Japan is pretty famous for it’s monster films, they’re not horror, they’re kind of disaster movies, so I wanted to go back to the roots and see a bit of the history. The obvious place to start was Godzilla. Now I don’t know much about Godzilla (yet) but I did see some books and parodies. The main premise is that most of the monsters are either guys in rubber suits fighting, a-la the original Star Trek series et al., or smaller models that can be held up by strings.
Tsutaya has a massive selection of DVDs, but my local one didn’t have the first 6 films available to rent which were from 1954 onwards.. so I had to settle for something from a few years later. There was a few from the 60’s and I picked one as my first, to be honest I’d never heard of it or the ‘starring monster’.. Godzilla vs Ebirah! Here’s my vague interpretation of a Japanese language film with no subtitles.
An ‘Ebi’ is basically a type of prawn, popular on sushi.. Ebirah is a giant lobster looking thing that likes to snack on people. he/she/it lives underwater near some island reminiscent of a 60’s James Bond film. It’s a semi tropical complex with shiny metallic industry going on underground, some native slavery to produce a yellow liquid that Ebirah doesn’t like that seems to be made of either bananas, lemons, or both. They have to spray this stuff from their ship or Ebirah comes to eat them. I use the word produce vaguely here, the island is pretty high tech but the crushing of this banana liquid is done by slaves walking round pushing one of the wheels that made Conan so strong. I guess you can’t trust slaves with technology..
So the premise of the story is a couple of guys are participating in a dance stamina competition, apparently they’ve been jiving for 3 days straight, and you find them just a minute before giving up on the prize, within 30 seconds of each other. Statistically I guess what they’re trying to say is these guys are ‘similar’ in that their stamina is equal to a degree of accuracy of about 30 seconds in 3 days. Impressive..
So they meet a friend and decide to visit a yacht for no particular reason, apart from the friend wants to see the inside of a yacht. Now neither of these people actually OWN a yacht, they just want to get in one to see what’s going on. When the three of them get there there’s a rather unhappy man asking what the hell they’re doing (big shock!). He does however let them spend the night even though they’re still docked. Well it turns out he’s stealing the yacht and they wake up the next day in the open ocean. Over the radio they hear that the boat’s owner is less than impressed his boat is gone, anyway this doesn’t really mean anything and it’s forgotten pretty quickly by everyone – even though they’re in the ocean with a total stranger who also happens to be a yacht thief. Time passes, food runs low, tensions run high.
… a storm is brewing …
during a fairly epic splashy water scene, they spot Ebirah, who if I remember right, for some reason doesn’t try to eat them or anything. They end up shipwrecked on an island, which we might as well refer to as the Bond villain’s lair on account of this guy, but perhaps it’s ‘Monster Island’ – I guess I’ll find out some day.
Some “running around, hiding, being caught, escaping, breaking and entering, breaking out and leaving” later, they’re in a cave and notice a funny looking rock.. turns out it’s a sleeping Godzilla. They’re being pursued by lots of henchmen and decide to let Godzilla deal with them. Vaguely connecting Godzilla to a lightening spike, they wait for a very convenient storm to come and electrocute him back to life. Well the good news is, he’s BACK! Not having seen the previous films yet, I don’t really know why he’s dead or sleeping, or how the pseudo scientists manage (or even know how) to reanimate him with a spectacularly lucky lightening strike.. buuut anyway.
The natives (inspired by one of the captured boat thieves) decided it’d be funny/clever to swap the yellow liquid mentioned earlier for another one that doesn’t stop Ebirah, a ship of henchmen are consumed by the prawn.
The good news is Godzilla doesn’t like Ebirah very much either, he wants to smack him/her/it up and proceeds to do so. It’s a bit of a disappointingly short fight since this is pretty much the whole point of the film, but he defeats him with the well known shark attack of removing his hands/claws, which of course somehow results in death. Ebirah, dead or not, disappears and well, we’re not exactly saved, there’s a big destructive dinosaur thing on the rampage now.. hmm.
Now at this point, the boat thief characters have summoned Godzilla to despatch with Ebirah or the henchmen, but their plan after that isn’t clear. A island native girl who recently joined them seems to be in peril of being eaten but pretends to fall asleep, rendering Godzilla tired and he falls asleep too, at least he’s got empathy.. he’s no monster!
Somewhere in this, Godzilla goes on a rampage through the complex, doing the big monster man in a rubber suit through model city smash crash thing. He bats away some fighter jets with ease like a modern King Kong. The scientist or whoever runs the factory complex sets a nuke to blow the island, without any authorisation that I can see. He’s obviously in upper management.
Meanwhile the other natives and a pair of twin micro fairies (yes very tiny people) summon Mothra, who is basically a moth.. rah. So he/she/it isn’t particularly scary, kind of cute really. I must say if I was going to arrange a fight between a moth and a dinosaur, I’d probably bet on the dinosaur, moths are notoriously flimsy, their wings essentially dust that’s decided to hang out for a while in the shape of a wing.
.. before this battle kicks off, a random chicken/eagle/something monster arrives and pecks at Godzilla, which is a bit annoying. He smacks the snot out of it then burps some sort of plasma and it goes careering off in flames into the sea.. take THAT chicken!
Well Mothra isn’t far behind, he/she/it is there to save the natives from the henchmen, they get in a makeshift raft basket thing and wait. Mothra, using the strongest part of it’s body, (the flimsy powdery wings) knocks Godzilla flying in one shot. It seems a bit of a one way fight as it then retreats and picks up the natives to safety.
Godzilla, confused at having his butt kicked by a moth and also now alone stands there, looking confused.. so would you – watches and screeches as Mothra saves the people.. but the nuke.. it’s going to blow!! The people in the moth blimp decide that Godzilla is ‘kawaiisouu’ or … ‘worthy of pity’ and scream at him to get off the island. He magically understands and jumps into the sea just in time for the island to explode, ya-taa!
and that about wraps it up, all is well with the world, Godzilla is probably happy in the sea, the natives are safe and I was reasonably entertained!