Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966) – Review

Would you like to see King Kong fight a giant lobster? Well this is what Toho Studio wanted but Rankin/Bass Production rejected the idea so Kong was replaced with Godzilla. They did eventually team up to give us King Kong Escapes, but that is another story.  The original idea for this film was for it to be titled Operation Robinson Crusoe and some of the elements of the Kong version do survive in the film’s final form.

Like King Kong vs Godzilla this film has a rather light and rompish adventure tone with the quick introduction of character Ryota (Tôru Watanabe) whose brother is presumed lost at sea after a South Pacific fishing boat accident, but he is told by a local psychic that his brother Yata (Tôru Ibuki) is still alive. Both the authorities and the press refuse to help him so Ryota decides to get a boat for himself and this leads him to a dance marathon where the grand prize is a beautiful yacht, you got to love this guys tenacity, but unfortunately the contest is already in its third day so he cannot enter. While he’s there he does run into (Chôtarô Tôgin) and Nita (Hideo Sunazuka), two college guys who had entered the dance contest, but having since dropped out they are now free to take Ryota to the shore to see some boats. They bring the young idiot aboard a beautiful sailboat that turns out to be occupied by Yoshimura (Akira Takarada) who accuses them of trespassing, breaking and entering, and attempted burglary but for some reason allows them to spend the night.

“I get the top bunk.”

Come morning Yoshimura wakes up to discover his rifle has been disassembled and that while they were asleep Ryota had set sail, and because Ryota is the only one who knows how to sail the two boys and Yoshimura are basically shanghaied for this crazy rescue mission. An extra wrinkle is thrown in as we quickly learn that the boat does not actually belong to Yoshimura but that he is a professional thief on the lamb after stealing 4 million yen from a trading company. Why he would sneak aboard a boat that not only he couldn’t sail but then go to sleep when the real owner could show up at any time is a complete mystery. This is not the best getaway plan ever, made even more bizarre by him then inviting three complete strangers to crash overnight. Now the Godzilla films as a whole have never been heavy on logic but the opening set-up to Ebirah, Horror of the Deep is so nuts it makes the alien’s plan in Invasion of Astro-Monster seem downright sensible by comparison, and we haven’t even got to the giant monster parts.

Did anyone order the lobster?

After sailing around the South Pacific for several days our heroes sail into a nasty storm but the dangerous elements are the least of the worries as they are soon attacked by a giant claw that sends them all into the sea. With their boat wrecked the four men are washed ashore on a nearby island only discover it is the home of an evil paramilitary organization called Red Bamboo and whose secret base manufactures heavy water to be used in the manufacturing of nuclear weapons. These vile terrorists have also enslaved many residents from neighboring Infant Island, home of the guardian monster Mothra, to force them to manufacture a repellent that keeps the giant lobster Ebirah at bay while their boats are transporting supplies to and from the island. Ryota and company soon cross paths with these terrorists but with the aid of escaped slave Dayo (Kumi Mizuno) they manage to elude the villains. And where do our heroes manage to hide? Why a cave that just so happens to harbor a sleeping Godzilla. The reason for him sleeping in a cave when underwater is his usual habitat is probably a left over element from when Kong was the star of the picture, as is the fact that they awaken the beast with lightning. And of course the first thing he does when he awakens is to get into a fight with Ebirah.

These fights are kind of like morning calisthenics for monsters.

Godzilla and Ebirah toss rocks back and forth at each other, which is a tactic giant monsters use a lot in these movies, until one of those rocks careens into one of Red Bamboo’s guard towers. The fight is left off as a draw because the big brawl at the end is still to come, so the two monster part ways and we spend more time with our human friends as they try to escape Devil’s Island. We occasionally cut back to Infant Island where the twin fairies (now being played by twins Pair Bambi Yuko and Yoko Okada) who are trying to wake up Mothra so that she can go and rescue her enslaved people. It may just be me but I call that shitty guardianship if you are caught napping while your followers are being enslaved.

The natives perform the “Wake the Fuck Up” dance.

Ebirah, Horror of the Deep is probably one of the lesser known of the Godzilla films, and due to the rather lame lobster villain and lack of extravagant scenes of mass destruction that isn’t surprising, but I kind of liked the crazy James Bondesque adventures of our heroes matching wits with a knock-off SPECTRE, while also dealing with giant monsters. I particularly loved it the moment when running from some Red Bamboo soldiers Ryota gets his foot caught in the cables of an observation balloon which then carries him to Infant Island where he finds his brother alive and well. It’s all just so wonderfully goofy.

Even the titanic battles between the kaiju are given added flavor with 60s Go-Go music, right up until the point Godzilla rips Ebirah’s claws off and waves them at him in the most cruel taunt in film history. What’s not to love? Beautiful Dayo and the four goofballs running up and down the corridors of the Red Bamboo base even drifted out of Bond parody into Scooby Doo territory at times, if they’d had a Great Dane with them this movie could have been called Mystery of Monster Island.

“I would have gotten away with it to, if it wasn’t for you meddling kids.”

Poor declawed Ebirah never became one of the iconic Godzilla villains, even having to share screen time with a giant condor and Mothra in this film, but silly lobstrosties aside this movie does move at a lightning pace and is over before you know it. The weirdest moment, and that’s saying something in this film, is when Mothra shows up at the last minute to provide airlift rescue for the escaped slaves and our heroes. Godzilla randomly attacks her for no apparent reason, they certainly seemed to be on a friendly basis in Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, and then he watches sadly as she flies off back to Infant Island. After everyone escapes Godzilla then jumps off the island just as the place explodes, the nuclear stockpile finally detonating, and if made today I’d like to believe he’d have been running in slow motion as the place blew up behind him. It certainly wouldn’t have seemed out of place, and even back in the day the producers knew just how goofy their project was; just take a look at the Japanese trailer which has “Can-Can” music during the fights and gives the monsters subtitled dialog.

Japanese Trailer.

The biggest cheat to fans would be the promoting this film as Godzilla/Mothra movie as for 90% of the movie Mothra is asleep and only shows up for a ten second tussle with Godzilla when the movie is practically over. Whether Kong appearing in this film instead of Godzilla would have made the story make more sense is probably up for debate but the resulting film by director Jun Fukuda is delightfully nuts as it continues the franchise’s direction into light comedy.

Mothra will return in Destroy All Monsters.

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