Back when I was about 4 I remember the days when I would wake up in the morning, go downstairs and in the morning on Channel 4, they would be showing Godzilla films from the 60’s and 70’s, usually shown after a showing of The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. The films that were shown which I can remember were Destroy all Monsters (which was also my favourite film for about 11 years), Godzilla vs Megalon and Ebirah, Horror of the Deep. Once they stopped doing this though I didn’t get to see a Godzilla film again until I was about 6/7 years old, and that film was Ebirah, Horror of the Deep.
While it may have only been the 7th in a series that now numbers 30 films (if you include 1998 and 2014), it is one of the films that I mostly fondly remember and one of my all-time favourites. Released in 1966 in Japan as Godzilla, Ebirah, Mothra: Big Duel in the South Seas and released directly to TV in America as Godzilla versus The Sea Monster but better known today as either Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster or Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (or in most cases both, it really is a film released under different names), the film is Jun Fukuda’s first foray as Director in to the Godzilla series. It is also important to note however that this film was not originally intended to be a Godzilla film, rather a film starring King Kong, but Toho decided to switch him with Godzilla. King Kong would get a film later on in the form of King Kong Escapes. Because of this switch though, Godzilla is a bit different, not in look or ability, but characteristics which I will discuss later.
The film begins with an old psychic woman trying to help a mother who has lost her son at sea. She believes that her son whose boat was destroyed and the wreckage found is still alive. Her son’s brother named Ryota Kane (Toru Watanabe) goes to the government but the police refuse to help. He goes to a newspaper but before he is asked further questions he leaves and goes to a rally dance competition in the hope of winning the luxury yacht, he is however three days late to enter. There he meets unlucky contestants Nita (Hideo Sunazuka) and Ichino (Choutarou Tougin). They take him to a nearby harbour to show him some boats and they trespass on board one and have a look around, before being spotted by the rifle totting owner Yoshimura (Akira Takarada). They try to explain their position to him stating that Ryota is a maniac and just wants to see boats, but he thinks they’re just generally weird but decides to let them sleep the night as long as they promise to disappear in the morning. Come the morning Yoshimura discovers that the three of them are still sleeping and that Ryota has broken his rifle and when all four of them go on deck, they notice that the boat is in the middle of the ocean. Ryota thinking that the boat is a gift from the gods decided to commandeer it knowing that Yoshimura knows nothing about boats and decided to search for his brother with it. Ryota refuses to turn the boat around and the other three of them have no choice but to continue to sail with him as they don’t know how to sail a boat. Nita and Ichino however have misgivings about the supposed owner after hearing about a bank robbery and the theft of a prominent Hollywood director’s prized yacht. One evening, all three of them decide to co-operate with Ryota in the hope of learning how to sail the boat, Ichino and Nita also notice that Yoshimura is making a Skeleton Key. Ryota then rushes down below to say that some very strange clouds are approaching. Now caught in a full on storm they are thrashed around like mad when they notice a Giant Claw rising out of the sea. They abandon the boat as the claw picks it up and breaks it.
The group find themselves washed ashore on an unknown island. They soon discover a sword which makes them think that the island has cannibals on it. After a quick search they spot an incoming ship spraying yellow liquid but it does not notice their cries for help. They journey closer to the shore and spot what appears to be a heavily guarded military base. The ship pulls into the base’s harbour where the base’s guard commander Captain Ryuui (Akihiko Hirata, character is also known as Yamoto in the English Version) meets the ship’s captain (Hideyo Amamoto) who delivers Ryuui a new batch of slaves. Some of the slaves make a break for it and unnoticed by Captain Ryuui, a female slave also escapes. The other escapees manage to get in a boat and row off the island. But it is to no prevail as the Giant Claw from the previous night comes out of the water followed by another one. The escaped slaves are powerless to do anything as Ryota, Nita, Ichino and Yoshimura discover that the giant claw belongs to a Giant Lobster named Ebirah which then proceeds to eat the escaped slaves.
The base’s commander (Jun Tazaki) tells Ryuui to send a patrol balloon to look for the escaped female Slave. The female Slave runs into the four primary antagonists but before they can exchange formal greetings, they are spotted by the balloon and are chased by the armed men, they narrowly escape however when they find a cliff in a rock face. The four men spot the woman praying and ask who she is. She calls herself Daiyo (Kumi Mizuno) and tells them that she came from Infant Island where the monster Mothra is currently sleeping. She says that the armed men are called The Red Bamboo and that they kidnapped her and her other tribe’s men. Thinking the best move to defend themselves; Yoshimura, Daiyo and Ryota plan to check out the Red Bamboo base, Nita and Ichino don’t want to go, but then discover that they are not alone in the cave when Nita spots what appears to be the body of Godzilla.
They all manage to sneak in the base thanks to Yoshimura’s safe cracking skills and discover that the base is home to a Heavy Water factory (a place where Nuclear Bombs are made). After a continued search they are then discovered by Captain Ryuui, the five of them manage to make a quick escape but then when trying to leave the base, Ryota flies away on another Patrol Balloon and Nita is captured. Nita is placed in a cage with the other slaves who are made to produce the Yellow Liquid, the liquid being a repellent against Ebirah. Ryota meanwhile lands on Infant Island where he is re-acquainted with his lost brother Yata (Toru Ibuki). Yoshimura, Ichino and Daiyo however are back at the cave helpless to wait it out until The Red Bamboo finds them. Ichino though comes up with a plan to wake up Godzilla who is still alive but sleeping using electric shocks.
Nita suggests that the slaves produce phony yellow liquid and Ryota and Yata are given instructions by Mothra’s twin fairies (Pair Bambi) and head back to the island. A storm comes however and they lose their own batch of yellow liquid. Ichino’s plan works and Godzilla awakens. Godzilla then discovers Ebirah and the two engage in Combat with Ebirah eventually fleeing. The following day, Ryota and Yata regroup with the others but are then pursued by the Red Bamboo. They all split up with Daiyo unknowingly running into within reach of Godzilla. The Red Bamboo turn back but Daiyo is helpless to the attention of Godzilla. Godzilla however falls asleep so Daiyo can escape but still warns Godzilla to the presence of a Giant Condor. Godzilla defeats the creature before taking on and destroying a squadron of Red Bamboo fighters. Godzilla then proceeds to attack the Base. The Red Bamboo is helpless to the attack and so set a Nuclear Bomb to go off. They then try to evacuate the island but Ebirah destroys their boat as the yellow liquid they are using is phony. Godzilla then arrives and has another round with Ebirah. Yata and Yoshimura rescue Nita and the other slaves who proceed to build a giant net as per Mothra’s fairies orders. Yoshimura, Yata and Ryota are unable to stop the bomb detonation and Mothra wakes up just in time to rescue them. Godzilla defeats Ebirah by ripping his claws off before noticing the arrival of Mothra. After a quick duel Mothra defeats Godzilla to a point so that Mothra can rescue the others. Godzilla now left alone on the island is shouted at by the others to run away, and sensing the island is about to go up leaves just in time as the island explodes. Godzilla returns to the ocean and Mothra takes everyone else back to Infant Island.
Ebirah, Horror of the Deep, while being one of the oldest film’s in the series is also one of the true classics as well but with a setting and story that is still significant to this day and age. The film’s main cast is an interesting bunch who play a definite assortment of people who mingle well but there are many who are better than others. Hideo Sunazuka’s character of Nita is obviously the fool of the group who of course proves his worth to the slaves by coming up with a plan to get revenge on the Red Bamboo, but his character is strangely likeable, which is more than can be said of Choutarou Tougin as Ichino. While he himself comes up with how to wake up Godzilla, apart from that he doesn’t seem to do much. There is another point of view to his character but that is mostly due to the English dubbed version where Nita is an overplayed fool and Ichino is the better one of the two, reverse that though to the original Japanese spoken version and Ichino doesn’t seem to have much to do with the film. Toru Watanabe is the main carrier of the main plot which is a simple idea; somebody loses something goes missing and goes looking for it. He is more of an underdog character trying to go to big lengths to achieve the almost impossible and has an attitude to boot, however his character does lose some of this charm when he finally finds his brother and it feels like the production team tried hard to include his brother as much as possible by side-lining Ryota from that moment on. Yata meanwhile is very much headstrong in his character and a bit of a fool in more clever way and is able to balance out Ryota by being his almost exact double in character and form, but I think he is a bit too single-minded and as such is unable to be enjoyed thoroughly. It is however when all these cast members including Akira Takarada and Kumi Mizuno are together, not by themselves that they are at their best as together they all carry an extremely good chemistry with one another despite the fact that for the most part they are complete strangers, and their differences are not what make them but what it is they are willing to go through together in order to survive on the desert island. So while they may not all work to the best of their abilities as a standalone character, together, they are incredible.
It’s not just the main characters though, as those who only appear briefly have some charm or je ne sais quoi about them. The first scientist (Hisaya Ito), the one who starts the bomb (who I recognize from other classic Japanese Monster Movies) has a certain presence about him. While he may be a scientist he gives a real sense about him that he is willing and maybe also wanting to create nuclear weapons, he even shows this by threatening to set the bomb off much quicker when the slaves escape. Jun Tazaki’s commander character has real presence about how important he is and feels and this high in the ranks look about him helps him to achieve this. He is also very good at looking like both a respectable military man, but also a lazy general who is used to throwing his power and weight around. The ship’s captain who may only appear very briefly also has a similar look and feel about him. The slave that Nita meets played by Ikio Sawamura has a nice welcoming feel about him, but I find it odd that the peace-loving slaves find it so easy to be tempted into committing violence and possibly murder. Ikio Sawamura however has a nice father figure look about him by being the sort of voice of the slaves. Which brings us to Pair Bambi who Play Mothra’s Twin Fairies. The casting of Pair Bambi is of course different as it was The Peanuts who were cast in the role I think for every film which Mothra had been in previously. Pair Bambi though are a very good choice and thanks to the more updated technology that has been incorporated in the film, their appearance works well and is a lot more believable. They also have a more easily outgoing look about themselves whereas The Peanuts mostly had a grim expression on their face and hardly smiled. Pair Bambi have more of a look of understanding in the situation but don’t let that overtake them. The policeman and Newspaper journalists at the beginning of the film are also really good even if they are only seen then and there.
But the best of the cast (at least on the human side) are Kumi Mizuno, Akira Takarada and Akihiko Hirata. Kumi Mizuno’s character could be sought of more as eye candy and whose look could be more attributed to that of actors like Ursula Andress in Dr. No and Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C. but her character is none of that as her character is more on the intelligence side as well as a person who shows an essence of hope while also telling the story of the slaves revealing what they are going to be put through and the desire to escape from that and what it can then achieve.
Akihiko Hirata is really the human villain of the film. While he is really under the command of another person, he is the seemingly better soldier. He is in many ways a hunter, he is out to get someone, this time round being the main cast, and he is relentless in this fact, he is like the oncoming storm, or the hunter who is sizing up his prey and will continue the pursuit until he has achieved this. His appearance is of course very military but is able to achieve a more sinister approach with his eye patch (and not the first time Hirata has worn an eye patch in a Godzilla film). But despite all this and how brutal he can be, he doesn’t let that more human side get the better of him and his military training and professionalism always stands out in front of the more human aggression that he wants to release. Throughout this film, at least on the human side, he is consistent in his role and thoroughly enjoyable.
Akira Takarada though carries the most character baggage as he has an entire sub plot resting on his shoulders. It is though through this that we get an interesting character which is first presented to us in both an unusual way but one that is also quite funny by instantly propping a gun up in front of the other three. While it may be odd to have a sub plot only referenced here and there, it is important though to have someone like this in the story as it is both his skills and his emotional baggage that both make people realize what he is but also allows him to come to terms with himself and what he has done and as such improve his outlook on life. He is in many respects the leader of the group while also being potentially dodgy but without his knowledge and skills, it’s doubtless that they would be able to survive. He is a very likeable character throughout and the inclusion of his story is a great narrative for the audience to both explore and think about but also work on comparison with the rest of the film.
Now with the humans out the way, let’s talk Monsters. While originally intended to be a King Kong film, the remaining effects of that to the monsters work well as it is genuinely nice to have something other than a city being crushed. While this does contain sudden surprises, this works out for the best. I am of course talking about The Giant Condor. Finding it somewhat odd that this creature is in here at all, but given the design of the island it gives a nice and surprise addition for Godzilla to fight as this one is more close up and brutal than to what Ebirah is able to achieve. Mothra meanwhile looks better thanks to the updates in technology than the last time Mothra appeared. There is however a lot of confusion as during the infant island scenes, close up she looks smaller than when the camera is further back and I kind of prefer it when the camera is further back as Mothra does genuinely look bigger and better. The fight it has with Godzilla is brutal much like that with the Condor but the fight had to be short and sweet for the film’s final tension to continue but Mothra’s inclusion into the film is a nice little touch in both Story and element.
Ebirah is beautifully designed. While great care and attention has been made to make him look like a Lobster with his eyes and claws, attention has also been made to make him look like an abomination also, particularly in the rounded head and nose. His scream of terror is more like a giant screech through the air and while he may not have much in the way of firepower, on both looks alone he looks terrific and terrifying but also in the fight sequences he proves his worthy of a match against Godzilla. His early appearances though without Godzilla are equally terrific. When the Claw first appears you don’t know what it is or what it belongs to if anything and adds a nice sense of mystery for the audience and shows an initial sense of size and power. Even when we get a proper look at him the suspense and tension remains with his claws appearing before his full body. He is a great addition to the series, but he has so far been at his best (out of two appearances) in this film.
Godzilla meanwhile as stated earlier is a bit different in characteristics. He is a lot more like his original self as in while he still stands up for the earth, to protect it, he is almost back to his original self in the form of attacking people and things which he deems as a threat, including people and while he may now be an ally of Mothra, he still goes on to attack Mothra at the end. In many respects the film does not seemed to have changed from a King Kong film as there are sections which seem to be more in line with that including the plane attack, interaction with Daiyo and I think; The Condor. It does however give Godzilla a more monstrous and natural look about him and his character and shows how brutal he can get in a fight and little bits here and there such as his fight with Ebirah when he goes underwater or picks up a boulder and show detail such as the tail going up reminds us that he is at heart a creature, all be it still the force of nature that we all love.
His appearance in general is brilliant and there hasn’t been much of decay in his look, it’s actually one of his best looks in the series, and even when he is just in the cave asleep, he looks fantastic (as well as well camouflaged against the rocks). He has some absolutely amazing moments in the film and great shots of him which make great use of depicting his genuine size as well as raw strength and power. His fight scenes are terrific and even the shots of him asleep in the cave, are incredible and it makes his first true appearance, awake which while may be 50 minutes into the film is a terrific spectacle.
One thing that does standout when you look back at films before this is the sudden update of technology. Toho are the masters at miniature effects, it is something they have both relied on and become masters of over the last 60 years. While this may be back as far as 1966, the level of detail has come on quite well when compared to previous films. Due to the non-city location of the film, more detail has been required to produce miniature effects. Now while there have been buildings and boats (with the Red Bamboo ship looking more like a pleasure cruiser than a battle ship), the miniature humans are nicely done and have some motion to them which makes me think they were done in a clockwork style. This level of effect does help to show size comparison to the monsters and it works. The only occasions that did not use monsters for similar effects are the use of close ups as well as shrinking of film into a scene particularly for the twin fairies but also include other scenes too. Set design has been given great care to look as realistic as possible with both outdoor and indoor sets working to their full potential, and I too get the idea that this film was produced mostly on location rather than in a studio, and it works brilliantly. The camera effects and shots are cleaner and crisper than previous films which did have a real sharp blur about them, but this one is nice and clean and if I may say so, better than HD today.
The soundtrack is very odd I feel in comparison to other Godzilla films. It is not dark or mysterious in tone but more upbeat in almost every track. Theoretically it is a cross between beach music and mystery but there are pieces which give a sense that Masaru Sato, the film’s composer took inspiration from the works of Bond Composer John Barry as the music is very much secret agent like music with some moments that are more like the 1960’s Batman series. Reading that you may think that makes the music rather silly, it doesn’t; the films track is very enjoyable. Ebirah’s theme is quite groovy and works well by giving a sense of oncoming mystery followed by terror at the sight of what can be currently seen, this is achieved with the use of traditional orchestral forms but with a clever use of a bass guitar, or possibly a normal electric guitar, I’m not sure, but it’s one of the two.
While the Composer himself has also created other forms of music for the film so not completely relying on one set theme, it is through these more creative styles where the soundtrack is at its best. When it’s either the Dance Rally music, or even the main chase music has an upbeat take on it, but really drives the suspense and tension so it can be both enjoyed and have the right effect, but also, be very memorable at the same time and it is for that reason along with the other pieces for the soundtrack that makes it work for this film, and I think it’s generally, genuinely nice.
While mainly at heart the film is more about the human interaction and chemistry between the main characters as well as a sort of theme of dealing with your actions particularly on the part of Akira Takarada’s character and a tiny sense of the construction of Nuclear Weapons, Ebirah, Horror of the Deep is an incredible film and one of the best entries in the series, no doubt. While the cast needs to rely on being together; teamwork, it is a nice theme that works well on their part. And while it may take time for the Monsters to really start meeting each other, the time they have separately as well as their position in the film works well for them and it’s through this time period that we introduced to them and allow for build up to their fights and main inclusion to the film. While the essence of King Kong is present, I do think Toho made the right decision in the changes they did, otherwise, the film may have been completely different and I really think that appointing Jun Fukuda to direct was a great start as otherwise the soundtrack and special effects may not have been the same either. Overall Ebirah, Horror of the Deep is both a great Monster Movie and a great Adventure film too with real moments of surprise, mystery, tension and terror along with great scenes involving the Monsters themselves and while this film may be almost 50 years old now, I still love it to this day as I did when I first saw it all those years ago.