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Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster

November 26th, 2008 by unkle lancifer · 11 Comments

The very first film I can recall seeing in an actual movie theater was GODZILLA VS THE SMOG MONSTER. I can’t claim to have ever become a huge die hard Godzilla buff, but my love of this particular adventure of this continues to this day. Growing up, Godzilla was a Saturday afternoon staple in my home, yet although I readily admit to having a certain fondness for the tiny fairies that summoned sometime collaborator, sometime foe MOTHRA, most of his movies seem to blur together in my mind. Not so with SMOG MONSTER, a.k.a. GODZILLA VS HEDORA, a movie that stands out like a pulsating purple sore thumb. In fact, Godzilla producer TOMOYUKI TANAKA was so flabbergasted by the film that he disowned it and even claimed that it ruined the franchise.

One might assume that my affection for SMOG is based simply on blind nostalgia or a need to be contrary since it’s widely perceived to be the King of Monster’s red-headed step child. The truth is, it’s just a great movie. Filled with gloriously grim imagery, crazy psychedelic tuneage and bizarre animated inserts, SMOG holds up better than should be expected, and its environmental message is, of course, even more timely today.

As a monster, HEDORA/SMOG is quite a specimen. The creature, speculated to have come from space via meteor, begins life as a crazy tadpole that consumes water pollution and grows to an enormous size. Soon it’s large enough to knock over oil tankers and eventually take to land. Once land mobile, it jumps at the chance to take long bong hits from toxic smoke stacks that empower it even further. Eventually the slimy glutton is capable of flight and shooting mud pies from his grey, goopy torso.

The aerial attack scenes are what struck me the most as a child. Shaped like a giant horseshoe crab HEDORA is shown flying over schools while children below in the playground drop like flies. Many of the monsters victims are memorably left as mere skeletons after exposure. The most disturbing image perhaps is shown during a television news broadcast of an infant crying, neck deep in sewage and mud. (O.K, I’m lying here, The most disturbing image SHOULD be the one of the infant drowning in filth but for me it’s actually the image of a poor confused Alley cat covered in mud howling at the camera!…What’s wrong with me?)

I guess there may be something undeniably silly about a film that climaxes with two men in rubber suits wrestling on a miniature train set, but the eco-disaster that frames the action is notably ahead of its time. Long time GODZILLA fans may call foul when it’s revealed that the big guy has been keeping them in the dark about his ability to fly over the years (he propels himself with his atomic breath), but I get a kick out of this reveal every time. Regardless of its initial reception, nobody could argue that the film’s heart is in the right place. For me, the one two punch of dismal disaster and goofy broad slapstick is pretty irresistible.

As much as I love HEDORA/THE SMOG MONSTER in all of his guises, and as much as I am still riveted by a scene in which a character inexplicably hallucinates that everyone in a disco has turned into fish-faced ghouls, my favorite thing about this movie is its marvelous opening song. Taking a cue from JAMES BOND, a beautiful woman is shown singing before a screen of pulsating hues as clips of pollution and decay flash by. The song, “Save the Earth” (in the American version) is just about the greatest thing ever, and it’s sure to be running around in your brain for days after you hear it.

If I could go back in time and pick what movie should be the first that I ever saw in a movie theater, I don’t think I could do much better than this one. Balk if you like, but GODZILLA VS THE SMOG MONSTER is a trippy, gonzo free-for-all that had me instantly falling head over heels in love with the film going experience.

Tags: Repeat Offenders




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Amanda By Night
11 years ago

The first thing I thought of when I saw the first still was the electrical monster in Johnny Quest. Probably an inspiration from this movie. I haven’t seen this, but it looks kind of wicked, and yeah the cat still did ilicit and “Awww, poor baby,” moment from me. It’s cuz animals rule!

sbd
sbd
11 years ago

This is also one of my most favorit-est Godzilla movies ever.  My best friend and I would draw pictures of Hedora for hours.  The trippier aspects of the movie were probably lost on me at the time it came out but you just couldn’t beat it for coolness factor – especially in the big fight scene when Godzilla just starts ripping huge handfuls of crap out of Hedora’s corpus – the only other place you could get fight scenes that over-the-top at the time was Marvel’s Man-Thing!  The anti-pollution message was not lost on me though; the imagery of all the muck and death was undeniable.  I site this movie as the main source of my aversion to littering. 

If you want to see the most bizarre Godzilla flick ever made though check out GOJIRA-MINIRA-GABARA: ORU KAIJÛ DAISHINGEKI  (aka, GODZILLA’S REVENGE when I saw it).  It’s about a little bullied schoolboy who fantasizes about going to Monster Island and making friends with Gozilla’s son (who can talk like Goofy and shrink himself down to boy size) and they both learn important lessons about standing up for themselves – the ultimate message of the film is that violence can indeed solve your problems!  It’s the kind of movie you’d watch as an 8yr old on Saturday morning while completely buzzed on Froot Loops and then 10 years later wonder if you’d just hallucinated the whole thing.

loraho
loraho
11 years ago

I loved this movie as a kid!  It used to show up on TV quite often when I was about 10 or 12.  Yet today I only remember the disco scene, and of course the “Save The Earth” song. The schools were really big on teaching about the environment back then in the early ’70s.  It was called “ecology” then, and I remember that I sewed ecology flag patches on the knees of my jeans.  We even learned a pollution song, but it was nowhere near as cool as “Save the Earth”.  The only part of the song that I remember is, “Pollution, pollution, we’ve got smog and sewage and dust.  Turn on your tap and get hot and cold running rust!”

mickster
mickster
11 years ago

Prof. V.W. is feeling under the weather so I will speak for both of us. There is nothing wrong with you Unkle. We both find the poor dirty kitty disturbing too. I guess we are cat people like you.

sbd
sbd
11 years ago

loraho: That song would be by the incomparable Tom Lehrer to whom I also spent much of my young adolescence listening.

DavidFullam
11 years ago

I used to hate this film, but the years have been kind and now it’s one of my favorite Godzilla films. Sort of what a “Dodes Kaden” period Kurosawa might have made had he done a Godzilla film.

jaymazing
jaymazing
11 years ago

Guy Hemric wrote the words to this (as he did many songs in the Beach Party genre) and were sung by Adryan Russ.  Here are the actual lyrics, most of which I could remember, but verified over at Barry’s Temple of Godzilla:

Animals, God’s animals
Don’t go away, don’t go
Flowers, my flowers
Don’t go away, don’t go
The sea has cobalt, it’s full of mercury
Too many fumes in our oxygen
All the smog now is choking you and me
Good Lord, where is it gonna end?
Got to get it back, someday
Got to get it back, and soon now
For tomorrow maybe you and me
We’re movin’, we’re movin’, movin’ to the Moon now
It’s up to us to make a choice
We know what it’s worth to save the Earth
Come raise your voice
Save the Earth! (save the Earth)
Save the Earth! (save the Earth)
See the evil problem around us
Save the Earth! (save the Earth)
Save the Earth! (save the Earth)
And the Solution: stop pollution
Save the Earth! (save the Earth)
Save the Earth! (save the Earth)
Save the Earth!
And the Solution: to stop pollution
Save the Earth!
Save the Earth!
Save the Earth!

http://www.godzillatemple.com/godsongs.htm

jaymazing
jaymazing
11 years ago

I just wish the DVD that’s out now had the English version of the song.  Hang on to those VHS tapes!

Grokenstein
Grokenstein
11 years ago

I was astonished to see a major character (one who, in fact, carries a substantial part of the movie’s human story and message) lose his Hero’s Death Exemption, followed by his flesh.  While the survivors are waving bye-bye to the Big G, I was wondering who was going to tell them the character that connected them all was lying dead in a field out there…

icysugarspike
icysugarspike
11 years ago

Saw this again for the first time since I was about thirteen, and was surprised to find that not only did it hold up well, but it pretty much rocked! Immensely enjoyable. Do not miss it!