Japan’s most famous monster is due to return to the big screen May 16 in Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures’ Godzilla. What better time to revisit some of the original movies starring the giant lizard?
Kraken Releasing has just released the Toho 1971 film Godzilla Versus the Smog Monster: Godzilla Versus Hedorah on DVD, and you can read on for the review.
Back Cover Blurb
Forget about acid rain and global warming! The worst ecological nightmare is actually Hedorah, which starts off small but quickly mutates into a giant flying monster capable of wiping out all life on whatever unfortunate planet it lands on! And since Hedorah grows by consuming the toxic gases and chemicals mankind has spilled into the air and water, in the early 1970s that means that its potential growth is unlimited! Fortunately for the human race, the Earth has an ultimate green defender who doesn’t need to sing protest songs or try to enact new laws to get things done. Because nobody, and nothing, can stop Godzilla when he decides to push an environmental issue, and while Hedorah may be the dirtiest opponent Godzilla has ever faced, his name is going to be mud by the time he’s been stomped into the whole Earth a few dozen times. Get ready for the wildest Godzilla film ever as the social concerns and way out fashions of the seventies collide head on with the ultimate in big monster brawls in GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH!
The audio options are English mono and Japanese mono with English subtitles. I noted no issues with the film audio or subtitles.
The DVD is presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The video is satisfactory for the most part but does get grainy in certain scenes.
The front cover features a promotional poster for the original film, featuring the monsters Godzilla and Hedorah along with the human cast. On the back are a few screen shots and a movie summary. No inserts are included inside the case.
Various stills from the film are used for the DVD menu backgrounds. There aren’t many options, so it’s easy to navigate.
The only extra included with the DVD is the original Japanese film trailer.
Not every Godzilla movie has a message, but Godzilla Versus the Smog Monster does, and it is: Stop polluting or it will come back to haunt you! In this case, the consequences of environmental destruction are personified by the monster Hedorah.
The film begins as a kind of mystery. Something off the shore of Japan is sinking ships, and a professor studying the fish affected by polluted waters discovers a strange mineral life form. That life form is Hedorah. He starts as a small tadpole-like creature, but a diet of ocean sludge and smog beefs it up to a tentacled-terrestrial monster and finally to its ultimate flying form. Able to emit sulfuric acid mist and disgusting slime, Hedorah wastes no time wreaking havoc on Japan. As the monster disintegrates structures and vaporizes people into piles of bones, the professor’s dilemma quickly goes from what Hedorah is to how to stop him.
The solution, as the professor’s son Ken insists, is Godzilla. Although the little boy deems the giant lizard a hero on the order of Superman, Godzilla’s not exactly at humanity’s beck and call. Still, when Hedorah starts shaking things up, Godzilla appears with the aura of a gangster ready to oust an invader from his turf. Unfortunately, Hedorah’s a tough opponent, one constantly gaining in size, until he’s actually bigger than Godzilla.
Although Hedorah makes a formidable enemy, killing thousands and forcing Godzilla to chase it all over the Japanese countryside, the film actually drags. This is partly because the film gets preachy with its environmental message, inundating viewers with images of polluted waters and belching smoke stacks along with animated sequences of how human (and Hedorah) activities are killing the planet. Probably the most bizarre example of this is when the professor’s younger brother is at a disco club and starts hallucinating that everyone is a fish. While I commend Director Banno’s efforts to increase awareness, it bogs the pace of the film.
When Hedorah finally does go down, it’s the result of a joint effort between human and lizard. It’s interesting to see Godzilla and people working toward a common goal, but the final battle goes overlong. Not only does it include an extraneous hippie disco-party anti-Hedorah protest on the mountain, but Hedorah turns out to be the type of monster that needs to be killed multiple times. So when he (and the film) finally reaches the end, it’s a relief.
While I commend Director Banno for his efforts to warn against environmental destruction, the entertainment value of Godzilla Versus the Smog Monster suffers as a result. There are some good action sequences as Godzilla struggles to defeat an enemy capable of squirting his eye with acid, but between the professor’s plodding investigation and excessive images of air and water pollution, the pace gets bogged as if mired in Hedorah’s own sludge.
First published at The Fandom Post.