More Memorable Title: The One Where Godzilla is Really King Kong
Ebirah, Horror of the Deep is kind of an oddball entry in the Godzilla canon. To start with, it wasn’t really set up for success. It was originally going to be a King Kong/Mothra crossover that also ties in with a 60’s Japanese cartoon based on King Kong. However, with Toho and the cartoon producers not coming to terms on what they wanted this film to be, they bailed on the project, taking the rights to King Kong with them, at the end of pre-production. Toho apparently still wanted to move forward with the project but not spend any extra time or money on it, so they just crossed out all instances of “King Kong” in the script and wrote in “Godzilla” with a green crayon, pulled an old Godzilla costume out of storage, and called it a day. Moreover, this film had like nothing for budget, so they had to scrounge the warehouse for all their special effects. And rather than being in the hands of Ishiro Honda, who had directed most of the previous Godzilla films, this movie would be helmed by Jun Fukuda, who would go on to produce a number of probably the goofiest Godzilla movies in the Showa era, and was never really satisfied with his work on this franchise. So, yeah. From the sounds of it, production was kind of a mess. All they had to go off was a hope and a dream, really. Let’s see how they did with it!
The opening of the movie runs about as fast as its possible to go. They waste zero time establishing things here, they want to get to the bulk of the plot as quickly as possible. So, there’s this total dweeb whose brother was in a shipwreck and lost at sea. Everyone thinks the brother is dead, but his mom goes to a psychic who says he’s still alive. So this dweeb goes to the police who are all like “Oh, a psychic says he’s alive?! We’ll totally send out all our resources for a massive manhunt right away because psychics are totally 100% accurate!” And then they do that and the movie’s over.
Oh, no, wait, they just toss him on his butt out the door. So the dweeb goes to the newspaper, who’s like “we’re a newspaper, what the heck are we supposed to do?” But then he sees a flyer for a marathon dance contests where the person who dances the longest wins a yacht. So he goes there and asks if he can enter and they’re like “We’ve already been doing this for three days, are you crazy?” So then he talks to these two guys who just lost the contest, rather than anyone who might actually have a yacht, and tells them he wants a yacht, so they just drive this random schmuck they just met down to the wharf, where they go into some random yacht, and start throwing a party. But then it turns out that the yacht is occupied, and its apparent owner, Mr. Safecracker, holds them up with a rifle before telling them for some unknown reason that they could crash there that night but they had to leave in the morning. But the dweeb just goes ahead and steals the boat.
In the morning, they find out that the rifle Mr. Safecracker has was just a toy, and that judging by an alert going out over the radio, the yacht wasn’t actually owned by Mr. Safecracker at all, and Mr. Safecracker is, in fact, is a Safecracker. In spite of the fact that nobody wants to go along with the dweeb, they don’t do anything about him taking them off to who knows where. And then one day there’s a big old storm and a giant claw comes out of the water and crushes their boat.
There. That’s the establishing events. It might have taken me longer to write that than it took the film to go through everything. It was really rapid fire.
Anyways, the Goon Platoon here wash up on this random island. They wake, up and start scouting things out, finding a machete on the ground and concluding that this means the island is filled with cannibals. But then they see this military looking ship coming in spraying a yellow chemical into the water, and they head out in that direction, assuming that’s their rescue. But it turns out there’s a military base on the island, although it’s not recognizable as being from any particular country, and that ship is there to drop off a bunch of Infant Islanders captured for slave labor. Here, we’re introduced to the main villain of the scenario. He has an eyepatch. That’s how you know he’s evil. Dr. Serizawa notwithstanding. A bunch of the islanders make a break for it, and they gun them down. A few of them make it to a nearby paddleboat that’s there for some reason, and start rowing away. Before they get too far, however, this goofy-ass lobster monster with the same claws that wrecked our Goon Platoon emerges and kills them all. Apparently, if any ship approaches or exits from the island without that chemical the military ship was spraying, Ebirah, the mongrel crustacean, will appear and destroy them.
One of the islanders escapes from the military given this distraction, and runs into the Goon Platoon in the jungle. She is, shall we say, rather attractive, and dressed for that good old 60’s fanservice. Hotness there explains a bit of the situation, that they are the superterrorist Red Bamboo army, and that they make a habit of kidnapping Infant Islanders to use for slave labor, and Mothra has grown up into her full giant moth form and would totally be there to help except that she’s sleeping all the time. So, gotta get her beauty sleep on. The Infant Islanders could maybe do something, but instead they’re just praying to their sleeping monster and not actually asking anyone for help. Together, they all run into a cave to hide from the army that’s pursuing them. Inside they find GODZILLA! Who’s also just sleeping. It’s hibernation time for giant monsters, I guess. Also, even though Godzilla is a sea monster, he’s sleeping in this random cave, so, I don’t know, let’s call that King Kong holdover #1.
So the Goon Platoon kind of doesn’t want to hang out in a cave with a big giant monster of absolute destruction, understandably, so they decide to go sneak into the Red Bamboo’s base instead. Because what else are you going to do? So they do that. They get a goofy but solid plan for sneaking past the machine gun turrets, then Mr. Safecracker can safecrack his way through the base’s doors. Inside they find a supply storehouse, and steal a bunch of smoke bombs and Hotness takes a ring of copper wire as the world’s worst souvenir and then they start snooping around, because it turns out they don’t have any idea what they’re doing. They explore the base some more, discover that it’s a facility for producing nuclear weapons, and then get caught by Captain Eyepatch, but they set off the smoke bombs and luckily, it turns out that the Red Bamboo army is apparently armed with blanks judging by the fact that they manage to successfully shoot a grand total of absolutely nothing throughout the course of the movie.
In the course of their escape, the dweeb looking for his brother gets wrapped up in a hot air balloon that the army previously used for observation, which then gets set off and flies into the air. Captain Eyepatch takes aim at one of the goons trying to help him, and misses of course but does manage to hit a rope and knock him down, so that guy gets captured. The other three manage to escape and make it back to the Godzilla cave. The guy that got captured gets thrown in with all the Infant Islanders making the chemical that keeps Ebirah away. He comes up with the absolutely genius idea of “hey, why don’t we just not do that?” so the Islanders all start making a fake yellow chemical that won’t keep Ebirah away.
Back in the cave, the remainder of the Goon Platoon decide that maybe they should wake up this horrible being of absolute destruction so that maybe they can get off the island somehow, I don’t really know what they were thinking here. In any case, they set up the machete and the copper wire that Hotness picked up because the plot demanded it as a lightning rod running down to big G. Then they wait several days for a lightning storm to hit, but eventually it does, strikes the rod, and energizes Godzilla in spite of the fact that previous films have established he gets damaged by electricity and King Kong is the one who’s empowered by it. Godzilla bursts out of the cave and immediately starts screwing off and heading out, ignoring everything to do with the Red Bamboo, but at the coasts, Ebirah comes out then there’s a fight. Godzilla, forgetting that he has atomic breath, picks up a rock and throws it at him. Ebirah bats it back, and they play goofy kaiju tennis for a while. Godzilla charges after him, and the battle goes about as well as you’d expect Godzilla vs a big lobster to go.
The dweeb that got wrapped up in the balloon gets carried all the way to Infant Islanders, where the Islanders are busying themselves trying to wake up their monster moth. He finds his brother there, and the two then go together back to the island because this movie didn’t have enough interchangeable characters already. The Islanders load them up with crab repellent, but the dweeb is kind of a bumbleking so he first loses his oar then knocks all the vats of repellent off his boat and then Ebirah attacks them but they just wash up on shore like last time.
The remainder of the Goon Platoon find themselves face-to-face with Godzilla while they’re running away from some of the Red Bamboo. Everyone scatters, but Hotness finds herself face to face with the big guy. She so hot, even big G is digging it, as he just stares at her longingly for a while. Seriously, that’s not just a weird interpretation here, film was making it clear he was giving her them eyes. Then he just falls asleep for no reason. Hotness starts wandering off, but out of absolutely nowhere, Godzilla gets attacked by a giant Rodan toy that’s covered in feathers that everyone insists is a condor. We get some of the worst cinemetography in the Kaiju world, and then Godzilla beats it and nobody ever speaks of this again. Hotness starts booking it again, and the Red Bamboo mobilize some jets against Godzilla but they use the questionable tactic of flying within arm’s reach against him so they don’t really last long. Then Hotness finally gets away, then the remainder of the Goon Platoon find the dweeb and his brother, who carries word from the shobijin that the islanders need to make a giant net and then Mothra’s awake and on her way to the rescue!
So Godzilla is a little unhappy about getting bombed earlier so he goes to check out the Red Bamboo base while the Goon Platoon’s inside trying to break everyone out. They sneak through as crisis is going on, but the Red Bamboo set the self destruct and then the base gets strategically destroyed in such a way that knocks wreckage in the way of the self destruct mechanism, so the Goon Platoon can’t disarm it. They break their friend and the Islanders out, then everyone heads outside and begins weaving a giant net as per the shobijin’s instructions. Captain Eyepatch gets on a boat and heads out as Godzilla is wrecking the place, but his boat is loaded with the fake lobster repellant, so Ebirah destroys him and his entire army. Godzilla decides he’s in the mood for a good fight so wanders out to engage with the lobster so he can get the next closest thing. Ebirah drags Godzilla underwater, which would be a very tense moment for King Kong but Godzilla is a sea creature so whatever. Once again, Godzilla vs. Giant Lobster is not much of a match, so of course he emerges victorious. Mothra shows up, and Godzilla, apparently forgetting that he and Mothra are friends now, tries to get that good fight he was looking for but Mothra has now time for that, so she just knocks him back with her wing, picks up the villagers, and screws off. Godzilla is the only living thing left on the island, which is about to explode in nuclear fire. Godzilla wouldn’t have to worry about that, really, but Hotness is concerned for him and shouts at him to jump, so he does. Then the island explodes, and our heroes triumphantly return home to assumedly be thrown into jail as bank robbers and yacht thieves. The end.
So, overall, the movie is a hot mess. It was made cheaply, and it looks like it. The Godzilla suit is the same one that’s been used for the last couple of films, and its showing its scars now. Pieces are falling apart, parts that usually hide the person inside are fraying and perfectly visible in some shots, it’s just not holding together well. The Mothra model is recycled, as is the condor, being just Rodan covered in feathers. The only thing that’s truly new here is Ebirah himself, and he’s not exactly well-designed. He’s kind of underwhelming, overall. Usually, with Godzilla, the monsters are somewhat superpowered. King Kong was more just giant versions of mundane creatures, but since this was a King Kong film at its core, that’s what we got. Godzilla’s odd behavior comes from that as well. Godzilla actually bothering himself with a human, much less getting attracted to her, completely out of character for him, but King Kong’s got himself a long history of that, however. It suffers from a lot of pacing problems in the beginning, then tries to fit into too much before it gets to the monster action that Godzilla doesn’t really have all that much of a place in the plot over all.
That said, there are some compensating factors. For one, calling back to the first film, Godzilla is quite unstoppable in this one. It’s been a while since we’ve seen him this dominant, and it’s actually quite refreshing. And from a more technical standpoint, although the cinematography during the action scenes is really not great, the general people dramas are usually shot pretty well. They make really good use of color in their design, so the visual direction is pretty well on point. I really wish the leading monster here was more inspired, because they do show a basic grasp of what makes kaiju movies work. Ebirah being the lead threat of the piece doesn’t really work given that he’s so unthreatening, overall, but with something a bit more interesting, that looked a bit more dangerous, it’s possible the fight scenes could actually have legs here.
Overall, though, unfortunately, Ebirah, Horror of the Deep just kind of hits the deadly middle ground of films. It’s not stupid or greatly bad in the way that makes it ironically enjoyable. And it’s not good, either. It’s kind of the poor average. It’s a thing. It exists. But whatever your Godzilla mood, there’s probably something better for it. If you want Godzilla action, if you want your goofy adventures, if you want your crossovers, there’s better things to scratch any particular itch. It does have that goofy tennis battle that’s a bit notable, but otherwise, can’t really recommend this one unless you’re running through all the Godzilla films in order for whatever reason. That said, you can do a lot worse than this one. And we certainly will. This is the epitome of not bad. And frankly given the circumstances surrounding this movie being made, it’s surprising it ended up as good as it is.