PSA: Godzilla Vs. Hedorah (1971), or Trippy Stuff, Dude…

15 12 2009

Okay, this one is just for me. It’s been a long 12 months, and I need a movie for me every now and then. This is one of the silliest movies I could come up with, and it really has no place on any list anywhere for anything. But damn it, I wanted something that would make me laugh! I will watch The Departed tomorrow! I promise!

At the beginning of the 70s, Godzilla was already over a decade old, and so Toho Productions, makers of fine rubber monster costumes, felt it was time for a change. So they gave the reins of the character to the young bloods, the wild ones in Japanese cinema, to try and revitalize it. But, as the apathy of the mid 70s had not yet kicked in, people were still very much into making protest and message movies. So Toho allowed Godzilla to make a trippy, experimental message movie about the dangers of polluting!!! It’s chiefly about what would happen if the sludge from Tokyo Harbor came to life and attacked the city. The monster is named Hedorah by the young boy who discovers it, who also wishes that Godzilla, protector/destroyer of the city of Tokyo, will stop him. Looking like a gray melted plastic taco with terrifying eyes, Hedorah flies around…polluting things, and killing plenty of civilians, who probably caused its existence, so who cares? In the end, as usual, only the big green guy can take care of the city he loves so much by taking matters into his own hands. But with Hedorah’s horrible power of self-duplication and acidic excretions, is there any way for Godzilla to combat the fiendish beast of our own design?

Godzilla Vs. Hedorah is absolutely reviled in the Godzilla community. Most people think it is the weakest link in the entire 50 year saga of the character. I think this might be a lot of inexperience talking, though, because anyone who has seen a really bad Godzilla movie knows that they’re not anything to even laugh about. This is a hilarious fucking movie though!!!! Director Yoshimitsu Banno somehow combined the most popular genres of early 70s Japanese film into one handy amalgam. It starts out with an environment-friendly theme song about finding a solution to stop pollution, then we’re in a psychedelic jazz club getting high with some Japanese guys tripping balls. Then we’re off to hanging out with an environmentally conscious kid who teaches us about pollution and solar systems with the power of Japanese animation! Then, more psychedelia, followed by some horror elements when Hedorah starts violently turning people into gray human soup. And then finally, finally, we get some Godzilla around 45 minutes in. Almost forget it was a Godzilla movie? Me too. Such is the power of Banno’s amazing genre-defying film.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, the worst part of a Godzilla movie, if you’ve ever seen one, is the people. You’ll have them in any Godzilla movie; they’re basically mandatory filler for Toho Productions, who don’t think apparently that men wrestling in rubber monster suits for 90 minutes will keep our attention. And yet, to keep us rapt with attention, we have to watch a bunch of mouth-breathing amateurs prattle about how nice things are pre-Godzilla and how bad they are post-Godzilla. But this film actually takes steps to make the human characters interesting. My favorite people are the skeevy discotheque characters who are too high to notice that pollution is killing Mother Nature. At one point, one of the guys in the club has a bad trip, and everyone around him start wearing fish masks!!! Symbolic, of course, of the lack of fish in the sea, and how they’re all on land now due to pollution! Brilliant!!! And the kid who notices this pollution is something else! He’s hyper-streetwise! All the adults are stupidly unaware of why Hedorah has come to destroy them, but only little Johnny the know-nothing kid had the prescience to know that if you dump enough medical waste near the electric company, you’re bound to bring something to life!

As far as the fighting goes, I give it a solid B. Most people complain about how it takes Godzilla so long to defeat Hedorah, but the way I see it, the longer I don’t have to deal with people and can focus on monsters with powers, the better. Hedorah has the evil pollution attack, which is pretty deadly, and can fly, but for some reason also has laser beams in his eyes (???). Was that really necessary? “Okay, this plant monster, he’ll have vines to wrap up Godzilla, he’ll have some pollen to make him sleepy, and, you know what? Give him a drill arm. Just one drill arm.” Godzilla has his usual, and that should be enough to stop one Hedorah, but Hedorah’s secret weapon is the fact that it can divide and turn into multiple Hedorahs for fun and sport. This makes it more for Godzilla to take control of the battle, and so he falters a bit more than usual.

This is one of those movies where you have to look past the obvious crap exterior to really love it. It’s an environmentally, trippy Godzilla from the 70s who like to listen to prog rock and get wasted while staving off bad trips all the time. It’s really weird, but it’s endearing. I laugh often in Godzilla Vs. Hedorah; if it’s not the costumes the goofy humans, or the ridiculous musical stings,  it’s something, and I can get behind an environment pic that gets us to chuckle. I think, when given a chance, you will like it, especially when compared to some of the suckier ones of the decade (try Godzilla Vs. Megalon). I give Godzilla Vs. Hedorah 7 gray melted plastic tacos out of 10!

Tomorrow I promise to do The Departed! Until then!

I leave you with the inspiring anti-pollution song “Save the Earth” from Godzilla Vs. Hedorah, whose influence can still be felt today! Take it away, lovely Japanese lady!