Sunday, December 06, 2015

Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster

1966  ****

Let me tell you about last year's Horrorthon.  Not the laundry list of real life events that caused me to punk out without even a review bomb but instead the Horrorthon magic that did happen.  That magic was kaiju magic.  Because it was a stressful time, I mostly screened movies that weren't going to increase my stress in any way, and that meant giant monster movies.  As you've probably noticed, these movies speak to me on some deep level, and while I was communing with my giant scaly gods I accidentally converted my kid to the First Church of Kaiju.

In the months that followed, we watched all 28 of the Godzilla movies, played Godzilla video games, read Godzilla comic books and scoured the world for Godzilla toys (which, because the big bastard's so damn popular, only seem to go up in price).  Here's Zack's kaiju haul from last Xmas.

Thanks to JPX for the big Mechagodzilla on the right.  He found it for retail when it was already climbing on eBay.  Nerd power!

For Zack's birthday in June we built a miniature city out of cardboard for Zack and his guests to demolish.  



You can read the full story here.

Zack's obsession with our large, rubbery cousins continues to this day, dimmed somewhat by the world of Marvel superheroes after seeing the excellent Ant-Man.  We were just playing Godzilla Unleashed on the Wii the other night.  I let him beat me, but only because we had time for just one game before bed and I didn't want to deal with a moody kid.  And to be honest, whether or not I get my ass kicked in that game is seldom up to me.

Against this background of monster mania Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster emerged as an oft-visited favorite.  There are three eras of Godzilla movies, and prior to last year I'd allowed my knowledge of these facts to remain murky -- a murkiness that has cleared now that I've seen them all.  The only era that concerns us today is the Showa era, the first and longest, that started with Gojira in 1954 and ended with Terror of Mechagodzilla in 1975.  All the Godzilla movies you saw on Creature Double Feature would have been from this era, although I don't think CDF broadcast them all (their wonderful website no longer functions, I'm sad to say).

Ebirah the titular sea monster is shown in stock footage in Godzilla's Revenge (the hard-to-watch one in which all the monster stuff takes place in a kid's imagination), but as far as I can tell this movie never aired on Channel 56, so this monster has a certain mystique for me. As you can see here, he's pretty much a giant lobster, and every time he rises from the deep he's accompanied by groovy surf music.

This movie's gang of Rodeo Clowns is probably my favorite of any kaiju movie I've seen, because they completely buck the tired formula of Reporter, Scientist and Screaming Woman.  It begins when Ryota, a young man from a remote fishing village, refuses to believe that his brother Yata died at sea as everyone claims.  He heads to the city to seek help, and starts his quest at the local newspaper office. We see the reporters dither over what to do with him while Ryota is restless in the outside office.  Suddenly he sees a poster on the wall for a marathon dance contest with a sailboat as the prize, and when the reporters come to talk to him, he's gone.  Screw you, reporters!  You're out of the movie!

Ryota goes to the dance contest but it's too late to enter, however he befriends two guys who count as hipsters in 1966 Japan, and after some wacky events they all wind up stranded on Devil's Island with a fugitive safe cracker.  No boat can enter or leave the island without Ebirah showing up and smashing it.  Worse, the island houses a base belonging to the Red Bamboo, a sinister organization bent on... hmm, I'm not sure what their larger plans are but they're using this particular facility to make heavy water to help the wrong people develop nukes.  They're also using natives from nearby Infant Island as slave labor, the lame-oes.

But they got bitchin' eyepatches

Infant Island, you may remember, is the home of Mothra.  (If you do remember that it wasn't because you heard it from me; I didn't mention it in my review of Mothra last year.  But you guys have lives, so you may have talked to the right people, I don't know.)  Watching all these movies I noticed there are quite a few islands near Japan that have some kind of weird shit going on; I intend to catalogue these islands and pretend they all exist in one archipelago, called collectively the Interesting Islands.

It seems that the entire population of Infant Island spends their time dancing and singing to their dormant giant moth god so it will wake up and do something. As a religion I can't really knock it:  your god is right there in front of you, and even if it keeps sleeping through your prayers you're no worse off than pretty much every other religion. And then sometimes those big blue eyes light up and you hear SQUEE SQUEE and Mothra effects a just-in-time rescue.

At which point you and yours have officially won religion.

Watching this the same year I watched Mad Men I couldn't help but think that 1966 New Yorkers probably saw a lot of floor shows like the one depicted here, minus the giant moth.

Meanwhile our heroes have taken refuge in a cave to avoid the Red Bamboo's constant patrols, and within that cave they find the inert form of none other than Godzilla himself, sleeping off the previous year's movie.  Out of options, they wake him up to scare off the guys with the machine guns, and that really gets the fun rolling.  There's no city stomping in this movie; we see very little besides the islands, but for a little place there's a lot for a big monster to do.  For starters, Godzilla does round one with  Ebirah, fights a squadron of Red Bamboo jets, and tangles with an unexplained giant buzzard thing.

"Jesus, what the --  What are you doing?  What the fuck even ARE you?"

While this isn't my favorite Godzilla movie, it's in my top five, and in the Showa series I'd say it's in my top three, along with Destroy All Monsters and Godzilla vs. Gigan.  If you're one of the 'thonners who isn't generally into this genre, this might be the one for you.  It boasts a fair amount of goofiness, but the goof is woven correctly into the movie's fabric and the result is nothing but fun.

Pictured:  Nothing but fun.

1 comment:

JPX said...

I have never watched a Godzilla movie before although your reviews always intrigue me. I suspect that I would like the concept better than the execution. Your reviews always suggest that there is a lot of political stuff to slog through before we get to the monster stuff. The recent Godzilla remake apparently only features Godzilla for 8 minutes, which is why I avoided it. In your opinion what is the best Godzilla to watch for someone who has never seen one before? Terrific review by the way! I think it's great that you watch these with your son and he has an awesome collection going on there!