Godzilla flies. Frustrated in the overlong battle against a 300 foot tall piece of alien sludge, Godzilla sprouts his arms like wings. And he flies.
As a desperate ecological plea, Godzilla vs Hedorah starkly removes flesh from bone. Bodies lay in piles, sizzled by the polluted exhaust of Hedorah’s oxygen depleting mist. It’s a dark and erratic film, possibly scripted under the influence of carcinogens. No wonder Godzilla flies.
Misguided intent ultimately blights this Toho’s ’70s era kaiju film, beginning a rut of creative flops and in reality, Hedorah was the only one trying something to break from the corrosive normalcy which had sunk the series. One time director Yoshimistsu Banno’s work is nothing if not eclectic. Sour pits of animation mingle with abrasively loud multi-screen shouting and flat intersecting monologues describing Godzilla’s savior status. Drunken bar patrons are swarmed by psychedelic video screens and dancers wearing fish heads.
In this kaleidoscopic tone, Banno issues a stark condemnation of Japan’s furious industrialization, the conceptually devious Hedorah born of an air and water impurity as much as Godzilla was of radioactive fallout. The mixture displays metaphorical growth franchise-wide and is a means of stable relevancy but is executed with such flimsiness as to collapse inward onto itself. Hedorah limps into being within the decrepit miniature sets which exist mostly as pale dirt patches, and Haruo Nakajima’s second-to-last stint inside of the Godzilla suit is playfully dopey.
Hedorah produces no sense of scale and the plodding clashes are set to Riichiro Manabe’s tuba belching score – the most unpleasant piece of Godzilla-dom. Manabe’s work appears to decompose as it winds through the film stock, yet the piercing electronic-ish twangs are honest in function. It matches the uncomfortable cinematic tonal pitch. Hedorah is often capsized by stark quiet (entire segments of monster combat go untouched), and yet these audio-less pockets of action are preferred to the head ringing instrumental babble composed for this treacherous feature.
In time, Banno plotted a sequel, set in Africa as if that would change attitudes towards water contamination. Famously, producer Tomoyuki Tanaka stated Banno, “ruined Godzilla,” as if Tanaka’s upcoming shlock fest Godzilla vs. Megalon wasn’t set to do the same. No, Hedorah did not ‘ruin’ Godzilla so much as it made it miserable. Although, shouldn’t it? Therein lies an accidental success of Banno’s weird and experimental escapade. Tainted air is never pleasant and neither is Hedorah.
But, Godzilla’s original unstoppable march through central Tokyo was disciplined and focused. Hedorah is not. As often as it is crudely despicable in a noted body count, the feature slips away into overbearing mental stimuli. Hedorah best represents the modern obnoxiousness of a social media debate on global warning, where people shout their stances and scream without any end accomplishment. Instead of answers, we distract ourselves and that’s all Hedorah is: A distraction.
Kraken Releasing issues the early ’70s pollution metaphor to Blu-ray with admirable results considering the cult classification. Premium resolution is afforded by this scan, pleasingly rendering a small grain structure with minimally invasive mosquito noise on certain surfaces. Encoding is sharp and heavy on the bitrate distribution.
Print damage and dirt are expected age causalities, although minimized through clean-up work. Scattered stimuli all present challenges from flimsy matte work to animated shots. Consistency between mediums is genuinely appreciated.
Primaries find a comfortable vividness to extract added surrealism from the unexplained fish head sequence. Color reproduction is this astute and often bright until the feature sinks into night. Then the material hinges on black level density which proves outstanding. Shadow definition is precise while slipping into pure black.
With fine details visible, suit elements which have often been hidden prove notable. Hedorah’s multi-color paint scheme is clearly displayed and the multiple Godzilla suits used are readily visible. Subtle touches like Dr. Yano’s (Akira Yamauchi) face bandage produces cloth texturing. Likewise, facial definition can be frequent. Outside of some dizzying cinematography decisions (fish eye lenses, softening filters), Hedorah comes alive on Blu.
Uncompressing the audio will only do so much when in consideration of Manabe’s grating musical tracks, giving this DTS-HD mix sub-par materials to work from. Shrieking twangs and bloated horns are to par when being considerate of age.
Dubbed dialog on the English side features the typical voice elevation and quieter source. Japanese work is notably cleaner including a few vocalized numbers which, while still awful, still benefit from proper Blu-ray application. Static and popping have been addressed.
A Japanese trailer is the only bonus, interesting for its use of Ikira Ifukube tracks, placeholders at the time of its creation. It’s an interesting, “what if.”
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.