Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster (1966)
This is a great movie, folks, really. It marks the Godzilla series' first faltering steps into comedy and fanciful escapism, a paradigm shift from previous dark and somber movies. It also gives us the first movie set mostly on a tropical South Seas Island, moving us away from the over-stomped urban landscapes of Japan, and introduces several new and unique monster opponents. Many Godzilla fans hate this movie, blaming it for starting the decline of the series. Others, including myself, love it because it tries so hard to be something different.
It was originally released in Japan in December of 1966 as Godzilla-Ebirah-Mothra: Big Duel in the South Seas with a quick running time of 88 minutes. In 1968, it was picked up by Walter Reade-Sterling Productions and released in America as Ebirah, Horror of the Deep, and later on home video as Godzilla versus The Sea Monster, trimmed down to 82 minutes. It was released on VHS in 1992 by Good Times Home Video under this last title, which is the version I will review today. (Note: In December '07, I found a lovely 2004 Sony widescreen DVD of this movie and added in new screen captures because the old VHS-rip caps sucked ass.)
This was the first of six Godzilla installments directed by Jun Fukuda, and is a very good first effort considering the pressures of following in the footsteps of the great Ishiro Honda. Fukuda was ably helped by Eiji Tsuburaya, back as director of special effects, and Tomoyuki Tanaka, serving as the producer. Fukuda was known mostly for police dramas and very successful light-hearted comedies, including recent hits with 1963's Young Guy in Hawaii and 1962's Young Guy in Japan. His preference for comedy is very apparent in this movie. The script is full of humorous staged moments, the lead characters are often buffoonishly funny, spouting wisecracks and sarcastic comments at every opportunity, and Godzilla himself acts pretty goofy. Most would also say that the idea of a Giant Mutant Shrimp is quite a funny concept.
This film was originally entitled Operation Robinson Crusoe and was written to star Toho's version of King Kong, taking advantage of the huge financial success of 1962's King Kong vs. Godzilla. At the last moment, deep into the creative process, King Kong was pulled and the role filled with Godzilla. Many vestiges of the King Kong role remain, such as Godzilla sleeping in a cave, being awakened by lightning, developing an unnatural affection for a native girl, and general goofiness. Keep this in mind while you watch and try to picture the big ape instead of the big lizard during the monster scenes.
The American version is mostly identical to the Japanese original, except for the first 15 minutes, and the flow of the movie is not affected by the cuts. Minimal editing was done because the movie was not deemed "good enough" to waste the money on extensively reworking it. It was never released to movie screens over here, instead going straight to TV and later home video. The dubbing is really quite good, with most of our main characters' voices matching the actors.
And now on to our show...
We open in the "South Seas", in the teeth of a storm with a large sail yacht in danger. Suddenly a huge claw (!!!) looms out of the tossing seas and smashes the boat into soggy kindling. The name of the boat is the Yahlen, clearly printed across the bow in English. Keep this opening scene in mind, we will revisit it later.
We cut now to Japan, where a voice-over informs us that it's now "Two months later." This voice-over seems terribly out of place and is certainly an addition to the American version only. We see an agitated middle-aged woman (played by 40-year old Chieko Nakakita, most notable for being married to producer Tomoyuki Tanaka) asking an old fortune teller/Shinto spiritualist lady for advice on her lost son, Yata.
The old woman.
The boy went down at sea during a storm (see above), and while fragments of the boat were recovered, Yata's body was not. Mom is certain that he's still alive, despite what the villagers say. The spiritualist says that her visions are inconclusive, the boy may indeed still be alive. Mom says that her other son Ryota is planning on going down to the South Seas to look for lost Yata.
Ryota is a pleasant looking twentysomething lad, played by Toru Watanabe. This role was not his springboard to fame, he only acted in one more movie in 1987 and some recent TV series work in the late 1990s. He's voiced in the American version by Peter Fernandez, who is known for dubbing Speed Racer in the great cartoon series of the same name.
But older brother Ryota doesn't have a lot of cash. Or none at all. His plan, therefore is to enter a "dance marathon" (!!!) whose top prize is a sail boat, with which he plans on mounting his rescue effort. This movie is so totally 1966, I believe that the travesty we are about to see is the point where most true monster genre fans simply turned off the VCR and committed seppuku with a steak knife.
And so we go now to American Bandstand, Japanese style! A bunch of dancing young people groove to some faux Beach Boys music in a big auditorium. This, we are told, is "the third day" of the competition and the ranks have been thinned. We see Ryota as he arrives, looking all desperate and determined. Hmmm...He's just shown up to a dance marathon three days too late? I don't think they're going to let him enter now. Perhaps he should have thought of a better plan.
On the dance floor we join two young men, Nita and Ichino, who will prove to be our film's Comic Relief characters. They're dancing sluggishly, obviously on the end of their ropes. First one, then the other collapses on the floor and is disqualified. They lurch to the sidelines and lament their bad luck and tight shoes.
Ichino is played by 25-year old Chotaro Togin, a favorite of director Jun Fukuda's (he would go on to play roles in three of Fukuda's other Godzilla movies, as well as in several of his popular Young Guy comedies, as well as the atrocious Yog: The Space Monster). Nita is played by 34-year old Hideo Sunazuka, appearing in his only Godzilla movie. These two "funny" guys are virtually interchangeable for the purposes of the plot and it's often difficult to tell them apart.
As it happens, these three men meet up and become fast friends at a speed that only happens in movies. They talk Ryota out of trying to enter the contest and offer to take him with them down to the docks to look at some boats. Apparently they're just going to sightsee, maybe a little therapy for their loss. We don't know much about the two guys, but Nita can't be too poor because he's driving a classy little open-top roadster, straight out of a 1960s surfer beach movie (it's a Datsun Sports DC-3, if you must know).
And down at the docks they see a gorgeous white cabin cruiser sail yacht. Ichino remarks that she's "big enough to sail across the ocean in", and indeed she looks ready to go. We will learn that this yacht is being outfitted by a "retired American businessman" for a voyage across the Pacific. The name of the boat is the Yahlen...sound familiar? That was the name of the boat destroyed in the first thirty seconds of the movie. This would be a case of a really bad edit by the American production crew. The movie originally opened with the mother and the spiritualist, but that was felt to be not dramatic enough for American audiences, who you had to hook with violence or sex in the first half minute or they would get up and walk out. Footage of the Yahlen being sunk by the monster from much later in the movie was inserted in the beginning of the movie and passed off as Yata's boat being lost. They might have gotten away with it if it were not for the yacht's name being so obvious.
Anyway, our three boys now just walk onto the yacht (!!!) and start poking around in the cabinets (!!!). Hey, isn't that kinda illegal? They end up down below decks, where they're surprised by a man with a rifle. This man yells at them, calling them trespassers (which they are). The boys explain to him that they're just looking around and, after very little deliberation, he lets them spend the night. What!? Presumably this guy is the owner and he's letting these breaking-and-entering boys stay onboard overnight? Does that sound wrong? They agree and everyone grabs a bunk and goes to sleep quickly. Why did they stay on the boat? The adventure of it all?
I'll go ahead and tell you about the man with the gun. His name is Yoshi, and far from being the boat's owner, he's a bank robber on the run, hiding out in the yacht until he can make his get-away. Yoshi is played by 32-year old Akira Takarada, who had a long movie career stretching from 1959 up to 2007. He's of course best known to Godzilla fans as dashing leading man Hideto Ogata in the original 1954 Godzilla and as the obnoxious bastard reporter Ichiro Sakai from 1964's Godzilla vs. Mothra I. He's still a celebrity today in Japan through his many appearances in TV dramas, quiz shows and commercials.
His personality here is demanding scenery-chewing bluster and a lot of gruff "self confidence", but strangely accepting of the boys' ineptness and stupidity. Yoshi (dubbed by an uncredited Hal Linden, a totally unknown actor at the time) here plays against type, as most the robber/criminal characters in Toho's movies are unsympathetic and always get their comeuppance in the third act. Yoshi will prove to be one of the heroes of this movie and even have a change of heart about his criminal life at the end.
The next morning dawns and Yoshi discovers that his gun is gone! (some bank robber he is). Ryota soon appears with the gun in pieces on a tray, saying that he was playing with it (!!!) because he thought it was a toy (!!!) and it broke (!!!). They run topside and find that they are now far out to sea, Ryota having snuck them into open water during the night. Hmmm...what? I think that the whole process of going out to sea would wake them up.
Now the four of them have this little squabble about what to do. No one can make up their mind so they just keep sailing south. Ryota says that this yacht falling into his hands was "a gift from the gods" and he can't refuse a gift like that. The bank robber goes along with it, probably thinking that this is as good a get-away from the cops as anything. Don't Ichino and Nita have families, jobs, anything that they might complain about leaving behind?
They sail south for many days, as evidenced by their dwindling larder. We have to assume here that Ryota is an extremely experienced sailor, as we will see him operate this strange boat, navigate across the open ocean and land on the exact island where his brother is without having a clue where he was. Certainly Ryota is the Japanese Thor Hyerdahl! [Editor Pam: I feel sure that this is impossible, even for Thor Heyerdahl before he had any sailing experience. How did this bunch of ignoramuses even manage to raise the sails, let alone get the yacht out to sea? It's not something you can figure out without being taught. And they didn't have GPS back in 1966, you actually had to know how to navigate back then to get to where you wanted to go. If Ryota has experience in sailing and navigation, it isn't mentioned.]
Sailing the open seas.
This long period at sea should allow us to get to know these men better, but we never get any real character depth or better understanding of them. Yoshi is still a jerk, Ryota is still purposefully driven, and the two morons are still morons. All we really learn is that Yoshi has four million yen in a briefcase (stolen from the "Far East Trading Company") and he can make a skeleton key with a coat hanger and a nail file (how MacGuyverish!).
And then one night during a storm they are attacked by a huge underwater beast! If this footage looks eerily familiar, it's because parts of it were shown to us in the beginning of the movie, though representing a completely different event then. The big claw lifts up the yacht and smashes it. Our four heroes, all in life jackets, are now in the frothing sea. Alas, four men adrift in the South Pacific have no chance of survival. If the sharks don't get them, the exposure and hypothermia will. One by one they die and the movie ends on this somber note. The End... Hey, wait a minute...we now see the four of them tossed up onto the rocky beach of an island!!?? What luck! They're all unhurt and jump right up and start joking and laughing. Their positions on the rocks are suspect, however, as they're so far inland that they must have been tossed forty feet by the surf.
So now we have a largish tropical island, typical in every way to every other tropical island ever seen in any movie. Its name in the Japanese version was "Letchi Island", though in the American version its name is never heard spoken in the dubbing. We will call it "SPECTRE Island", for reasons that will become clear in a minute.
The shipwrecked men climb up a steep cliff, though it sure seems like they could just walk a few hundred yards down the beach to where we see it levels out. Struggling to the top, Nita fumbles onto a sword (!!!) lying at the top of the cliff (yes, just like Montoya's climb up the cliff in The Princess Bride). The sword is seemingly ceremonial, though exceptionally well-made.
So they wander through the jungle for a bit, looking for some people or a town or a crashed Oceanic Airlines jet. From a ridge they see a large boat moving towards a sheltered cove below them. The boat (about the size of one of those big celebrity pleasure yachts that hiphop rappers always have in their videos with their bitches and hoes) is white and futuristic-looking and strangely is spraying a yellow mist out of several projectors mounted on the superstructure (this will be explained later). Yoshi remarks, "Something stinks!" and we hope he wasn't referring to the poor quality of the plastic ship model in the close-in shots.
Red Bamboo Cruiser.
Our heroes run down to the edge of the jungle to see a largish compound built around a long pier stretching out into the bay. The compound is surrounded by a high fence and the perimeter is patrolled by armed guards. I'll just go ahead and tell you here that this is a "weapons factory" for "Red Bamboo", a technologically advanced paramilitary/terrorist/crime outfit bent on global domination. This is 1966, remember, and the James Bond series was just as popular in Japan as it was in the West, spawning numerous copycat spy movies from Japanese movie studios. Red Bamboo can be thought of as an Oriental SPECTRE, right down to its bases in exotic locations and outrageously well-equipped foot soldiers. I told you the name here because the actual name "Red Bamboo" is never mentioned in the English dubbing (this is inexcusable). As such, I think I'll refer to them as "SPECTRE" for the rest of the review just because I'm mad at them for not dubbing the actual name.
The SPECTRE base.
We see the boat tie up at the pier and out steps a bunch of uniformed officers. They are greeted by the leader of the organization, and salute each other with this dorky arm-chopping-across-the-chest thing. The leader, we will learn, is named Captain Yamoto, a dashingly Evil man dressed like Libyan Colonel Muammar Khaddafi and sporting a shiny eye-patch (with a stylized dragon on it, no less) just like the Bond universe Number Two!
Captain Yamoto is played by none other than 39-year old Akihiko Hirata, a veteran Toho actor and a favorite amongst Godzilla fans. He's best known as the noble but tormented Doctor Daisuke Serizawa (who also had an eye-patch) in 1954's Godzilla, as crazed mad scientist Doctor Shinji Mafune in 1974's Terror of MechaGodzilla, and as chubby Professor Hideto Miyajima in 1975's Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla I. Because this is SPECTRE, and Captain Yamoto will prove to be the second in command, I'll refer to him as "Number-Two" for the rest of this review.
The ship has brought some slaves, about two-dozen native islanders all naked except for the standard coconut bikini and palm-frond skirt look. These are slave laborers brought to this island from other islands to work in the weapons factory. The only one of the slaves we focus on is a beautiful young island girl who we can tell will be our film's romantic lead.
This girl is named Daiyo, and she's played by 29-year old Kumi Mizuno (29? Wow!). Mizuno is a small woman, barely 5'2", but her attractive looks and pleasant demeanor made her a favorite of director Ishiro Honda who put her in many of his films, and at the time of this movie her career was booming. Mizuno made her film debut in 1957 and would appear in some of the greatest sci-fi films of her day, including 1957's The Three Treasures, 1962's Chushingura, Frankenstein Conquers the World, War of the Gargantuas, Gorath (where Mizuno is seen taking a bath!), and the quirky Attack of the Mushroom People. She's probably best known to Godzilla fans for playing Prime Minister Machiko in 2002's Godzilla X MechaGodzilla and Miss Namikawa in 1965's Godzilla vs. Monster Zero. To say that Daiyo is hot is an understatement. She has long dark hair, perfectly sculpted facial features and a killer body, thin and perky. She's wearing a strapless bikini top and a matching bottom covered by a sarong wrap in blue and black flower prints (growl...). Even Godzilla will want to get his swerve on with her.
With the slaves off, the ship's hold is loaded with three 55-gallon drums filled with "X dash one-two" (?). Before we can scratch our head at what X-12 is, we hear gunshots and yelling. It seems that five slaves have made a break for it, running down the beach. The compound apparently has at least one machinegun tower because we now see a barrel spitting lead at the men. Three of the natives are cut down but the last two make it to a native canoe (!!!) that just happened to be beached with paddles inside near the dock (!!!).
As about fifteen soldiers race after them, the two men jump in the canoe and paddle frantically out to sea. The soldiers, now led by Number-Two (Hey, wasn't he all the way back on the dock just a second ago?), open fire on them with their submachine guns. They have them dead to rights at close range but they all miss (!!!). Number-Two then orders them back to the compound. The rank and file soldiers, by the way, are all dressed in matching khaki uniforms with caps and black boots (they look like Afrika Korps infantrymen).
A quick insert shot shows us the lovely Daiyo is thinking about sneaking away from the group as everyone is distracted by the jailbreak.
Out at sea, the two natives are rowing like mad. Suddenly, a freakin' huge mutated shrimp rises up out of the water in front of them! They try and row away, but it's too late, the canoe is smashed and the shrimp stabs the men with its claw and eats them!!! Damn!!! This attack is realized quite well, with quick cuts between the monster looming and the furiously rowing natives, despite the obvious blue-screening.
This big crustacean, of course, is our titular sea monster. Everyone on the island knows it as "Ebirah", but the awful dubbing in this movie leaves out the name, instead always referring to it as the "sea monster" (you'd think they could have tossed in the name of the monster just one, this is also inexcusable for a monster movie). The eyes are on stalks and it has two giant claws which will be its main offensive weapons. This suit, while fairly dorky, is a million times more realistic looking than the miserable giant crab that Toho would create for 1970's Yog, Monster From Space. There is some confusion amongst Godzilla fans about just what Ebirah is exactly. Is it a crab, a lobster, or a shrimp? In the American version of the movie, Nita calls Ebirah a "mammoth lobster!", though this is probably just creative scriptwriting. The main proof of it being a shrimp is that the word "Ebirah" comes from the Japanese word ebi, which means "shrimp".
Ok, the shrimp goes away sated and Number-Two laughs evilly. He tells the remaining slaves that even if they escape the guards, the monster will get them. He then goes before a video camera and reports in. We cut to the leader of the SPECTRE, an older man in a fine faux-military uniform. Because this is SPECTRE, this man will be called "Blofeld" for the rest of this review. Blofeld is played by 56-year old Jun Tazaki, a veteran Toho actor best known to Godzilla fans as Doctor Yoshido from 1969's Destroy All Monsters! and Doctor Sakurai from 1965's Godzilla vs. Monster Zero.
Blofeld smacks Number-Two down, telling him that one of the "female slaves" has just escaped. I guess his camera caught this, but why didn't he alert the guards then? Maybe he knew that there was no hope of the girl escaping the island so it didn't matter if she ran a bit. Maybe he just wanted a reason to berate and embarrass Number-Two in front of the troops. We'll have to watch this dynamic as the movie goes on.
Daiyo is now seen out in the jungle, having apparently eluded all the soldiers, cameras and machinegun turrets (!!!). We saw that the group she was in was on the dock when she slipped off, so she must have Frodo's One-True Ring to turn invisible to make it undetected to the jungle. That she could even run in that bikini top is amazing enough. [Editor Pam: You said it, it must have been glued in place for real. That kind of top doesn't stay up well when you move around much, and don't ask me how I know.]
Suddenly, the bushes ahead of her start rustling. She pulls out a dagger from a sheath on her leg and gets set. What!!! She has a dagger??? Didn't anyone think of searching the slaves for weapons??? This SPECTRE is full of morons. This is like the Evil henchman not stripping James Bond of his watch and shoes in every movie and getting zapped by some laser beam cufflink.
Out of the bushes come our four heroes, and after chasing down Daiyo, they calm her down. Here we learn that she speaks Japanese (!!!). This has got to be for our movie to work and all, but we're left to assume that she's a Japanese citizen, or at least from an island with a Japanese population.
Just as they are getting chummy, however, they see a big red hot-air balloon drifting overhead, casting a way-too-dark shadow over them. This is a scout for SPECTRE, used to hunt for escaped slave girls. Such a low-tech method seems strange for such a high-tech organization, but maybe a balloon is more cost effective? We see that the balloon must be in radio contact with the ground units because some soldiers are now advancing on Daiyo and our boys.
The surveillance balloon.
They run up a talus slope as about a dozen soldiers chase them from behind firing like mad. Somehow, they outrun both the soldiers and their bullets and make it to the top...where they are met by another dozen soldiers led by Number-Two. More shooting and yelling ensues and our heroes manage again to elude the soldiers and hide out under a rock overhang. Number-Two is duped into believing that they jumped into the sea (some falling rocks make splashes) and leaves. Why does he leave? I guess he knows that Ebirah will get them even if they survived the fall, but don't you think that he would at least make sure that they are dead first? SPECTRE sucks.
Hiding in plain sight...
Just a little note here. In one scene, Ryota and Daiyo are crouched at the edge of a cliff. They both cringe and look behind them, shielding their faces. Obviously they were supposed to act like there was gunfire behind them, but the sound editor forgot to foley in the gunshots. It really looks obvious.
So the soldiers go away and our heroes are left alive. Beneath the overhang they find an opening to a cavern. As they enter, the world's quickest-appearing tropical storm brews up. When a second ago it was bright sun without a cloud in the sky, now there is boiling black clouds and lightning!!! They seek shelter in the cave as the lightning smacks trees above them.
Inside, Daiyo drops to her knees and offers a "prayer" to Mothra (!!!). She then says that, "Mothra didn't hear me." At the mention of Mothra, the men connect the dots and she tells them she's from Infant Island (Mothra's home). Hmmm...so the SPECTRE guys are raiding Infant Island, home of a monster proven to protect her people? That doesn't seem very smart. Ryota then asks if there is a Japanese man on the island, hoping that his long lost brother Yata is still alive. Daiyo says that Yata the fisherman washed up onshore a month ago, he's the only one. Ah, that's convenient.
This fact perhaps tells us that SPECTRE Island is quite close to Infant Island. Ebirah is only known to lurk around SPECTRE Island, and sank Yata's boat, but Yata washed ashore on Infant Island. See the link?
Then Daiyo notes the sword that Ichino still carries. She says that's an Infant Island sword and "whoever carried it must have been killed". Ok, two things here. First, this must mean that the soldiers let one of their captured slaves keep his sword, proving again that SPECTRE is a group of idiots. Second, it presupposes that there have been other slave raids on Infant Island. If so, we wonder why the islanders didn't appeal to Mothra for help the first time.
We cut to somewhere on the island where the slaves are being kept in a cavern with barred gates on the entrance. They are being forced to collect and mix a sickly yellow liquid that seems to bubble naturally out of a cleft in the rock. Just to show how Evil they are, we see Number-Two shoot four pistol shots into the cave ceiling to scare the natives and make them work harder.
I shouldn't do this, but I'm going to tell you a secret. The yellow liquid is an "Ebirah repellant", though its actual properties are never explained. Remember the ship that was spraying the yellow liquid into the air? Well, this is how SPECTRE's ships avoid being sunk by Ebirah. This might be a stretch, but considering that we know that this movie was originally supposed to star King Kong, we can note that the natives of Faro Island in 1962's King Kong Vs. Godzilla produced "soma juice" to sedate King Kong.
All right, we now cut out to Infant Island, where Mothra is "sleeping". For the uninitiated, Mothra is a giant mutant moth! She rests peacefully in a big field, with the islanders arrayed around her. The natives are chanting and singing, dancing this great number. This is all familiar if you've seen 1964's Godzilla Vs. Mothra I, with everyone in grass skirts and flower headdresses. The dancers are quite good, nearly back-up singers for Don Ho quality.
Mothra taking a nappy.
We see that the Mothra faeries are here (of course they are), singing an annoying song to the sleeping giant moth. The faeries are played by the "Pair Bambi", a popular Japanese singing duo in the 1960s. In keeping with the convention established in my other reviews, I will refer to them as "Mary Kate and Ashley" for the rest of this review.
Mary-Kate and Ashley.
Back in the cave, our heroes discuss what to do. Daiyo is sure that once Mothra wakes up, she will come and save them all. Ryota just wants to get to his brother. Yoshi the burglar wants to attack the bad guys, taking them by surprise (!!!). This seems suicidal, but they all agree to give it a try.
Just then Nita tosses a rock in frustration. They follow the rock with their eyes and see...Godzilla!!! Sleeping (!!!) in the cave (!!!). What the hell? This is another throwback to the King Kong plotline, where sleeping in a cave is a big ape thing. At the end of the last movie, 1965's Godzilla Vs. Monster Zero, Godzilla fell into the sea after the smack-down with Rodan and Ghidorah, so I guess it's possible that he swam here and took a nap. This is very untypical of most Godzilla entrances, where our first sight of the monster is him bursting up out of the sea or the ground spoiling for a fight. First seeing him sleeping in a cave is a good way to build some dramatic tension, and probably would have worked if the overall movie weren't so lame.
Ok, they wisely leave the cave and plot their sneak attack on the SPECTRE compound. This involves a pigeon (!!!!) and a duck-blind made of foliage. They are armed with the sword and Daiyo's dagger, and that's it, against a group of soldiers with machineguns and rifles. Yoshi, in explaining his attack plan, says, "We're going to fight using just our brains." To which Nita wisely replies, "That sounds like a crackpot idea to me!" and we have to agree. Hiding behind the blind, they sneak up on the weapons factory. When a spotlight shines on them, they release the pigeon, thus faking out the guards. Tricky. They then basically walk right up to the back door of the place and pick the lock with Yoshi's skeleton key. There are not enough !!!'s to describe how lax the security is of the SPECTRE compound.
Yoshi picking the lock.
Once inside, they creep through the hallways. It must be nap time, because there are no guards anywhere to be seen. They find a storeroom filled with "smoke grenades" shaped like bowling pens. They take some of these, wisely. Daiyo stops to pick up a coil of thin copper wire, and Yoshi says to her, "Shopping time is over!" Oh, how insulting...I see that Akira Takarada is playing Yoshi just as obnoxious and chauvinistic as he did Sakai from Godzilla Vs. Mothra I. Remember the coil of wire, which Daiyo puts around her neck, it will come back again.
We cut away for a second to see two SPECTRE scientist-types talking to Blofeld. Blofeld is telling them that "Headquarters" has ordered them to increase production, regardless of the costs. Hmmm, so there is a layer of organization and authority above Blodfeld and what we see here? More later. These two scientists will be a mated pair for the rest of the film. SPECTRE Scientist #1 is played by Hisaya Ito, perhaps best known to Godzilla fans as "Malmess the Chief Assassin" from 1964's Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster.
Back to our heroes, who have now penetrated the floor of the actual factory. This area is full of fancy computer gadgets and mechanical thingies, and looks very much like the engine room of the original Star Trek starship Enterprise. There are no workers or guards on duty here, meaning that there is a high level of automation or that SPECTRE is pathetically understaffed. Here we learn two things. One that Ryota flunked out of college in his freshman year, and two that Daiyo's bikini top must be glued to her breasts to keep it from falling off as she runs.
They find a nuclear reactor (!!!!) behind a big bank-vault-like door that Yoshi cracks with just his ears (!!!). Despite all the clanking and hissing machinery in the area, he still manages to crack this huge, industrial-strength vault in about fifteen seconds. I just watched The Italian Job, and if Yoshi is that good, then he should be hanging out with Mark Wahlburg and his boys. Ah, it seems that they are using the reactor to make weapons-grade plutonium! What diabolical plans do these Evil men have?
The inside of the reactor room. (Real reactor rooms don't have all the pretty colored lights, but maybe the SPECTRE nuclear engineers are also artists.)
Suddenly, they are surprised by Number-Two and a few submachinegun-toting guards. Number-Two doesn't seem surprised to find them here, so we can assume that he was watching them on a camera or something. Why did he wait so long before moving in to capture them?
Ok, now we have three minutes of the lamest action ever filmed. Faced with capture, Yoshi slips out his smoke grenade and tosses it at the soldiers. Despite the fact that it's just colored smoke, the soldiers fall to the ground instantly choking and hacking, completely incapacitated. Our heroes, in the same smoke cloud but seemingly unaffected, escape. They make their way to the outside gate by hiding between two sheets of metal held by two of them wearing stolen lab coats.
Just as they are about to get out of the compound scot-free, alarms blare, machine guns rattle and soldiers pour out of the doors. They run for the jungle. Ryota gets his foot tangled in the ropes of one of the hot air balloons. Up and up he goes, soon getting upright and tying himself in. Nita is caught by the soldiers, but the rest of them escape despite the withering fire from dozens of soldiers and machinegun turrets. Once out in the jungle, they apparently just let them get a long head start, because no effort is made to pursue them until much later!!! These soldiers are the worst shots in the history of mercenaries. Star Wars Stormtroopers shoot better.
Ryota hanging from the balloon.
Back to Nita, instead of just killing him like they should have, the soldiers toss him in with the Infant Island natives making the yellow liquid. We discover that they all speak Japanese, but with "Islander accents", and they are happy to hear that Daiyo is still alive. He hatches a plan to upset the soldiers' plans by making a fake batch of the yellow liquid. The natives agree, saying that they will make it with the leaves only, not the fruit. You'd think that the soldiers would keep better quality controls on the liquid, instead of simply putting 100% trust in their slave labor to make it right. Emboldened by the plan, which never occurred to them, the natives dump out the yellow fruit and tip over the barrels of liquid, all without any soldiers watching them. SPECTRE is lame.
We cut back to Infant Island, where the dance marathon before the sleeping Mothra is still going strong. Suddenly, Ryota lands right smack in their middle!!! He seems completely unharmed and in full health, so we can assume that the flight from SPECTRE Island to Infant Island must have been very short. How did he manage to "steer" that balloon when he was still clearly tied onto a rope dangling some distance below it? It defies logic and common sense that he could have landed exactly in the spot where he wanted.
Anyway, he finds Yata alive and well and they do the reunited thing. Yata is played by Toru Ibuki, who will be best known as the bearded alien Tsuda in 1975's Terror of MechaGodzilla. He's a tall muscular man, and strangely, the only character in the entire movie who wears blue jeans. Yata is singularly driven and by Ryota's own admission, "crazy", he makes rash decisions and has to be restrained from acting foolishly several times in the movie.
Back to SPECTRE Island, where SPECTRE soldiers are combing the jungles looking for our heroes, who have returned to the cave where Godzilla lies. Number-Two is with them, brandishing a sword (???). They seem to be firing random bursts from their guns into the jungle, trying to flush out the escapees, though it just seems like a waste of ammunition. None of the soldiers we see carry any extra magazines for their submachineguns, so eventually they're going to be out of bullets and a long way from the compound.
Okay, Yoshi, Ichino and Daiyo are back in the cave, lamenting their losses in the raid. They see that soldiers are now searching the area for them (it's about time!) and it's just a matter of time before they are caught. While Daiyo continues to pray to the sleeping Mothra for deliverance, Ichino hatches a plan to "wake up" Godzilla and use the distraction to rescue the slaves and Nita. Yoshi, despite his reckless bravado in raiding the compound, is strongly against the idea. Ichino manages to convince him, however, urging him to see the benefits of surprising the soldiers.
Using the sword and the coil of copper wire that Daiyo still has around her neck (remember?), they rig up a "lightning attractor" on the peak of the mountain. One of them had to scale to the top of the exposed mountain to place the sword and run the wire, which seems really dumb with soldiers crawling around the immediate area. And it's a good thing that the wire was just long enough to reach from the sword to Godzilla, it'd be a shame if it was too short. By the way, this whole waking-up-by-lightning thing is another throwback to King Kong, as this was how he was awakened in 1962's King Kong Vs. Godzilla. In fact, as we saw in several movies prior to this one, lightning was actually one of Godzilla's greatest weaknesses.
Back on Infant Island, the brothers are set to return to SPECTRE Island to free their friends and the natives. They jump in a large outrigger canoe and row off, showing us that these two men are expert oarsmen amongst their other talents. They are given two barrels of the anti-Ebirah yellow liquid. What? Does this mean that the Infant Islanders first discovered the anti-shrimp properties of the yellow fruit? That makes sense, why else would SPECTRE go after them alone. Mary Kate and Ashley tell them to not despair, Mothra will awaken soon and help them. We wonder where Mothra was when all the natives were kidnapped in the first place. How long has she been sleeping?
Ok, we cut now back to SPECTRE Island, where we see that our heroes are still waiting in the cave for a storm to come up to lightning-wake Godzilla. Ichino tells us that they have been waiting "three days" already for a storm. Hmm...they are all wearing the same clothes, so they got to be pretty stinky. And are we to believe that the soldiers have been searching the island for three whole days and have still not found them, or seen the sword sticking up on the peak of the mountain? These SPECTRE soldiers are worthless.
We cut quickly back to the open sea, where we see that the brothers Ryota and Yata are nearing SPECTRE Island. So they have rowed for three days (!!!) across the open sea? I can only imagine how dangerous and difficult it would be for two men to row at least 36 hours straight across the open sea with what appears to be no navigation equipment. These men are gods! In several shots we see that the boat is a small model in a water tank, the two men just small dolls pulled along by wires. Why they would choose to go to the effort to make the model for these quick shots when they had ample live footage of the two actors rowing is beyond me.
Anyway, a storm finally brews up, bringing rain and black clouds. The canoe is shoved around by the waves and the two barrels of yellow liquid (I guess) are lost overboard. Almost on cue, a huge claw rises up out of the water nearby, Ebirah the Shrimp is here. Certainly some of the following footage is reused from the earlier attack on the escaping natives, but that's ok. The boat is tossed and the two men start swimming for the island. Oh, no! What will happen to the brothers now?
Back ashore, we see a squad of soldiers running back to the compound (wimpy soldiers). We see the lightning ripping through the sky, three times it contacts the sword and races down the copper wire. Strangely, the electric bolts do not melt or explode the sword or the wire, despite the fact that we see them blast apart a tree on the same mountain. On the third zap, we see Godzilla's dorsal spines glowing blue, his toe and finger nails also glow, and his eye opens! Yeah, here he is. Again, this is pure King Kong.
Our three heroes wisely run from the cave, no one wants to be there to smell Godzilla's morning breath. Godzilla busts out of the mountainside, pushing though tons of earth and rock to emerge roaring and flexing. So, if he had to crash out of the side of the mountain, how did he get into the cavern to begin with? Maybe he just decided to make a dramatic entrance? Anyway, he's pissed and shows it. He was probably having a great dream about King Kong.
The Godzilla suit used in this movie is not the best looking. It's tattered and pudgy, with flakes of skin seen falling off at inopportune moments. His goofy stumbling around in the following action scenes only make him look more pathetic.
Sad, very sad.
He spies Ebirah, now very close to shore chasing Yata and Ryota who are swimming madly for shore. For some reason Godzilla immediately begins fighting with Ebirah, even though we see no threatening or insulting actions from the Giant Shrimp. Perhaps Godzilla needs some therapy to handle his aggression towards strangers. For his part, Ebirah is not afraid, rapping his claws together as if to say, "You want some of me? Do ya?"
Arg. Now Godzilla and Ebirah begin to play water polo. Standing on the rocky shoreline, Godzilla kicks a boulder at Ebirah, who deflects it back at him with a claw. Hey, I know rocks don't fly that way, it would have fallen straight down once it smacked into Ebirah's unmoving claw. The rock flies back at Godzilla, who catches it and tosses it back at Ebirah. For a second time, the Shrimp bats the rock away, this time harmlessly into the ocean.
Arg, again. Godzilla then picks up another, bigger, rock and tosses at Ebirah, who bats it back towards Godzilla. Godzilla...ok, I can't believe this is happening...heads the rock back to Ebirah (!!!). They do this exchange twice more before Godzilla deflects the rock off to the side, where it flies off to smash into the machinegun tower of SPECTRE's compound!
Ebirah holding a boulder.
I won't comment on the water polo game because words simply fail me, but since the rock hit the compound, I'll assume that it must be near the mountain where Godzilla just came out of. You'd think that they would have been able to find our heroes in that cave so close by their base, or even see the sword, or maybe even have scouted the place out and found Godzilla sleeping a long time ago. We are led to believe here, as well, that the rock hitting the tower is the first sign that the compound knows of the monsters. Another sign of a total lack of nighttime patrols or perimeter defense. Blofeld, reacting to Godzilla rampaging around his island, calls HQ and asks for reinforcements. Ok, keep it mind that it's currently dark outside, though we don't know what time.
Tired of the game, Godzilla now wades into the water to come after Ebirah. Ebirah used his claw like a shovel and splashes water in Godzilla's face twice, just like we did to the little kids in the pool. Annoyed, Godzilla shoots an Atomic Fire Breath into the water, boiling Ebirah and sending him underneath the waves. Man, boiled shrimp is like three bucks a pound! Godzilla could make a fortune here!
But our Shrimp is not out yet. He bursts up out of the water, apparently unhurt, and starts swinging those big claws at Godzilla. The Shrimp is overmatched here, and he gets smacked around pretty hard. He then gets tricky and pulls Godzilla down under the water, snapping at him with his claws. Godzilla grabs a rock on the seafloor and pops Ebirah on the head twice, making the Shrimp skitter off. Round One to Godzilla! By the way, that was the first underwater scene in a Godzilla movie since the ending of the original 1954 Godzilla.
We immediately cut to broad daylight, the sun seen fully up. Where is Godzilla? We don't know, he's nowhere to be seen. We will not see him for a while so maybe he stopped to brush his teeth and comb his hair.
We instead catch up with Yoshi, Ichino and Daiyo, who are still avoiding the soldiers. Yoshi has apparently set some traps around their position to trap the soldiers, seemingly of the looped noose on the ground rigged to a trip-wire counter-balance to pull victims up in the air by their feet variety. Why he would bring attention..., waste time, and risk capture, is beyond reason. Suddenly, we see that one set of traps has caught two men. They discover Ryota and Yata swinging upside down by their feet yelling and cursing. I just saw The Rundown, and neither of these two men are The Rock.
They're cut down and the whole party now decides to check out the compound to find a way to free the slaves. They creep up to a vantage point and spy on SPECTRE, unseen by the swarms of soldiers in the compound despite the fact that they're all wearing bright orange and yellow clothes. The base is active with soldiers and slaves, but there seems to be little undue excitement despite Godzilla being in the area. Crazy Yata is all for running down there and freeing the slaves even though they're all unarmed. Yoshi has to talk him out of it.
Back inside the base, we hear from Blofeld that headquarters has ordered him to "contain" Godzilla, and their "whole air force is on alert". Hmmm...this really sounds like China now. The perimeter fence is electrified with "100,000 volts", which considering that electricity woke him up, doesn't seem like it's going to stop Godzilla. Just then we see that they have placed "microphones" around the perimeter of the base and one of them has picked up our heroes chatting up in the jungle. Wow, so maybe SPECTRE isn't so dumb after all, using remote sensing devices around their base when foot patrols in the dense jungle have proven to be useless.
Squads of soldiers led by Number-Two rush out to ambush them. They escape the trap and run deeper into the jungle. Penned in, our heroes wisely decide to split up and make a run for safety. We follow Daiyo as she runs (growl...) up an exposed rocky slope. A bunch of soldiers chase her, firing ineffective bursts of machinegun fire at her. Suddenly, Godzilla rears up over the ridge! So that's where he's been! Frightened, the soldiers retreat, firing at the monster.
Now alone before this towering behemoth, Daiyo falls to the ground and cowers. This is a common Godzilla image, the beast seen through the eyes of a solitary person on the ground, and is very effective at conveying the hugeness and power of Godzilla. Daiyo hugs a rock and Godzilla walks right up to her. Staring down at her he says what we are all thinking, "Damn! She's smokin' hot! Umm...think a fine island girl like that would ever hook up with a giant lizard like me?"
"Hmm...no, I like my men short and human."
Godzilla then squats down on his haunches (!!!) and closes his eyes (!!!), either meditating (!!!) or going to sleep (!!!). We are led to think that the monster was mesmerized by the girl's beauty, a very King Kong-like trait and another remnant of that monster being originally scripted for this movie.
Our four male heroes, having somehow ditched all those armed soldiers in the bush, have now reformed and are trying to extract Daiyo from her predicament. They are almost to her when they suddenly see a giant condor swooping down at the meditating Godzilla!!! What? This giant bird, perhaps also mutated by the same radiation that hulked up Ebirah, just appears out of nowhere and with absolutely no hint of his existence. Called the "Ookondru" in the literature, the bird has a length of 15 meters, a wingspan of 25 meters, and a weight of 2,000 tons.
The condor is realized by a hideously bad prop hung on wires with the wings flapping up and down in a most unnatural flying motion. It smacks Godzilla in the head and starts flapping and clawing at him for a few seconds before zipping away. As it turns for another run, Godzilla flames it with an Atomic Fire Breath, causing it to smoke and crash into the sea. We never hear of this bird again, and we wonder where it came from, if anyone on the island knew it even existed and what caused it to attack Godzilla in the first place.
As soon as the bird is gone, Godzilla rubs his nose with his finger (!!!) and then squats down to meditate again. Daiyo strangely smiles at the monster with this adoring look as if to say, "Wow, you big strong beast! Can I have your letter jacket?" This little hint of cross-species bestiality on the part of Daiyo is disturbing in any movie, let alone a Godzilla film.
Godzilla's secret hand signal for "Come get some."
This is thankfully interrupted by the arrival of a flight of fighter jets, the "reinforcements from headquarters" that Blofeld was promised. Ok, these are clearly Russian-made MiG-19 Farmers. Well, since this SPECTRE is obviously Chinese-funded, then they are more accurately J-6s.
Red Bamboo Fighters.
Are these MiGs coming from some strip on SPECTRE Island? Are they coming from mainland China? Perhaps the jets were sent by the Chinese government ("headquarters?") to support the SPECTRE island base? With the short flight time we see onscreen, does this mean that SPECTRE Island is relatively close to China? There are at least eight of the MiGs, and they are each armed with at least two underwing rockets of the variety that cause big, bright explosions on the ground around Godzilla's feet but never actually hit the monster. The models are quite good and this sequence is edited very well, one of the better air attacks in the entire series.
The MiG pilots show some serious lack of skill here, zooming close enough to Godzilla that he's able to physically swat them out of the sky. In the coming battle, while none of their missiles actually hit Godzilla, we see him destroy three of the fighters for sure and get maybe two more. Two are smashed in his hands, another swatted by his tail and maybe two are flamed by little puffs of Atomic Fire Breath, though it's hard to tell. Their losses too great, the remaining fighters pull out and leave.
Godzilla, now thoroughly pissed, heads for the SPECTRE compound, intent on some miniature stomping. The machinegun towers ringing the base open up on him, tracers ripping into his skin to no effect. The electrified fence seems to be working, three times Godzilla is turned back by the singeing and painful shock. Could it be that the evil SPECTRE base will be saved from Godzilla?
Godzilla storms the compound.
Nope. Showing some serious intelligent tool use, Godzilla picks up two big rocks and smashes a transformer with them, killing the power to the fence. Inside the fence now, Godzilla starts stomping the buildings and causing chaos. This is not his best work, as he stumbles around the uneven set, almost losing his balance on several occasions. This compound of low, flat buildings is a far cry from the Tokyo high-rises of the last few movies. This is what the cash-strapped and creatively-hamstrung Toho crew has been reduced to.
We see that our heroes have now regained a vantage point to watch the monster rampage. Suddenly, crazy Yata runs off down the hill, intent on saving the natives at any cost. Man, Yata is not even a native of Infant Island, but he sure seems like he's willing to risk death for them. He was only on the island for two months, but he must have really been received well. Yoshi the robber chases after him, and they begin working their way into the underground cavern where the slaves were kept making the yellow liquid.
The base in flames, Number-Two orders the self-destruct activated and "set to nuclear" to explode in two hours, which will destroy Godzilla along with any trace of the operation. We will see that they plan on making the nuclear reactor overload and explode. Why two hours? Why such a long time? Perhaps they are leaving a hefty safety margin for their escape. They plan on escaping the island on the ship, which is still at the pier, and we see a group of soldiers rush into the slave cavern to take the four barrels of yellow liquid before locking the natives in the cave to die. So they didn't have any of the liquid on hand? Is SPECTRE operating on a "just in time" inventory control system? This seems pretty dumb.
Yata and Yoshi find the cave and Yoshi picks the lock (again!) with his trusty skeleton key, which apparently works on every single lock ever made in the world. Instead of running for cover, Yoshi, Yata and some of the natives now run into the nuclear reactor room that we saw earlier! Why are they here? Did they somehow know about the reactor overloading?
The building is falling apart under Godzilla's attacks and Yoshi tries desperately to deactivate the nuclear overload. What? How does bank robber Yoshi know how to stop an out-of-control reactor???
Okay, the bad guys sail off, confident in their crafty escape. As Ebirah rises up out of the ocean ahead of them, they begin spraying the liquid. But, remember, this batch is fake (oh, that tricky Nita!) and Ebirah sinks the plastic ship model with a snapping claw. The size of the boat in his claw versus what we saw of it at the pier makes Ebirah here seem like he's 200 meters tall.
Ebirah with the cruiser in his claw.
Godzilla, seeing Ebirah offshore, comes out to play. They duel again in the water, reusing a bunch of the footage from their first fight. Godzilla is pulled underwater again, and there is much clawing and roaring. An Atomic Fire Breath boils the water again and everything is all dark and murky and hard to follow. The gist is that Ebirah is getting it handed to him again.
Back ashore, our heroes have given up trying to deactivate the nuclear self-destruct and are now fretting and worrying. It's clear that now Mothra is their only chance, as now they only have ten minutes (!!!) before the nuke detonates. The native slaves are busy constructing a bamboo and palm frond platform for Mothra to rescue them on. This work is directed by Daiyo, who seems to know exactly what she's doing despite not knowing if Mothra is coming or not. That's faith in your monster.
The natives building the platform.
And we cut back to Infant Island, where the natives and Mary Kate and Ashley are dancing and wailing while Mothra still naps. Suddenly, Mothra awakes and takes off, psychically knowing that she's needed at SPECTRE Island. The Mothra puppet is the same one used in 1964's Godzilla vs. Mothra I and flies with the same very unnatural motion as the giant condor seen earlier. Since she makes it there in less than ten minutes, we again can guess that the two islands are relatively close together.
Out at sea, Godzilla has gotten the upper hand and has torn off both of Ebirah's claws! The Giant Shrimp gives up the fight and swims off to sea. Godzilla slaps the claws together, mocking the retreating Ebirah, and roars out his victory. That was a lame fight, Godzilla was never truly in any danger of losing that one. Despite what it appears here, Ebirah doesn't die. In fact, the Giant Shrimp is seen again living on Monster Island in later movies.
"Yeah, that's right, I got your claws right here, shrimpy."
Mothra arrives now, hovering over the islanders and our heroes out on the beach. Everyone gets onto the platform and success seems at hand. However, Godzilla is now ashore and looking to fight with Mothra. This seems strange as so far Godzilla has been our movie's unsung hero, fighting against the bad guys and their monster. Now he's attacking Mothra, Japan's favorite monster. This is probably another throwback to King Kong being the original monster cast. He blasts off an Atomic Fire Breath, narrowly missing Mothra as she takes off. Mothra, realizing that she doesn't have time for this foolishness, just blows Godzilla over with her beating-wings-making-a-hurricane thing. Godzilla down, Mothra grabs up the platform full of natives and zips off for Infant Island.
Mothra carries the platform off.
As they watch Godzilla from the receding Mothra, our heroes suddenly and inexplicably have a change of heart about Godzilla. It's true that Godzilla never really tried to hurt them, and even avoided killing Daiyo when he had the chance, so maybe they are justified in feeling this way. They start yelling at him, telling him to get off the island because it's going to nuke any second.
Godzilla apparently gets the hint (!!!) and jumps into the ocean. Hmmm...In Godzilla 1985 we learn that he feeds off of nuclear energy, even sucking down a reactor core for breakfast. Would he really run away from an overloading reactor pumping our radiation into the air, or would he run to it like a moth to a flame? Sure the actual explosion might kill him, but how would he know that? To him, the melting-down reactor would just be a buffet table. Perhaps this is another sign of the original script being written for King Kong.
Godzilla jumping into the water.
The island then explodes in what is clearly not a nuclear explosion. This is oh-so-not a nuke, why couldn't they have gotten some stock footage clip of a nuclear explosion on some island? There must be millions of clips of just this out there, why fool us into thinking your gasoline bomb was a nuke? Of course, if it really was a nuke, then all the islanders on the platform would have their eyes seared out by the flash and their skin melted by the thermal blast, but that's just not going to happen here.
From Mothra, our heroes sight Godzilla swimming away, assuring another sequel. That's all we got, folks, have a good night.
[Editor Pam: Somebody explain to me why an organization like SPECTRE, which certainly appears to be connected with Red China or at least some wealthy country, would bother to set up a nuclear reactor on an out-of-the-way island anyway. Why not pick someplace in your own country, which would mean they wouldn't have to deal with Ebirah and would be much easier to defend?]
Written in July 2004 by Nathan Decker and edited by Pam Burda and Darci Sharver.
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