Godzilla vs the Smog Monster (1971) poster

Godzilla vs the Smog Monster (1971)


aka Godzilla Vs Hedorah

(Gojira Tai Hedora)

Japan. 1971.


Director – Yoshimitsu Banno, US Scenes Directed by Lee Kresel, Screenplay – Kaoru Mabuchi, Photography – Yoichi Manoda, Music – Riichiro Manabe, Special Effects – Shokei Nakano, Art Direction – Taiko Inoue. Production Company – Toho.


Akira Yamauchi (Dr Yano), Hiroyuki Kawase (Ken), Toshie Kimura (Toshie Yano), Toshio Shibaki (Yukio), Keiko Mari (Miki)


A toxic shape-changing creature, known as Hedorah, emerges from the polluted waters of Taganoura Bay that created it. It begins killing people with its sulphuric acid mist as it travels across Japan. It is up to Godzilla to come to the country’s defence and take on Hedorah.

Godzilla vs the Smog Monster was the eleventh Godzilla film. It has earned its own special niche as the worst of all Japanese monster movies, due to a listing in the Medved Brothers’ The Fifty Worst Movies of All Time (1977). This is not quite the case. Certainly, there have been worse films made. There are even worse Godzilla films – the subsequent entries Godzilla vs Gigan/Godzilla on Monster Island (1972) or Godzilla vs the Cosmic Monster (1974) are much shabbier than Smog Monster, for instance.

Japanese monster movies require a necessary state of critical suspension – they make a peculiar kind of sense when viewed not as monster movies but more as pulp fairy-tales. Although by this point, the Godzilla series had become so pitched to juvenile audiences that Godzilla can be shown as a toy played with by the film’s token child. The Godzilla on show is also not the best looking of Godzilla’s – its neck for some reason being much longer and scrawnier and absurd-looking, while its appearance comes accompanied by ludicrous mock Spaghetti Western music.

Godzilla vs Hedorah in Godzilla vs the Smog Monster (1971)
Godzilla vs the pollution monster Hedorah

The Hedorah creation has much potential as both metaphor and monster. Pollution had now supplanted the Bomb as the major anxiety in the Japanese national psyche and featured in one way or another in most of the Godzilla films of the 1970s. “As we created it, Hedorah is our punishment,” says one character with typical Japanese monster movie self-flagellation at one point. (Although the American version of the film creates confusion by then throwing in an entirely muddled explanation about Hedorah having arrived from outer space on a meteorite). There is a dubbed song about pollution: “We have cobalt full of mercury/Too many fumes in our oxygen/All the smog now is choking you and me/Good Lord, where is it going to end?/… For tomorrow you and me, we’re movin’, movin’ to the Moon now/We know what it’s worth to save the Earth/Come raise your voice.”

The Hedorah monster with its cartoonish orange eyes is too absurd to be taken seriously. That said, some of the wild images of it sitting atop chimneys sucking up carbon fumes; or with it like a giant flying oyster, riding on jets, crisping people and buildings beneath it with its acid mist; it dive-bombing and sitting atop cars in a traffic jam with its orange eyes balefully staring, have their moments. The American version has thrown in a series of animation scenes, which illustrate the action but have nothing to do with the rest of the plot.

Hedorah later made a reappearance in Godzilla: Final Wars (2004). The other Godzilla films are:– Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1954), Gigantis the Fire Monster/Godzilla Raids Again/The Return of Godzilla (1955), King Kong Vs. Godzilla (1962), Godzilla vs the Thing/Mothra vs Godzilla (1964), Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster (1964), Monster Zero/Invasion of the Astro Monster (1965), Godzilla vs the Sea Monster/Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966), Son of Godzilla (1968), Destroy All Monsters (1968), Godzilla’s Revenge (1969), Godzilla vs Gigan/Godzilla on Monster Island (1972), Godzilla vs Megalon (1973), Godzilla vs the Cosmic Monster/Godzilla vs the Bionic Monster/Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla (1974), Terror of Mechagodzilla/Monsters from an Unknown Planet (1976), Godzilla 1985 (1984), Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989), Godzilla vs King Ghidorah (1991), Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth (1992), Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla (1993), Godzilla vs Space Godzilla (1994), Godzilla vs Destoroyah (1995), Godzilla 2000 (1999), Godzilla vs Megaguirus (2000), Godzilla Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001), Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002), Godzilla: Tokyo SOS (2003), Godzilla: Final Wars (2004) and Shin Godzilla/Godzilla: Resurgence (2016), plus the anime Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters (2017), Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle (2018) and Godzilla: The Planet Eater (2018). Both Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla (1998) and Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla (2014) are big-budget, English-language remakes, while the latter launched two sequels with Godzilla, King of the Monsters (2019) and Godzilla vs. Kong (2021).

Trailer here

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