Direction: Jun Fukuda
Screenplay: Shinichi Sekizawa
Music: Masaru Sato
Special Effects: Eiji Tsuburaya, Teisho Arikawa
Producer: Tomoyuki Tanaka
There may not be any hula girls in this South Seas Godzilla adventure,
but with Kumi Mizuno as a lovely Infant Island native, who needs ‘em?
Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster marks the point at which the Godzilla series took a
decided left turn. Gone were the miniature cityscapes, the massing of the
Japanese military, the generals and other Japanese authorities, the threat to
Japan if not the whole world. Gone too were director Ishiro Honda and maestro
Akira Ifubuke. Indeed, Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster is almost as big a
departure from Monster Zero, the series’ previous entry, as the New
Beatles were from the Old Fab Four.
This time, the story and the topography become relatively small scale. Ryota (Toru
Watanabe), a young man whose fisherman brother Yata (Toru Ibuki) has been
missing for some time, insists that his brother is sill alive. He enlists two
of his friends, and the three of them encounter bank robber Yoshimura (Akira
Takarada) aboard a sailboat. The next morning, the four men find themselves far
adrift at sea, and we learn that Ryota deliberately stole the boat to look for
The crew encounters a storm and a giant shrimp/lobster monster (Ebirah) that
destroys their boat. They all wash ashore, however, and quickly encounter
Daiyo (Kumi Mizuno), a lovely Infant Island native who tells them that the evil
Red Bamboo (presumably code for Red Chinese) have been kidnapping Infant
Islanders and forcing them into slave labor to make the yellow liquid that
fends off Ebirah.
The five protagonists sneak into the Red Bamboo’s island base and discover that the villains are developing heavy
water for their nuclear program. Once found out by the Red Bamboo, Ryota inadvertently escapes
when a weather balloon lifts him high into the heavens; one of his friends
(played for “comedy” relief) is captured; and Yoshimura, Daiyo, and another of Ryota’s
friends escape. Ryota eventually lands on Infant Island (no unbelievable coincidences here) and is reunited
with his brother Yata, both of whom set sail for the Red Bamboo’s atoll.
Meanwhile, using a discarded Infant Islander’s sword,
the film’s other heroes succeed in awakening Godzilla (conveniently snoozing in
a nearby hill) when lightning strikes the sword and shocks The Big G to
Wasting no time, Godzilla lumbers from the hillside
and promptly takes on island guardian Ebirah. After a brief but well-filmed
battle that includes a regrettable round of monster vollyboulder, Ebirah
retreats. Soon, Godzilla tackles and defeats a giant condor (another Red
Bamboo mascot?) as well as the Red Bamboo air force.
Meanwhile, Ryota and Yata have arrived on the island,
and all the heroes rush to the Red Bamboo base. Godzilla does too, and quickly
makes a shambles of the place. The craven Red Bamboo leaders attempt to flee
the island via getaway ship, but the yellow liquid they normally use to ward
off Ebirah fails to work (at the urging of Ryota’s captured friend, the natives
substituted phony yellow juice for the real thing). Consequently, Ebirah
trashes the would-be escape vessel.
But back in the demolished base, a Red Bamboo
scientist has pressed a button that will soon cause the island to explode in a
nuclear blast. Godzilla battles Ebirah again, this time ripping off the
crustacean’s formidable claws, causing Ebirah to retreat in lobsterian
Meanwhile, Mothra finally awakens from her monsterly slumber and flies towards the Red
Bamboo island. There, she briefly tussles with Godzilla before rescuing both
the natives and the heroes. Once aloft, everyone yells for Godzilla to get off
the island pronto. The Big G finally splashes into the sea before a
spectacular explosion (one looking more volcanic than nuclear) obliterates the
Red Bamboo atoll.
Whew! Got all that? Yes, the plot of Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster is more
“people heavy” than the previous two Big G entries. At this time (the
mid-sixties), spy movies were all the vogue, and you can clearly see their
influence on the film’s story – the Red Bamboo organization, their evil over-the-top
leaders (one with an eye patch yet), their secret base, the heroes’ clandestine
skullduggery, etc. Still, the fate of the world isn’t really at stake here –
just the destiny of our five Japanese heroes, Daiyo, and her fellow Infant
Another obvious difference between this Godzilla opus and the series’ previous movies
is that Godzilla doesn’t even show up until the movie is more or less half
over. Up to that point, the film is a near-monsterless adventure in the South Seas,
though one can’t take the proceedings too seriously. For example, the villains
prove to be notoriously bad shots with their machine guns, though of course
their faulty aim is traditional for No Good Bad Guys (after all, check out the
storm troopers’ marksmanship in Star Wars).
The Red Bamboo minions also seem pretty inept – they
easily let the heroes escape from the base. Of course, it helps when one of
the heroes accidentally discovers a cluster of smoke bombs, one of which
doesn’t seem to cloud things up much when the heroes are skulking about, yet another
unleashes near impenetrable fog when the good guys blunder into the villains
and need to make a quick getaway.
In addition, the movie’s atmosphere seems more akin to Gilligan’s Island
than to James Bond, given that the plentiful coincidences are often more
incredible than the notion of a skyscraping radioactive monster with atomic
halitosis. For example, how fortuitous that the stolen sailboat happens to
drift into the waters off the Red Bamboo island. What a wonder that one of the
Infant Islanders happens to have left his sword lying around so the heroes can
use it to wake up Godzilla. But perhaps the most jaw-dropping (and I mean chin
plummeting through the basement) coincidence occurs when Ryota becomes
entangled by a weather balloon that not only allows him to escape from the Red
Bamboo, but even more amazingly, just “happens” to float over Infant Island where
it obediently deposits him! (This, of course, is followed by a quick reunion
with his lost brother Yuta.) I mean, come on, gang.
But don’t think that this means I don’t like this movie. I do. But if Godzilla
didn’t show up when he does, I doubt I would have ever watched it again. For
despite the somewhat lessened budget, Godzilla’s monster battles soar with the
best of them – despite the silly episode of volleyboulder. The Big G’s two
battles with Ebirah offer some nice fight moves, especially those that take
place underwater; Godzilla’s muffled roar heightens the illusion that the two
kaiju titans are locked in combat under the sea.
Godzilla’s battle with the totally unexplained giant condor is also engaging, even if the
condor isn’t up to the articulation standards of Rodan. Also, Mothra’s brief
sparring with Godzilla proves enjoyable, especially when Mothra decks the King
of the Monsters with a well-placed wing slam.
It’s also fun watching Godzilla employ his tail, breath, and talons to trounce the
Red Bamboo air force. But the faux rock’n’roll music played during this
sequence in the Japanese version reeks, both wildly inappropriate and tinny to
the point of making the Bay City Rollers sound substantial in comparison.
(Sorry “Saturday Night” fans.) The original English-dubbed version released to
TV in 1968 wisely omitted this music -- unfortunately, the International
Version now available on Sony TriStar DVD doesn’t.
As for the film’s other monsters, Ebirah comes off
well, especially when you consider it is a man in a suit most of the time; of
course, the waterline hides this pretty well. Ebirah’s claws are well-manipulated,
and when Godzilla flips the colossal kaiju, the illusion of a real giant
crustacean is well-maintained.
In addition, Mothra gets a few nice scenes as well.
The best is when the gargantuan insect lands on the Red Bamboo Island while
tiny Infant Island natives rush towards the huge guardian monster. An
interesting slow-mo effect is also used just before Mothra lands.
At times, Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster’s Mothra
is quite lively -- and at other times, nearly lifeless. It appears that the
film may have used two Mothra marionettes: one clearly the
highly-articulated Mothra of Godzilla vs. The Thing, the other
perhaps another marionette made for that film. Or maybe they are
both the same Mothra puppet. Whatever the case, this would be the last time
the adult Mothra would appear in the Showa series. (Sniff, sniff.)
Also, the Peanuts of Mothra, Godzilla vs.
The Thing, and Ghidrah, The Three-Headed Monster don’t
appear in this Big G entry. Instead they are replaced by Pair Bambi, who do an
okay job as Mothra’s twin fairies. Still, for my yen, this new duo lacks and
pizzazz and charm of Emi and Yumi Ito. Maybe the Peanuts’ asking price was
more than Toho was willing to pay?
Unfortunately, one area in which the lower budget definitely
makes itself known is in the meager miniature outlay of the Red Bamboo base.
These miniatures are both poorly detailed and badly lit. When Godzilla trashes
the place, it looks like he is demolishing an overlit set decorated with
Still, the island miniatures are appealing. And the
film’s frequent matte shots generally pass muster; a few of them even impress.
The South Seas venue did offer a nice change of pace from The Big
G’s previous films. Still, it did signal leaner times ahead for Big G budgets.
But Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster works well as
a self-contained Godzilla epic. After all, it doesn’t necessarily have ties to
The Big G’s other sixties movies (for example, why is Godzilla hibernating in a
hill?) -- though on the other hand, it could be happening in the same kaiju universe
(the protagonists seem to be well-acquainted with Infant Island and
In its pristine DVD widescreen version currently
offered by Columbia TriStar, the film is a joy to behold, and fans can choose
between English dubbing and a Japanese language track with English subtitles.
Besides all that, there’s always gorgeous Kumi Mizuno
to appreciate. Right, guys? (Female viewers please avert your eyes to Akira