It’s time for a Godzilla island adventure! Grab your Hawaiian shirt, your Ukulele and get ready to get down and swing with a veritable bevy of beach based fun! That’s right folk! Godzilla is going on holiday and you’re invited! But what’s that? Is that a giant lobster?! Well that can only mean one thing! Toho has ran out of ideas, or money, and is putting anything they can together to try to save money during a period of Japanese film making where readily available funds were in decline! Money will be saved. Adventures will be had. Angles will be Dutched and and music will be seriously groovy. Click the link for Ebirah, Horror of the Deep!
Things have changed a little. After the gloriously stupid Invasion of the Astro-Monster Toho decided to scale things back a little for Godzilla’s next adventure. Gone is the large scale scenario involving alien invasions and entire cities to destroy. In it’s place is a paired down set of locations, a small military base to destroy and a groovy soundtrack. Jun Fukuda takes up the director’s role for the first time along with new composer Masaru Soto. The film is largely set on a fictional island where a terrorist group known as Red Bamboo have been capturing the natives of Infant Island to enslave in an effort to create a yellow liquid that will keep the ocean dwelling Ebirah at bay. Why they just didn’t set up base on an island not under attack from a giant lobster is never explained. A young man, Ryota (Toru Watanabe), has somewhat forcibly enlisted the help of a master thief, Yoshimura (Akira Takarada making another appearance in a Godzilla film) and two young men who he met at a dance marathon contest. Yes, a dance marathon contest. I’m not even going to explain. I’m just going to leave that there and let you guess how a guy searching for his brother at sea ended up at a dance marathon contest.
Upon reaching the island, by getting shipwrecked in an Ebirah attack, the group come across an Infant Island native girl named Dayo, played by Miss Namikawa herself Kumi Mizuno. They soon discover that the Red Bamboo group, led by Captain Ryuui (Akihiko Hirata, Dr Serizawa from Gojira with an eye-patch on his left instead of right eye), are up to some sort of no good what with them having a nuclear reactor in their base. They also discover that Godzilla is sleeping in a cave on the island. Then all sort of scenarios happen that result in them waking Godzilla up with lightening… because that’s a thing now. Basically I got the impression this was being made up as it went along. There really isn’t a real plot, just the idea of a plot. Practically every character meets through chance, are unrelated and have just the one goal of getting off the island coupled with whatever shenanigans the current scene requires.
There has been a gradual shift in the overall tone of the Godzilla films since King Kong Vs Godzilla. Some films have been a little more daft than others but they’ve always been pretty much aimed at a general audience. Ebirah, Horror of the Deep, Or Godzilla Vs the Sea Monster as it is known in the US, makes a clear shift towards a younger audience. Godzilla’s anthropomorphism has gotten to the point where he barely acts like a giant creature of destruction at all. This could partly be due to the fact that Godzilla wasn’t meant to even be in this film to begin with. An oddly frequent theme in the Showa era films. Originally Ebirah, Horror of the Deep was due to be a King Kong movie. The signs of this are all over the place. Except for the eventual arrival of Mothra both the enemy monsters featured are just giant versions of regular animals. The second monster being a Condor that appears without warning for one terrible fight sequence and is promptly killed. Godzilla is revived by electricity, much like the Japanese King Kong could be as his powers derive from electricity… because Japanese Kong was almost Frankenstein. You’re following this, right? To add to that Godzilla throws a hell of a lot of rocks, even taking a second stab at giant boulder beach volleyball after being bested by Rodan at the sport two films earlier. This is a strange confused film.
The film’s presentation continues to embrace the swinging 60s, as the previous ones had too. This is no more evident than with its soundtrack which is almost entirely made up of jazz and swinging grooves. It honestly felt like I was watching a Monkees movie or an episode of the Adam West Batman series at times. That latter comparison being made even stronger by the Dutch angles used on a number of occasions. The sets are pretty decent for the sort of budget the film was made with, but they are very clearly sets. There’s something about filming a cave built on a set that almost never looks convincing. It is clear that all the budget was put into filming as much as possible indoors and on the effects shots. That said, there really isn’t much in the way of monster destruction. Godzilla’s attack on the Red Bamboo group’s base has to be one of the most anti-climatic sequences in Godzilla history. He has all of 6 buildings to step on and a few fences to knock over. It’s all a bit sad really.
In a manner akin to Invasion of the Astro-Monster, I really can’t entirely dislike this film. It is pure nonsense but there is quite a fair amount of charm. But only just. This really is on the borderline of just being plain bad. There’s a lot of things that don’t make sense, like why Mothra was more concerned with having a nap than stopping her people being kidnapped and enslaved, but similar points can be labelled at pretty much any Godzilla film. These films are not built on logic and reason. They are built on fun and the sight of giant monsters trashing stuff. The giant monster trashing stuff theme is sorely lacking here, but there’s a fecking dance marathon contest 5 minutes into the film. I just… how can you take issue with a monster film that feels a dance contest is the best way to introduce characters? So, Ebirah, Horror of the Deep, it’s a terrible film in many ways, but its kinda adorable.
What’s next in line for the Godzilla review season? Let’s have a look… oh no… OH NO…