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Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster / Godzilla vs. Hedorah (Blu-ray)

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Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster / Godzilla vs. Hedorah (Blu-ray)Starring Akira Yamauchi, Toshie Kimura, Hiroyuki Kawase, Toshio Shiba

Directed by Yoshimitsu Banno

Distributed by Kraken Releasing/Section 23 Films


Godzilla entered the ’70s with an anomalous entry in the series, one that brought with it a strong eco-conscious message. Now that the “Godzilla Dream Team” was permanently disbanded after the death of special effects supervisor Eiji Tsuburaya, the onus of success was placed largely on the shoulders of producer Tomoyuki Tanaka. The next film set for production was Godzilla vs. Hedorah/Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster (1971), to be written and directed by Yoshimitsu Banno. It was during the production of this film that Tanaka became seriously ill and was hospitalized, leaving the film’s direction entirely up to the discretion of Banno, a complete neophyte to the series. His film posited that mankind’s rampant pollution and wanton destruction of Mother Nature would come back to haunt us in the form of a huge nuclear shape-shifting blob from space, known as Hedorah. Only Godzilla, Savior of the Earth, would be able to stop it and prevent the annihilation of humanity. Strong messages aren’t new to the series, since the previous entry, All Monsters Attack/Godzilla’s Revenge (1969), was about as ham-fisted as you can get with its anti-bullying sentiments. Unlike that film, however, Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster is lauded for its tonally unique take on the series… and for uncovering Godzilla’s greatest unknown ability: flight.

This picture was not exactly subtle in delivering commentary on what is still a hot topic today. And, really, it’s not even a bad film when you consider the entire litany of the series. But when Tomoyuki Tanaka finally saw it after leaving the hospital, he went berserk. Rumor has it that he hated the film so much that he swore Banno would never work for Toho again. And he didn’t. Banno, on the other hand, was so excited by his work here that he immediately began writing a sequel that would have taken place in Africa, but those plans were scuttled as soon as Tanaka was back on his feet. Oddly enough, despite having been away from Godzilla for over 30 years Banno was linked to a 3D Godzilla project, tentatively titled Godzilla vs. Deathla – To The Max 3D, that would have been shown exclusively in IMAX theaters. Plans were soon scuttled when Legendary Pictures took interest in snapping up Godzilla’s rights, and through some minor miracle Banno remained on as an executive producer for Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla (2014). If you listen closely, you can hear Tomoyuki Tanaka wildly spinning in his grave.

Godzilla vs. Hedorah starts off in a very meta fashion by showing a young boy, Ken (Hiroyuki Kawase), playing with Godzilla toys (I believe they’re the Bullmark line) in the backyard, his house situated near the sea because his father, Dr. Yano (Akira Yamauchi), works with marine life. The action cuts over to a collection of sludge and debris floating in the ocean, one which Hedorah rises out of before flying off into the distance. The creature is reported to have attacked boats and factories along the coast, consuming massive amounts of pollution and oil to fuel itself and grow in size. Hedorah flies across the countryside, leaving a wake of choking death in its path. Godzilla shows up during a particularly gorgeous sunset, intent on fighting the monster, but Hedorah proves too resourceful and escapes Godzilla’s grasp. Dr. Yano, now crippled after a run-in with Hedorah underwater, learns that he has a method to kill the creature by drying it out using electricity. The military sets up giant electric panels on Mt. Fuji, all they need is for Godzilla to get Hedorah in their path so it can be toasted. But Hedorah is able to take on many different forms, making it difficult for Godzilla to destroy such a slippery foe.

Banno added many unique flourishes to this film to get his message across, including musical interludes and animated sequences. There are a couple of scenes occurring in an underground Japanese night club that are beyond psychedelic, with a tie-dyed woman wildly gesticulating on a table while her tripped-out band jams on stage. And there are exploding color visuals everywhere. It’s like something out of an Austin Powers flashback, dripping in ’70s expectations. The animated interstitials are used to explain how Hedorah has been evolving, showing the sludgy behemoth sidling up to factories and draining them of their toxic emissions. Again, out of place in a Godzilla film? Totally, but that’s all part of what makes this entry such a fun oddity. The vivid colors also provide a stark juxtaposition to the grimy, polluted world Hedorah intends to produce.

Hedorah would be the first, but certainly not the last, adversary to take on different forms throughout the film. At first, it’s nothing more than a big tadpole, but once the beast sucks up huge quantities of our toxic trash its size more than doubles to something able to combat Godzilla. The longer it sucks up our waste, the bigger it gets, eventually reaching a stage where it can fly and lift even the massive Godzilla off the ground. From there, Godzilla and Hedorah take the fight to land, and the garbage gargantuan morphs into fighting form for some hand-to-hand combat with the Big G. This is really the first Godzilla film where man and beast work together to defeat a common enemy, with Godzilla using his atomic breath to activate the malfunctioning electric ray the humans created to fry Hedorah. He’s downright anthropomorphic holding Hedorah in his grasp, practically signaling for the men below to get this sucker cooked. Having grown up seeing Godzilla in his role as both protector and prime enemy, I think it’s kinda cool to see him expressly choosing to win one for the people.

What isn’t cool, though, is seeing him fly. Banno thought the film was unremittingly dark, and it certainly is, so when it came time for Godzilla to chase Hedorah near the climax he came up with two options – he runs, or he flies. Keep in mind, Godzilla had never demonstrated any ability to fly whatsoever because how the hell could he? Simple – he tucks his tail between his legs, fires up his atomic breath, and uses that flame as a means of propulsion. Wait, what? If the film’s environmental message didn’t already have producer Tanaka fuming, his head likely exploded when this infamous scene occurred. Thankfully, Big G Airlines were permanently grounded after this initial excursion.

While there were changes made to Godzilla’s personality and abilities for this film, one thing that didn’t change much was his suit. The same SoshingekiGoji suit used for the previous two films – Destroy All Monsters (1968) and All Monsters Attack (1969) – was employed for the bulk of filming here, though it’s highly likely that another, older suit was used for the water scenes. Godzilla maintained a consistent look for more than a few films during this period, and while this design is usually never singled out as one of the best it encompasses all of the design features that made him iconic. As usual, Haruo Nakajima handled acting duties inside the suit, having perfected his craft to such a degree that Godzilla is able to display a wide range of motion. We only got one more film with the master, Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972), before he bowed out of the series for good.

There are only minor differences between the Japanese version of the film and AIP’s edit for America. Other than the dubbing, the U.S. version added an English language version of the song “Save the Earth”, which had been sung in Japanese and featured in Toho’s cut. AIP also changed the film’s title to Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster. Toho has only made the international cut of the film available on DVD & Blu-ray, under the Godzilla vs. Hedorah title, meaning VHS tapes are the only means to watch the dubbed AIP version. This would be the final Godzilla film that AIP distributed in America, leaving further sequels in the hands of less capable studios.

Kraken Releasing have had strong results right out the gate with their first three Godzilla releases. Just as with Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster, Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster features a faithful transfer that maintains a strong filmic aesthetic without resorting to DNR or other digital manipulation to make the image shine. Grain is noticeably thicker here, spiking when night falls, which is frequently. It doesn’t detract from the picture, but know that it is much more prevalent than in Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster. Colors are well reproduced, with good saturation despite a lack of “pop”. Black levels are stable and consistent. The print used appears to have been kept in relatively good shape, with only minor flecks and white specks popping up throughout. Detail gets a nice uptick, too. As someone who has watched this film countless times on VHS and DVD, I can safely say it’s never looked better. And don’t worry about the HD image putting the FX work under a microscope and highlighting flaws – not only does the work done here hold up under HD scrutiny, but that’s also part of the series’ charm.

Once again, both Japanese and English DTS-HD MA mono tracks are included, with the edge going to the Japanese option. Dialogue is presently clearly, registering nicely in the mix. The English subtitles are not quite dubtitles, as they don’t exactly match the English dubbing, so they are likely closer to true accuracy. Composer Riichiro Manabe’s score is brooding and bassy, carrying with it a grim weight to ground the soundtrack. Fidelity is strong even though the dynamic range isn’t much to gloat over. Bass response is minimal but the LFE kicks in when required to do so.

The only extra presented here is the film’s Japanese trailer.

Special Features:

  • Japanese trailer

    The Film:

    4 1/2 out of 5

    Special Features:

    1/2 out of 5

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    Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review

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    Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne

    Directed by Charles Martin Smith


    I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.

    Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.

    Now let’s get to it.

    First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.

    Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.

    I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.

    Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.

    It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!

    And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.

    Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.

    This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.

    And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.

    Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!

    In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?

    That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.

    Rockstar lighting for days.

    Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.

    Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.

    More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.

    Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcornand if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.

    Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.

    All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!

    Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!

    • Trick or Treat (1986) 3.5
    3.5

    Summary

    Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.

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    User Rating 3.25 (12 votes)
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    AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters

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    Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

    Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


    ** NO SPOILERS **

    It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.

    Spoiler free.

    To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.

    That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.

    Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.

    Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.

    Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.

    Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.

    But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.

    But let’s backtrack a bit here.

    Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).

    And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.

    Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.

    With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.

    Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.

    I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.

    Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!

    Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.

    Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?

    On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.

    That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.

    In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.

    While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.

    Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.

    Bring on season 12.

    • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)
    3.5

    Summary

    The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.

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    User Rating 4.08 (13 votes)
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    The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror

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    Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

    Directed by Nicholas Woods


    The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

    The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

    The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

    The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

    The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

    The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.

    ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

    • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
    • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
    • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
    • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
    • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
    • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
    • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
    • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
    • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
    • The Axiom
    4.0

    Summary

    In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

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    User Rating 4 (17 votes)
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