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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Godzilla vs. Hedorah (Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster) (1971)

"Godzilla would get really angry if he ever saw this. He would do something."
- Ken Yano (Hiroyuki Kanase)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: October 13, 2004

Stars: Akira Yamauchi, Toshie Kimura, Hiroyuki Kanase
Other Stars: Keiko Mari, Toshio Shibamoto, Haruo Nakajima, Kenpachiro Satsuma
Director: Yoshimitsu Banno

MPAA Rating: PG for sci-fi monster violence, brief mild language
Run Time: 01h:25m:42s
Release Date: October 19, 2004
UPC: 043396076471
Genre: fantasy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+A-B D

DVD Review

Toho has always been very protective of its Godzilla movies, particularly the "Showa" films made from 1954 to 1974. No widescreen Japanese-language versions of these pictures have ever been licensed in America, apparently to prevent importation to Japan at much lower prices. Godzilla fans had despaired of ever getting a proper Region 1 release of these films, but amazingly Columbia Tristar has come to the rescue with three pictures from this classic period. The earliest of these is the environmental drama Godzilla vs. Hedorah, better known in the US entitled Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster, as it was released to drive-ins by AIP.

Pollution of water and air continues to be a serious problem in Japan, and a new life form, starting out like a tadpole, enjoys that fact. Absorbing pollution and smoke, the creature Hedorah becomes gigantic, exuding a sulfuric acid mist wherever it goes. Making matters worse, the creature can fly from its own interior nuclear energy. Dr. Yano (Akira Yamauchi) and young son Ken (Hiroyuki Kanase) attempt to find the creature's origins or a way to stop it, but solutions are not forthcoming. Luckily for them, Godzilla is on the case and is taking his protector role seriously, though of course many Japanese cities could well suffer collateral damage in the process.

This film marks a huge improvement over the juvenile and stupid predecessor in the series, Godzilla's Revenge. Though the requisite young boy in short pants is present, he's not overly precocious or precious. In fact, the humans in the film are just incidental and generally ineffectual time-wasters, only present to deliver some semi-nonsensical exposition, until the out-of-nowhere finale. Pretty much the bulk of the film is made up of giant rubber-suited monster battles, and that's as it should be. The combats are frequent and lengthy, with decent production values. The environmental message is an important one, but director Yoshimitsu Banno really hits the viewer over the head with it; there's only so many loving shots of filthy water that one can sit through (especially when they start to be repeated).

Hedorah itself is an unusual creation, a tentacled heap of goo given to hurling globs of acidic muck at Godzilla and others (humans are badly scarred or reduced to skeletons, in sequences that will probably be too much for younger or more sensitive viewers). The main problem with the design are the glassy red eyes that look unnatural; had they been able to give the eyes even a little movement it would have helped the credibility of the creature immeasurably. Hedorah is a tough foe, though, and Godzilla spends much of the time smoldering from the acidic aftereffects of the creature. Godzilla himself is entertaining as always, with the added quirk of using his radioactive breath to propel himself around à la Gamera: yes, Godzilla learns to fly in this infamous sequence. The other stylistic innovation is the insertion of brief cartoon segments between sections of the film, often with some nifty visual effects and snappy transitions.

The original Japanese cut is provided on this disc, with the original main title song used instead of its AIP replacement. The credit sequences are in English, however, but having the original language on the soundtrack plus the original aspect ratio is certainly a better presentation than I ever thought was likely for this film.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic 2.35:1 picture is generally quite attractive, having been derived from an extremely clean source print. Color is quite good and generally stable, though the dark sequences are sometimes a shade illegible. As has been the case with most Columbia discs lately, there's no significant added edge enhancement, another happy development.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Japaneseyes


Audio Transfer Review: 2.0 mono tracks in both Japanese and English are provided. The Japanese track is a little less noisy than the English track, but both sound pretty good. In particular, the brassy Godzilla theme sounds great. Godzilla's roars don't have any deep bass to them, which may be disappointing to some viewers. The theme music sounds fine.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Japanese with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Kaena: The Prophecy, Steamboy, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The only extras are three trailers for unrelated films, plus some ads for other DVD releases. Chaptering is a little thin, but I'll happily swap the standard 28 chapters for not being plagued by excessive edge enhancement.

Extras Grade: D

 

Final Comments

An attractive transfer, if a bit dark, in the original language and original aspect ratio. Hooray! Even with the paucity of extras, this disc of one of the better Godzilla films of the 1970s is a very welcome addition to the Godzilla DVD canon.

 


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