7.20.14

Today, I continued what I will call the Godzilla project which involves watching each Godzilla movie in order in order to observe each storyline and the creative execution of each film. Next up was Godzilla, Ebirah, Mothra: Big Duel in the South Seas (1966) ゴジラ・エビラ・モスラ 南海の大決闘, a.k.a. Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster.

Godzilla vs The Sea Monster

Let me first say Ebirah is nowhere to be found on iTunes and it’s not ready available like many other films. I was elated to find it free on Hulu with periodic commercial spots. I was surprised to find the original Japanese version with English subtitles. The quality was excellent.

My first impressions since I first watch Ebirah over twenty five years ago were I love the score. From the opening credits and scene the Masaru Sato score is the strength of the movie. It’s a departure from previous films with upbeat tempo fitting of the 60s. Ebirah is clearly a product of the 60s. Scenes, angles, and shots reminded me of James Bond, the Adam West Batman series, Gilligan’s Island, and Gidget.

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Patterns in the plot of Godzilla movies are repeated and seeds of future movie structures were planted. In Ebirah, the antagonist take the form of Red Bamboo who are akin to the aliens from Planet X and the corrupt business men from Godzilla vs. King Kong. The hard water planet reminded me of the alien base in Godzilla s. Mechagodzilla.

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As I found in the previous six films, the place, role, and significance of ritual is evidenced. The opening scene of Ebirah is that of a local priestess who searches for a mother’s missing son. Although there is less discussion about the nature of these monsters, it is clear they are gods with their domains. The prayers and worship directed toward Mothra reveal its divine status. Godzilla is a sleeping god of violence needing only to be awakened. Ebirah (derived from the Japanese えび, translated “shrimp”) is a god and giant lobster of the sea making passage to and from the island almost impossible without the proper offering. The three kaiju represents the spectrum of dispositions of the god monsters with Mothra and Ebirah at the poles representing the benevolent deity to destroyer respectively. Godzilla sits in the middle because he is both a blessing and a curse.

Godzilla vs The Sea Monster

The other important detail to note is the theme of the god of the oppressed embodied in Mothra, who hears the prayers and calls of its people. Godzilla will likewise become a defender of the whole earth in the following films. Ebirah along with its predecessors calls attention to victims. The natives of Infant Island have been captured and enslaved to produce the yellow substance that appeases the sea monster Ebirah. This is a persistent theme and motif in Godzilla movies. The religious heritage, myths, beliefs, and rituals are front and center. There is a polemic against modern technology and ideas that are exploitative, threatening, and violent. The gods (kaiju) will only allow humanity to go so far. They are the victims that guard graves and the marginalized communities of modern society.

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Godzilla’s transition to a god of protection progresses. Like Mothra he must be awakened but unlike Mothra his disposition is uncertain. He is awakened for the purpose of fighting Ebirah and warding off Red Bamboo. There is interesting interaction where he seems to protect the trapped native girl from Infant Island. Godzilla signals to hear by touching his nose with his finger. As Godzilla’s attitude toward humans changes the same can be said for humans. Godzilla’s instinct is to fight evidenced by his engagement with Mothra. Mothra the wise guardian deity knows when to fight and to fly away. As Mothra carries away the protagonists and natives from Infant Island, they feel sorry for Godzilla and appreciate that he fought for them. They implore Godzilla to leave the island. He seems to understand and jumps right before the explosion of an atomic bomb.

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Ebirah holds a special place in my memories because it may have been the most aired movie of the Showa era. I enjoyed this movie because Godzilla was no longer a menace but he was transforming into a friend and ally.

Godzilla vs The Sea Monster
Photo: John Stanowski, KaijuAddicts.com

The Godzilla suit design is not strong. His body is baggy and his eyes are unfocused eyes.The film offers viewers a glimpse of Godzilla in his habitat. We see him slumber, battle a giant condor, and ward off fighter jets. He is bothered by voltage electricity.

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My favorite scenes include the fight scenes underwater. Ebirah is the first movie to depict underwater battles. The rock volley ball scenes were memorable as well. Ebirah closes with Godzilla swimming away in the sea and Mothra fly back to Infant Island safely carrying the people away from danger.