We're going to need a bigger
bowl of cocktail sauce!
The sea monster in the title of Godzilla vs the Sea Monster brings new meaning to the words "jumbo shrimp." Ebirah, whose name is derived from the Japanese word for shrimp, is just that -- a monstrous, towering, man-eating shrimp. As you might imagine, he (she?) isn't a very compelling monster, especially when pitted against the Big G, whose nuclear breath and preference for underwater environments make him more than a match for the Bubba-Gump Company's fantasy spokesman. Believe us, the "throw another shrimp on the barbie" joke did not go unused during our screening of this film.
Godzilla vs the Sea Monster was the first Godzilla film directed by Jun Fukuda, a man who would direct five Godzilla films in all. Fukuda was responsible (some would say to blame, as Roger Corman put it) for a new direction in the series -- less epic, more adventure-driven films emerged. In Sea Monster, this is especially true: there is no city-smashing, nor are there dire threats to the planet. Instead, Godzilla hangs out on a small island in the South Pacific (natch) while a more human-scaled drama plays out.
Ryota is a young Japanese man whose brother Yata went missing while at sea. Ryota is convinced that he can find his brother if he can just get his hands on a boat, and he tells his mother he has a plan to do just that. Sadly, Ryota's plan is to show up for an endurance dance contest three days late. While there, Ryota hooks up with two of the contest's losers, Ninda and Ichino. A Scooby gang thus formed, their mutual fascination with boats leads them to sneak aboard a yacht in the nearby marina.
One of our heroes pricks his finger
to determine if he's dreaming or if
he's really stuck in a Jun Fukuda movie.
Once on board the three are confronted by the rifle-toting Yashi (Akira Takarada). Yashi claims to be the boat's owner, but for some reason allows them to stay the night on the boat. The next morning Yashi, Mita, and Ichiro wake up to find that Ryota has put the boat out to sea. Because no one else knows how to pilot the boat, they find themselves along for the ride. But if it's Yashi's boat, shouldn't he know how to pilot it? Fortunately, a couple of plot-specific radio news announcements clue the Scooby gang in to the fact that Yashi is actually a bank robber on the run. At least we think they figure it out. Despite the fact that Yashi does everything but wear a big blinking neon sign that says "I Rob Banks - Ask Me How!", every half-hour one of the youngsters will bust out with "You really are the bank robber!", as if it hadn't occurred to them before that moment.
A mysterious storm strikes the boat, and it is destroyed. Everyone on board is washed up on a remote tropical island. The island is not deserted however, but is the base for a terrorist organization that prides itself on being extremely mean. Although American viewers are never told the name of this terrorist organization, the Japanese version of the film identifies it as "Red Bamboo."
"I wish I hadn't asked Santa for that official
Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot
range model air rifle!"
How mean is Red Bamboo? These terrorists are developing nuclear weapons, they are kidnapping natives from nearby Infant Island, and they have their own giant shrimp that eats anyone who tries to escape. The Red Bamboo leader even chastizes his eye-patch wearing lieutenant with the line "You must be losing your sight." Now that's mean!
The remainder of the movie concerns the Scooby gang's attempts to foil the plans of Red Bamboo, by sabotaging their operations, by setting traps around the island, and by freeing the natives who are used as slave labor to manufacture the Ebirah RepellantTM that allows Red Bamboo's ship to come and go from the island. When none of those plans work, they decide to wake Godzilla, who just happens to be hibernating in a nearby cave. Their rationalization for this is that Godzilla's presence couldn't possibly help Red Bamboo, and our heroes' own situation couldn't get any worse. So they do it.
If you thought the bit about the dance marathon sounded silly, just wait until you see the rest of this film. The natives on Mothra's island home are holding their own dance marathon, in the hopes that Mothra will hear their prayers and rescue the slaves. When you see how obviously worn the Mothra puppet is in this movie, you'll recognize the miracle of Mothra's compliance for what it is. Then there are the final minutes of the movie, when Mothra descends to carry the good guys away, but the Scooby gang is still inside trying to reach the switch that will deactivate the self-destruct mechanism on the weapons factory. Guys: the bad guys are gone, and you've got a free trip off the island! Why are you still messing with the self-destruct switch? And why, oh why do terrorists insist on installing self-destruct bombs in their bases?
"Then laying his finger aside of his nose,
and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose."
Godzilla subs for Santa this year.
Godzilla doesn't have much competition in this movie, combat-wise. Ebirah is big, but he's still a shrimp. At one point Godzilla is attacked by a giant condor, but Godzilla fries him with his breath and that's the end of that. Red Bamboo decides to attack Godzilla with airplanes, but that trick never works, Bullwinkle. In fact, Godzilla vs the Sea Monster was originally intended to be a King Kong movie, which may also help explain the scene where Godzilla appears to become infatuated with island girl Daiyo.
Despite its incredible cheese factor and incoherent story, Sea Monster is a fairly enjoyable film, especially for those of us with a weakness for giant monsters. Godzilla isn't really the star here, but his presence is certainly felt and the rubber-suit wrestling is pretty good, even if the rubber suits are a bit dilapidated and the fights are uneven. Fans of 1960's-vintage low-budget spy flicks will probably get a kick out of the mixture of the kaiju and mod-espionage genres. Just don't expect an Ebirah action figure. Ever.
He said it during AMC's recent Monsterfest, so perhaps these were the sentiments of the staff writers. At any rate, fan sentiment has long been against Fukuda for making silly, "superhero" Godzilla movies. Recently, though, Godzilla scholars like Steve Ryfle have given Fukuda credit for making do with ever-decreasing budgets. Go back!
Although there wasn't really room for it above, we just couldn't resist a quick picture of the dance contest. Too goofy! Go back!