Today’s entry into the “Water Foul” spotlight on the worst aquatic monsters in movie history is 1966’s Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster.
Godzilla vs The Sea Monster was written by Shinichi Sekizawa, the primary writer of the Showa era of Godzilla. His credits include the MST3K-infamous Godzilla vs. Megalon, Godzilla vs. Gigan, Godzilla’s Revenge, King Kong vs. Godzilla, Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, Ghidorah: The Three Headed Monster, Godzilla vs. Mothra, and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla.
The director for Godzilla vs The Sea Monster was Jun Fukuda. This was his first Godzilla movie, and afterwards he would direct four more in the Showa era of the franchise: Son of Godzilla, Godzilla vs Gigan, Godzilla vs. Megalon, and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla.
The cinematographer on the film was Kazuo Yamada, who also shot Son Of Godzilla, Samurai III, and Samurai Rebellion, as well as Key of Keys, which was used as the source material for Woody Allen’s What’s Up, Tiger Lily?
The editor for Godzilla vs The Sea Monster was Ryohel Fujii, who was yet another Toho regular, cutting such films as Ghidorah: The Three Headed Monster, King Kong Escapes, Frankenstein Conquers The World, and Godzilla vs. Monster Zero.
Executive Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka was a producer of the Godzilla franchise from the original Godzilla all the way through the conclusion of the Hesei era, 1995’s Godzilla vs. Destroyah. He also frequently produced movies for Akira Kurosawa, such as Yojimbo, Kagemusha, and Sanjuro.
The music on Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster was done by Masaru Sato, who accrued 236 score composition credits over his illustrious career, including Yojimbo, Throne of Blood, Sanjuro, Godzilla Raids Again, and The Hidden Fortress.
The Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster effects team included Sadamasa Arikawa (Godzilla, Destroy All Monsters, Mothra, Rodan), Sokei Tomioka (Terror of Mechagodzilla, King Kong Escapes, Frankenstein Conquers the World), Taka Yuki (Godzilla, Ghidorah: The Three Headed Monster), Fumio Nakadai (Son of Godzilla, Godzilla’s Revenge), Eiji Tsuburaya (Godzilla, Godzilla Raids Again, Throne of Blood, Rodan, Mothra), Teruyoshi Nakano (Godzilla vs. Mothra, Godzilla 1985), and Akira Watanabe (The Green Slime, Godzilla, Godzilla Raids Again, Destroy All Monsters).
The cast of the movie included a number of recognizable faces from other Toho films: Akira Takarada (Godzilla, Godzilla vs. Mothra, King Kong Escapes, Godzilla vs. Monster Zero), Kumi Mizuno (Godzilla: Final Wars, Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, Frankenstein Conquers the World), Chôtarô Tôgin (Destroy All Monsters), and Tôru Ibuki (Terror of Mechagodzilla, Godzilla vs. Monster Zero).
The plot of Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster has very little to do with the monsters themselves. A terrorist organization has taken over a small island, and is secretly developing nuclear weapons there. They use a giant shrimp, named Ebirah, to defend the island and prevent any of their captured slaves from escaping. However, they ultimately capture a Japanese citizen, and his family goes hunting after him, ultimately leading to the discovery of the secret base. Serendipitously, Godzilla is found sleeping in a cave nearby, and is awakened to fight Ebirah. Also, Mothra is hanging around on a nearby island (where the slaves were mostly kidnapped from), and eventually shows up to help towards the end of the story.
Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster was initially planned to be a King Kong movie, and many of that monster’s trademarks and characteristics remain in the movie. Godzilla’s uncharacteristic obsession with a woman and his awakening via lightning were both associated with King Kong as opposed to the King of the Monsters. The lightning revival came from King Kong vs. Godzilla, which was also due to a last minute monster replacement (King Kong for Frankenstein’s Monster), making the trait all the more confusing.
The Sea Monster itself, Ebirah, is named after the japanese word for shrimp, ‘ebi.’ This essentially confirms that Ebirah is supposed to be a shrimp, though it looks a bit more like a lobster.
Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster interestingly marks the last appearance of a full-grown Mothra in the Showa era of Godzilla, though the larval form pops up again in Destroy All Monsters in 1968.
Mystery Science Theater 3000, the popular bad movie television show, had an episode dedicated to Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster in its second season. The episode immediately followed the more recognizable and terrible Godzilla vs. Megalon, which famously features the robot Jet Jaguar.
The reception to Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster was generally negative, and is regarded as one of the weaker entries into the series. It currently holds a rating of 5.1 on IMDb, along with a 39% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.
First off, Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster definitely focuses far more on the human plot than the monsters, which is bound to be part of why it is so unpopular. Godzilla doesn’t even appear on screen until an hour into the picture. However, the story isn’t super-awful as far as the Showa era of Godzilla is concerned. The terrorist organization isn’t as memorable as sound-prone aliens from Planet X or angry cockroach people, but they serve well enough here.
The monster fighting that does appear in the movie is really lackluster. Ebirah isn’t particularly powerful, and doesn’t have any way to effectively compete with Godzilla, eand ventually gets his claws torn off without much fanfare. There are a couple of other minor battles, such as a skirmish between Godzilla and Mothra and the appearance of a Rodan-like bird monster, but they are both pretty brief and unmemorable. The movie does feature an infamous volleyball fight between Ebirah and Godzilla, which I believe pops up again re-purposed in the even more terrible Godzilla’s Revenge.
My favorite part of the film by far is when Ebirah spears two people on one of his claws like a shish kebab, which both looks ridiculous and is kind of jarring. You don’t see the Toho monsters directly kill people very often, though death is heavily implied by their stomping and blasting. It definitely stands out as a highlight moment in the movie, and is one of the few clips worth checking out.
Overall, Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster is a pretty mediocre entry in the Showa era of Godzilla. It isn’t particularly over-the-top or entertaining in comparison to the rest of the series, but also isn’t quite amusingly abysmal enough to make sitting through it much fun. The MST3K episode is pretty solid and the background trivia is interesting, so if you want to watch it, I’d recommend going that route with it.