by Armand Vaquer
Seven years ago, the 50th anniversary of Godzilla (1954) was celebrated.
Part of that celebration included the DVD release by Columbia-TriStar Home Entertainment of Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971), along with several other Godzilla movies.
Suddenly, next month marks the 40th anniversary of the release of Godzilla vs. Hedorah in Japan on July 24, 1971. It was released the following year in the United States as Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster.
This is the famous (or infamous, depending upon one's point-of-view) movie in which Godzilla curls up his tail and uses his atomic breath as a rocket engine to fly (!) after Hedorah. Director Yoshimitsu Bannai added the flying scenes to "lighten up" an otherwise dark movie. This was Banno's message movie on pollution.
Right, Yoshimitsu Banno at a dinner party in Roppongi, Tokyo in 2004. Photo by Armand Vaquer.
The movie is quirky in other ways besides the flying sequences. It also contains animated sequences whose intent was to drive home the dangers of pollution along with strange music motifs and bizarre editing.
Tomoyuki Tanaka, the producer of the Godzilla series, was in the hospital at the time Hedorah was made. When he finally saw the finished movie, he reportedly said that Banno ruined the Godzilla series and was determined to never allow Banno to direct another Godzilla movie. This may or may not be a true story. Banno refuted this at G-FEST a few years ago.
Godzilla vs. Hedorah has risen in G-fandom's esteem over the years. The U.S. version (Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster) was featured in the 1978 book The Fifty Worst Films of All Time.
To this day, Godzilla vs. Hedorah remains an odd entry in the entire series of Godzilla movies. At least one can't say it's dull.
Happy 40th anniversary!
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