This offbeat entry in the Godzilla series falls almost squarely in the middle of the original series. Gone is famed director Ishiro Honda, now replaced with Jun Fukuda who would “treat” fans to some of the worst entries in the series. Whether or not it was his directorial skills or the limited budgets he faced, Fukuda started off with a very hit or miss entry, “Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster.”
Terrorist organization Red Bamboo hides on an obscure island, slowly plotting to take over the world with their stockpile of nuclear weapons. Ryota (Toru Watanabe) and a small band of friends crash a boat into the island while searching for his lost brother. Now knowing Red Bamboo is using slaves to produce a yellow liquid to fend off a giant lobster named Ebirah, they have no choice but to try and stop the group alone. Their only chance is a sleeping Godzilla, but is waking him even more dangerous than the terrorists?
Originally slated to be a vehicle for Toho’s version of King Kong, there is plenty in the script that doesnt make much sense. Notable is Godzillas odd fascination for a girl (Kumi Mizuno) during a chase sequence. Thats an obvious trait of the big ape and its odd the script wasnt changed to better reflect the change in monsters. Then again, since Godzilla doesnt even get jolted (literally) awake until almost an hour in to this 80-minute feature, they must have needed as much screen time for the beast as possible.
When the real lead character finally does appear, its pretty laughable. Returning suit actor Haruo Nakajima is stuck inside a flabby, baggy, sagging suit that simply doesnt work. The paint seemingly chips away as the movie moves along, as does some of the detailing. Ebirah fares a bit better for his first outing, a surprisingly realistic take on a lobster (though ebi is Japanese is shrimp). Sadly, he’s not much of an opponent for Godzilla. Mothra also gets into the action late and looks fair. The prop almost looks dirty, taking away from what is supposed to be a beautiful monster (at least as far as monsters go).
The again, its sort of waste to spend so much time talking about the kaiju since they get so little screen time. Most of the film simply has the actors (including many Toho staples) running around chasing each other. The good guys try to break in; the bad guys try and keep them out. The Red Bamboo must be awfully stupid too. They imprison people from an island (one that houses a giant moth that destroyed all of Tokyo) to make juice to keep a giant lobster away from their boat. Why not just buy a plane or a helicopter and save yourself the trouble?
Still, this is a lively entry. The first movie in the series to be set entirely on an island looks great, even if it is just to save money on expensive miniatures. The soundtrack is light hearted (at times completely inappropriate) to match the bright color tones. The action sequences are generally brief, but the fight underwater, even if its obvious that Godzilla and Ebirah are not underwater, is great.
This is a film that you can watch once and find it enjoyable. Next time, you find yourself cringing at the ridiculous tennis-style rock fight between the two monsters and try and forget it all. The series shifted in tone dramatically by this point. This one just continues that switch. This is not a movie to be taken seriously (at all) but you can have a blast if you just use your imagination properly. If you cant, you’ll see right through it. (** out of *****)
Out of the recent string of Sony released Godzilla films this one looks the best. It even betters the Japanese DVD. The 2.35:1 print is in remarkable condition with only a few instances of specks and scratches. Color is strong and overall transferis soft which fits the film. Compression is never a problem. There is a little flickering along with some slight aliasing issues. These are brief and minor comparatively. (****)
Available in either original Japanese or dubbed English, the 2.0 mono tracks are about equal. Theres a bit of a straining quality to the English track usually evident during sequences that feature music. That gives the Japanese track a little more life, but just barely. Either way, both tracks are unremarkable, giving just enough to be serviceable. (***)
Sony has seen it fit to toss on the same outdated trailers they included on all the previous discs. How outdated? It lists Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster as coming soon. Thats it in the way of extras. (No stars)
Toho’s version of King Kong would return after his titanic struggle with Godzilla in 1967s “King Kong Escapes.” There he would fight a giant mechanical version of himself. Its sort of tough call. Giant shrimp or metallic double? Godzilla would end up fighting both. How many monsters have that on their resume?