IN THE SPOOKLIGHT: GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER (1966)

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godzilla vs. the sea monster

Godzilla and Ebirah duke it out in GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER (1966).

When I was a kid in the 1970s watching Godzilla movies on the Creature Double Feature, GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER (1966) was not one of the Godzilla flicks that made the rounds back then.  I didn’t see it for the first time until the mid 1990s.

GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER is one of the early “silly” Godzilla movies, films where Godzilla pretty much is a giant monster superhero saving human kind from monsters, aliens from outer space, and assorted human villains.  Here, he takes on human villains and the giant sea monster known as Ebirah.

My favorite part of GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER is the story it tells and the characters it creates.  Most of the time, the storylines in the old Godzilla movies were pretty bad, and the characters uninteresting.  In fact, in general, you had to sit through a pretty boring movie and wait for Godzilla to show up before things got interesting.  But that’s not the case here with GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER.  It boasts one of the more fun stories in a 1960s Godzilla film, and it certainly contains some of the series’ more interesting characters.

So, it’s one Godzilla movie where things are a lot of fun even when Godzilla is not stomping on the scenery. But that doesn’t mean that Godzilla still isn’t the best part of this movie

Basically, a young man in search of his brother who had been lost at sea convinces two of his friends to help him steal a boat so they can search for his missing brother.  It turns out, the boat they choose happens to be inhabited by a jewel thief named Yoshimura (Akira Takarada) who’s hiding inside the boat.

Eventually, the four men find themselves shipwrecked on an island run by evil militants who are running a slave trade, and these militants are protected by the giant sea monster Ebirah. Lucky for our heroes, they discover Godzilla sleeping inside a cave and use lightning to wake him up, and of course, being Godzilla, he immediately gets cracking at seeking out and destroying all the evil elements on the island.

It also turns out, that the missing brother found himself on Mothra’s island, and so eventually Mothra shows up to help out when Godzilla’s intentions aren’t all that clear. That’s the fun thing about Godzilla. Sure, he’ll smack down the bad guys, but that doesn’t mean he won’t stomp on the heroes as well.

If this sounds silly, that’s because it is silly, but it’s all framed in a quick-moving fun storyline in which jewel thief Yoshimura often has to use his “thief skills” to help get his new young friends out of jams. Plus there’s a hopping 1960s music score that sounds like a cross between the Adam West BATMAN TV show and a Sean Connery James Bond movie.

But the bottom line is the entire flick is a heck of a lot of fun, and it’s one of my favorite GODZILLA  movies from the 1960s.

Akira Takarada, who plays Yoshimura the jewel thief, also starred in the original GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS (1956) as the heroic Ogata, as well as in KING KONG ESCAPES (1967). He’s excellent here as Yoshimura.  Takarada’s co-star from first GODZILLA, Akihiko Hirata, who played Dr. Serizawa in that film, plays the villainous Captain Yamoto here.  Both actors have appeared in multiple Godzilla movies over the years.  Hirata passed away in 1984 at the age of 56, but Takarada is still with us.

The other interesting thing about GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER is that it was originally written to be a King Kong movie, a follow-up to KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (1962). Eventually that idea was scrapped, and Kong was replaced by Godzilla, which explains some of the different behaviors displayed by Godzilla in this movie.  First and foremost, Godzilla is very protective of the lead female character here, which isn’t indicative of Godzilla’s behavior in any other movie.  On the other hand, showing affection towards the female lead is one of Kong’s signature movie traits.  What a Lothario!

Godzilla is also found sleeping inside a cave, where in other films he pretty much lives in the ocean, and he’s strengthened by lightning, which is how Kong was strengthened in KING KONG VS. GODZILLA.

The battle between Godzilla and Ebirah is okay, and there have been far better monster battles in other Godzilla movies, but the strength of this film is the better balance between Godzilla scenes and the scenes featuring human characters.  When Godzilla is not on-screen, the action here is still engaging and fun.

GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER is not one of more popular Godzilla movies, but it’s certainly one of the more entertaining ones.

Definitely check out GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER.  Watch Godzilla battle that giant lobster monster Ebirah, and if you’re lucky enough, there might even be some leftovers for a hearty seafood platter.

Yum!

Pass the tartar sauce please.

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IN THE SPOOKLIGHT: GODZILLA VS. GIGAN (1972)

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For a monster born more than 50 years ago, Godzilla may be more relevant now than ever before.

The movies just keep on coming.  The latest Godzilla movie arrived last year with SHIN GODZILLA (2016) to a limited release here in the U.S., and it received some pretty good reviews.  And there is another film in the works, GODZILLA:  KING OF MONSTERS, due out in 2019, from the same folks who made the Bryan Cranston GODZILLA (2014).  All told, there have been 31 Godzilla movies to date, and it doesn’t look like they’re stopping any time soon.

But today’s movie comes from that time when Godzilla was a silly monster superhero, constantly saving the world from the evil and bad monsters.  Silly stuff for sure, but also the type of Godzilla movie that a lot of us grew up with.

Today IN THE SPOOKLIGHT it’s one of my favorite Godzilla movies from the 1970s, GODZILLA VS. GIGAN (1972).

This one sat on the shelf for a few years before being released in the U.S. in 1978 with the title GODZILLA ON MONSTER ISLAND.  It was supposed to be a return to the traditional Godzilla format, after the offbeat message-driven GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER (1971),  a film I did not enjoy as a kid, but it’s one that has definitely grown on me over the years.

In GODZILLA VS. GIGAN, aliens from outer space are once again trying to take over the Earth, and they employ space monsters Gigan and King Ghidorah to help them.  To defend the Earth, humankind turns to their giant monster friends Godzilla and Anguirus for help.

And defend the Earth they do, in one of the series’ better and longer climactic monster bashes.  And there you have it.  That’s pretty much GODZILLA VS. GIGAN in a nutshell.  What did you expect?  Shakespeare?

I find GODZILLA VS. GIGAN particularly enjoyable for two reasons.  The biggest reason is the aforementioned climactic battle.  It’s one of the best in the series.  That being said, in terms of monsters, this one gets off to a slow start, and it seemingly takes forever for Godzilla and Anguirus to show up, but once they do, nearly the final third of the movie is one long and rather exciting giant monster bout.

The other fun thing about GODZILLA VS. GIGAN is its human characters.  While the space villains are your typical bad guy types, the heroes in this one seem to have stepped out of a Scooby Doo cartoon.  They’re young and they’re hip.  Groovy, man!  We have a young cartoonist who draws monsters, a young woman looking for her kidnapped brother, and her male friend, a classic hippie who can’t seem to stop eating corn on the cob.  I guess Scooby snacks weren’t available. These three provide lots of light-hearted fun during the people parts of this monster flick.

GODZILLA VS. GIGAN is also the film famous for being the movie where Godzilla actually talks!  Yep, words come out of Godzilla’s mouth as he talks to his buddy Anguirus. It’s a ridiculously silly scene, and Godzilla and Anguirus sound like Yogi Bear and Boo Boo.  It’s awful.

The good news is, we live in the age of DVDs and Blu-ray, and these discs often include the original Japanese versions as well.  So, you can watch the original Japanese version in which Godzilla and Anguirus do not talk.  Oh, they communicate, but through sounds rather than words, and it’s very obvious that they are communicating.  Unfortunately, the American distributors didn’t think their Godzilla audiences were intelligent enough to figure this out, and so they added the ridiculous English language dubbing.

GODZILLA VS. GIGAN was directed by Jun Fukuda, no stranger to the Godzilla franchise, as he directed five movies in the series. In addition to GODZILLA VS. GIGAN, GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER (1966), SON OF GODZILLA (1967), GODZILLA VS. MEGALON (1973), and GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA (1974) were all helmed by Fukuda.

Shin’ichi Sekizawa wrote the screenplay, based on a story by Takeshi Kimura. Kimura wrote the screenplays to some of my favorite Toho movies, including RODAN (1956), THE WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS (1966), and KING KONG ESCAPES (1967).

Are there better Godzilla movies?  Certainly!  But in terms of fun Godzilla movies, GODZILLA VS. GIGAN ranks near the top.

Of course, the big question for Godzilla fans is, how does Godzilla fare in this one?  Well, truth be told, it’s not one of the big guy’s better performances.  The costume looks rather silly here, and it does take Godzilla forever to finally show up and take on Gigan and King Ghidorah.  There really isn’t a good balance here of Godzilla scenes.  It’s pretty much all or nothing, with the “all” coming in the film’s final  30 minutes or so.  But the climactic battle is worth the wait.

Plus, Godzilla’s goofy appearance kinda fits in with the rest of the movie, a 1970s romp.  You almost expect to see Cheech and Chong show up.  It would actually make a nice companion piece with Hammer’s DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972).

Want a cure for the winter blues?  Watch GODZILLA VS. GIGAN and see Godzilla and Anguirus take on Gigan and King Ghidorah in an all-out monster bash.  It’s a sure-fire way to smash out the cold weather doldrums.

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THE HORROR JAR: TOHO GODZILLA Series

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The "friendly" Godzilla from the 1960s-70s.

The “friendly” Godzilla from the 1960s-70s.

THE HORROR JAR: TOHO GODZILLA Series
By Michael Arruda

The new GODZILLA (2014) movie opens in theaters, on Friday May 16, 2014. To help celebrate the occasion, here’s a look back at the entire Godzilla series.

I’d like to thank my teen sons Lucas and Jonny, the Godzilla scholars in my household, for their help with this article. Their knowledge of all things Godzilla far outweighs my own. Thanks guys!

So here it is, in order, the list of the TOHO GODZILLA movies:

GODZILLA (1954)
Directed by Ishiro Honda
Original is still scary even by today’s standards.

GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN (1955)
Directed by Motoyoshi Oda
Guest Monster: Anguirus
Neat sequel

KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (1962)
Directed by Ishiro Honda
Guest Monsters: King Kong, Giant Octopus
My favorite Godzilla movie from the 1960s, with a rousing climactic battle between King Kong and Godzilla.

GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA (1964)
Directed by Ishiro Honda
Guest Monster: Mothra
Hello Mothra, welcome fairies!

GHIDORAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER (1964)
Directed by Ishiro Honda
Guest Monsters: King Ghidorah, Mothra, Rodan
A nemesis is introduced with King Ghidorah.

GODZILLA VS. MONSTER ZERO (1965)
Directed by Ishiro Honda
Guest Monsters: King Ghidorah, Rodan
Nick Adams stars in this one.

GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER (1966)
Directed by Jun Fukuda
Guest Monsters: Ebirah, Mothra, Giant Condor
This one actually has a neat plot featuring a reformed jewel thief and some teenagers taking on some bad guys on an island. Godzilla shows up to help out.

SON OF GODZILLA (1967)
Directed by Jun Fukuda
Guest Monsters: Kamacuras, Kumonga, Minilla
Who knew Godzilla was a daddy?

DESTROY ALL MONSTERS (1968)
Directed by Ishiro Honda
Guest Monsters: Anguirus, Baragon, Gorosaurus, King Ghidorah, Kumonga, Manda, Minilla, Mothra, Rodan, Varan
All out monster bash.

GODZILLA’S REVENGE (1969)
Directed by Ishiro Honda
Guest Monsters: Anguirus, Ebirah, Gabara, Gorosaurus, Kamacarus, Kumonga, Minilla,
It’s HOME ALONE Meets Godzilla.

GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH (SMOG MONSTER) (1971)
Directed by Teruyoshi Nakano)
Guest Monsters: Hedorah
Godzilla goes green.

GODZILLA VS. GIGAN (1972)
Directed by Jun Fukuda
Guest Monsters: Anguirus, Gigan, King Ghidorah
My favorite Godzilla movie from the 1970s. One of the best climactic battles in the entire series.

GODZILLA VS. MEGALON (1973)
Directed by Jun Fukuda
Guest Monsters: Gigan, Jet Jaguar, Megalon
Least favorite film of the entire series.

GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA (1974)
Directed by Jun Fukuda
Guest Monsters: Anguirus, King Caesar, MechaGodzilla,
MechaGodzilla bursts onto the scene.

TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA (1975)
Directed by Ishiro Honda
Guest Monsters: MechaGodzilla, Titanosaurus
More MechaGodzilla

GODZILLA 1985 (1985)
Directed by Koji Hashimoto
Lots of hype, not much of a movie

GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE (1989)
Directed by Kazuki Omori
Guest Monster: Biollante
Excellent Godzilla movie

GODZILLA VS. KING GHIDORAH (1991)
Directed by Kazuki Omori
Guest Monsters: King Ghidorah, Mecha-King Ghidorah
Includes neat Godzilla origin story

GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA – BATTLE FOR THE EARTH (1992)
Directed by Takao Okawara
Guest Monsters: Battra, Mothra
Mothra and the little fairies again

GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA II (1993)
Directed by Takao Okawara
Guest Monsters: Baby Godzilla, Rodan, MechaGodzilla, Mecha-King Ghidorah
MechaGodzilla is back.

GODZILLA VS. SPACE GODZILLA (1994)
Directed by Kensho Yamashita
Guest Monsters: Little Godzilla, Moguera, Space Godzilla
Space Godzilla is born

GODZILLA VS. DESTROYAH (1995)
Directed by Takao Okawara
Guest Monsters: Destroyah, Godzilla Jr.
Film ends with memorable meltdown

GODZILLA 2000 (2000)
Directed by Takao Okawara
Guest Monster: Orga
Caught this one on the big screen

GODZILLA VS. MEGAGUIRUS (2000)
Directed by Masaaki Tezuka
Guest Monsters: Meganulon, Meganula, Megaguirus
Interesting creatures in this one.

GODZILLA, MOTHRA, KING GHIDORAH – GIANT MONSTERS ALL OUT ATTACK (2001)
Directed by Shusuke Kaneko
Guest Monsters: Baragon, King Ghidorah, Mothra
My favorite of the 2000s Godzillas. One of the best in the series.

GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA (2002)
Directed by Masaaki Tezuka
Guest Monster: MechaGodzilla
Incorporates elements from the original 1954 movie into its story.

GODZILLA TOKYO S.O.S. (2003)
Directed by Masaaki Tezuka
Guest Monsters: MechaGodzilla, Mothra, Kamoebas
Godzilla and MechaGodzilla are at it again.

GODZILLA FINAL WARS (2004)
Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura
Guest Monsters: Anguirus, Ebirah, Gigan, Hedorah, King Ghidorah, Kamacuras, King Caesar, Kumonga, Manda, Minilla, Monster X, Mothra, Rodan, Zilla
Disappointing finale to the Toho series

Thanks for reading!

—Michael