Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966)

Godzilla finally ended up going into full hero mode, once again defending Earth from King Ghidorah and a bunch of aliens bent on conquering our world in Invasion of the Astro-Monster.  So, what was the big lizard going to do next?  He didn't head for Disneyland, but instead of a tropical vacation paradise called Devil's Island where he had a nice bed of warm rocks inside a lava tube to take some personal time off from dueling with other giant monsters. 

Unfortunately he doesn't get to rest for long.  Ryôta Kane (Tôru Watanabe), after learning from a psychic that his brother survived the destruction of his fishing boat, is determined to search for him.  After being refused assistance he decides to get a boat for himself, eventually taking a yacht that just so happens to be occupied by a thief named Yoshimura (Akira Takarada).  In tow are a couple of hapless friends, Nita (Hideo Sunazuka) and Ichino (Chôtarô Tôgin).  After encountering a storm as well as the Ebirah, a giant lobster that guards the waters of Devil's Island, they come ashore only to find the island under occupation by a terrorist group called the Red Bamboo, who happens to be using captured natives from Infant Island for slave labor.  With the help of Daiyo (Kumi Mizuno), one of the natives who escaped, the group trie to find a way off the island and, in the process, wakes Godzilla from his sleep.  The big guy quickly sums up the situation and decides to sock it to Ebirah and the Red Bamboo.

Eiji Tsubaraya, who had created the special effects for the previous Godzilla films, was often at odds with director Ishirô Honda regarding some of the more light-hearted moments in the movies.  This is the first movie in the series since Godzilla Raids Again to use a director other than Honda, and Jun Fukuda was even more dissatisfied with working on these movies than Honda ever was.  This is also the first film with a new effects supervisor, Teruyoshi Nakano, even though Tsuburaya is credited to honor his work on the previous films.  Nakano keeps up the lighthearted tone from some of the previous films, with many of the battles between Godzilla and Ebirah appearing to be little more than a volleyball match with boulders.  Still, the miniature work and some of the matte work, especially the first time Ebirah's claw comes out of the ocean during the storm, are a continued improvement.

The music, though, is not.  Toho wanted Akira Ifikube to return for the soundtrack of Ebirah, Horror of the Deep, but Fukuda insisted on Masaru Sato.  Sato's score, generally, is good.  I like the surf guitar whenever Ebirah enters into the proceedings.  Unfortunately, this same music is used in other cases, like Godzilla fighting a giant condor and dealing with a number of jet fighters.  Ifikube's music at that point is sorely missed as the surf music doesn't mesh with the scene.  And, speaking of the Giant Condor, it is a creature on the same level as the one from The Giant Claw.  I'd swear it was the same prop if I didn't know it was repurposed from one of the Rodan models, which is strange because Mothra actually gets a better look this time around - good thing since she wouldn't be back until the 1990s. 

This has never been a well-loved Godzilla film.  Partially it's because well-loved is an adjective that could be used to describe the Godzilla suit this time around.  The other is because this was not supposed to be a Godzilla film at all, but rather a return for the Japanese version of King Kong.  When the script they came up for a King Kong movie didn't pass muster with the monster's American owners it was just switched over to Godzilla without changing anything to fit the quite different monster.  Thus, we have Godzilla spending most of the movie as if he hasn't had his morning coffee and displaying some rather out-of-character traits. 

Despite that I found that it was often a fun movie, but it often felt like it was being sabotaged.  Ebirah is heavy on the human portion of the plot, and for once had recognizable characters and a story that figured into what was going on.  It was an engaging second-tier spy film with monsters.  I just wish the monster battles were better and that it had a better soundtrack to accompany them, for we have a nice band of heroes, while Akihiko Hirata and Jun Tazaki playing the bad guys this time around.  Yes, the Red Bamboo wastes more ammo and are worst shots than the average Stormtrooper, but I expect a fair amount of cheese in one of these movies.

This was released in the United States as Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster, and it removed the surf soundtrack during the scenes with the airplanes and cut off a fair amount of the beginning, starting things off with the dance contest rather than Ryôta's reason for being there, thus making things rather muddled for American audiences.  Still, this is one where, other than not having to listen to bad dubbing, there isn't a huge gap between the American and Japanese versions of the movie.  It also doesn't require seeing Invasion of the Astro-Monster to understand anything that is happening, which is good since the American version of that, Monster Zero, wasn't released Stateside for a couple more years. 

Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966)
Time: 83 minutes
Starring: Tôru Watanabe, Akira Takarada, Kumi Mizuno, Chôtarô Tôgin, Hideo Sunazuka, Aikihiko Hirata
Director: Jun Fukuda



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