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Movies from the Black Lagoon: Godzilla VS Hedorah

Movies from the Black Lagoon
Godzilla VS Hedorah - 1971, Rated PG
By Tom Doty

Snow days mean extra time with kids and they also mean that you can't go watching anything that's too gory or mature in content. That's why this week's column is rather tame but fun dip into Japanese monsterdom with their reigning King of the rubber suited beasty flick. This Godzilla film was also the only one I ever saw in a theater and it has always stayed with me.
This time around the giant reptile is pitted against a vile creature that was spawned by a potent cocktail of pollution and radiation. Hedorah is a nasty critter that resembles a shuffling mound of mud that's just swimming with bacteria. Fighting him proves difficult as Godzilla's claws pass right through it and come back with all manner of nastiness coating them.
Luckily there is a local scientist who has been studying the monster and figures out how to kill it. He teams up with his aerobics instructor wife, his fashion challenged son, and assorted hippies to help Godzilla stop this smog monster (the film's American title was actually "Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster"). The plan is to dry out the beast so that it reverts to a sort of dust that can be spread apart so far that it can't recombine. To this end they set up a giant electrical grid and Godzilla cooperates by dragging the beast through it after they brawl all over Mount Fuji and wreak enough havoc to send people fleeing in mortal terror while screaming and shouting incoherently.
This is actually the best Godzilla film of the bunch and one that also stands as a monument to the swinging seventies. It gets off to a counter culture start by having an issue for Godzilla to fight (as well as a cool monster). When Godzilla first appears he is surveying the sorry state of Tokyo Bay and promptly incinerates a floating pile of garbage. The film also acknowledges the youth movements of the 70's. These youngsters band together and rally against the monsters by having an end of the world party on Mount Fuji, which is also used to lure the Smog monster to his final battle with Godzilla. There's even an acid freak-out scene that sees a guy in a disco suddenly staring at all the other dancers who now rock enormous fish heads.
The film manages to salute fans of the series by delivering on key staples to the Godzilla franchise. These include the marvelous Hedorah who makes for a noxious villain. They also include plenty of fight scenes though one gets really bizarre. Hedorah flips Godzilla into a pit and proceeds to defecate into it and almost succeeds in drowning the king lizard but let's not go there. They also follow the tradition of casting an annoying child in the lead role. He is your typical Godzilla hero-boy who rocks a huge monster toy collection, an annoyingly peppy attitude, and while always appears in lederhosen (looking like the kid most likely to get beaten up by the whole Kindergarten).
Check this one out for a combination of monster hijacks and some excellent film techniques that make the whole enterprise look like it was put together by a fourth year film student who wanted to incorporate every trick he learned. These include use of split screen, psychedelic lighting, and even animation to tell the story. In the end it's just two guys sweating it out in rubber monster suits but they do manage to make you forget that's all you're looking at on a few occasions.
Best Line: "There's nowhere else to go and pretty soon we'll all be dead, so forget it. Enjoy yourself. Lets sing and dance while we can. Come on blow your mind."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail and to read to children every Wednesday at 10:30am at Borders in Hagerstown. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to:

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