Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster / Godzilla Vs. Hedorah
Released by: Section 23
Released on: May 6th, 2014.
Director: Yoshimitsu Banno
Cast: Akira Yamauchi, Toshie Kimura, Hiroyuki Kawase
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Directed by Yoshimitsu Banno in 1971, Godzilla Vs. The Hedorah (or Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster as it was titled when AIP released it theatrically in North America) is notorious for being one of those pictures that really split the established fan base for the series. While many applauded its strange acid-rock score and use of animated sequences, others were taken aback by how far Banno went in trying to create a movie with a legitimate environmental message accompanying its requisite scenes of giant rubber suit monsters trashing miniature sets.
The movie introduces us to Ken (Hiroyuki Kawase), a kid who really digs monsters and lives with his dad, a scientist named Dr. Yano (Akira Yamauchi). One day, seemingly at random, they come into contact with a creature made of what looks like slime and are injured with burns in the process. Soon, this creature grows and eventually transforms into a monster dubbed Hedorah, a shape-shifting beast that feeds on the one thing early seventies era Japan has an abundance of – pollution!
Soon enough Yano has teamed up with an environmentalist named Yukio (Toshio Shiba) and his girlfriend Miki (Keiko Mari) to try and figure out how to best stop Hedorah before it destroys Japan with its seemingly insatiable hunger. As Hedorah continues to grow and consume, who should appear but Godzilla and of course, he soon battles the giant smog monster while the fate of the island nation hangs in the balance.
Far more psychedelic than anything that had been seen in a Godzilla movie before, Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster is a pretty interesting entry in the long running series even if it is not without some flaws. Hedorah makes for a pretty interesting foe in that he not only consumes pollution but omits it as well as part of his defense. His shape shifting abilities and growth patterns make him an interesting looking foe, even if he spends much of the movie as a big, shiny blob with beady red eyes. He’s pretty wacky looking and while the concept behind his genesis is an interesting and still topical one, he isn’t always the most threatening foe Godzilla has squared off against.
The monster battle the represents the last half hour or so of the movie is a good one, even if it feels padded at times. It pretty much gives fans right what they want out of a movie like this, with plenty of mayhem and chaos doled out to miniature sets of varying degrees of effectiveness. The environmental message gets a little lost here, but the movie definitely entertains. Banno’s direction is also really creative here, bending the ‘rules’ of what to expect in a Godzilla movie and using everything from split screens to black and white to animation while at the same time tying things into the original 1954 picture that started it all.
For those who keep track of such things, it should be noted that the titles in the film are in English, not Japanese, just like the last round of DVDs that Sony put out a few years back (meaning the main title card says GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH).
Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster arrives on Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 2.35.1 widescreen and for the most part it looks excellent. Colors really impress throughout and you really notice the different hues that the titular Smog Monster emits when he transforms. Black levels are pretty solid here while detail is generally quite strong. There’s barely any print damage at all though heavy grain appears in some scenes, if never to the movie’s detriment. Some might complain that the optical and miniature effects are more obviously just that on Blu-ray, but that’s the nature of the beast with old monster movies. There isn’t any obvious tinkering in terms of edge enhancement or noise reduction and all in all, this is a very strong transfer indeed.
Audio options are provided in Japanese and English language DTS-HD Mono with optional subtitles in English only. The quality of both mixes is fine, though the Japanese track seems to have more depth to it. The score has nice range and the effects have decent presence. Levels are well balanced and there are no problems to note with any hiss or distortion. Though the subtitles do translate any Japanese on screen text, they don’t translate the lyrics of the opening song. Other than that, no complaints here.
Aside from menus and chapter stops, the only extra on the disc is the original Japanese theatrical trailer.
The Final Word:
Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster is a noticeably more bizarre, almost psychedelic entry in the pantheon of Godzilla films, but it sure is entertaining. The Blu-ray release from Section 23/Kracken Releasing is light on extras but the transfer is top notch. This one is a whole lot of ridiculous fun.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!