Thursday, September 8, 2011

Playing Baseball with a Giant Lobster

The original Godzilla (especially the non-dubbed, Japanese version) was a parable condemning nuclear weapons, but it didn’t take the many sequels long to eschew any thematic point to the movies. The inherent coolness of watching imaginatively designed monsters destroy cities and battle one another soon overwhelmed any desire to shove a moral into the series.

The Godzilla series as a whole scores a 9.1 on the Bogart/Karloff Coolness scale, while the 1966 entry, Godzilla vs the Sea Monster (aka Ebirah, Horror of the Deep), scores an 9.0. It’s a fun movie, made when Godzilla had pretty much finishing morphing from horrible menace to occasional savior of humanity. The previous film, for instance, had Godzilla and Rodan double-teaming Ghidorah to save the planet from alien invasions.

This time out, the villains are humans—a secret organization called Red Bamboo that’s set up a lab/slave labor camp on a Pacific island to produce nuclear weapons.

The main characters are four guys who get shipwrecked on the island and an escaped slave—a very, very pretty girl originally from Infant Island. (Infant Island, as I’m sure you all know, is the home of Mothra.)

While hiding out from the Red Bamboo, the heroes stumble across a cave in which they find a sleeping Godzilla. Soon, they get separated and the movie does a fine job of balancing several convergent plot threads. Secret bases are being infiltrated, escapes are being planned, traps are being set, and one character ends up taking an unplanned but fortuitous balloon ride.

One of those threads involves several of the heroes using a make-shift lightning rod to wake up Godzilla, who soon gets into a battle with Ebirah, a giant lobster. And it is a… well, let’s say unique battle. Godzilla tosses a giant boulder at Ebirah. Ebirah bats it back at Godzilla with his claw. Godzilla head-butts the boulder back Ebirah. The lobster catches it in his claws and—I’m not making this up—does a little wind-up before throwing it back at Godzilla.

The scene is emblematic of the entire film. It’s silly—but it still plays everything seriously and the end result is an entertaining fantasy film. Everything that happens is actually inherently logical within the context of Godzilla’s expanding mythology.  We even get a Mothra cameo at the story’s climax.

So Godzilla playing catch with a giant lobster may be absurd, but we have no problem accepting it a face value while watching this movie.

The invaluable Official Godzilla Compendium tells us that this film was originally meant to feature King Kong rather than Godzilla. A version of the giant ape had already appeared in the classic King Kong vs. Godzilla in 1962 and he’d pop up again in the not-quite-in continuity film King Kong Escapes in 1967.

This explains a couple of odd plot devices used in the film. To quote the Compendium: “He [Godzilla} is revived by lightning, which is exactly how Kong was revived near the climax of King Kong vs. Godzilla, and Godzilla has an unlikely romantic interest in Kumi Mizuno (a beauty-and-the-beast situation more commonly associated with Kong.)”

Though, to be fair, Kumi Mizuno (the actress playing the escaped slave girl) is nice enough on the eyes to interest any male, regardless of species.


  1. it's a fun movie, and I'm glad to see most fans have come around to liking it more over the last ten years. used to be Jun Fukuda's Godzilla movies were derided since they are lower budgeted affairs than many of Honda's movies were.

    Ebirah isn't a lobster though, it's a giant shrimp. "ebi" is Japanese for shrimp. just adds to the fun!


  2. I've always thought that Hondo's movies were the best, but the later ones in the series are still entertaining in their own right. There's a sense of pure fun to just about all of them.

    Shrimp, Lobster, whatever.


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