Also of course known as Godzilla Versus The Smog Monster.
One might very well wonder why a lot of the Japanese Godzilla series didn't do well in America, and why a lot of them were not even brought in here for theatrical or VHS/DVD release for quite a while. One might, in that case, want to start here or at Godzilla and Son, and watch a few of those movies. I'm not saying this is a terrible Godzilla film. I'm just saying what sounds like a nifty concept idea didn't quite translate 100% to screen.
Hedorah is a giant monster that clashes with Godzilla (obviously) in this 11th installment of the series. At this point in the series, Godzilla was a friend to humanity, meaning he would protect humanity from whatever threat was looming at the time, and in this case it was The Smog Monster, which was inspired by (and indeed made of) pollution and filth which mankind makes. Hedorah is made of mutant cells which feed on pollution and grow, and then bond together to form the monster itself. Also involved is a kid, Ken Yano, who has a unexplained link to Godzilla/Hedorah.
This installment is usually one that makes lists of like "Top 10 worst Godzilla films" and stuff. It's not that it's outrageously bad, it's just that it's 1) not very good and 2) very very low on the action. When action happens, it's also at a different pace than most of the Godzilla franchise. I'm just going to drop this like it's hot: Hedorah seems vaguely confused, and not explicitly evil.
It was an odd idea to take the giant Godzilla and pit him against a man-made monster, and specifically one made of pollution. The anti-pollution message is decently strong, but moreover you'll probably be struck with the same idea as me, that most of the bad things Hedorah does are not strictly his fault. First of all he sinks some ships, and it's never proven he did it on purpose. In fact it looks more like he was just coming up and the ships happened to be there. Then he starts to emit a poisonous gas which kills people. Okay, maybe that's not his fault, he's just flying around, and the gas happens to be coming from him. Then his conflicts with Godzilla. Well yeah! Hedorah is around, minding his own business, and the Godzilla confronts him. Hedorah is of course gonna fight back!
But even in the Godzilla fights, Hedorah seems resistant. Several times he runs away, or doesn't bring the fight to Godzilla. In fact, I'd easily call this the most confusing of the Godzilla films simply because a lot of the time I wasn't sure what Hedorah was doing or why. When humanity also starts to fight Hedorah, of course he also fights back, but he doesn't go berserk and destroy buildings and shit like some monsters, no it's like, a single helicopter or a single tank or whatever. I think it was a conscious choice, to make him "not as evil" as some others, because they wanted to show that the true villain in this film was mankind. In fact in the end, Godzilla defeats Hedorah and then glares at the army men and head scientist/main character Dr. Toru Yano. It's a warning, Godzilla is saying, look and see what you've done.
Watching this one last night I also felt like perhaps this is one of those things where it was a concept idea that so-happened to be made. Like, there are tons, TONS of movies that are scripted, in production, even filmed in parts that are later abandoned. Maybe this is one that just so happened to get lucky and to actually be made. It reads like a wacky concept, Godzilla versus a monster of smog and pollution? It made me really interested to research and find out what wacky Godzilla films hadn't been made. I mean if one this weird was still made, what weird ass ones were never fully realized?
It's not a bad movie, it may be for hardcore fans only or something like that though. It's not one to start a non-initiated person on, and it may not be a "classic" in feel, execution, and all other ways. But it's one of them, unique, and an easily remembered, bizarre one that's perhaps a bit more dark and "realistic", in a series where three headed dragons are mechanized by aliens....
I give it 4 stars.