“Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster” was a 1971 release that made its way thru the theatre circuit. The film is titled under its original Asian title as “Godzilla vs Hedorah”.Hedorah is the name given to the freaky tadpole creature that originates out of the pollution of Japan.
I actually saw this film upon its initial release at the movie theatres back in that day when a film like this would actually “make it” to the theatres. Reviewing it now and looking at the quality, I’m certain that this movie title would fail miserably in todays cinemas. However, this was the era when Godzilla movies were still cutting edge and somehow disillusioned us that they weren’t just Japanese men in rubber suits.
“Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster” is in a class on its own for a few different reasons. One is that its obviously designed to state a political message about the sewage and pollutant problem that exists within the culture. The monster itself is born from the excess sewage per a tiny microbe that grows upon consumption of more toxics within the land, sea, and air. The creature actually evolves in a few different states. I believe it to be 4 in total. It begins in its tadpole aquatic form, which then becomes adaptive to land as an amphibian. At this point its as massive as Godzilla stomping over buildings, consuming cars and throwing this sludge upon helpless victims. The 3rd state resembles a flying saucer of which it is able to fly and excrete toxic fumes. The fumes are lethal to humans corroding them instantly into the skeletal remains of bones piles.
Per a TV announcement, apparently the fumes also leave a corrosive element rusting thru metal and destroying building structures. In an earlier scene, Hedorah (the biological name given to him) is seen inhaling the smog pollutants from a nearby factory adding to its size and evolution. This scene lasts for a few minutes suggesting again the films hidden agenda with showcasing its smog issues within Japan.
A few elements that add to the films uniqueness is a small series of animations that appear within for no apparent reason. They illustrate a few points to made about Hedorah but beyond that appear a bit odd in their inclusions. Now the most striking from the film is its obvious tie in to the 70’s hippy culture. The film begins with a intro segment that is much like the James Bond intros sporting beautiful women appearing over weirdly sung compositions. This is again repeated into a middle inclusion of a go-go bar of which a performer breaks out into a musical like number. In the background you can see psychedelic imagery projected much like a Hendrix video.
Godzilla is presented as a defender of Japan who arrives to do battle with this garbage eater. He simply arrives out of the horizon but is accepted as a protector despite the fact that his battles tend to smash thru entire sections of buildings. Godzilla has the added feature of a radiative fire that he breathes when simple wrestling is not efficient.
Hedorah emits an acidy spit-like excretion which corrodes at the skin of Godzilla shot out of its skin patches. Hedorah evolves in the film becoming a bit more powerful in every confrontation. This war of giants takes up major portions of the film providing much of the filler moments. The mistakes made in the film are pretty apparent as we see splotches of sludge hitting Godzilla of what equates to about the size of a large buildings and then again shot at unlucky humans resembling green paint covering their shirts. You would think that they would be flooded in acidic goo instantly reducing them to corroded lumps. (you would think?)
The film is not without a base that has Dr. Yano working on a solution for the military to take down the beast. His son, who is more annoying than helpful, cheers on Godzilla while the family derives a reason for the Hedorah to have come into existence. Astute viewers will get the message here that excess smog produced problems and turns things into monsters…but what do I know! We learn later that perhaps the Hedorah originated from a outer space source which grew from the garbage filled lakes. The garbage shots are shown many times as sewage floats above the river surfaces containing disposed items with rotting foods blended in.
I had long remembered “Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster” to be one of my favorite Godzilla films. Looking at it now, I was more bored than inspired. Maybe my youth interest has faded or maybe this was just a crummy film to begin with. The Smog monster itself with its fake red eyes looks quite silly at times resembling more of a creature you would think HP Lovecraft would have concocted. The movies moves at a slow pace spending maybe too much time on the 2 monsters staring at each other and then repeating their attack techniques.
“Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster” may not be a superstar film, though it does hold moments of charm that older fans most likely will appreciate a little more. It was the first Godzilla film for the 70’s and noted as being the 11th in the franchise. It strayed a bit away from its previous child friendly themes to tackle on this darker tone. This is aspect is apparent in the scenes of humans being attacked by acid fumes while being left to die.
Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster (1971)