Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Ebirah, Horror Of The Deep

Crusty Asians Up For Crabs!

Ebirah, Horror Of The Deep
(aka Gojira, Ebirâ, Mosura:
Nankai no daiketto)

Japan 1966 Directed by Jun Fukuda
Toho/Criterion Collection -
Godzilla - The Showa Era Box Set  Blu Ray Zone B

Okay, so the seventh of the Showa Era Godzilla films, Ebirah, Horror Of the Deep, feels like a complete sea change in terms of the direction the series was heading in previously. It’s also the culmination of the little stabs of humour and humanisation that have been showing up as part of The Big G’s personality in the previous few films. Although he’s technically not a good guy here, he does save everyone in this and at the end of the film the human cast talk about how he really is the hero here.

This one was originally going to feature King Kong taking on Toho’s new crab monster (shrimp monster in Japanese if you go by the name but... yeah... it’s pretty clearly a giant crab) instead of Godzilla but rights issues etc means it soon developed as part of the Gojira franchise. Maybe that’s why Godzilla spends the first two thirds of the movie asleep. Which seems to be a common factor because the other big monster co-star here, Mothra, manages to stay asleep on her island until maybe the last ten minutes of the film, no matter how much the natives of Infant Island try to wake her from her slumber. Maybe she realised that the tiny, miniaturised twins who are her caretakers were, for the first time in the series, not played by The Peanuts but, instead, a different singing duet (they’re really not all that good as stand ins, I reckon). Regardless, as far as I’m aware this was the last time that Mothra would appear in her moth form (as opposed to her larvae form) in the Showa era movies. Not much of a swan song, to be honest.

Anyway, it’s a slow and convoluted plot. After a fishing boat goes down in the sea, the brother of one of the victims, after his mother consults a psychic, is convinced he’s still alive... but can’t interest the authorities in looking any further. So he does what anybody in his state of worry does... goes to watch a dance ‘’til you drop' contest in the hopes of winning a yacht to go look for himself. Alas, when he arrives, the contest has already been going for three days already. Fortunately for him, two of the people who drop out right at that moment say they’ll show him a yacht as they know where there are loads. After trespassing on one, they are startled by a guy already in the yacht. They assume it’s the owner who tells them they can stay the night but, overnight and unbeknown to all, the guy who’s brother is missing casts off with them and the newcomer... who turns out to be only hiding on the boat after a jewel heist... along for the ride.

With me so far? So, anyway, they look for the brother but Ebirah, the giant crab gets in their way and they wash up on shore of an island, finding that many more, mostly some of the inhabitants of Mothra's Infant Island but also the crew of the fishing boat that went down, are being used as slave labour by a shady organisation called The Red Bamboo. They control passage to the island past Ebirah with a yellow liquid and are making deadly, atomic bombs. However, the newcomers find themselves separated and, between them all, manage to accidentally wake the slumbering Godzilla they find in a cave by a clever, lightning strike method (which makes sense if you remember this was originally written to feature the ‘electrifying’ Japanese version of King Kong) while the island is scheduled for detonation and the islanders try to raise Mothra to rescue them.

And, despite the tangled machinations of the story, which I’ve abbreviated here or we’d be here all day, it’s actually not all that interesting, for the most part. The giant monster battles are few and far between and it’s just Godzilla and Ebirah having a go at each other, albeit in a comical fashion, that’s the real draw here. They basically have a game of ping pong with a rock one time followed up by a second volley of ‘rock tennis’ before Godzilla heads the rock like a football towards the crab. When he defeats Ebirah the first time, he even does a little dance in the sea to show his pleasure.

The film is scored by the famous composer Masaru Satô, one of a few in the series composed by him... so it doesn’t have any musical continuity with the Ifukube scores on the majority of the previous films in the series. It also doesn’t have the huge dramatic punch needed for the action scenes and this is very much spoof scoring to a certain extent. Now I know Satô can be very dramatic when he wants to be so my guess is the director really wanted him to play to the comedy of the monster brawls rather than try to make them more substantial in terms of the scoring. So, while I love this composer and the score by itself is a great listen as a series of musical cues in its own right... I’m not sure I’d say the scoring choices on this would have been the same ones I would have made but... yeah... it certainly gives the movie a different atmosphere from the others.

I’ve nothing against a fluffier, fun iteration of the Godzilla character though, who even looks a little like the ‘cookie monster’ from Sesame Street in this movie but... this is not my favourite of those ones and Ebirah, Horror Of The Deep wouldn’t be my first choice if I was looking for a quick monster mayhem’ style distraction either. It’s not a terrible movie by a long shot but... it’s one of the lesser pieces in the Showa era for my money. And as for King Kong? Well, the big ape would indeed make his way into one more Japanese kaiju eiga and that film will be the subject of one of my upcoming kaiju eiga reviews.

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