Cory's Birthday Movie Celebration: Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster

1971 monster movie + environmental propaganda

Rating: 9/20

Plot: Hedorah, the smog monster, is born from Earth's pollution and begins pooping on everything and poisoning humanity. As scientists and the military try to come up with a plan to stop the seemingly unstoppable beast, Godzilla steps in to try to save the day.

I'm fond of the Polish poster for this movie:

It looks like the smog monster, that thing with the glowing red eyes there, is an old bearded man which isn't the case. No, the smog monster is not nearly as intimidating as an old bearded man.

And as an added bonus, here's a poster for Big starring Tom Hanks:

I'd actually like to see a movie where a giant Tom Hanks threatens Japan with Godzilla trying to stop him. Tell me that wouldn't be awesome! They could just drive a dump truck full of Best Actor Oscars to Tom Hanks' house if that ever happened.

Cory's the only reader I have whose birthday I celebrate with a movie. As I've said before, it's one of the lamest things you could do for a person's birthday, but I can't stop doing it now because Cory will think I'm mad at him or something and have his birthday ruined. This year, it seems like I've figured out a way to make the "present" seem even worse--I've intentionally picked a Godzilla movie that I know he doesn't like which I will now spend a lot of time making fun of. Happy birthday, Cory!

First, this is the weirdest Godzilla movie that I've seen. I kind of liked the idea behind it and the heavy-handed anti-pollution message. The movie opens with shots of pipes spewing the titular smog and ends with our big lizardy hero looking sadly upon polluted waters--a shot of some sludge with a large clock floating in it--before lumbering away while the annoying kid in the movie screams his name. It's a real Shane moment actually except Godzilla isn't a gay-looking cowboy. Actually, that's not how the movie ends. The movie ends with the words "And Yet Another One?" popping on the screen followed by a shot of what I assume is supposed to be a fledgling second smog monster. The idea, obviously, is that we'd better stop polluting or another one of these things is going to start farting and/or shitting on us again.

Let's talk about Godzilla's foe in this thing. It might be the silliest-looking monster that I've ever seen, like a much larger version of that killer rug from 1964's The Creeping Terror. It's got sideways red-glowing eyes and really does spew a diarrheal sludge which, when it hits people or Godzilla or the sides of buildings, ranges from gross to really really gross. I almost hate to type this on Cory's birthday, but I may have laughed the first time I saw the monster. And the second time. And probably the third time, too. Of course, it later confuses me by transforming, turning into a sleek flying thing and shooting a jagged red laser thing out of its eye. Then, there's Godzilla whose first appearance is accompanied with this really weird music. It sounds like the type of music they'd play in a cartoon where there's a race between a pair of animals and they show the fast animal and have this upbeat music and then show the slow animal and switch to the sounds of struggling trombones and tired trumpets. That's the music that Godzilla gets in this for some reason. It's a recurring theme actually.

The guy responsible for the music (Riichiro Manabe) was, I'm guessing, stoned. That's the only explanation for the oboes and jaw harps used in this. Oh, and because it's 1971, there's a psychedelic band in a few scenes, one in a club with the kind of backdrop that you'd expect to see behind Pink Floyd (a very weird scene where a guy who turns out to be the another character's brother but who is randomly introduced becomes horrified when everybody at the club ends up wearing fish masks) and one after they retreat to a field, build a bonfire, and have a jam session because that's apparently what Japanese hippies do when there's a smog monster on the loose. I'm surprised the jam session in the field didn't inspire a Burning Man-esque festival of some kind--Smog Monster Festival. There's a great part of that scene where it shows the characters around the bonfire and then a shot of these old people staring at them through some tall weeds. Who the hell are those old people? It's never explained and just adds to the weirdness of this whole thing, yet another thing that I don't think anybody associated with this would be able to explain. That band's called Honey Knights and the Moon Drops (of course), and I'm not sure why the songs "Return! The Sun!" or "Beat Hedorah!" didn't become classics. You'd think with those exclamation marks that they would have. Actually, I can't blame Riichiro Manabe for all the music. He might have just done the psychedelic songs. I think he's a Honey Knight. Maybe he's the one jamming on the flute!

But back to Godzilla since he's star of these things. He moves really strangely in this thing, like he's on uppers or something. He can't walk right and twitches and jerks around a lot, and with that goofy slow-animal-in-a-cartoon-race music, it makes him seem a little ridiculous. It's almost impossible to figure out what's going on in most of the fight scenes which is odd because they almost seem like they're in slow motion. During the first time they face off, I actually wasn't sure if it was a fight scene or a sex scene. Also, I'm not sure why Godzilla was fighting him in the first place. He wasn't really doing anything except--and this is awesome--huffing pollution from a pair of factory pipes. That's after he's grown and looks sort of like a rotten Snuffleupagus. During that first fight, Godzilla picks him up and starts swinging him around, and Hedorah leaks sewage all over the place. I'm not even making that up. I'm not making any of this up actually. Then, they go away awhile so that the characters can talk about science. A microscope is involved which--again, I'm not making up--two characters somehow use at once, and we get a lesson in astronomy which I guess means smog monster came from outer space. And the guy with the bandage talks about how they'll all need to work together to defeat the thing, and I start wondering if this is going to end up being a movie where Godzilla is completely superfluous, completely useless. Of course, that's not the case. Hedorah comes along to ruin the hippie fest jam session, and Godzilla comes along to have another conversation with it that does us the viewers no good because it's not subtitled for us. They prepare to fight; Hedorah kind of sidles and Godzilla actually does the Mashed Potato. Then, steaming shit, a transformation, a rumble, a tea-bagging, and Godzilla finds himself dropped in a hole and covered with a filthy ooze, the kind of thing that you can almost smell through your television screen. Either that or I need to take a shower. Then, humans are doing something involving science in a scene that seems to go on forever and Godzilla pops in again, Hedorah seems to be dead, Godzilla pulls a couple bowling balls out of his nemesis, and then old smoggy flies off. And I'm starting at the screen and thinking, "What the hell is going on?" Maybe you have to be a scientist to understand this movie. And then, in what has to be the biggest twist in Godzilla movie history, Godzilla tucks his tail between his legs and spits whatever this white flaming stuff he spits in this movie at the ground, and proceeds to fly backward as he chases after Hedorah. All with some college football fight song music playing! Not the most convenient method of flying there, Godzilla. You can't even see where the hell you're going! It all leads to a disgusting fight to the finish where Hedorah is disemboweled, Godzilla actually hurling his innards around while the worst song I've ever heard (until the song plays at the end of the movie anyway) plays. I love this little look Godzilla gives the people afterward, looking down on us all as the screw-ups that we all are.

Sorry if I just spoiled the entire movie for you. I really have my doubts that I understood this movie well enough to spoil it for anybody though.

I did really like the cartoons used in the news footage where they'd sort of explain what was going on since the visuals didn't help out very much. And I liked a cool shot of the thing oozing down stairs and then oozing back up again with the help of a special effect called Playing the Movie Backward. I also liked a shot of a kitty meowing in the muck and some time-lapse withering of leaves and flowers after the smog monster hovered over everything and showed off its poisonous flatulence. There are also some cool shots of rotting people and one great scene where Hedorah flies toward a building being constructed by apparently one single construction worker, a guy who screams wonderfully before jumping to his death. He's next shown as bones and a hardhat while the building falls apart with no sound or music at all. It's the weirdest thing. No, wait. The weirdest thing is more news footage that turns into this split screen nonsense with images we saw earlier in the movie, including people dancing in fish masks for reasons that make no sense at all, and a shot of a baby half-submerged in the murk. It's really pretty wonderful.


cory said...

As always, I am very touched that you chose to honor my birthday in such a way. Typing "Happy Birthday" takes moments, but watching this cinamatic pollution took hours of your time and probably took unknown years from your life.

I hate this movie.

I really hate this movie.

I hate it when the disgusting monster flings acidic goo into our hero's eye, but maybe the totally unwelcome and weird hippy/eco themes are worse, or maybe the unbelievably bad songs with their ludicrous lyrics are worse. But nothing can be worse than when Godzilla flies backward. It is the silliest thing in the history of Godzilla movies, and that is REALLY saying something. How stoned does a filmmaker have to be to think that is a good idea?

After reading your very funny review, one might think that this movie could be good campy fun. That would be incorrect. I have seen this movie and nothing good can come of it. It is bad to watch, listen to, or think about. The only good that came of it was that the director was never allowed to direct another movie. If I could find him, I might do worse. The seventies was a bad decade for our hero, and this was the low point. I guess I could see some fun being had by inflicting this on friends, sort of like tasting a disgusting food and then turning to someone close to you and saying "you have to try this", but that's it.

As always, I appreciate your gift, but I hate this movie.

Shane said...

Yeah, sorry. I think this is two years straight I've done a Godzilla movie you don't even like. Maybe. Maybe it was two years ago I borrowed one from Barry's list.

As you might know, I get just as much enjoyment from a good bad movie as I do a good good movie. This has enough going on for me to put it in the "good bad" category. I'd argue that it is "good campy fun," but that's the sort of thing that would be even more subjective than comedy or cartoons.

You are right that the Godzilla flying thing is about the dumbest thing ever. I still can't believe how stupid that looked.

"Cinematic pollution"...heh.

What about the one with the robot Godzilla? Maybe I'll check that one out next year.