Godzilla Remix: Ebirah, Horror From the Deep
Never say never, but I am going to review the crap out of Ebirah, Horror from the Deep, the original Japanese version of Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster. I actually like this movie, but I won’t go too far off the deep end because this movie has its flaws and it is once again unintentionally funny, just like any good Godzilla movie from the 60s. This one is from 1966, but wasn’t shown in the USA until 1968. The Japanese version has a better opening than the USA version, and many other things are different. The US version is well-known for its bad dubbing. Thankfully, the Japanese version contains subtitles, and is hosted on Hulu.com. You can watch it for free.
The opening begins with a man searching for his brother, who has been lost at sea. Ryota believes his brother is still alive and he tags along with two guys to order to find him. The American version of this opening is different, skipping this exposition in order to jump right to Ebirah’s initial appearance. Some dialogue has been changed, but in both versions, the sea monster whips around and destroys a boat.
The three men and the thief-turned-sea-captain steal a boat and go to sea. One night, a giant claw breaks their boat in half and throws them into the water. Ebirah is a giant crab monster thing and the suit design is pretty good. The men wash up on a mysteriously generic island. These guys aren’t as stupid as your typical humans in a Godzilla movie, but they do go looking for cannibals, so that doesn’t say a lot for their intelligence. They eventually find the island natives doing hard manual labor for the military. Poor natives.
The movie focuses on the military for a few minutes as they torment the locals and warn them about Ebirah. This is a good way to paint the military guys as evil and the four men as good, though they haven’t saved anyone yet. In this way, the morals are purely black and white, though I think the sea-captain-thief and the thugs really represent shades of grey more than any other character, at least at the beginning. After the men save a native girl, they are never represented in any shade of grey again. They are the heroes. On the other side of the coin, the high general has no redeeming qualities and is purely there to be a supervillain.
The Godzilla movies from the 60s and 70s are known for being light-hearted, but this one is fast-paced and de-emphasizes that element. It has some comedy, but it is only used to break the tension in some spots. The middle of the movie drags a bit thanks to an exposition drop from the native girl, but the group find Godzilla having a nap in a cave, and that breaks it up nicely.
There is music and a dance number next, then they cut back to the group sneaking across the island behind a bush, Bugs Bunny style. Hilarious. The thief uses his thiefy powers for good and redeems himself by helping the group sneak into the evil base with his skeleton key. Pretty funny. It’s good stuff. He unlocks a nuclear reactor with the power of his ear, but they decide not to go inside. Good thinking. Why did they go to the base again?
After he is separated from the group, Nita learns that Ebirah is allergic to some yellow fruit. The military guys use this to their advantage and spray it around to keep the crab from killing them. Pretty smart. The military chase the group out of the base and Nyota accidentally takes a weather balloon to Infant Island where he finds his brother, Yata. The number of underdeveloped characters is one weakness of this film. It’s good that they split the group at this point, because we don’t need as much time with Nyota and his brother anymore, but the two of them decide to row back to Devil’s Island anyway. So much for that.
The group revives Godzilla and he fights Ebirah for a while. He outwits and outmuscles Ebirah at every opportunity, even in the water. The Godzilla suit is the same one as in Monster Zero (1965) and it is a costume nicknamed the Daisenso-Godzilla suit. Daisenso is a Japanese word meaning great war. The suit itself looks like it has a slightly larger mouth and jaw, which I don’t like, but the dorsal fins have more protruding spikes, which I like. I think there’s less foam in the suit, as Godzilla looks like he needs a steak or three. But overall, I like the design.
Ebirah swims off and we’re back to the human characters again, but they’re all together, including Yata, Nita, Ryota, and the native girl whats-her-name. The military chase them and they run along to some jazzy music. Pretty awesome. The native girl is cornered by Godzilla, so the group tries to sneak in and save her. Brilliant plan. Luckily, Godzilla sits down to have a nap, so they all get away. How lucky is that.
There are a series of Godzilla attack scenes next, which are really short for some reason. He beats up a giant bird vulture thing and then destroys the island’s evil air force. Godzilla swats miniatures. Now all that this movie needs is some cardboard buildings. Don’t worry, we get that too. You get everything in this movie.
We get a whole twenty minutes of Godzilla stomping. It’s pretty good. He stomps miniatures. The evil General smirks and orders his troops to attack. Godzilla stomps some more. The General zaps him with 100,000 volts. That’s a lot of volts. What’s Godzilla do? That’s right, he stomps. He picks up a rock and tosses it for variety. Pretty awesome. He wrecks the base. He then beats up Ebirah.
All in all, this movie is pretty good. It has everything for the Godzilla fan. There’s a variety of monsters. There’s Godzilla stomping things. There’s pretty decent human characters. There’s action, miniatures, and social commentary. The end battle is decent, but doesn’t really include Mothra. By the time Mothra wakes up, the movie is pretty much over. The movie ends with a warning about nuclear bombs, but even a nuclear bomb can’t scare Godzilla, so he swims away to fight another day.
Social commentary in Godzilla??!