Toho’s attempts to break away from children’s entertainment hit a peak in 1971 with the mother of all What-The-Fuck moments. Never since, nor again has there ever been a more satisfying movie to say “the fuck did I just watch?” during the end credits. After taking a trip out to a horribly polluted beach, film director Yoshimitsu Banno was inspired to address environmental issues through cinema. Since Godzilla was once a personification for the atom bomb, he seemed to be the perfect vessel to tackle the idea of turning Earth into a massive cesspool. That’s where the idea stopped being straight forward, for unless Banno was breathing in noxious fumes throughout the entire production, I have no clue how he wound up making what he did. But I thank him for it deeply.
Godzilla vs The Smog Monster was TOHO’s first attempt at redeeming themselves after releasing “Godzilla’s Revenge” a year before(known to the Godzilla crowd as the worst monster movie ever made). Whether they succeeded at this or not is up to the viewer, but it was a step in a new direction that they would end up never treading again. In the film, a small life form known as Hedorah who lives off of waste left by humans begins to evolve into a much larger organism as it consumes more and more pollution. It eventually gets so big that it is able to destroy an oil tanker, causing a massive natural disaster to the local eco system and making itself known to Japan’s population. This activity grabs Godzilla’s attention, who arrives to kick Hedorah’s swampy ass. Once he is beaten however, he retreats to the ocean and absorbs tons of polluted material and comes back twice as large as before. He attacks Godzilla using his only true power; shitting on him. Really though, Hedorah’s power, is he turds over all life in sight. Hedorah begins terrorizing Tokyo itself in this same manner, and with this we see just how scary the film can be. Once Hedorah’s toxic sludge touches someone, they just decomposed and become skeletons lying in the streets(This small aspect of the film is enough to propel it closer to a horror film than the rest of the entries in the classic Godzilla series). Once the 2 monsters ignite a rematch, a scientist named Dr. Yano realizes that drying Hedorah out may kill him, because that’s how dog shit works too. After supercharging a couple gigantic electrodes with his atomic breath, Godzilla dries him out and then violently tears him to pieces with his bear hands(or claws?)until nothing is left of him.
Ok, now, you’re probably wondering why you should wanna watch this after hearing that the story is rather format and predictable? What makes it special, let alone underrated, right? Well, this film is goddamn drug trip that barely makes any sense what so ever. First off, the first thing we see in the film is a female jazz singer giving us a performance worthy of a James Bond film, all while we see many different camera shots of a bubbling, shit-filled lake right behind her… We hear this song(which is conveniently titled “Save The Earth”)many times throughout the film, adding to its charm, as well as its awkwardness. Continuing on, we also see characters in this film having weird hallucinations, which really add nothing to the narrative. The most prominent example of this being a man in a night club seeing everyone on the dance floor with fish heads. This ends as soon as it begins and you have to just ask, “why?” An MTV-esque split screen of looping Godzilla images comes out of nowhere at one point, almost interrupting the film itself to say, “whoa isn’t this random? Ok, well back to the fight now!” The movie also gives us out of place animated sequences, reminiscent of Pink Floyd: The Wall. One segment even goes as far as to stop the film entirely just to give us a short documentary on space exploration. I’m not kidding and no, It has nothing to do with the movie, nothing… But hey, it’s in there! Needless to say, this movie is fucking awesome.
This is by far the closest that a Godzilla movie has ever come to being considered an exploitation film. We think we’re supposed to see a Ted Turner backed Green Peace film, but instead we’re getting a movie reflecting the human race during the 1970’s drug movement! The film doesn’t necessarily understand what it is, but at the same time, it is completely comfortable with that. Further, this film did so well at the box office that a direct sequel was actually planned. But alas, because of reasons that never happened, and Godzilla vs Gigan was next to be birthed, and the era of Godzilla films for children were to come to an end.
– Sterling “The Spork Guy” Anno