There have been two deaths regarding the Godzilla franchise this year. One being Yoshimitsu Banno the director of this movie and the other being famous suit actor, Haruo Nakajima, a man who played Godzilla for the first twelve movies in the franchise. As for my history with these men’s work, Godzilla vs Hedorah was always the film I would rent the most at my video store. I remembering watching it at home and even on a portable DVD player when I was my grandmother’s house. I took many opportunities to watch this film. Then still to this day, I watch the film and is one of my personal favorites of the franchise. Godzilla VS Hedorah (or Smog Monster) has a bad reputation with fans because of what transpired. What happened was that Banno got full control through a series of misfortunes. Now Banno would have been director regardless, but Ishiro Honda would have been looking over like he has done before if it was not for some hospital visits. When the film was released, it got some interesting reviews… Either way it led to Honda telling Banno that he would never direct a Godzilla movie, ever again, ouch.
With that said to this day people like to call this one of the worst Godzilla movies because of Honda’s opinion. Now I will admit there are flaws in this movie and people not liking it, is quite understandable. Personally, I think the Godzilla franchise has done worst before and after this movie. I will admit the biggest flaw right here and right now though. There is an odd clash of what is happening in this movie. We got a monster made out of pollution so an obvious go green message is attached to this film. At the same time this is a giant monster flick and even psychedelic movie. Nature, monsters, and rebellious youth drinking and partying like no tomorrow. I can easily admit that this clash easily brings a bizarre series of things, but I love the chaos that is presented. I just love to pick at this film since there are so many scenes to work on here. Not only that, but there is some great things presented in the film as well.
By the way this poster is amazing!
For how much people like to off this movie there is one notable aspect of this movie that people love to talk about. It is the final scene where Godzilla makes himself fly by pointing his atomic breath downwards. To me there are many chaotic moments that just work because of what has been established already in this film. We had a scene at a bar where a man is just seeing fish heads on everyone and even Hedorah himself is a far stranger creature than your usual monster fare in Godzilla. Other things that accompany this strange movie is a great soundtrack that people love to mention surprisingly, mostly the song where Godzilla is flying. The track I loved the most is the opening track, Return! The Sun. It a surprising song that sounds great upbeat, but when hearing “God is dead” that really takes an interesting turn for this film. It really works well with the youths of the film.
Reminding me of what else is dead, tons of characters get killed in this film. This is not the first time death was in Godzilla for the citizens, but around this time Godzilla kept this child friendly attitude. With that there was no death on-screen for some films or they did a more simplifed matter of it. In this film, people are turning into skeletons, falling off of buildings, and even drowining in Hedorah’s pollution. Even many of the rebellious youth get killed off and originally they were expecting their deaths too. This film has a surprisingly dark attitude and yet again as I established can have its loopy moments. To me though it did not feel out-of-place. This is a film that got me to understand that death is scary, but people got to cope in any way they can. This leads to some humor and this stayed true to me since many things I love today has death presented in different fashions. The most notable one has to be No More Heroes (yes I mentioned No More Heroes again).
So with what I have said, I easily love Banno’s uncontrolled style with this film. It had a strange premise and so I feel like the overall strange factor just fits. Now on top of all this, Godzilla himself was a blast. Now again this was still that kid favorite Godzilla, so he got his poses and is treated more like a hero. Now while this is completely different from the original Godzilla, I still love the 70’s era Godzilla. Most of it has to because of the suit acting which I know Nakajima did not do all of that, but he did set a standard of what others had to follow-up on in that era. Godzilla really sways his body around and seems to act over-confident. Then later on I can easily tell that Godzilla is getting a hang of things and even learning. I love the use of body language since I can tell all of this without any dialogue being presented. That is probably what Nakajima did the best that other suit actors followed, he knew how to use that body language to move scenes.
On top of all of this, Hedorah is still my overall favorite monster in the series. How Hedorah was presented was amazing to me. The scary thing is that Hedorah is still considered to be one of the strongest foes to Godzilla, regardless of what Final Wars did. Hedorah even has a strong presence in some comics from what I hear. Well his first introduction is a strong one. You got a monster that is growing bigger and bigger, he even gets bigger than Godzilla. With that then he is causing some massive damage to the city and even killing citizens left and right. All Hedorah had to do was fly above people and they would die from his fumes. He was quite a terror and that design of his still impresses me. I love seeing the blood ooze from his eye, it is an interesting detail on this pollution creature where his pollutants even hurts him. The only reason Hedorah lost was because Godzilla found out how to use the human’s machine to his advantage, imagine if that was not there! Even when it seems he is losing there is still something going on, the ooze can easily fly off of him, but that ends up hitting people and still moving on its own. For Godzilla, that does not matter, but for passing by people or even ones inside their homes can get killed still. Hedorah really left a big impression on me when I was seven, eight, or nine… I rarely remember my age in general.
This film may have not been my first Godzilla, but this is the one that stuck with me the most during my childhood. This is simply a film I love to pick at and see what is going on. Strange visuals, still having some great monster action, and still to this day Hedorah is my favorite monster in the franchise. To those who worked on this film, I thank you. Here’s to Yoshimitsu Banno and Haruo Nakajima.