Here's where I watched "Invasion of Astro-Monster" (1965), "Ebirah, Horror of the Deep" aka "Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster (1966). Also, here's where to my great relief these pictures began to distinguish themselves enough from one another that I could begin to enjoy each one on its own terms.
Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965)
Director: Ishiro Honda
Length: 94 minutes
kaiju appearances (other than, well, you know)
I'll be honest, when I read the plot synopses for this one I was a little concerned when I saw that Rodan and Ghidora were, once again, making an appearance here. My concerns were immediately assuaged when I realized this was a throw-back science fiction film to things like "War of the Worlds" or "Robinson Crusoe on Mars" or...basically any of those 50s red scare type of science fiction films. Also, this is a co-production with Toho and an American studio so I was able to watch the dubbed version. Of course I watched the dubbed version with the subtitles on so I could see how far off the dubbing was. This contributed to what was already an immensely enjoyable picture. Here's an example, occurring late in the film when a character is discussing the chances of Earth not being enslaved by aliens:
dubbed: the odds are long
subtitle: our chances are so-so
So, that's like going from "I, for one, welcome our new Alien overlords" to "I don't know, guy, more of the same...whatever...meh".
The picture opens with a couple of astronauts on a space mission out to mysterious Planet X. This is a newly discovered planet hidden behind Jupiter. Apparently it's been the source of some electromagnetic disturbances that have been messing with Earth's orbital path. I made that last part up, I think. I'm not sure what it was disrupting exactly but whatever it was it was worth the trillion dollar expedition. Aboard the ship are, like I said, a couple of astronauts. We got Glenn (an American) and Fuji (uh....Japanese, I'm assuming). Fuji's a total asshole throughout the movie but he's the good kind of asshole. Glenn is predictably brash, cocky, blonde...a bit old looking. Fuji speaks to Mission Control and makes them give a message to his sister that she'd better behave. Essentially, his message is she better not bang the inventor she's been dating. The inventor comes into play later. So these two fucking asshole astronauts (that I kinda like) make their way to Planet X, land their rocket ship (the science in this film is hilarious, I mean, I don't know a lot but if there's one thing I know it's that you can't land a rocket ship -- you need a lander, right, right?). So, Glenn immediately disappears on the surface while Fuji is busy planting an amalgamation of the Japanese and American flag. Stunned by the disappearance of Glenn and, oh, also the rocket ship, Fuji is even more stunned by the disembodied voice that instructs him to get into the elevator that strangely just came up from beneath the surface. Fuji hems and haws, ultimately relents.
Beneath the surface he comes into an underground fortress type situation. Maybe the recent picture "Ad Astra" lifted some of the visuals from this picture. Within this fortress he's led to a control room where Fuji encounters some aliens, look Japanese, called Xliens for the duration of the picture. Their leader, named Control, offers them a proposition. Destroy Monster 00 and they'll reward the people of Earth with a miracle cure for every disease that has ever existed. Monster 00 is the reason they have to live underground. Every hour or so he flies around destroying the surface. Also, Monster Zero is Ghidorah. I guess that's where he flew to at the end of the last picture.
Well Fuji and Glenn (now reunited) have to wonder what the fuck can we do about that thing. The plan, outlandish as it is, is to give the Xliens permission (they weirdly need permission) to transport Godzilla (known on Planet X as Monster 01) and Rodan (Monster 02) to Planet X so they can fight Monster 00 (Ghidorah). Still with me. After some debate, they tentatively agree, but also have to go back to Earth where that agreement can be made official. The Xliens agree! What can go wrong here? So much agreement.
So, Glen and Fuji return to Earth and we know this because the newspaper splayed across the scene exclaims "Spaceship Returns from Planet X" and also because we now see them walking around Tokyo or some other Japanese city, perhaps. The government officials aren't sure they can trust these Xliens but the science on the miracle cure checks out so they say 'why the fuck not". Meanwhile, Fuji and Glenn have lunch with Fuji's sister and her paramour, the Inventor. It does not go well as Fuji bluntly dubs "Terry" -- the inventor's named Terry, "I'm not sure you can make my sister happy". I can only surmise that Fuji wants to bang his sister. Hey, whatever works for that guy I guess. Also, this inventor is working on a pretty cool invention. It emits awful, ear splitting noises. I'm pretty sure that's all it does.
So, after lunch Glenn hops in a convertible with some Japanese broad while Fuji and the rest go their separate ways. Thankfully, the Xliens told them where Godzilla and Rodan were resting. Both at the bottom of some lake, it turns out. Suspicions mount when Fuji and Glenn reunite and Glenn recounts his night. He had just finished bedding his girl and was rolling over to sleep when he saw Control in his room. Remember that Control was the leader of the Xliens? Well, turns out that the Xliens had always been on Earth and were going to take Godzilla and Rodan whether they had permission or not. They apologize for the subterfuge, claim it was necessary for whatever reason. Then they beam up Godzilla and Rodan from the lake.
The human characters think "hey, maybe we can kill multiple birds with the same stone here". Get rid of Godzilla and Rodan and walk away with a miracle cure. Seriously, who wouldn't trust these piece of shit alien...sorry Xliens? So...Fuji and Glenn also hitch a ride with the aliens so they can witness the battle back on Planet X. Glenn tells his girl "so long, I'll marry you when I get back" which is a weird thing to say to a girl it seemed like he barely knew. Anyway, back on Planet X they are "witness to a historical battle where 00 has finally met his match" or so says Control. It's pretty good. I can't disagree. I'd imagine a battle between three giant monsters on a Planet tucked away behind Jupiter would have to be pretty historical and thankfully, there are a couple of humans there to log it into record. It's my favorite battle of the series. 02 drops a space boulder on 00's head at one point.
It goes on for a while and then Monster 00, wounded, flies away as he always does and 01 salutes him.
So, hey...the movie should end right here with Godzilla (back to their earthbound names) and Rodan stranded on Planet X and the Earth with a new cure-all. So why the hell are there still thirty minutes left in this thing? Well, if you've seen any Twilight Zone with aliens (I'm thinking "To Serve Man" of course) you'd know that aliens are almost never to be trusted. Glen and Fuji fly an exact replica (built by the Xliens) of their rocket ship back to Earth. They feel bad for stranding Godzilla and Rodan but, hey, what are they gonna do?
Back on Earth everything is going pretty well for everyone until it turns out that a bunch of their population are Xliens (oh yeah, including Glenn's girl) and that Control has just executed order #2 where all mankind "will place the Earth under our control and serve as our Colony". The inventor (remember that cuck?) is locked up because apparently they fear him and whatever the hell that thing is that he invented. Earth resists a bit so the Xliens send down Godzilla, Rodan, and Ghidora (all now under Xlien mind-control) to restore order (i.e., destroy everything). Meanwhile, Glenn's alien girl, confesses her love for Glenn and is immediately evaporated by Control since emotion is a crime back on Planet X (and their new colony Earth, of course). Also, these Xlien's have a thing against loud obnoxious noises. Thankfully the inventor had a prototype of his loud, obnoxious noise emitting machine with him in his jail cell for some reason. So, look...this is probably my favorite of the sequels so far. The plot is just tremendously absurd. These aliens, who are precisely one degree away from conquering the speed of light (honestly, kinda lame that they couldn't even do that) and are capable of telepathy, interstellar travel, giant monster tractor beams, etc...are destroyed by a really annoying dog whistle. Sorry for the spoiler.
Of course, once the Xliens are eradicated and the giant monsters are freed from their control they immediately get to fighting each other. I'm a fan of Godzilla's pre-fight ritual where he hops up and down a few times and shakes his arms. His arms are getting shorter with each sequel. So, the last fight is not as good as the first fight in this picture. How could it be? It doesn't take place in Space. It takes place on Earth. Also, each monster is thrown onto his back at least one time and has to turtle his way upright. I enjoyed those moments immensely. The picture ends with Ghidorah thrown into the water, causing a tidal wave (thousands killed) and then flying off into Space again. I can only imagine the great sadness he'll feel when he arrives back to a deserted Planet X.
Oh yeah and that miracle cure they were promised? A fucking lemon.
Ebirah, Monster of the Deep (1966)
Director: Jun Fukuda
Length: 87 minutes
"Ebirah, Horror of the Deep", aka "Godzilla vs the Sea Monster" was originally written to be a King Kong picture and it shows. That's not a bad thing. It's just a bit jarring in the way they didn't really change anything in the script except for the name of the monster. The picture opens, as almost all of these pictures seem to open, with a colossal hurricane. But, wait....no, not actually. It opens with on a tribal village beneath Spirit Mountain, on some island, where the villagers pray for some guy named Yata, who is lost somewhere. The woman, a shaman of sorts, reveals that she's searched the underworld top-to-bottom and could not find him. Good news! He's alive! Also, who's Yata? The picture then cuts to the mainland where a few guys participate in one of those dance competitions where the last person standing is the winner. These guys (one is revealed to be the brother of this Yata character) hope to win the grand prize (a yacht) so they can set out to sea and find him (ok). Too bad, they lose. Plan b is "let's just steal one instead". They do...only the guy that owns, and was sleeping, in the yacht is some infamous cat burglar who's been in all the papers lately. They become friends, all set out to sea....and that's where the typhoon that I falsely claimed opened the picture, finally hits.
A couple things; First, the score. It's all over the fucking place. The opening is layered with funky African drum beats which seamlessly transitions into almost Spaghetti Western notes. Later, we've got surf guitar as we later transition into the 1960s Mod shit (during the dance competition). So, basically it's enjoyable as all hell. Second, I'm once again having trouble remembering or identifying any of these characters beyond some basic traits. The brother is determined, angry. The thief is good at cracking safes.
So, the typhoon hits and suddenly this is all feeling very Gilligan's Island as the four sailors struggle to maintain control of their battered yacht. It doesn't help matters that they suddenly see a giant claw protruding from the sea. They abandon ship just before they fall into its clutch.
I assumed these guys were all dead but, no, they come to on a deserted island. Well, not so deserted actually. They immediately spy some armed men and then later they see a large compound. Inside the compound, the native islanders have all been enslaved. Also, Yata is with them. These guys are not really up to good. They're led by an eye patch wearing motherfucker and, to be honest, other than wearing an eye patch, guy doesn't really do much.
He's no Serizawa, that's for sure. For the first time in these pictures we get an evil human organization that's not just the government or corporatists. These guys call themselves Red Bamboo and they're on this island working on splitting some atoms, etc. Also, the slaves mine some sort of yellow liquid to keep the island monster at bay. It hates the yellow liquid. Have a look at the guy.
So, now I can only assume the yellow liquid they're mining is some sort of molten butter type deal. This creature is amazing. After a couple of the native islanders attempt an escape he smashes their canoe, breaks off a piece of wood, skewers, the islanders (back to back) and devours them kebob style. Here's the evidence.
So, this creature....Ebirah, is pretty fucking great. If a bit silly. Not exactly the Lovecraftian monstrosity the picture's title promises. Basically, what we got here is a picture where our four heroes (the marooned sailors) run and hide from Red Bamboo and their trigger happy soldiers, while devising a plan to rescue Yata (and I guess the other slaves if everything works out) and also they discover Godzilla asleep in one of the island caves. He's in a deep sleep, can't be woken unless, I don't know, they rig a lightning rod or something but why would they want to do that? Turns out these Red Bamboo fellows (they seem incompetent to me) are more than they can handle. Also, there's Ebirah but he can't get too close to the island because of all that artery clogging butter. Oh, and there's also Mothra asleep on neighboring Infant Island (another thing that reminded me of Gilligan's Island was the neighboring island that, alas, was not home to cannibals). They met a native island girl, I forgot to mention. She filled them in on the Mothra stuff. But Mothra, like Kon...Godzilla is also in a deep sleep. Currently, the twins are trying to sing her awake but it's not working.
Of course, they go with the lightning rod. It takes a few days of waiting but finally they get a storm, Godzilla wakes up, and immediately rushes out to sea to confront Ebirah. These monsters have some incredible monster radar. This fight is mostly entertaining. Godzilla throws a bunch of rocks. They fight underwater, at one point, "Top Secret" style.
Ebirah, eventually, scuttles away, a bit wounded. Godzilla proceeds to stomp his way across the rest of the island, destroying the compound where our heroes have made it inside, finally rescuing Yata. I'm recalling story out of order, apologies. I missed an earlier rescue attempt, maybe that's where they rescued Yata and one of our heroes got stuck in a hot air balloon, taking him to Infant Island. Who knows, can't remember, and my handwriting is terrible. They discover the nefarious plan (a cache of nuclear materials ready to be turned into ultimate weapons). The slaves make a plan to instead of, you know, making actual butter that will keep Ebirah at bay, let's just make margarine or something? Later, the Red Bamboo attempt to flee in their ship (which spews the yellow stuff over its sides -- as a shield) but Ebirah's not having any of that shit, doesn't mind margarine, and that's the end of Red Bamboo. Oh, but before they left they set a timer on their nuclear cache so in comes, Mothra, having finally woken up, to fly a rescue mission.
Also, Godzilla and Ebirah fight one last time. This one does not end well for Ebirah. He loses a claw. Godzilla taunts him with it, a trait of King Kong (as he plays with it, opens and closes it), as Ebirah scuttles away for his life. Later, Godzilla jumps off the island (to the sound of cheering villagers being carried away to safety by Mothra) just as the bomb goes off. That's it.
Except, the Kong stuff. There's a scene about 2/3 of the way through this thing where Godzilla encounters the native island girl at the top of the mountain. It's the first time (maybe the only time) that Godzilla pays any attention to an individual human. Godzilla is smaller here than usual. He saves the girl from a flying dinosaur (Pterodactyl) and then sits down to rest. He even sits down like Kong.
He's become her protector. The Red Bamboo launch an air strike and Godzilla, angered, stands up, bats away the onslaught, sits back down to rest. They acknowledge each other. She looks at him with what can only be described as a strange sort of yearning. Finally, she wanders off after he falls asleep. So, yeah....they basically had a scene in here which encompassed every Kong involved action scene from the 1933 film. That was a bit weird. If I didn't know this was written for a Kong film I'd still be a bit dumbfounded. To be honest, I loved it. It's lazy, to be sure. They took the screenplay, as written, and didn't change a damn thing, except for the name of the monster. Not sure if Mothra was supposed to be in the Kong version or not but based on how little Mothra appears in this picture it wouldn't have shocked me. I do wonder if Kong was meant to die in the explosion since I don't know, he's not much of a long distance swimmer? Anyway, masterpiece.