I am pretty sure now that I have seen every Godzilla film at least once (I don’t count the 1998 Roland Emmerich film with Matthew Broderick; who does?). It is a little embarrassing from a nerd perspective that it has taken me this long. I don’t know why Ebirah, Horror of The Deep (Jun Fukuda, 1966), or Godzilla vs the Sea Monster as the English dub was called, was not part of the rotation of monster films on TV in my childhood. Son of Godzilla (Jun Fukuda, 1967) was another I didn’t see until much later in my life. Sequences of both those films are familiar though, as they were reused in a later film Godzilla, Minilla, Gabara: All Monster Attack (Ishirō Honda 1969), known in the US as Godzilla’s Revenge. Godzilla’s Revenge was shown on TV frequently, despite being a uniquely odd entry in the series, something I’ll return to later.
Overall the story of this film is a light children’s adventure. This film was originally intended to feature not Godzilla, but King Kong. The title of that version, Operation Robinson Crusoe: King Kong vs. Ebirah evokes the idea of a shipwreck adventure with dangerous creatures, colorful native people, and menacing pirates (specifically in this case a paramilitary organization making nuclear weapons). It wouldn’t really take much rewriting to not have any hero monster at all, but I guess it needed a “star,” and someone to have fights/wrestling matches with the giant lobster, Ebirah. Those battles, featuring impressive water (and underwater) special effects and monster suit work, are entertaining, but don’t actually add anything to the plot.
Knowing that Kong was originally intended explains the more monkey-like behaviors we see from Godzilla, such as throwing rocks and even sitting down and taking a nap at one point. This may be the only Godzilla movie where we see him sit down. There also a trace of a Fay Wray plot, where Godzilla ends up helping the humans after a pretty south sea island woman warns him about a giant eagle that attacks inexplicably at one point.
One fun element of watching Godzilla movies of this era is spotting the actors who show up in other films of the genre. Akira Takarada, Akihiko Hirata, and Kumi Mizuno are among the actors here who appear in many Toho Company studio monster films, though rarely if ever playing the same characters. Even Godzilla Final Wars (Ryuhei Kitamura, 2004) had many cameos by these performers. It is also always worth mentioning that Godzilla himself was played by the same actor, Haruo Nakajima in 12 movies from 1954 to 1972.
The Japanese titles of these movies are always much more dramatic than the English names they are given. Godzilla vs the Sea Monster is meh, Ebirah, Horror of The Deep is fine, but Godzilla, Ebirah, Mothra: Great Duel in the South Seas is even better. It was the seventh Godzilla movie made. Godzilla was well on his way to becoming more of a “good guy”, rather than a relentless embodiment of destruction as in his debut, but not quite the superhero he became by the 70s. Given that All Monster Attack, aka Godzilla’s Revenge, is literally a boy fantasizing about how to deal with a bully, one could make a case that the last six movies of this era are just stories made up by an imaginative child. I mentioned Godzilla’s Revenge was often on our local TV. It aired once with the first Godzilla film, a double feature our city newspaper described as:
“Godzilla (1954): Giant rubber-suited monster destroys Tokyo. With Raymond Burr.”
“Godzilla’s Revenge (1969): Giant rubber-suited monster destroys Tokyo. Without Raymond Burr.”
Here’s a delightful alternative poster for the movie from Zornow Must Be Destroyed