Monday, 16 February 2015
Godzilla vs Hedorah (1971)
This film has a controversial position in the Godzilla franchise, with some folks loving it and some - including Big G's creator - hating it. I'm not surprised at the strong reactions. Certain aspects of the monster he fights probably contribute, but I suspect that the main cause of the controversy is that the film is bug nuts.
Let's talk first about the villain of the piece. Hedorah is a slimy, goopy monster, able to shift its form with considerable ease: not surprising given that it is actually comprised of billions of tadpole-like creatures combining together as a gestalt being. It feeds off smog and pollution - "we are poisoning the world!" is an extremely unsubtle message of the film - and exhales sulfuric acid.
I think Hedorah is a great villain for Godzilla because the big lizard's massive physical strength is almost completely worthless against it. Sure, he can punch holes through Hedorah's skin with ease, but it's about as effective as punching water. Even his atomic breath seems of little use, and while he drives off Hedorah in their first tussle, the film makes it clear that the new monster on the block is retreating only temporarily, and will be back bigger and badder sometime soon.
I suspect that Hedorah's ability to shrug off Big G's attacks is at least a small part of the controversy of the film. Godzilla ultimately needs to use a human weapon to defeat Hedorah. The humans create a device to dry the creature out via massive electrical charge, making it brittle enough to be destroyed. Even though Godzilla himself is the one who employs the device - activating it with his atomic breath when the electrical power lines go down - some people probably object to him not actually having the tools to win the battle himself. Humans often play a role in Big G's smackdowns, but it's not usually this central, and it's the only time I can think of where Godzilla's own weapons aren't ultimately enough to get the job done.
That all pales next to the sheer wackiness of the film, though. There's the soundtrack and party scenes, which feel like they would not be out of place in Austin Powers. There's the weird little animated sequences dotted through the narrative. There's the fact that Hedorah's goop will kill humans but leaves a kitten unharmed; I guess even kaiju cannot withstand the power of the keetom. There's ... well, there is, in short, utter lunacy, but I don't want to spoil all of it for you.
If you're the kind of person who admires a truly courageously crazy film, check this out.