Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Seafood platter: Godzilla vs The Sea Monster(1966) - revisited

While legendary Toho director Inoshiro Honda gets the vast majority of props from die hard Godzilla movie fans, and deservedly so, there's also IMO a lot to be said for director Jun Fukuda. In interviews Fukuda has expressed disdain for the Godzilla films he directed. Nevertheless, Fukuda's Godzilla movies are always entertaining and action packed, including the first Godzilla movie directed by him: Godzilla Vs The Sea Monster , aka "Ebirah Horror Of The Deep", which originally opened in Japanese theaters back in 1966. This film is the first Godzilla film not to receive an American theatrical distribution, being released direct to television by the Walter Reade Organization. Many Godzilla movie fans find this movie something of a letdown after 1965's Invasion Of The Astro Monsters. I'll be the first to admit that when I first watched Godzilla Vs The Sea Monster on VHS I felt similarly. No longer. As always I submit these observations about this film, some positive and some not, for the inspection of this message board community.

Thumbs up:

- the overall design of Ebirah, an enormous marine arthropod that menaces the islanders and, at the end, even the Red Bamboo. I'll be the first to admit this giant crustacean isn't my favorite kaiju. That said I thought it looked fairly realistic, including its antennae, claws and mandibles. I also liked the roar of the creature despite the notion that a lobster roaring is, frankly preposterous.

- Kumi Mizuno: what a beautiful woman and we get to see her in a skimpier outfit for the duration of the film. Consider that even Godzilla seemed affected by her as he looked down at "Daiyo"(her character) and didn't harm her.

- the generous use of high speed filming which as always slows down the movements of the monsters making them look more realistic

- the overall cinematography of this film looked very good, especially certain shots of the islands

-the primary antagonists in this film, the "Red Bamboo': stiff, unsympathetic and harsh in their enslavement of the Infant Island natives, they're easy to despise, especially Captain Yamoto(Akihiko Hirata) and his commanding officer played by Jun Takazi. Seeing their ship blasted apart by Ebirah and their base of operations demolished by Godzilla was very satisfying

-the sequence where the kaiju sized vulture interrupts Godzilla's "nap": the bird itself wasn't remarkable at all but every now and then I think Godzilla fans need a reminder of just how powerful Godzilla is and seeing the monster easily incinerate the giant vulture like bird is definitely that winky

- Godzilla Vs Ebirah I and II: I liked both battles overall, despite some aspects of the fights I didn't like(see "Thumbs down" below). Ebirah, despite having no beam weapon or other special power gave Godzilla a fairly good physical battle before being ripped, literally, apart by Godzilla.

- Haruo Nakajima turned in another solid performance in the Godzilla suit, utilizing his famous "attack" and "stalking" postures to great effect

- the brief skirmish between Mothra and Godzilla: as Mothra lands Godzilla thunders forward, approaching Mothra and launching a blast of his heat breath. Mothra drives back Godzilla by flapping her wings and creating hurricane force winds. We've seen this before but this brief confrontations is IMO a necessary reminder that these two monsters will not become allies anytime soon.

Thumbs down:

- certain matte shots and other effects shots were sub par, including the visibility of the wires, regarding both Mothra and Ebirah

-the "volleyball" match played out by Godzilla and Ebirah as they knock the giant boulder back and forth in the air. The questionable, and I'm thinking physically impossible trajectories of the boulder during this sequence is definitely annoying to watch

- the Godzilla suit is clearly showing wear and tear in this film, evidenced by the sag in the suit under the arms

- many of the water tank shots looked...well, too much like water tanks.

Overall, I have grown quite fond of Godzilla vs The Sea Monster(1966) over the years. The Sony Region 1 DVD of this film is a must for any self respecting Godzilla movie fan!

The American trailer for the film: