Making of Gojira Tai Hedoah

Godzilla vs. Hedorah is quite the oddity of the whole of kaiju eiga - or even wider - tokusatsu eiga. Most probably the one good Godzilla film which gets ridiculed the most due to the number of poetic liberties Yoshimitsu Banno took with this production, the film still holds up to this day as one of the strongest anti-pollution films which actually at face value is a loose remake of the original Gojira itself. Sadly, the making of the film has not been well documented, but we were graced to have a 5mm home movie of the production included on the R2 DVD and an abundance of photos, but little to no coverage in interviews. So I shall, with the best of my ability cover the abstract work of art that is "Godzilla vs. Hedorah".

In the late 1960’s and 1970’s, Japan began taking up a newfound awareness regarding pollution. Pollution in the 70's came to bring on many things. Charles Manson rambled on about it as part of his defense which no one seems to understand, the discoveries of holes in the ozone layer started here, and asthma started taking a hold on Japan in the form of a sickness nicknamed "Yokaichi (pronounced Yoka-ichi) Asthma". The development of this was not all that surprising since it is a natural thing to happen when an area goes industrial. At one time, there was even an order carried out to have oxygen tanks deployed onto street corners for people not to pass out. This caught Director Yoshimitsu Banno's eye. So much that he had in 1970 created an audio-visual exhibit of showing people volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. All of this was part of a pollution exhibit at the iconic Mitsubishi Pavilion Expo, since earthquakes and volcanoes are among some of the biggest nature-sourced pollution sources. Toho Studios was involved in way that they accepted a commission to participate in the expo. In an interview Banno stated that, "At the time, the rapid elevation of the nation's economic strength (something which would be more refined on in "Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah"(1991)) created a huge pollution problem. So I asked Tanaka, 'What about a pollution monster?' and he agreed".

However, joining up with Toho, Banno undoubtedly noticed that it was a dark time. Eiji Tsuburaya had died the year before, effecting the first kaiju film Toho worked on without the reknowned master, "Space Amoeba". Also, Godzilla himself was turning kid-friendly. While this is a bad thing, it did conceal Godzilla's place in pop culture. Last and not least, Tanaka was growing increasingly sick, therefore he was not at Toho to supervise the production. Taking his chances, Banno joined forces with an unstable Toho Studios to produce "Godzilla vs. Hedorah".

The script, co-written by Banno, really copies the original film in many ways - just replace the first generation Godzilla with Hedorah and an eye-patched Serizawa with a head bandaged Dr. Yano. Like in the original, the new threat is felt first by fishermen: a scene similar to the showing of the Oxygen Destroyer to Emiko occurs when Hedorah flies by and the family fish tank goes cloudy, killing the fish and a lot more. This film is also the only film to show the deaths of humans since the original Gojira, especially comparing the shot of the crying women in Gojira to the rapidly decomposing body of a man in the film. These are just some of the underlying similarities to the original which makes this film really good in an aspect. The theme of the film is also executed just like "Gojira", just replace the topic with pollution. Like the aforementioned predecessor, this film does not point fingers at any specific human and in the end takes a force stronger than a nuclear weapon to dispose of the newest foe, which was created through a by product of man.

But changes also occur, some for the better. Along with Banno, the script is written by Takeshi Kimura. In many ways, he (Kimura) reverses what Shinichi Sekizawa did since 1963. The kaiju in "Godzilla vs. Hedorah" are not characterized as a weapon or a deity, nor do the battles the monsters fight grow out of human conflicts. Instead, Godzilla is acting for himself in this film. While Godzilla doesn’t feel the same way as in the original, he might as well be fighting Hedorah only so he will live. This is what author David Kalat referred to when "Godzilla acts as a free agent."

The parts of the script which did not resemble the original are also interesting. In an interview, Teruyoshi Nakano claimed that the sequence where Godzilla is flying was not in the script, and needed what he said, "Something extraordinary". Nakano was also uncomfortable with the images of death in the film, including the scene where Godzilla's eye is burned. So that is why many scenes of comedy relief are added, from the flying scene to Godzilla doing the Ultraman stance. The non-Gojira parts of the script are obvious, but saddening. Authority figures come off as incompetent. They do not listen to the ideas of the people who were attacked by Hedorah and are constantly "schooled", beginning with the assumption that Hedorah is just a water creature. They fail in offensive procedure too. When fixing the electric towers for the giant electrodes, they complete the task at a poor rate which in a regular film from both sides of the Pacific the task would be done on time. But this is intentional as it adds to the gloom of the film. For they do not fail that their weapons are useless, but rather they act like they do not care.

Female character development is stuck in this part of the film also. The main female character, the wife of Dr. Yanno is, with all respect to the female of my species, a pain in the ass. She is only thinking of herself. When reporters come to the house to do a report on Hedorah and get data on the human damage the monster has done through taking photo of Dr. Yanno and Ken's injuries from earlier on in the film, the wife says no for SHE would be ashamed. This plays into the natural state of women who always want a "handsome" male companion and not someone who would be more or less ugly. Though with maturity this attitude would subside, Mrs. Yanno is obviously not mentally mature. Another point is that while she is hearing about high death tolls, the killing of her fish, and Ken's near death experience, she only responds to the problem of her gymnastics pupils having a hard time breathing. Sad indeed. The teens, male and female, are just stupid. They have no logic or common sense. That is all that can be said on that. This could be commentary on the hippie movement going on at the time in Japan though.

The funky things in the film seem to overshadow the good things in some people views sadly. One thing which sets off everyone who watches the film is the bar scene. One of the criticisms with the scene is the blob in the background. The blob on the wall is really salad oil applied on a small plate. The oils were accompanied with red and yellow coloring and then projected by a strong light. "That image was projected onto a back screen behind her (mentioning the dancing girl) with the plate being twisted according to the music's rhythm. It was the same technique for how we used to create a moving background in car driving scenes." Banno once said. The whole idea came from a gay bar in Chicago at the time. What inspiration! The dancing girl in the film though was inspired by a bar in Tokyo's Akasaka region called "Juliana's". At that bar/club, girls would just get up on boxes and start shaking their hips. Though Banno has denied in interviews that the scene was inspired by drug usage. "I had a lot of interest in new expression. I liked the movie 'Woodstock'. It was a very emotional movie for me." Banno said.

This "new expression" came with a score by Ifukube student Riichiro Manabe with a rather unique score and a song by Banno, which is sung by one of the main characters titled "Give Back the Sun". Sadly, that was wrongly ridiculed and the score for this film not used again except for in the worst Godzilla film of them all, "Godzilla vs. Megalon". However, animated sequences were also added. This came by when Banno noticed at the Mitsubishi Expo that a girl asked to borrow a companion magazine at the expo which had manga in it. Banno thought that the young people liked manga, so all animated scenes in the film can be called the first Godzilla "anime". Both aspects though bring out a uniqueness which has brought on a cult status to this film, with the manga edge coming over even to the film "Godzilla vs. Gigan".

However, this film is monumental for it's special effects changes. Teruyoshi Nakano, joining the staff some seven years beforehand, now took role of director of Special effects with the assistant director being future Director of Special Effects Koichi Kawakita. Still there was the legendary Haruo Nakajima, but one person came in who would change the history of Godzilla forever: the coming of Kengo Nakayama, better known by his stage name of "Kenpachiro Satsuma". It all started with Banno recommending Satsuma for the part. Kenpachiro raced to the studios as fast as he could, since he was fresh and wanted a role badly. He was interviewed by Teruyoshi Nakano, who explained the plot of the film to Satsuma. Ken asked, "What type of role should I take in this film, sir?" Nakano replied, "Oh yes, it is a very powerful role, Mr. Nakayama. There's a meteorite which falls into Tagonoura Bay (around Osaka) in Shizuoka Prefecture and it grows into a huge, 50 meter monster named "Hedorah" (Hedorah comes from the word Hedoro, the Japanese word for sludge). And I want you to do the monster Hedorah." Satsuma had a moment of silence at the shock of what role he was getting. He wanted to do something which had his whole body act and now he was playing a kaiju. But in a documentary from 2008, Satsuma said, "I am an actor damn it!" Satsuma played both crawling and walking Hedorahs. Knowing already Nakajima, he wasn't as intimidated as one might have thought. The 330 pound sponge rubber adult Hedorah suit was hard to move in. So Satsuma decided to, "Just swing my arms quickly when Godzilla came to me, or walk slow like crawling." Satsuma also tried to limit body movement to only one limb at one time. He would get advice from Nakajima, on and off film. However, Satsuma claimed that they were always adding pieces to the suit over time of filming. In an interview, Teruyoshi Nakano said that he remembered that there were two adult Hedorah suits made, one light and one heavy. This may have given Satsuma the impression that they were adding on parts to the suit. The heavier costume was used though in the scenes with Hedorah showing "rickety" movements. Eventually, Nakano and Satsuma became friends and would work on kaiju films together till 1984. An interesting scene cut out is when the second Hedorah, who traps the two main teenage characters in their car, is seen with matted in fleeing humans. The scene is actually a re-used shot from the finished film. Just with cropped in humans for the theatrical trailer.

Haruo Nakajima fares less well, in fact worse. Again, the Soshingeki suit was used. Only, this time the fans called it the Hedoro-Goji suit due to it's new darker coloring. The suit, being used for a third time in a four year period, was deteriorating badly. Accidents on set included the hand of the suit coming apart. Intentional damage to the suit was the appliance of acid and sludge substances to the suit to give off the effects of Hedorah's attacks. Further aging of the materials in the head region forced the head to be not replaced but "buffered" for the next film, "Godzilla vs. Gigan". However, precautions were taken, even for the bare minimum. The five year old Daisenso-Goji suit was used again for the sludge pit sequence when Hedorah excrements on Godzilla, with the excrement mainly being made out of natural mud. It was also used when Godzilla burned with his heat ray a bunch of floating pollution in a dream of Ken's and when Godzilla jumps into Tokyo Bay chasing Hedorah. But Godzilla is not always played by Haruo Nakajima. Regular Marmit vinyl come in as a sort of product placement - continued from "Godzilla's Revenge". One of the more noticeable figures is the Bullmark 1970 King Ghidorah, Bullmark 1970 Godzilla, and the Popy 18" Jumbosaurus Godzilla. All of these figures are worth more than $350 on the market today and are excruciatingly rare. On a strange note, Banno in an interview explained why he had Godzilla fly he said, "...he had to do something else to catch Hedorah." All of this was film with a crew of 50 over 35 days on a budget of $252,000.

Tanaka ended up seeing the finished film in the hospital. Banno has said that, "...he didn't have a good feeling. He said it was troublesome to change the character. He WAS NOT ANGRY but certainly was not content." "Godzilla vs. Hedorah" was released during the period of time referred to as the Godzilla Champion Festival, in which all Godzilla films from 1971 to 1973 were accompanied by a re-edited version of a 60's kaiju film with the editing done by a not-so content Ishiro Honda. The film opened on July 24th with Hedorah to gain only 1.7 million admissions (to be technical, 1,740,000 admissions). It was one of the better turn-outs of the 70's era films. The film would be shown only one more time in theaters on October 20, 2008 at the Tokyo International Film Festival.

The American version is a unique story. It was the last time that America International Pictures (AIP) handled the release of a Godzilla film in America. Ending a tradition which started seven years beforehand, Samuel Z. Arkoff produced this version of the film. Like many other AIP distributed films, a new dub is created to replace the Hong Kong dub by Toho. Like other AIP films, the film was renamed for American audiences. The film was released in February, 1972. The film's AIP dub, though, became officially lost. Bootlegs carry the dub, but the Orion VHS release and a questionable Simitar pre-1998 release are the only legal releases of the highly sought after dub. Something interesting to note is that for the AIP dub, it was Yoshimutsu Banno who wrote the English Lyrics for the song, "Save the Earth". The song would be recorded in Los Angeles, California with supervision from Guy Hemric. An AIP secretary, Adryan Russ, would be the one who would sing the song. In a 1998 interview, Russ would explain, "For a long time, I never told anyone that I did the Godzilla movie because I was embarrassed about it. Later on I learned that the movie has a kind of cult fallowing. Now I think it is cool and I'm glad to be associated with it."

AIP's marketing strategies were even stranger than the film itself in some ways. Many companies selling natural gas were asked to advertise the film, boy/girl scouts as well as health clubs were asked to make Godzilla into the Japanese version of "Smokey the Bear" and make him a prominent symbol of anti-pollution, and even use the film in school. The craziness would continue with AIP asking for people to cut out Godzilla and Hedorah out of the poster, mount them onto cardboard, and on the base mount all sorts of pollution products (empty cans, plastic bottles, unrecycled paper, ect.) and the selling of a "GodzillaCocktail" (all one word) with a tagline, "it clears the five o'clock smog from your brain"

Something not really covered is the Godzilla film's distribution in Europe, specifically Germany. Germany has a reputation to change the story line on a major scale when they dub their films. The main change is that Dr. Frankenstein usually has something to do with the kaiju. Thankfully, all plot points were kept with this specific film, from Hedorah's origin being from space to they're being for a short time two Hedorahs. However, what Hedorah was as an alien was changed. Hedorah is normally excepted as a form of space tadpole. He is, in the German dub, a giant jelly fish. This is absurd, but interesting as it is similar to one of the film's sequel ideas before Banno was booted from making another Godzilla film. In advertisements, the multiple Hedorahs angle was over exaggerated and in one photobistura from Italy, the inclusion of Korean kaiju extordinare Yongary. Also added were Gappa and Gamera, leading to die hard fans that the film could be one of the best battle royals to grace the screen - but European fans would be disappointed. However, some of the posters and lobby cards would offer color varriants of Hedorah so popular that he would become the basis of some Marmit/Marusan/M1 figures.

Hedorah, the character itself, has become very popular. Concerning Marusan and M1, Hedorah is one of the most produced kaiju in figure form and is the most expensive. That is just one part of the testimony that this film is a very cult-status film. It's many negatives are, unlike films like Godzilla vs. Megalon, debatable and more opinionated than the other considerable "bad" Godzilla films. But I love the film and it's making can finally be read and seen.

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