove Toru Yano right, as they apparently just ditched OK Kid to hop in the car and drive off by themselves.  But then there’s a road block.  And HEDORAH has reached level 36!  What? HEDORAH is evolving!  HEDORAH has evolved into WEIRD UFO FORM!  He’s type poison/flying now.  And he’s there, in the street.  Mickey and Dumbass Hippie have to bail and leave their vehicle behind, and just barely get out as he starts eating cars.  Then he flies off again, and goes over the school that OK Kid’s mom works at, and everyone dies, except for OK Mom, for some unexplained reason.  Then, we get a mosaic of screens of people arguing and babies crying and death’s head laughing and all that.  Nobody will ever speak of this again.  Then a news report reviews that Hedorah’s UFO form expels vaporized chloric acid as he flies, and he’s already filled a bunch of cities with it.  Tens of thousands of people are dead.  Which I think is the highest body count of any Godzilla kaiju… ever.  

Toru Yano and OK Kid are talking about the issue.  OK Kid wishes they could just dry Hedorah out.  Toru Yano grabs him by the hair and won’t let go until the referee jumps onto his arm is reminded how some agricultural regions use electrodes to dry up rice fields, and sets up a small scale test on one of their Hedorah tadpoles.  It totally works, too.  So Toru Yano’s all like “Get me the military.  And tell them to buy my DVDs.

So Dumbass Hippie, with Hedorah just strait murdering the world, decides to throw a party on top of Mt. Fuji.  Which, I guess, you do you.  Anyways, a bunch of hippies show up there, and also Mickey and OK Kid.  They’re bummed at first, because there’s only a bunch of hippies there and not like, some normies that they were hoping to get or something, but then they decide to just start partying.  So they light a bonfire, kick up the music, and begin dancing.  With the random cutaway to a bunch of grumpy old people hiding and staring at them.  That part is never explained.  And nobody will ever speak of this again.  

Hedorah notices all the hippies partying on Mt. Fuji, and decides that he can’t have any of that, so he shows up to ruin the party.  But then Godzilla sends OK Kid a psychic message that he’s coming, but you have to wonder why he bothered, because he’s already there.  And then Godzilla and Hedorah square off.  Godzilla blasts his atomic breath at Hedorah, but Hedorah dodges and knocks Godzilla down with some weird eye beam.  And wouldn’t you know it?  Hedorah has a Mega Stone, and transforms once again from his weird UFO form to his strongest, a humanoid muck monster.  At this stage, he can transform from muck monster to UFO freely.  They tussle, Godzilla’s knocked down again with more eye lasers, then Hedorah turns to the hippies.  Dumbass Hippie shouts out that Hedorah’s afraid of fire for some reason, then leads all the hippies in picking up their torches and charging Hedorah.  Fact: Hedorah is not afraid of fire.  Also fact: Dumbass Hippie is a dumbass.  Most of the hippies get killed.  Including Dumbass Hippie.  Nobody, not even his girlfriend, will mention him again or show any distress at his death for the rest of the movie.  

Godzilla is up again now, and plays a little bit of rope-a-dope, distracting Hedorah with a rock then punching him in the vagina when he turns around.  I mean eye.  It’s hard to tell the difference here.  Anyways, this may not be the best idea, because yes, Hedorah is blinded in one vagina, but Hedorah’s sludgy body burned the flesh from Godzilla’s hand when he punched into it.  Then Hedorah spits sludge into Godzilla’s eye, and burns that away too, so they’re even.  Hedorah knocks Godzilla down again with his weird eye beam, then transforms into his flying form, picks Godzilla up, and then flies him around and dumps him in a pit.  And then Hedorah transforms back into his humanoid form and, like, poops on him?  Hedorah squats down, and begins filling the pit with liquid sludge that flows out from between his legs.  And it’s not even the sludge he normally uses as a weapon.  This doesn’t seem to burn Godzilla at all.  Like, he’s trying to drown Godzilla in pollution diarrhea.  

Anyways, the JSDF discovered that Godzilla and Hedorah where fighting at Mt. Fuji, and set up some giant electrodes there, following Toru Yano’s advice.  Toru Yano insists on coming so he can distract the referee and punch Hedorah in the junk watch to see if his idea works, in person.  Godzilla gets out of the poop pit and tackles Hedorah, and they roll down Mt. Fuji, knocking down one of the electrical towers powering those electrodes.  Hedorah comes out on top, and the JSDF flash their headlights to distract him and draw him into the electrodes while they work to repair the power lines.  The JSDF bomb Hedorah to try and slow him down and buy time for repairs, but Hedorah has eye beams, so that doesn’t work that well.  When he gets in between the electrodes, the JSDF switch them on, and it seems to work at first, but then they decide that “Hey, if 100% of capacity works so well, 110% will work even better!”  Just FYI, this doesn’t work in the real world, in most applications.  And it doesn’t work here, either, as they burn it out.  But then Godzilla, apparently understanding how advanced electrical technology works, blasts an electrode with his atomic breath, charging it and sending electricity coursing over Hedorah.  Hedorah dries out, and falls to the ground.  

Godzilla inspects the Hedorah corpse for a bit, before turning around and leaving.  But then the Hedorah UFO bursts out of the corpse and starts flying away.  So Godzilla, in a scene so dumb I can’t believe anyone decided to actually put this on film, gets in the fetal position, begins breathing his atomic breath, and uses that to propel himself backwards, flying through the sky like a weird shrimp.  Weird shrimp Godzilla and weird UFO Hedorah race for a bit, before Godzilla catches up and rams him.  Then Godzilla drags Hedorah back to the electrodes, and charges them again, drying out that form of him.  Then he punches both hands into Hedorah, presumably burning them again, and rips out two balls of I-don’t-know.  Eyes?  Eggs?  Testicles?  There has never been any clarification.  Anyways, Godzilla fires the electrodes again, and dries those out, too.  Then he goes to Hedorah’s corpse, and absolutely rips it apart.  Tears it into bits and pieces, and spreads those all over the ground.  Then he fires the electrodes again, and dries all those out.  Again, Godzilla has advanced scientific knowledge, and knows that any bit of Hedorah has its own sentience, even though we’ve never seen him exposed to anything that would lead him to that conclusion, and also he’s a giant monster and not a scientist turned pro wrestler with a loose adherence to the rules.  Then Godzilla starts walking away, and everybody’s happy because the day is saved, and nobody takes a moment to think that their brother/uncle/boyfriend was just horribly killed and maybe they should mourn him for a bit.

The end.  Except it actually ends on the note that there’s still POLLUTION in the world, and therefore Hedorah might return, and Godzilla is super disappointed with every single one of us because we don’t take care of the ENVIRONMENT.

Right.  So, as I’ve been saying, there’s an awful lot of WTH moments going on.  The random-ass cartoon sections.  The pointless psychic connections.  The fishface hallucinations.  The vageyenas.  OK Kid’s Uncle straight ditching him with no explanation.  Pooping Hedorah.  Flying fetus Godzilla.  There’s a lot of stupid going all over, and it leaves you wondering what the heck they were thinking including all this in there.  It’s like a movie that runs by stream of consciousness, throwing in whatever the creators happened to be thinking at the moment, and somehow only coincidentally winds up at the resolution.  It reminds me a lot of a fever dream, and maintains that level of coherence throughout, mostly.  Aside from the few times when it’s talking about the ENVIRONMENT and how bad POLLUTION is.  Which, again, it tries to hit you over the head with a sledgehammer on that point.  Now, I wasn’t there, during the 70s in Japan, so I don’t know how truly bad it was, and this is a kid’s movie, so it would need to keep things simple, but its ENVIRONMENTAL MESSAGE is much more about emotion than it is about, you know, explanation or progress or anything, and it waxes a bit hollow from the modern age.  But, then again, history says things did improve after the release of this movie.  So I don’t know.  Maybe Godzilla vs. Hedorah will end climate change or something.

One good thing I will say about this film is that its special effects are generally on point, and you can’t tell its a low-budget movie.  Director Banno must have been a master at massaging spreadsheets, because it looks like everything was spent right where it needed to go.  You have at least two seperate props and two suits for Hedorah, and all of them look pretty good.  They’d stand up against most other monsters of this age in the series.  And both Godzilla and the final Hedorah take progressive battle damage, scarring and altering both of the suits they wore.  The one scene with the two beasts fighting in a miniature city isn’t as detailed as other uses of miniatures in the Godzilla series, but it hides it really well, and its use here feels really natural.  There’s a few missteps of course, Hedorah’s eye lasers and transformation between humanoid and UFO form look really cartoony, and dated even for a film from the 70s.  The series previously used similar effects to both of those with King Ghidorah, and it looked much better then.  The UFO form also is really stiff and lifeless, having no moving parts.  And the cartoons look really bad for the time too.  Which also begs the question of why are they even in there?

The plot, of course, even by Godzilla standards doesn’t make sense.  So many people do things without any clear knowledge or motivation, and know things without really knowing them.  OK Kid’s psychic link with Godzilla?  Godzilla knowing how to operate the giant electrodes, and that any living part of Hedorah will have sentience?  Dumbass Hippie and just about anything involving him?  Everyone completely forgetting about Dumbass Hippie immediately after they watched him die?  OK Mom apparently being completely immune to chloric acid?  None of it makes sense.  And so much is not explained.  The main thread; Hedorah is bad but keeps growing because or pollution, here’s a technique that will kill him, let’s help Godzilla do that; it’s got enough to take you from A to B, but anything outside of that direct line just doesn’t fit all together.  That said, it doesn’t fit all together in a fun kind of dumb way.  The type that’s easy to laugh at.  And honestly, I think your ability to enjoy this film depends on your ability to laugh at dumb stuff.  

This is my daughter’s favorite Godzilla movie, so I think I’ve watched it more than any other.  At first, I didn’t like it that much.  Wasn’t the worst, by any means, but it wasn’t my favorite option either.  Other movies did fun dumb better, most of them were more coherent, and a lot of them had better Kaiju action.  Over time, though, I’ve grown more fond of this one.  It’s a bad movie, to be sure.  Ohhh, man, is it a bad movie.  It’s the good kind of bad, though.  And it tries a lot of interesting things.  Most of it doesn’t land right, but its monsters are great.  Hedorah is terrifying if you put some thought to it.  Most of the other monsters will straight destroy, whereas he will gas entire cities to death.  And like I said, he has probably the highest body count in series history.  It was probably time to switch Godzilla’s messaging, too, as the nuclear threat wasn’t as omnipresent as it once was, and although the film is very, very,very,very heavyhanded with it, environmental consciousness is something of a natural fit for that to move into.  The film is random and often in a way where the central idea behind it’s random moments was something that was never going to work in the first place.  It’s really not a well executed film, and so much of it is so overwhelmingly stupid.  But it has a certain dumb charm to it, too.  In the same way that the charming awfulness of The Room has been fascinating people for years now.  So too, goes Godzilla vs. Hedorah.

Previous: All Monsters Attack

4 responses to “Project G-Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971)

  1. Well, it was the early 1970s, so your drugs supposition may not be off the mark.

    A character named Toru Yano would be appropriate. The series has always had a wrestling feel to it, so I’d say him appearing in this film takes things to their logical conclusion. Kinda impressive how he managed to appear in this film seven years before he was born.

    And I totally recognize Hedorah as one of the monsters I fought in Godzilla: Monster of Monsters. Otherwise, yeah, most of what I’ve heard about this film is that it’s pretty middle-of-the-road. It probably seems like a masterpiece compared to All Monsters Attack, but then again, so does The Room.

    • Yeah, it actually is rather appropriate. Haruo Nakajima, the actor in the Godzilla suit, took a lot of inspiration from pro-wrestling starting with King Kong vs. Godzilla, adopting moves and the style of physical expression using grand gestures. It’s a rather natural fit. And yeah, if the wrestler Yano was alive at all when this film was made, I’d be sure there’d be some connection there, but it seems to be just a coincidence. Unless real life Yano’s parents were big Godzilla fans…

      Ah, he made it into that game? At least he got at least that one. Most of the amalgam casts I’ve seen in games will skip right over him. Which, I can kind of understand, as he’s not in the best movie, but he’s at least a cooler monsters than some of the other mainstays.

  2. The first time I watched this movie I was so overwhealmed by how silly it is and how it goes from bizsare cartoons to Hedorah comiting the worst teagedy against humanity in the franchise. I just sat there at the end like “what”. But much like you I kind of grew to like it in a “so bad it’s good kind of way”. Sure nothing plot-wise in the movie works, but there’s some kick ass mknster action if you want a dumb flick.

    I liked your style of review too, particularly fond the line “OK kid Has a psychic connection to Godzilla for absolutely no reason and he never does anything useful with it and no one cares.”

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