Director: Jun Fukuda
Columbia TriStar

Produced after a string of successful 60s Godzilla epics, GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER (also known as “Ebirah, Horror of the Deep” or “Ebirah, Terror of the Deep”) has always been a difficult entry for stateside fans to assess. The main reason being is that the film was sold directly to the boob tube in a slightly edited version by American International Television, never receiving any theatrical play here. Also, this was the first Godzilla film directed by Jun Fukuda (his first of five), who took the series in a different direction – more adventure driven stories and less inner-city building crushing.

A young man named Ryota (Toru Watanabe) is convinced by a medium that his lost-at-sea brother Yata (Toru Ibuki) is still alive. Meeting up with two dance contest losers named Nita (Hideo Sunazuka) and Ichino (Chotaro Togin), the three fellas sneak on to a yacht in a nearby marina. While trying to find new viking yachts for sale might have been an option to head out to sea, Ryota had a different plan. Much to their surprise, they encounter the gun-toting Yashi (Akira Takarada), who claims to be the boat’s owner, but is actually a friendly criminal/safecracker who soon looses a briefcase full of stolen loot. They spend the night onboard, only to discover themselves in the middle of the ocean the next morning. After a run-in with a colossal lobster named Ebirah, the boat is destroyed and the gang is washed up on a remote tropical island.

The island is actually a base for a terrorist organization known as the Red Bamboo, who have imprisoned natives from Infant Island, the home of Mothra, who is asleep during most of this movie. The four male castaways meet up with a beautiful native girl (Kumi Mizuno, the lovely heroine of FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD, WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS, and other Japanese monster flicks) in order to free the slaves and resist the evil Red Bamboo squad (led by Jun Tazaki and an eye-patched Akihiko Hirata), who are fooling around with nuclear power. It takes a while, but Godzilla is finally awaken from his cavernous slumber (via lighting bolts) to rumble and stumble and thwart the activities of the heroes and villains alike.

Okay so GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER is admittedly one of the lesser of the 60s zilla thrillas, no doubt about it. The rubbery green guy does not get up until halfway through the picture, and when he does, he’s playing rock tennis against Ebirah, smashing a nasty buzzard that looks like a reject from THE GIANT CLAW, or doing other rather comical activities. Godzilla’s best moments are when he’s seen underwater battling the red crustaceous menace. Mothra is hardly in it at all, but is around to save the day during the climax. As Mothra’s tiny twins, the duo of Pair Bambi is a poor and uninspired replacement for The Peanuts (aka Emi Ito and Yumi Ito), who appeared alongside the giant moth in his three previous outings. Perhaps it’s just that the film is unusual compared to the previous entries, as it certainly can be enjoyable despite its shortcomings. The island setting and space-age gadgetry owe somewhat to “Gilligan’s Island” and “James Bond” respectively, and Masaru Satô’s score tends to remind one of “Batman” or “The Monkees” – a true harmonious mark of its era. The amusing special effects (with an usual amount of mechanical miniature people getting attacked by monsters) and vivid photography are a plus, especially when viewed on this stunning DVD presentation.

Like Columbia TriStar’s recently released DVD of SON OF GODZILLA, the company is continuing the high quality we have expected with this beloved monster series. Presenting the film in its original 2.35:1 Tohoscope aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement, the transfer is near-flawless, with beautiful colors and nice detail. For a movie that’s nearly 40 years old, it practically looks like it was made yesterday. Included are sufficient audio tracks in the original Japanese (with optional English subtitles) as well as the English-dubbed track. This is the uncut “international” version of the film and runs slightly longer than the one that used to air on U.S. television. The only extras are a new promo for Columbia's entire Godzilla DVD series, plus some additional trailers. (George R. Reis)