GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER

Director Yoshimitsu Banno
Year 1971
Starring Godzilla
Rating PG
Run Time 96min
More Info IMDb

AKA GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH

What’s this? Just your average, everyday, run of the mill combination of horror, children’s movie, 70’s psychedelic exploitation and Godzilla. Wait, what? GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER is hands down the weirdest god damn giant monster movie ever made by a margin wider than that floating trash island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. More insane even than GODZILLA’S REVENGE, where all the monster action takes place inside the mind of a little kid. This time Godzilla is like a superhero and savior of the planet and he has to do battle with literally a giant pile of garbage. Hedorah the Smog Monster is the most original, unique and incomprehensible kaiju ever featured in one of these things. Like some industrialized blend of the Blob, a melting Cthulhu and Oscar the Grouch, the sentient-pollution-thing Hedorah grows and multiplies and slimes his toxic sludge all over Japan. 

This is a movie targeted to kids. Little kids. Little kids who are plagued by epileptic fits exacerbated by unchecked sugar consumption until the fragile nerves of their prepubescent brains can no longer properly distinguish between fantasy, reality, saturday morning cartoons and an intruding nightmarish hell dimension. Because even though this is indisputably a family film, it’s also the most violent and horrific Godzilla movie ever to accidentally be shown to living people. The Smog Monster doesn’t just knock over buildings and crash through bridges. It sucks the flesh from people’s bodies and leaves them as smoldering piles of bones. It also kills a cat.

Punctuated by bizarrely self-aware animated interludes that comment on the action, this is a film that has no qualms about pausing for a science lesson about galaxies and nebulas. It’s got the first appearance of hippies in a Godzilla movie and an inspirational/borderline-unbearable theme song called “Save the Earth” that plays constantly throughout. There’s a scene in a nightclub where a guy drops acid and watches as everyone’s heads become fish. Godzilla’s entrance is scored and photographed like a technicolor Hollywood musical. He fights the Smog Monster by waving his arms and dancing around. When that’s not enough he flies about, squatting backward and shooting atomic breath to propel himself. Since when can Godzilla fly? Since now. This is just that kind of movie. The kind of movie where when a kid sees Godzilla from a rollercoaster, the action stops for a freeze-frame zoom on the monster’s blurry silhouette like some amateur bigfoot footage. The kind of movie where we watch a building slowly crumble in complete silence. The kind of movie that nobly drives home the indelible message: don’t pollute... or else, THIS!

Amidst the insanity, GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER even takes time for a scene in which a little boy stands on the shore, waiting for his lost father who has been attacked by Hedorah, that is so poetic and visually expressive that it can stand next to any great arthouse cinema of the 20th century. If you can open your mind wide enough to receptively view this movie, its multi-layered presentation of giant monsters, drug experimentation, eco-politics, astronomy lessons, exploding rock n roll, Jungian imagery, youth culture protests, parenthetical cartoon breaks, and avant-garde psychedelia will give you a lasting gratification that’s very hard earned by any other means. (Tommy Swenson)

(Godzilla ®, Gojira and the character design are trademarks of Toho Co., Ltd. © 1954 Toho Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.)

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