Kaijū Menagerie

Hedorah (ヘドラ, Hedora)

Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971)

– multiple forms
– gigantic, sad eyes
– a slimy exterior

– polluting the world
– sucking on factories
– terrifying school children
– smearing kittens with radioactive sludge
– pissing off Godzilla


Godzilla vs. Hedorah was pretty much reviled upon its original release in 1971. Director Yoshimitsu Banno was happy with the end result, but Tomoyuki Tanaka – long time producer of the Godzilla franchise who was hospitalised during the film’s production – was horrified. Tanaka went as far to claim that Banno had “ruined Godzilla” and banned Banno from ever making another Godzilla film. Banno would never direct again, however, he would continue to pursue the possibility of Godzilla vs. Hedorah 2. Hedorah would appear once more onscreen in a pathetic cameo in the cruddy Godzilla: Final Wars (2005).

What a terrible shame that Tanaka and audiences of the early 70s reacted to Hedorah in such a negative way, because personally I believe Godzilla vs. Hedorah to be one of the most interesting and exciting Godzilla productions of the Shōwa era. The film is wild with manic editing, surreal imagery, bizarre trip-out sequences, musical numbers and even animated vignettes. Banno’s stylistic leanings are more in tune with Japanese avant-garde productions of the 1960s rather than a Godzilla film.

Hedorah is a unique character in the Godzillaverse. His gooey, foul design is unlike any other kaijū and he is full of surprises as his form progresses throughout the movie. Godzilla vs. Hedorah, for all its funky hallucinogenic scenes, is also shockingly dark. Hedorah is a mindless smog-sucking beast, his only goal is consuming more pollution. As a result of his sludgy viciousness, many are left dead in his path. The aftermath of his rampages are genuinely unsettling. The devastation of his trail of airborne smog is also rather disturbing, especially in a scene involving a school group. The environmental themes may be hokey to some, but it gives Godzilla a reason to be furious. Godzilla angrily tears Hedorah to shreds in a madcap finale.

Sandwiched between two lesser Godzilla entries, the messy but enjoyable All Monsters Attack (1969) and the lifeless Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972), it’s hard to believe that Godzilla vs. Hedorah received the worst reputation of the first three Godzilla films of the 70s. Thankfully, Hedorah’s popularity has risen over the decades. In fact, during my last visit to Tokyo, I noticed that newly produced Hedorah figurines and toys were all over the place. I’m glad that this odd monster has finally received his dues. Thank you, Banno-sama. In no way did you “ruin Godzilla.”