Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966) [Walter Reade Organization]

Class: Staff
Author: Miles Imhoff
Score: (3.5/5)
March 5, 2005 [Review May Contain Spoilers]

Ebirah, Horror of the Deep is a very unique Godzilla film. It's one of the few Godzilla movies where the atmosphere and music combine to make a very lazy, Sunday afternoon experience. Beyond its tranquil nature, this really is a solid movie. It has one of the first really suspenseful and adventurous plots in a while. There are few gaps in acting, and most of the characters give a believable performance. The music is also a stellar achievement. It may not be Akira Ifukube, but it is truly memorable and enjoyable. This is Jun Fukuda's first Godzilla movie, and it is truly a classic!

In the South Seas, a claw ascends from the fierce ocean and destroys a ship. A man named Yata is aboard. Two months later, his brother Ryota is determined that Yata is alive. He and his friends, Nita and Ichino, try in vain to win a sailing vessel in a contest. They decide to go to the docks to simply look around. They trespass on a yacht, and a man who claims to be the owner threatens them with a gun, but oddly allows them to stay the night. In the morning, the group awakens to find that Ryota has set sail. Yoshimura, the "owner", seems suspiciously apathetic to this odd situation. He "allows" the ship to continue to sail, and Ryota continues to sail the seas and search for his brother. As they search, a radio report reveals that the vessel has been reported stolen, and in another story, a bank was robbed. Yoshimura and his mysterious briefcase look ever more suspicious to the others.

Later on, a storm ravages the ship, and in the last few moments, an enormous claw is visible. Ryota, Nita, Ichino, and Yoshimura find themselves beached on the island of Letchi. They ascend the white cliffs and Nita finds a sword, revealing the possibility of natives. They cut their way through the dense foliage, dine on local fruits, and come to a clearing where they spot a base below them.

They watch in horror as slaves are transported from an incoming ship, and they also witness the brutal chase that ensues when a few of the slaves escape. Taking a raft, the escapees row out a ways, but are quickly killed by Ebirah, the monstrous crustacean that waits off the coast. In the chaos of the chase, a slave named Daiyo escapes and runs into the four shipwrecked men, who each prove to her their friendship. Unfortunately, the men from the base, who belong to the evil organization known as the Red Bamboo, chase the group to a cliff, where the five escape into a cave. There, it is learned by the shipwrecked group that Daiyo is a native of Infant Island, as are the other slaves. Daiyo also reveals that Yata may be living on Infant Island! In a truly mind-bending twist of fate, at the bottom of a chasm in the center of the cave, Nita is shocked to see the motionless body of Godzilla.

The five decide to infiltrate the base. Yoshimura further draws suspicion from his fellow shipwrecked friends when he manages to quite flawlessly break into numerous entrances. The five come to learn that the base is a factory for making nuclear weaponry. They are soon found out and make a brilliant escape. Alas, Ryota becomes entangled in a spy balloon that takes him into the sky. Nita, meanwhile, is captured by the Red Bamboo and forced to make Ebirah-repelling fluid with the other captured Infant Islanders. When the remaining three return to the cave, there is a little despair. They realize they are up against big odds, and Ichino makes a suggestion: "why not wake Godzilla?" Using copper wire that Daiyo picked up from the facility, they create a makeshift lightning rod out of the sword with the wire leading down to Godzilla.

Meanwhile, Ryota's balloon descends very coincidentally to the ground on Infant Island. He finds his brother Yata, and they have a touching reunion. The Shobijin tell the two of the Red Bamboo and how they have kidnapped many Infant Islanders. The Shobijin and the Infant Islanders send the two men off in a raft with some fruit that will repel Ebirah. The two are told that Mothra will soon come to rescue those Infant Islanders who are captive on Letchi.

A storm brews as the raft approaches the island. Lightning strikes the sword and wakes Godzilla, who bursts out of the cliff face as Ebirah attempts to finish off Ryota and Yata (whose repellant fruit has washed away in the storm). Godzilla fights Ebirah and sends a boulder volleying back and forth, which ultimately crashes into the nearby Red Bamboo facility. Godzilla proceeds to enter the water and grapple with the creature, which temporarily pulls him under. Godzilla emerges and Ebirah retreats.

Ryota and Yata come ashore, and journey into the heart of the jungle. They become ensnared in traps set by Yoshimura, Daiyo, and Ichino. Once released, they approach the base, where Yata becomes eager to set the Infant Islanders free. Alas, their voices are overheard and they are chased away by the Red Bamboo. Godzilla suddenly appears and scares the soldiers away. The indifferent monster traps Daiyo, and she is forced to remain immobile until she can run from Godzilla, who sits nearby. Unfortunately, Godzilla's blissful transfer into sleep is interrupted and he is forced to battle a condor of prodigious size! After a quick battle, the Red Bamboo's air force is sent in, and it too is destroyed in a show of intense power. In the chaos, Daiyo is rescued, but Godzilla is angered. It approaches the base, and easily tramples through the defenses. Yata and Yoshimura enter the slave-hold, and free the Infant Islanders and Nita in the commotion. Sadly, Godzilla's attack prompts the Red Bamboo to flee the island, leaving a nuclear weapon counting down behind them. As their ship exits the docks, their Ebirah-repelling fluid sprays, but Ebirah does not retreat. Nita had earlier convinced the Infant Islanders to withhold the active ingredient, and Ebirah easily destroys the escaping Red Bamboo vessel.

Back on Letchi, the Infant Islanders build a net in which Mothra will airlift them, as the others try to stop the nuclear device. The latter fails, so when Mothra awakens on Infant Island, it quickly flies to Letchi. After a quick brawl with Godzilla, Mothra airlifts everyone off the island. The escapees feel sorry for Godzilla, for he had unknowingly saved them. They call for him to escape the island, and almost as if Godzilla can hear them, he jumps into the surrounding sea. The island explodes in a massive mushroom cloud, and Godzilla, Mothra, and the islanders are safe.

The performances are very solid in this film, and there are few lapses in acting. Akira Takarada's role as the gruff and sly bank robber whose demeanor gradually softens is handled excellently. Kumi Mizuno as the escaped Infant Island slave, is given very little with which to work, which is a shame, because her roll was far more distinguished and round in the previous movie. Hideo Sunazuka, Toru Watanabe, and Chotaro Tugin do well with their respective characters, however each character is given very little development. Among the protagonists, Toru Ibuki's character is slightly more developed than his fellow actors. It is a very blunt characterization, however, when it is revealed that he cares for the suffering of others. Though abrupt, it at least gives the audience enough to work on for the remainder of the movie. It's unfortunate that Emi and Yumi Ito do not return as the Shobijin; however, their replacements, the singing duo "Pair Bambi", do a relatively good job of holding up the role. Unfortunately, they lack the innocent energy that Emi and Yumi brought to the characters. As far as the antagonists' acting is concerned, it is less than believable. Akihiko Hirata and Jun Tazaki's characters are very stiff and very stereotypical, becoming in essence the common Saturday morning cartoon villains.

As far as the monster performances go, it is truly a mixed bag. The big successes in this film are Mothra and Ebirah, who have some very realistic qualities. Mothra's wings give an above-average impression of lift, and her look is still very insect-like, while enigmatically appearing cute and docile as usual. Ebirah is very detailed, and looks like a monster that could exist in real life. Ebirah's aggressiveness is very believable too, and this personality is executed nicely. Godzilla is very weak in this film. While his gradual transformation into a humanistic monster takes a few detours in this movie, there are several problems in this movie that make Godzilla come across as too human, too early. The fact that Godzilla repeats the human-like sit, which he had earlier performed in Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964), is one problem. The rock toss is another problem, but by this point the rock throws have become a mainstream for Godzilla films. Physically, the suit's head has the general appearance of a muppet. Yes, one should be so bold enough to point out that it doesn't look just like a run-of-the-mill puppet, but it actually looks like the head could become a character on Sesame Street. The remainder of the suit isn't much different than it has been, but it should be noted that the tail is utilized with some real effectiveness in this movie. The Giant Condor is another monster in this film, and it is a rather puzzling addition to the cast. It's not as though Toho is trying to capitalize on Rodan; they own Rodan! It seems like a very abrupt and unnecessary distraction to the plot. The fight itself has some very spastic footage, and though it's interesting to see this giant bird give Godzilla a hard time, it's quite unsatisfying as this kaiju is quickly disposed of with a nuclear heat breath. The creature's aggressive personality is very interesting, but the physical prop is less than perfect. The wing motions are quite unrealistic, as is the reddish color, the gangly feathers, and the overall unevenness of the creature. Luckily, the wing motions do improve throughout the course of the fight, but the fight ends far too quickly for this to truly be noticed. All in all, the monster presentation in this film is so-so.

Special effects-wise, this movie is rather successful. The miniatures and sets are relatively consistent, and are handled with an ample amount of success. The pyrotechnics are very interesting, and one triumph is the ending explosion. While it may not look like a nuclear blast at first, the boiling mists of the mushroom cloud's stem present a rather impressive illusion. Godzilla's beam is also looking nice in this movie, and it comes across far better than in the previous two movies. Unfortunately, it isn't too difficult to one-up the previous two breath attempts. From the dated mist of Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964), to the thin and flat animation in Invasion of the Astro-Monster (1965), the full blue animation in this movie easily trumps its predecessors. Finally, the sets are pretty fantastic in this movie. In the Red Bamboo's facility, the illusion of technology is impressive, and it is not so obvious a movie set as those sets presented in some future Godzilla movies, such as Destroy All Monsters (1968) and Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972).

The music in this movie is pretty fantastic, and somewhat refreshing from the intense and dark themes that dominate the previous Godzilla movies. The music has a very island aura, and it can easily relax the audience. However, the music can just as equally, with the same quality, build suspense. Such is the case with the music that plays as Ryota and Yata leave Infant Island. Other music worth mentioning is the song of the Shobijin, which while relatively uninspired, is still very pretty. The accompanying chant of the islanders, however, is very difficult on the ears.

Complementing the music perfectly is the entire atmosphere of the film. The South Seas setting and vistas really create a very relaxing, rich, and vivid atmosphere. The movie becomes very enchanting and inviting, and is somewhat of a 180-degree turn around from Ishiro Honda's gray, autumnal movies. Even without the very solemn atmosphere of this movie's predecessors, this film still manages to be serious, even with its rather unprecedented feel.

Dubbing is the final aspect worth mentioning in this film. It's absolutely brilliant considering the time period in which this movie was made. The words are actually pretty close to the mouths this time, putting to shame the dubbing efforts of the previous two Godzilla movies. Another interesting note about dubbing are the name omissions. Ebirah, the Red Bamboo, and Letchi are each never mentioned by name. Having no clue about what the names of the monster, the secret organization, and the island are don't distract from the movie, luckily. Their inclusion in the dialogue would be interesting but isn't necessary.

Ebirah, Horror of the Deep proves to be a really timeless movie. It's one of the few movies that combines a really intriguing plot with some interesting monster drama. This is Jun Fukuda's first of several Godzilla entries, and it is a movie that certainly stands apart. It is truly a classic, and the Godzilla series would only be lukewarm without it.