Saturday, 10 May 2014

A Fistful of Gojira Part 2: Ebirah Horror of the Deep

Title: Ebirah Horror of the Deep aka Godzilla Vs. The Sea Monster
Director:  Jun Fukuda
Released: 1966
Starring: Akira Takarada, Toru Wantanabe, Toru Ibuki, Choutarou Tougin, Hideo Sunazuka, Kumi Mizuno, Pair Bambi, Jun Tazaki, Akihiko Hirata, Haruo Nakajima, Yu Sekida

Plot: Ryota (Wantanabe) and his friends steal a boat belonging to bank robber, to try and find Ryota’s brother Yata (Ibuki) who is presumed to be lost at sea. However when their boat is destroyed by the giant lobster Ebirah/ Washing up on the shores of a mysterious island which is also the base of operations for terrorist organisation “The Red Bamboo” who have enslaved the natives from Infant Island to help them manufacture nuclear weapons.

Review: Arriving at a cross roads for the series, with Godzilla still yet to become the defender of Japan but no longer the monstrous threat he was in his early films but rather a monster defending his territory, this film would only be a step further (if a confused one) closer to the popular vision of Godzilla as an anthropomorphic superhero that most people have. However despite starting on this path in “Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster” this film would still find Godzilla’s intentions still in something of a confused state no doubt due to the fact that the film had originally been intended as a vehicle for King Kong under the proposed title “Operation Robinson Crusoe: King Kong vs Ebirah” in what would be his second appearance outside of the US, having four years previous been given the Kaiju treatment by Toho when he was pitted against Godzilla in there series misstep “King Kong Vs. Godzilla”. It would however be during production that last minute changes would see the film would be changed to a Godzilla film leaving Kong to return to battle Mechi-Kong in “King Kong Escapes”.

While this film might not be a favourite of many Godzilla fans, thanks largely to the horrible dub track which for certain characters seems to have been done for comedic effect (atleast that’s what I hope it was) but despite this I have always held a fondness for this film, perhaps because it was the first Godzilla film I ever saw and while at the time I might not have been aware it was part of a larger series of films, I loved watching this giant dinosaur destroying buildings and battling with an over grown shrimp and it was from here that my life long obsession with not only Godzilla but Kaiju cinema on a whole would begin.

A light hearted adventure movie at its core and it is really a sense of fun that director Fukuda brings to the series after series mainstay Ishiro Honda decided to take another break from directing the series leaving Fukuda to pick up the directing reins with this film being the first of the five films he would direct for the series. Godzilla’s presence here though is more as a supporting character than a main lead as he would become in the films which followed, the same can also be said for Mothra who spends most of the movie being worshiped by the natives of Infant island who are trying to wake her up from the coma she seems to in until she suddenly decides to wake up in time to help Ryota and his friends escape the island with the natives enslaved by the Red Bamboo. This is however not to say that Godzilla isn’t given anything to do, as he does get to have a couple of memorable brawls with Ebirah who would following this film be phased out of the Toho monster catalogue until making a surprise appearance in “Godzilla: Final Wars”. Godzilla also gets to fight a random giant condor, but I think this creature was another carry over from the original Kong plotting, much like Godzilla’s strange interest in native girl Dayo (Mizuno) and throwing boulders as memorably seen during the random game of boulder tennis Godzilla engages in with Ebirah.

Equally noteworthy about this film is the level on violence here, which while perhaps featuring none of the blood spurts of “Godzilla Vs. Gigan” or the shocking jaw snapping scene in “Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla, this film does feature humans being eaten by Ebirah (to date the only monster to do this) aswell as Godzilla brutally tearing the claws off Ebirah and using them to taunt her further at the end of their battle. Unlike "Gamera" Godzilla has never been a series interested in gore and bloody brawls, outside of a few sporadic moments throughout the series and while this film features some of these moments of violence it is never to the point were it distracts from the film or stops being a Godzilla movie.

As far as Toho monsters go Ebirah is possibly one of the more outlandish, after all she is less of your typical monster design and really just a giant shrimp after all, as further confirmed by the fact that her name is derived fro the Japanese word ebi, meaning “shrimp” (thank you IMDB for that one). Despite this she is still one of the better opponents with her aquatic nature also giving us one of the rarer underwater fight scenes, while proving herself equally tasty as a brawler.

The main plotline following Ryota and his friends trying to stop the dastardly Red Bamboo is one of the more entertaining ones and their appearance here makes a change from the usual alien plotlines. It only makes it more of shame that this would be their only appearance in the series. Still despite giving the impression of a well organised fighting force they are still surprisingly easy to fool as seen by the outlandish tactics the group use to elude them, let alone the fact that they essentially toppled by a plan formulated by the group’s resident comic relief.

True this film might have some minor plot holes, such as why Godzilla is unconscious on the island or why Mothra spends most of the film having a nap, but for newcomers this film provides the perfect starting point like so many of the films from this point in the Showa era, with its fun plotting and zero knowledge of the other films being required to enjoy it, this one is just wholesome Kaiju fun!

Next time: "Godzilla Vs. Gigan" - With the Showa era hitting its stride with an established format of pitting Godzilla against a roster of giant monsters Director Fukuda with his third film for the series while providing possibly the best tag team match to date as Godzilla and Anguirus team up to battle King Ghidorah and Gigan.


  1. I also have a soft spot for this movie, no matter how silly it is, and feel Ebirah should have been given more outings than this.

    Great review :)


    1. I guess like Mandra, no one really considered her that much of a threat, combined with the her being an aquatic villain (though this would seem not to be the cast judging on "Final Wars") makes her a harder one to write.

      Still as a one shot villain she is far more memorable than King Kong was.


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