Fifty years since it was first released in Japan, Godzilla vs. Hedorah might not be the worst Godzilla film of all time anymore, but it might still be one of the strangest.
A scientist discovers a strange kind of undiscovered tadpole living in Suruga Bay, and goes on a dive to observe the creatures in the wild. However, he’s quickly attacked by a large version of the animal, which leaves him covered in burns. It turns out they weren’t tadpoles at all, but are in fact sludge-like entities that feed on pollution. These creatures begin to form together, and soon grow to massive size.
READ MORE: Jurassic Park III – Throwback 20
This new creature, which the scientist names Hedorah, attacks Fuji City, but is repelled by Godzilla. After retreating, Hedorah appears in Tokyo in a new, mutated form. This new form unleashes poisonous gases into the air, gases that even hurt Godzilla. Hedorah moves on from Tokyo, appearing at Mt. Fuji in yet another horrifying form, one that makes it bigger than Godzilla. Godzilla and the humans manage to lure the creature into some power pylons, where it is eventually destroyed.
On the surface it doesn’t sound like there’s much about this story that makes this a particularly odd outing for the Godzilla franchise, but that’s because when I described the plot of the film I didn’t include the odd dream sequences, hallucinations, and animated segments that really push it into the bizarre.
The tone of the film is all over the place, and to begin with you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was aimed at a younger audience. Like the previous entry in the series, it has a child protagonist, so you’d imagine it would cater to the younger viewer. Instead, there are moments when Hedorah’s sludge body melts and deforms people, bodies litter the streets, and people are killed in their homes when the titular monsters battle.
Rather than sticking with a grim and gritty take on the Kaiju genre, showing the bloody destruction caused by these creatures, it decides to throw some frankly odd moments into the mix. The film goes into black and white for a short while, before jumping back into colour. There are dancing skeletons, people with fish heads, and shots of babies crying thrown into the middle of scenes. These moments have tended to be divisive with viewers, some of whom enjoy the odd nature of the movie, but one thing that most people can agree that the film misses the mark on is when it has Godzilla fly.
You might be reading that wondering how that would work, or how it could be considered bad, but Godzilla literally propels himself through the air using his atomic breath in order to catch Hedorah, and it just comes across as silly. Just search for ‘flying Godzilla’ and you’ll see what I mean.
Some of the issues with the film might be down to it being the first film for director Yoshimitsu Banno, who was given a smaller budget than previous films in the series, and only 35 days to complete shooting. The production seems to have been hampered by a number of issues, most notably being that suit actor Kenpachiro Satsuma, who was performing as Hedorah, suffered from appendicitis during filming. Unfortunately, due to how long it took to get in and out of the suit, and the need for an emergency appendectomy, the operation had to be performed whilst he was still partially in the costume. Most frighteningly, according to some reports, the painkillers didn’t work, and Satsuma felt the entire thing.
READ MORE: Gamera vs. Zigra – Throwback 50
Godzilla vs. Hedorah is definitely one of the strangest entries in the Godzilla franchise, and possibly for Kaiju films in general. But, it certainly stands out amongst its brethren because of all its quirks and oddities. Love it or hate it, it’s definitely one of the more memorable films in the series.
Godzilla vs. Hedorah was released on 22nd July 1971.